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To Splurge or Not to Splurge?

January 12, 2010

So my review yesterday on Bitter is the New Black got me thinking…am I as guilty of materialism as Jen Lancaster? 

I would love to say no.  I wish I could say that I have resisted the temptation to spend an astronomical amount of money on something as ridiculous as a pair of jeans.  I wish I could say that despite living in quite possibly the shallowest city in the world, I have not succumbed to buying something just to be able to “keep up with the Joneses.”  I wish I could say that I freely admire the dozens of Bentley’s I see daily, instead of wishing that I had one as well.  But the truth is that I am guilty of all of these and I believe that the majority of others think along these lines as well. 

Canada is one place where I believe that materialism is not the norm but rather the exception.  I am a Canadian and despite living in Los Angeles for most of my life, when my flight lands in Toronto I feel like I am home.  Why?  Because I am at my happiest there. 

My mom and I took Maya to Toronto last November and we had a fabulous time.  It was so refreshing to be around people who don’t care if you have a Gucci bag or Tory Burch shoes.  As a matter of fact, most of my friends don’t even know who Tory Burch is!  It isn’t that they don’t dress well there, because they do.  They just don’t care about the designer labels.  They don’t obsess about things.  They drive whatever is the most appropriate for battling copious amounts of salt and snow (and you can be sure that doesn’t include a Supercharged Range Rover Sport).  Most of my Canadian friends live in the same house their whole lives and stay in the same jobs for about as long.  They spend cash instead of living on credit and save most of their paycheck.  Their lives are uncomplicated.

Canadians don’t feel the need to fall into the  materialism trap because they are happy just being. I can’t speak for the entire city but the Toronto I know is a good, happy, wholesome place.  People are satisfied with what they have and aren’t trying to obtain the unattainable.  Toronto is also a great place to raise kids.  Unlike, say, Los Angeles where kids walk around with iPhones at age nine and where True Religion is a right, not a luxury.

On our flight back from Toronto, Maya asked the flight attendant for sparkling water.  Yes, my 4-year-old drinks Perrier.  Since I prefer the carbon-particle filled water from my decade old Brita pitcher and Ali basically has an IV of Coke attached to him at all times, Maya obviously learned about sparkling water elsewhere.  I guess preschoolers these days compare their preferred water brands instead of playing kickball.  Normally I would refuse to spend $3 on a glass of Perrier but I figured that since we were on a five-hour flight and drinks were free, why not just indulge her?  And so I did.  Of course she ended up spilling it all over herself and her chair.  And as I crouched beside her in an attempt to dry her beloved Dora backpack I had to wonder, when does a seemingly small splurge turn into something more? 

Am I doing Maya any favors by letting her have things that she shouldn’t have, especially at age four?  Sure, it’s just sparkling water now, but what about in a few years?  Will indulging her now make it harder for her later in life as she comes to expect the finer things but can’t have them?  Will growing up in the heart of Los Angeles turn her into a spoiled brat? 

Am I completely over thinking this?  Probably. But I guess what I’m  wondering is, when does a splurge become too much of a splurge?

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 3:50 am

    You got me thinking here. To me a splurge becomes too much of a splurge when you’re unable to “downgrade” to no-label products even when the circumstances call for it. Sometimes it’s ridiculous how people will fork out a three-figure sum for a plain black shirt when you can get a lookalike shirt for a fraction of the price at a flea shop. Looks like your daughter has got expensive taste buds!

  2. January 13, 2010 5:24 am

    Hi Ameena. Canadian here 🙂
    I guess I cannot compare Canadians and U.S. legitimately since I have never been to U.S. I do see U.S. as being busy, driven, and money-focused. Plus, the world tends to get the image of L.A. as Paris Hilton-movie stars-expensive clothes , etc…so I do feel that there is a materialism in the U.S. unlike in any other country. I wish I were in U.S. just to be near all the whole foods and trader joes 🙂

  3. January 13, 2010 5:29 am

    Oh, I know exactly what you mean! Miami is also a very materialistic city and it’s all about appearances here . . . I think it is sad, because people spend more time on their image than on developing their character and intellect. I think a splurge is different for everyone. Teach Maya to enjoy little splurges now and then, but also the value of a good deal! My mom would get so excited over good deals she would find, and now I am the same way! 🙂

  4. January 13, 2010 5:35 am

    Great post! I agree– materialism in America has reached an all-time out of control high (and I am certainly not exempt from materialistic tendencies). I definitely can see how this would become even more of a worry/concern once one is raising children. It’s a dilemna, because you never want your child to feel deprived, or to feel like they don’t fit in with the other kids because all of the other kids have $190 jeans in the fourth grade, but at the same time, you HAVE to set boundaries and say no at times.

