Purchases Made in Hope of Self-Improvement

I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions because I believe “self-improvement” is a collective delusion we buy into to try to mitigate the soul-crushing depression of the long, harsh winter. Okay, the truth is, I don’t make them because they don’t work for me, but this January I did resolve to buy several things in the hopes that they would make my life slightly better.

I have been frugal since I got my first part-time job in high school and realized that any impulse purchase I made directly equated to several hours of labor pouring coffee for old men at 7 a.m. I often rigorously research purchases and then end up not making them anyway. I’m willing to spend money on going out for meals or activities with friends, but I compensate by rarely shopping. I’m gradually getting better at not having such an emotional attachment to money, but I’m still overly cautious with my spending.

So, in a sort of pseudo-resolution to be less stingy with my money, I decided to buy a couple of things that I had been contemplating buying for a long time.

Eyebrow Make-Up
Resolution: Have better eyebrows.
Cost: $40.85 — powder kit and make-up brush

As someone who only recently started wearing make-up, I still have almost no conception of how much money make-up costs, or how much it should cost. On the way to the mall, I thought to myself, “Thirty dollars is probably a reasonable amount to spend on eyebrow make-up. Thirty-five, max. That’s all I’m willing to spend.”

I’ve only been in Sephora once before and was quickly scared out by the number of beautifully groomed women who offered to help me within the span of five minutes. I felt confident going in this time, knowing that I had a specific purchase in mind and a specific price point. When a friendly customer rep with nice eyebrows approached me, I told her what I wanted and she helped me pick out a product. She applied a tester for me and I was very happy with how it looked; she told me that this was the cheaper, more basic line of eyebrow powders. Of course, I also needed a brush to apply it. Satisfied, I took my purchases up to the cash register to discover that they were 10 more dollars than I’d decided to spend. I handed over my credit card.

Outcome: My eyebrows look way better (even though my lovely boyfriend made the grievous mistake of saying he preferred them “more natural”). No regrets. Resolution achieved.


iPhone 5s
Resolution: Have a smartphone.
Cost: $614.90 — tab payment, phone, screen protectors

I “upgraded” my phone from a flip phone to a slide phone the summer before I started university. (I’m young enough that smartphones very much existed at this time, but see: excessive frugality.) By my fourth year I was still hanging on to my obsolete phone, supplemented by an iPod touch which was also so dated as to not have a camera or be able to download iOS7. I decided to remedy both of these with one purchase. I waffled between getting the 5s and the cheaper 5c. I eventually went with the 5s because fingerprint scanning, you guys, but also because knowing me I won’t upgrade my phone for another five or six years, so it seemed best to go with the one with more features so it won’t be as painfully obsolete by 2019.

I went to the Koodo kioski in the mall. Koodo is a Canadian mobile brand and uses a tab system rather than contracts, where you put the tab towards the phone you want and they put 15% of your bill toward reducing that amount until it is paid off. If you want to upgrade before then, you have to pay off the remainder of your tab. Despite the fact that my relatively inexpensive phone was roughly four years old, I still had $12.06 left on my tab. This is because my Koodo plan was hella cheap. (Koodo now does a thing with new tabs where they forgive your tab if it is not paid off fully within two years. I love you, Koodo, even though your ads suck now.) So I had to pay that $12 first.

I started a new tab for this phone, which reduced the price by $150. There are also varying tab levels, but I think I’ve provided enough free advertising for Koodo here, so I won’t get into it. I did some math and this seemed to be the best option; I had to pay more upfront but should save money in the long run. The kioski girl asked me what phone I currently had, clearly about to ask about trade-in value, and I was like “hahaha.” I also bought some screen protectors ($15 + tax).

I put some Christmas money towards the purchase (about $200—thanks, relatives!), and some of my Ontario tuition grant money, which is basically a 30% rebate I get on my university tuition. (Yes, you read that right. O Canada!) I paid with my brand new credit card, on which I get 1% cashback, and for which I was initially declined (I later found out that this was because the bank lady completely messed up my application and not because of my credit history, though it was not before freaking out over the possibility of identity theft).

Outcome: When the charge showed up on Mint I had a mini-regret attack, but now I can use Google maps if I get lost, FaceTime people, and do that Snapchat thing I’ve been hearing about. Worth it.


Water Bottle
Resolution: Be less dehydrated all of the time.
Cost: $10.20

I’ve been having minor health issues that all seem to boil down to, “Drink more water, dummy.” So I decided to start doing that. This one is more of a traditional resolution, since I actually have to put effort into it, instead of just throwing money at it. Ugh. I bought a water bottle with a built-in filter and I downloaded a free app on my new iPhone to help track my water intake. The filter is an attractive bright red and the bottle hasn’t leaked in my bag yet, so that’s pretty good. I’ve drank 2.2 litres a day for over a week now, and I feel slightly better. I still don’t “crave” water like some “hydrated” people have told me they do.

Outcome: So far, so good. It’s not quite as satisfying since I’ll have to do this for, like, the rest of my life to see the results.

