"Caitlin, this is your conscience speaking," I hear someone whisper behind me. "You do not need the sequin gown."
I hit refresh.
The voice becomes more ghost-like, "Start a savvvvvinnngs accounnnt."
"MARIA," I snap, keeping my eyes fixed on the screen. I hit refresh. "I will get a savings account -- next year. Maybe." The page freezes, I turn around. My coworker's smiling.
"Get a savings account!" she says again quickly, then ducks behind her screen.
I get it: I'm not good with money. My credit sucks, I live from paycheck to paycheck, I once had a student loan disappear, which made the government RED FLAG ME. (Hate it when that happens.)
Yeah, I had a savings account one time. I think that disappeared, too.
I pay all of my bills when they're due, only after coming up with the brilliant idea of scheduling them in my Google calendar. And as an independent contractor with a bunch of clients, I hustle -- hard. (I also sometimes cry a bit and wonder why I went to college to do "creative work.")
I'd like to blame my financial recklessness on my parents, as I'm wont to do. But both of my sisters seem to be excellent at saving, and one of them has the most dumbfounding shoe and perfume collection I've ever seen, aside from Paris Hilton's.
Still: When I was growing up, we didn't have a whole lot of money. Vintage clothes and grunge-y '90s garb are cool now, according to the 13-year old British kids I follow on Tumblr. I can recall the tiniest phantom pang I felt when I realized I was never going to get those dumb Tommy Hilfiger overalls every girl in my WASP-y junior high was wearing, though, or that the hand-me-downs from my tomboy older sister (which also might've been second-hand) never fit my body, or my personality.
It's not like my family was poor! We lived in a nice suburb of Chicago, my schooling was most excellent, and we ate at Joe's Crab Shack a couple times a year. It was just a time when not having yuppie farmer's pants covered in red-white-and-blue logos or access to your mom's Clinique makeup made you feel like a garbage loser -- especially when you were already a quiet, nerdy teacher's pet who was on your second junior high school.
(Which is when you choose to transform into a punk or freak, naturally.)
Only a few years after this period of coveting other girls' sparkly Gel Pens and Abercrombie jeans, my family was FINE. My mom got a house that looked like it could be ripped out of Martha Stewart magazine, my dad took us to the mall every fall for back-to-school shopping whilst waiting outside the store doing god knows what men do whilst waiting for their teenage daughters to shop, and I got a nice allowance for scrubbing the shit out of my dad's bathroom until my fingernails bled. (I was an angry teen.)
I was still surrounded by Rich Kids who were awarded Tiffany charm bracelets when they got their periods. There was definitely a turning point where everything got better, though, and my mom went from hiding in the bedroom my sister and I shared from the creepy landlord who always hit on her to building a closet in our new house for her purses.
Plus, I could legally get a job by then! So I did that at the start of high school (at a hair salon, doctor's office, and a car wash, respectively), and haven't stopped working since I was 15.
So where the fuck is all of my money?
My friend Christina puts it perfectly, "I went to all the rich kid private schools as a kid [on scholarship]. I still have 'poor kid' PTSD. I buy two of everything because I guess my lizard brain figures that I'll be poor again soon, so buy it all now while I can!"
So, sure, I'm pretty good at paring down. And, of course, my parents are certainly not to blame for my overspending. They're the most hard-working hustlers I know! That's truly the best kind of genes to get as a teenager. (FASHION PUN, GET IT?)
Alas, I do tend to overcompensate with material possessions, most notably when it comes to beauty products. Every time I use these luxurious gems that I know are technically out of my price range, I fill a tiny hole in my damaged, pre-teen self-esteem.
'Cause, dammit, they're good -- and so much more fulfilling than that Cucumber Melon spray you had stashed in your locker:
Oribe Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray, $39, birchbox.com
When I finish this spray, I want to weep a bit whilst updating my LinkedIn. I did a bunch of research to discover the BEST BEACH SPRAY -- so many of them make your hair feel crunchy or weigh it down -- and I decided to go with Oribe's, despite the hefty price tag.
WHY IT'S WORTH IT: It's made of pure magic and wonder. I used to spend so very much time styling my hair. With this stuff, I blow-dry my bangs, blow out the rest with a paddle brush until it's half-damp, twist it up in a top knot, and let it air dry. This spray amplifies my waves just so, never makes it frizzy, and is super-light. It also smells like mystic mermaid perfume.
Barielle Non Acetone Nail Polish Remover, $9.95, soap.com
TEN DOLLARS FOR NAIL POLISH REMOVER? We might as well just pour it all over our wallets and light them on fire now.
WHY IT'S WORTH IT: Despite the biotin I consistently take, my nails are complete shit. After getting sexy-hot acrylics last winter, I decided to treat them a bit better to see how not-bad I could get them. When I used Barielle's Non-Acetone Remover vs. your $3 typical drugstore stuffs, my nails became noticeably healthier, stronger, and had less ridges.
I stopped painting my nails so much to make this remover last longer and to also seem more European. That means stronger nails for scratching puppies and cute men's heads, all around!
Beautyblender, $19.95, sephora.com
This brings us to the last treat that I both do and don't regret coming across: A $20 makeup sponge! I either saw a makeup artist using it at a wedding and raving about it -- or got it in the impulse buys section at Sephora. I can't recall, but I'll never go back.
WHY IT'S WORTH IT: xoVain just did a comparison of this the Beautyblender to a cheaper knock-off and found it superior. I wouldn't put my privileged paws near a wannabe after using this wonderful little creature, pssh.
When soaked in water and used in a dabbing motion, the texture of the sponge blends my BB cream and concealer together evenly, and never smudges or smears. I tried to use a normal makeup sponge after trying out the Beautyblender and nearly puked.
If you wash the sponge regularly, it also lasts for many moons -- I got a new one recently after almost seven months of using the last one.
What products are you madly in love with that are totally out of your price range? ADMIT IT NOW.
As for my money woes, I'll echo my friend Christina here: "I'm working on it."
MORE PERTINENT, THOUGH: What trinkets and things did everyone have in your junior high that made you feel like a garbage loser if you didn't have it?
Follow me on Twitter: @caitlinthornton