I woke up this morning with a fever. Something I've dreaded since winter began. I could feel it all over, to my very core. I'm not sure I can handle this right now.
Is it the flu? Pneumonia? Some new virus brought on by the mosquitoes that have already started feeding on me in this balmy March weather?
No, this one is far more dangerous. Especially to our checkbook.
I have shopping fever.
Those of you who don't like to shop may not understand this, or will for sure underestimate the torture of this insidious ailment. The rest of you â€“ you know what I'm talking about.
It feels like every store in the mall is calling me. Nordstrom says â€œour shoes are on saleâ€. Ann Taylor's teasing me with her â€œbuy any two items, get 20% offâ€ deal. And don't get me started on what the handbag stores are saying. New styles at Vuitton, Coach, Dooney & Bourke â€“ catch me before I faint!
I can hear them pleading with me to visit, just take a look. We haven't seen you in quite some time, they say. See all the new fashions; the â€œmust havesâ€ for spring that are perfect for you. It won't hurt just to look, will it?
NO! I say out loud as I try with all my might to steer my car away from that mall Mecca we in Dallas call NorthPark. MUST-RESIST-TEMPTATION. How will I ever get through this?
I divert my attention to our local Sam's, hoping to satisfy my shopping fever by taking care of the necessities, like groceries. As I bravely march up and down the food aisles, my fever rises again and I veer off to the other side of the store. How about a 55â€ TV? That would be nice. Surely we could use a 12-pack of reading glasses. No, wait â€“ how about a complete set of wrenches?
What does this have to do with being laid-off, you ask? EVERYTHING.
One of the by-products of losing your job is worry â€“ especially about money. How to pay the mortgage, expenses like the car, kids' college, any debt you might have. We â€“ my husband and I â€“ have been in this state for almost two years. He won the lay-off bingo first; I followed a year later.
Try as we might not to dwell on money, it seeps into almost everything we do. We were used to a very comfortable income with both of us employed, one that allowed us to rarely question the periodic need to shop. New shoes? Sure. Another suit? Why not? Besides, you need it for work.
Since the lay-offs, we question every purchase, even at the grocery store. We debate whether we really need â€œdesignerâ€ lettuce or will iceberg do? How about colas? We shouldn't drink those anyway. Deodorant? I really don't think anyone will get close enough to smell us. And what about vegetables? They're pricey; are they really necessary?
I'm only half-kidding. For us, the decision to devise a lay-off financial plan was a no-brainer. We approached this new phase of our lives like we were going into battle. Operation â€œself-imposed povertyâ€ was our strategy. No cable, no concerts, no shopping for clothes, more eating at home – all in the plan.
Before anyone starts fearing for our well-being, let me assure you we are FINE. More than fine; in fact we count our blessings daily. Thank goodness for our parents, who instilled in us the need to always save, no matter how much you make. Dad, I wish you were here to see that I listened and learned from you. We both have found ways to bring in money, enough that it's like we are living on one of our salaries. And that works.
Do I still have â€œshopping feverâ€? You betcha. Yet I know that this too shall pass. My â€œneedâ€ for shoes is really just a â€œwantâ€.
Although watch out, mall. When I get back to work, I'm coming to visit. I may even buy something.