TOTAL: $676.17


Did spending that $676.17 make me into an improved human? I’m not sure. I’m definitely a more hydrated human with nicer eyebrows, the ability to check my email almost anywhere, and with maybe a marginally healthier relationship with my money, and that’s good enough for me right now.


Sarah Robert is allergic to nuts.


21 Comments / Post A Comment

A-M (#4,317)

What is the water bottle with a filter that you can track via your iPhone? So curious!

Allison (#4,509)

@A-M I think the water bottle with a filter (like a bobble) is separate from the iphone app. I’d be amazed if they were one item.

SarahRobert (#4,540)

@A-M Ooh yeah sorry to disappoint, they’re two separate things. I would buy the heck out of that, though.

rhinoceranita (#5,858)

I love Sephora and I love eyebrow care. It’s a subtle change that can instantly change a face for the better/worse.

Allison (#4,509)

@rhinoceranita I need to go get my eyebrows done badly, but the idea of going out into brutal wind with raw skin is not appealing.

chic noir (#713)

@rhinoceranita I agree. I pay 4 bucks for my eyebrow pencil but 20 bucks for my eyebrow gel. I need a cheap alternative quick.

moreadventurous (#4,956)

I also recently bought a water bottle for the minor health problems boiling (ha) down to “drink more water, dummy!” It’s going great for me. I’m drinking about 2.25 liters of water a day and I would say it has helped.

We have one of those office water cooler things in my house and recently we went like two weeks without having the filtered water. My water intake dropped because I’m a snobby water snob who really prefers filtered water. Anyway, it had a marked effect on my physical well-being. So what I’m trying to say is good call. Drink more water, everyone!

SarahRobert (#4,540)

@moreadventurous Yeah, I feel much better. It seems to have taken care of at least one of the issues, plus one thing I totally just thought was a natural part of my body but, uh, apparently not! Apparently I’ve just been dehydrated for like my whole life! Cool. I am now very pro-water drinking.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

Eyebrows are so important! I am actually a huge fan of the Elf eyebrow kit. It comes with a gel and a powder and a little brush for only $3. Highly recommended.

chic noir (#713)

@sunflowernut I keep hearing wonderful things about this but can’t find it in my local target.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

@sunflowernut I need this! i’ve been saving money by not threading my eyebrows for the past….couple of months or so and also to grow them out from overplucking. I heard good things about the Anastasia kit but it’s like $40, so I will definitely look out for the elf one!

charmcity (#1,091)

I need an US version of the phone entry. I also have a slide phone; it is old and useless and my life/work efficiency would be far better with a smartphone. But it is so much easier to pay almost nothing to stay on my family’s plan, a la college. I have no idea where to begin! Do I really have to spend $100/mo on a phone? Can I just buy a phone without a contract and save money longterm? OH GOD. (I need to go back through Billfold archives to see if someone has already given me all the answers.)

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@charmcity Virgin Mobile! You buy your phone outright, and they have cheap monthly plans. I’m on a $45/month plan, which is 1200 minutes and unlimited text and data. No complaints so far!

Lily Rowan (#70)

@LookUponMyWorks Exactly what I was going to say! My Baby’s First Smartphone was $150, I think, and my plan is $35/mo. It does what I need!

kellyography (#250)

@charmcity My flip phone from 2004 was costing me $52/month, and when I upgraded to the 5s, I got the phone company (AT&T) to grandfather in my text and calling plan, so the inclusion of data only costs me $20 more per month. I also won’t upgrade my phone for another 10 years or whatever, dropping $200 rather than $100 to pay for the phone on the plan was worth it immediately.

charmcity (#1,091)

@LookUponMyWorks @Lily Rowan @ kellyography You are all awesome! Thank you for not shaming me for being a Luddite/cheapskate.

sherlock (#3,599)

@charmcity Just so you don’t feel alone, I was in basically the same position as you! Except that last summer, just as I was finally starting to think about upgrading, my company issued everyone iPhones, thus giving me even more of an excuse to put off replacing my personal dumbphone, so I am still using it to this day. If it dies, I will probably finally bite the bullet, but for now I just use the company phone for directions and my personal phone for personal texts/calls.

What I did: bought a used smartphone off eBay for $35 and signed up for Ting. Ting is $6/ month per phone and then has reasonable fees based on usage.

This link will give you a $25 credit on Ting: https://z86aq52afa5.ting.com

You’ll start noticing when you’re getting dehydrated after you are regularly hydrated for awhile! You don’t know the feeling of craving water because you didn’t realize it’s any different than just, your regular feelings.

DarlingMagpie (#1,695)

What kit did you buy? I have a benefit one and NO IDEA HOW TO USE IT. But I also have this one http://www.sephora.com/product/productDetail.jsp?keyword=gimmie%20brow&skuId=1539246&country_switch=ca&productId=P379986&_requestid=64539 and its just like a mascara wand, swipe swipe done

Comments are closed!