    Guess it’s time to move to Toronto 🙂

    Thanks for posting!

    • January 13, 2010 9:27 am

      I would move there in a second if my husband could deal with the cold weather!

  5. January 13, 2010 6:01 am

    When to splurge or not? I agree, thats a tough line to draw. I am greatful that Texas is a bit more down to earth than LA. Great post I really enjoyed it.

  6. January 13, 2010 6:09 am

    Oh, I completely know what you mean! When I’m in Doha, working with and surrounded by designer labels, I find myself wanting those sorts of things… and I’m not that kind of girl! Isn’t it weird how much our environment matters?

  7. January 13, 2010 6:21 am

    What a great post! We do focus too much on material things. There was a time where I felt the need to “keep up with the Jones” but luckily that was short lived… I brought myself back to reality.

  8. January 13, 2010 7:46 am

    it’s not a splurge when it gets out of balance.

    LOVE your post today…great food for thought, and honesty!

    had no idea you were canadian! That is so cool.
    I’ve been to Alberta. BEAUTIFUL

  9. erintakescontrol permalink
    January 13, 2010 7:57 am

    I was just thinking, “Who or what the heck is Tory Burch?” when you mentioned that most of your friends have no clue. I think that my Midwestern upbringing reflects alot of the things you mentioned about Canada. I’m sure there are people in the neighboring large cities who could identify designers and expensive things, but I like it simple. I sometimes find myself daydreaming about material items I want, but then reality comes in crystal clear and unless I win the lottery or otherwise come into a large sum of cashola, I live within my means. That means no Tory Burch, whatever it is…

  10. traynharder23 permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:04 am

    oh thank goodness. i KNOW i’d rather NOT eat at such places! such a tourist trap. NO BUENO!

  11. January 13, 2010 8:30 am

    Still wondering… Who or What is Tory Burch?

  12. January 13, 2010 8:44 am

    Oh I completely notice the difference between American’s and Canadians (at least in the bigger cities). When I was last in LA, I felt so out of place. Everyone seemed so put together and polished… it made me feel frumpy by comparison, even though logically I knew I wasn’t.

    I enjoy expensive things as well, but I think you need to start drawing the line when you’re no longer able to appreciate “normal” things. Quality is quality, and even though they can be way over-priced, sometimes the more expensive things just are better. But that doesn’t mean regular old things can’t bring a smile to your face either.

  13. whydeprive permalink
    January 13, 2010 9:15 am

    Hmmm . . . I feel like people here ARE materialistic, but maybe thats just Vancouver. I went to a hockey game with my dad a little while ago and that meant going downtown. He noticed that as soon as we got into the downtown core the cars around us changed from Hondas to Mercedes and Lexus.
    I was raised to not care about those things (my mom grew up in a big family, they didnt get any extras) and I think it was a huge benefit to me.
    I will say however, I never wanted for anything. Letting Maya have the occasional sparkling water wont hurt her. If it was all she ever drank, then thats over indulging her. She wont be a spoiled brat unless you let her, and I have a feeling you wont.

  14. January 13, 2010 9:22 am

    I absolutely love Toronto – for just those reasons. The people there are so down to earth and friendly. It’s definitely a 180 degree difference from the LA vibe.

  15. January 13, 2010 9:32 am

    Tory Burch? I will have to google! I think Maya will be just fine- it is important to focus on values and morals. Sure she will enjoy the finer things in life as long as she knows the the importance of giving back! Which you have already taught her- so good job!

    The county that I live in is one of the richest counties in America- however we live in the middle class area, it is nice to visit out rich friends- but it feels sooooo good to come home to our Target sweats and Craigslist sofas 🙂

  16. January 13, 2010 10:39 am

    Living in LA, I imagine you’re at the hub of it all. While we’re still plugged in, life on the East Coast is a little less like that, I think. (Of course, there are still pockets.) I think there’s a balance between giving her everything she asks for and making her know she’s not in need. My husband’s cousin gets whatever she asks for, and in some cases it’s not a good thing. She’s growing up with the “right” to her every whim. Like getting a laptop only a few months after getting a brand spankin’ new Mac desktop. Water, I think, is different. 🙂

  17. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:12 pm

    I think you’re overthinking it. Maya clearly has great parents who instill important values each and every day. We all deserve treats sometimes, and if bubbly water is what she wants (btw, i was a perrier kid too!) that’s ok! It’s not the obvious tangible things that matter so much as the love and behavior that is modeled for her.

