Let’s talk about women spending money

Emma Parnell
4 min readMay 9, 2022

I’m writing this from my private jacuzzi with sea view. Yes I’m actually in the jacuzzi. Yes this is why Medium needs to allow people to write from their phones!

I’ve recently been taking some time off between contracts. The last week of which I’m spending on a solo trip to Sicily. My friend actually ended up joining me for three nights which was so lovely but now it’s time to go it alone.

I woke up the day my friend left to the dulcet tones of a woodwork workshop. From 9am to 7pm this man chain sawed wood — pretty much non-stop; save for the blessed siesta period. So today I packed my backpack with my laptop, a change of clothes and a credit card I wasn’t afraid to wear out.

Was I though? Afraid to wear it out. Yes, of course. Because how often do women take pleasure in spending money on themselves. Just pure luxurious money. Not something for someone else, something you need or something you’ve had your eye on for months and justified to yourself but ‘just because’ money.

I certainly don’t do it frequently. I’ve always been very careful with money. Squirrelling away small piles here and there ‘just in case’. Even after buying a flat I still had savings left because I was too scared not to. I’m not sure what this impending emergency is I’m waiting for that would wipe out thousands in one fail swoop.

So when the reasonably priced accommodation at the beach I’d been eyeing up on Booking.com was all locked up guarded by 4 small Italian dogs, I marched onwards to the only place I was sure would take walk-ins. The posh spa up the road.

The receptionist told me I could stay in a basic room for two nights. Or I could swap halfway through with a jacuzzi on night one and a sea view on night two. I asked for a moment to think about it. I sat down on the leather bench nearby pretending to do whatever people do when they decide whether or not to spend money they don’t need to. Why was this so hard I wondered? I have worked hard, I have savings in the bank and contracts on the horizon. I deserve a treat.

I’m proud of myself that I gave myself permission to say yes. To book some new accommodation, even though I already had some, just because it’s something I wanted. It felt frivolous. But you know what, it also felt really good.

Afterwards I sat on a sun lounger on the beach right outside the gate to my bedroom and I felt happy. I just kept smiling to myself like a cheshire cat as I looked out to sea.

You have to cherish those moments don’t you. My Mum said recently that she had one. She was sat in her window crafting and she thought — “I’m really happy.” I remember her telling me this and, at the time, wondering when the last time was that I’d paused and had that thought. That’s not to say I haven’t been happy but I haven’t stopped to really feel it. Usually I’m so busy running through to-do lists or worrying about something that I can’t control.

Today I took the time to pause and feel happy. Not because I was in possession of an expensive experience but because I was somewhere I felt content. The sun was shining, the waves lapping, there was hardly anyone around. I was fresh off the back of a truely lovely few days with my friend and a great long weekend with my partner. I thought about the things in my life I was grateful for. My surroundings freed me up to have those thoughts.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t subscribe to the ‘money buys you happiness’ cliche but I do think women need to give themselves permission to spend on things that will make them happy without shame or guilt. I recognise this will be different for everyone, and some people wont have the privilege to throw a few hundred pounds at a jacuzzi, but I really think the same principle can be applied to the little things in life. A friend recently shared she splurged on some nice new cups and every time she has a cuppa she feels happy because of this.

The whole experience made me wonder why it is that I struggle to justify spending money on myself. It got my wondering if this is something that women have in common. What can we do to free ourselves from the guilt so that we can really enjoy the things we deserve?

Today has been one of the best days I’ve had in a long time and I gifted that to myself. Thank you me.

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Emma Parnell

Freelance specialist in user research, service design and brand development. designforjoy.co.uk Previously @wearesnook, @nhsdigital, @wearewithyou.