All Apologies... No More

[some book I wanted to buy, so I did]

"I had a gift card..."

"I just used Amazon points..."

"I hadn't bought any for a long time..."

"We just got our tax return..."

"I got them for birthday/Christmas/Arbor Day..."

These are all phrases I tend to start any sort of post or conversation in which I am discussing newly acquired books, which sometimes come with a friend... or two... or five. I have this need to excuse both the act of adding to a pile of unread books that is approaching 100 and the act of spending money. I instantly think that people assume I'm being wasteful or am flaunting my ability to afford the expense and instantly become sheepish, whether the interaction is with my husband, friends, colleagues, or the internet. And with the exception of a few people (thankfully not the guy I am married to), I know no one probably cares, and yet I still can't help this defense. 

This extends past books as well, as I feel the need to justify many things I purchase in most conversations. If I'm talking about our annual passes to Knott's Berry Farm or the Zoo I have to include the fact that "it's such a good deal" or that "I can only afford it because I have only one child." If someone asks me where a dress is from I usually include a sale or gift card explanation when I mention it's from Boden, Anthro, of Loft. When I talk about trips I make sure to say that I've been saving for ages or justify the expense with the fact we rarely travel far. It's just so automatic for me at this point I can't help it. 

I'm guessing it, like many things in all of our lives, goes back to my childhood. We didn't have any extra money, at all, so the idea of buying in excess wasn't an option. Books were earned by saving weeks of allowance money or were just borrowed from the library. Shopping at stores other than Wal-Mart, or maybe Mervyn's on a good day, wasn't an option in our home. We never took trips and home improvements were done on the basis of necessity, served with a side of extreme parental stress. There was always a little disdain when people with more than we had were discussed, which I think is really common in our society. 

That being said, I was always hyper-aware of how much money the families had, or didn't have, around me growing up, and it made me self-conscious as I became older and hung out with some kids that were well-off. As an adult I am by no means wealthy, but my husband and I have good jobs and are fiscally responsible, with little debt (not counting our mortgage), so we are able to maintain some discretionary spending funds. I never want to make anyone feel like I just throw money around, which to me I guess buying boxes of books on occasion would maybe symbolize to some people. Basically, buying books makes me feel guilty. But it also makes me feel incredibly happy, which then makes me feel guilty (my grandmother, a hardcore Catholic before Alzheimer's set in, would probably be very happy with this guilt cycle).  

But you know what? I'm done feeling bad. I am fiscally responsible and have never run out of money because I've ordered too many books. I've never bought books over feeding my child. And I have actually been known to share my books with others (after they've been carefully vetted, of course). I also feel good about supporting authors and their ideas, many of which of late are important socially, politically, or culturally. I have room for my surplus and I have room for growth.

And, more than anything, books are what I collect. They're my thing. The anticipation of a new book, even if I won't read it for a year,  gives me a burst of joy.

So, book-loving friends, stop feeling bad. As long as your spending within your means and have some shelf/floor/table room go for it. Books make us better people, so by fueling your addiction you're really becoming a smarter, more empathetic human being. Books are cathartic, they're a safe escape, and they help us grow. Feel guilty no more.

You really can buy happiness. 


  1. I totally relate to this inclination to apologize or explain... especially since my unread number is WAY higher than 100. There's a reason I'm on a budget this year and it's self-imposed, so those caveats are going to be hard to get rid of for me for sure. The fear of seeming wasteful/flaunting is definitely a big part of it.

  2. I think this guilt of spending money on ourselves in born in women somehow. We don't think twice about spending money on everyone else, but we walk around in jeans with holes in them because we simply think that money could be put to better use.

    This year I did two things for myself: penciled in all my writing group meetings on my calendar for 2018 so that I wouldn't schedule anything in their place and began a Stitch Fix subscription service. Every other month I receive clothes and accessories someone has picked out for me. I keep what I like, send back what I don't. These clothes aren't from Old Navy, Sears or Walmart. One piece costs more than I usually spend on two or three pieces elsewhere. But you know what...I have worked hard all my life and I don't spend money for the sake of spending it. My professional wardrobe needs attention. I'm done sacrificing and feeling guilty over it. Sounds like you are too. Good for you! Enjoy your books.

  3. I also think it's ingrained in women somehow, because I do it. And then, to make things worse, I irrationally feel like my husband is annoyed at me for buying things (mainly books and shoes (I don't buy many shoes, but I do tend to buy 150+ ones)). He's not, for the record, I'm just projecting my own issues. But why?!

  4. Ohmygosh, this was SO ON POINT. I was nodding my head throughout reading this entire post and it made me really realize how much I need to work on this, too. Thank you for writing it!

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