  18. January 13, 2010 12:25 pm

    I think its definitely something to think about. I am definitely 100% guilty of being a Material Girl, and I know I learned it somewhere – chances are, it came from my dad, who would always buy me clothes and toys as a child because he felt guilty for being divorced from my mom and not being able to spend as much time as he would have liked with us. I always joke that shopping is my best therapy, but lately I became concerned with how much material objects really do dominate my life and even effect my moods.

    But of course, you’re a wonderful and concerned mother and if you set good examples for your lovely daughter, she will follow suit.

  19. January 13, 2010 12:42 pm

    I think splurges are fine, and somewhat necessary–as long as it stays at such. You’re not splurging if you have “special” things every other day. Like panera. If I could eat @ Panera every day I would, but then it wouldn’t be a splurge… so I keep it to a minimum.

    Okay, that had no relevance whatsoever and I’m not articulating my thoughts very well. Maya’s a lovely little girl and it’s fun to have special things for special occasions 🙂

  20. January 13, 2010 1:10 pm

    Wow, sounds very much like me! I live in Marin County (right across the golden gate bridge from SF) and it is the most materialistic place ever- everyone has a Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, or Maserati…no exception- and then the materialism is even worse when I go visit my mom’s family in Saudi Arabia or Dubai– it’s like there is seriously something wrong with you if your purse doesn’t have a Chanel, Fendi, or Dior clasp. I always find it refreshing to go back to school up in Portland- it’s a lot like Toronto sounds- and very laid back…in fact I look out of place if I so much as wear high heels!
    I think it’s okay that Maya likes Perrier (that’s real cute), I used to like it too when I was younger because thats all my mother drinks- but if she starts asking for a mini Louis Vuitton bag at age six…that’s a different story. You sound like a very conscientious and loving mother so I’m sure you’re raising your daughter well 🙂

  21. louisianagrown permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:40 pm

    Canada sounds like Louisiana. 🙂

    I would say that your values are going to influence her far more than anything she learns at school. Classmates don’t raise children – parents do. I thought as long as you keep her well educated on how people all across the world live and let her know that things like sparkling water is a special splurge, everything will be alright.

  22. January 13, 2010 3:21 pm

    Good post! I do feel we’re pretty laid back here in the GTA — but don’t be too fooled, a lot of kids here are being quite spoiled too, having iPhones way too young for my taste, becoming a bit bratty. I think it’s more of a function of the parenting style of right now rather than the specific geographic location alone.

    Of course, LA is a different animal than probably any other city anywhere, LOL.

    I’m going to try really hard when I have kids not to give in and overindulge them/spoil them too young. There’s a lesson to learn too in hardwork and earning things, not just being given them! 😀

  23. January 13, 2010 3:24 pm

    I DON’T think you are overthinking this. Living in Chicago, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. It’s all about labels here, and for what?! People don’t even appreciate what they have. If you have it, fine, be grateful!

  24. January 13, 2010 3:42 pm

    I think as long as you teach Maya about the important things in life: love, family, self-acceptance, bravery, etc., she will be just fine with those splurges. My mom and dad used to buy me designer labels, we went out to eat often, went to fancy hotels, etc. Now I’m married to a man I’m deeply in love with, but because I’m a teacher (we all know teachers aren’t exactly rich) and Andrew doesn’t even make as much money as me, well, I’ve had to downgrade a lot. But, it doesn’t matter to me. Because my parents taught me that as long as you have your health, love, family – money, designer clothes, they just DON’T matter!! At the end of my life, the brand of jeans I wore will not matter, but the man I loved, the memories I made with my family DEFINITELY will.

  25. January 13, 2010 7:29 pm

    I often ask myself this question. It is hard to be a parent these days with the amount of technology and material possessions that are geared for kids. My oldest has a cell phone and it is a little free one. I was not going to buy her any more than that. It is a difficult time to be mom’s but we must remember our roots and raise our children according to that.

  26. Lynn at The Actors Diet permalink
    January 13, 2010 7:39 pm

    i really feel like i’m a canadian at heart. i wish i could call myself one!!!

  27. Saima permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:33 pm

    ayee ayeee!! fellow Canuck here!! 😀 i LOVE Toronto or the GTA in general….not being biased but doing my undergrad here (in Canada) vs grad school in the US…..there’re major differences in mindset and approaches to education atleast b/w the two places!!

  28. January 14, 2010 8:11 am

    Here smack in the middle of the Bible belt we focus more on family, friends and neighbors more than what the label on our clothing says. You will find different priorities in different areas of the USA. Maybe this Ozarks farm chick is just a Canuck at heart.

    Ya’ll have a great day figuring this one out!

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