Photo: Annie Johnston

I’m at my favourite hairdresser’s, in charity-shop top and jeans, spending a ridiculous amount on a cut and colour, says Elaine Kingett. The guaranteed boost to my fragile self-confidence will be well worth it. Tomorrow I will pay to have my toe nails painted, even though my bathroom needs re-grouting and the tap has a terrible drip. My salon eyebrow maintenance ritual is a non-negotiable expense, I love the therapist’s gentle attention. Last night I booked a three-week runaway to Crete in August, after weeping buckets at the Charmed Life in Greece free exhibition at the British Museum about the friendships between writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and artists John Craxton and Niko Ghika. God knows how I’ll pay for the care home now. What I once believed were indulgences have become essential mental maintenance.

My kitchen blind is held up with drawing pins and I really must paint my bedroom walls but tell me to invest in a new kitchen bin and I glaze over and buy another novel. I’ve been to the cinema more times in the past month than in the past year and my addiction to Eventbrite is causing concern. My membership of the Tate costs a bomb but visits are intellectually invigorating. So many places to go, people to see, lessons to learn.

Is it my age that is causing me to fast-track through life, sucking up sensual experiences, ignoring practical concerns? Is it the global political uncertainties? Fear of impending climate melt-down? Or is it the realisation, at 68, that it is not selfish to nurture myself? That feeding my brain, my creativity and my self-esteem may pay dividends in the fight against dementia, helps me in my work and in my relationships? Yes, I must attend to the mundane, pay the direct debits and remember to eat more fruit and veg but worrying about the what-ifs in five, 10 or 15 years hence seems a pointless exercise if I don’t cherish myself today.

Elaine Kingett runs creative writing holidays in Spain and workshops in London; for more information check out Write It Down.

27 thoughts on “Get your priorities right (why spending time and money on yourself is essential)

  1. Lots I agree with here. I’m all for Carpe Diem, the seizing of the day and opportunities which present themselves at this point in life. I spend money on museum memberships even though I’m outside of London and cinema trips all food for thought and stimulating. Last exhibition I saw a week ago at Sunday lunchtime when it wasn’t crowded with online senior discount ticket was at Ashmolean museum Oxford on American modernism. A wonderful Collection of inter war art famous names and lesser ones and photographs and prints alongside the paintings. A really positive experience and well worth seeing on til late July.

    What I’ve had to cut way back on is the pampering and beauty and hair cuts and gym membership. I’m now on a budget for all of these categories. Am I missing out no. Because I’ve decided to grow out my hair dye I’m saving on colouring and only now go for trims having found a discounted midweek offer. Hair looks pretty good and texture much improved without bleach and chlorine for a while during winter unwellness. Toenails I do myself until its sandals weather. And same for facials and waxing. I make do with DIY. Using up the high quality face creams and exfoliators from Caudalie La Roche Posay and Clarins in bathroom cupboard.

    Trying the same with clothing. Bought fashion magazines and look at online fashion to decide my spring look. Wash and repurpose my existing large collection of clothing. Having lost inches around waist from cutting out alcohol almost wholly this winter has proved a huge boon. Waists of skirts and trousers do up where I was planning to give away. This is an idea and modus operandi I am keeping going with.

    Plan to up my yoga and Pilates classes within budget constraints so I buy in groups of classes for over 65 reductions. And will walk more with unused serious trainers I already have around parks full of daffodils and the beginnings of Spring blossom and fresh foliage.

    Good wishes to all for the beginning of true Spring.

  2. I couldn’t agree more… It takes a while to find out what really makes you happy but in the end it is about feeling good in your body, cherishing the life you have and not about meeting your neighbours’ standards of a well maintained property. Thanks for this post!

  3. I’m on board with everything you said…..priorities for a woman, for most of her entire life, are others, and care taking….jobs, husband(s), parents, children, grandchildren, and the list is endless. I’ll be 70 in May and I’m on a fast track to fun and things that totally delight me….just started playing guitar, doing more coneerts, just published my first poetry book, and doing what I want when I want with who I want, and life has never been more full and rewarding ……We take care of everything and everyone, then one day we wake up and realize, we need to take care of ourselves…..Your piece was brilliant. Carry on!

  4. Thank you Elaine, for the wise words. I have retired now for 18 months, and am very conscious of financial restraints. But after your last paragraph about not worrying about 10, to 15 yearsin the future I have a different mindset now about being cost conscious. You are RiGHT ! Live today, and worry about the future, when it happens!

  5. She and I have very similar priorities! I’m spending less money on THINGS I “should” do, and more on experiences. Traveling, including day-trips to the city (Chicago, with it’s marvelous restaurants and museums) are essential to my well-being. The crumbling driveway and other home repairs can wait!

  6. OMG, I know exactly how you feel. I keep staring at boxes of stuff that needed sorting and throwing when we had the whole house decorated three years ago. Then it was an urgent priority to pack stuff away , now it’s definitely not an urgent priority to unpack it . And, I’ve got used to less clutter . I can’t bear the thought of all those books and family albums etc being dumped so it’s a stand-off and I feel guilty !
    Somehow, other things, like visiting art galleries and trying that new little coffee shop round the corner , seem to take precedence.
    I feel as though I’m on a roller coaster to see everything , go everywhere before (A) I’ve exhausted my savings (B) I’m too infirm !
    I keep justifying it. I live in this great city, (London) I must make the most of everything .
    Don’t even start me on my gym membership which I only joined for the pool . I spend a fortune, yet only seem to go once a week, equating to each swim costing over £20 … at this rate , the savings will be spent super fast but I am living life to the full !

  7. You hit my problem nail right on the head. My should list is ridiculous and I’ve only been retired since October. Where have I gone, what have I done? Work, chores, feeling guilty, blah, blah, blah. I took 1 day trip, and just returned from a 5 day trip in a cramped car with daughter and 2 grandsons. While I love them fiercely, it was not a vacation, really.
    Missed my shrink appointment to discuss the very things you mentioned. I dont think I need more meds, just more freedom to squash the feeling that I don’t deserve to do fun things till everything at home is perfect and I lose 50 pounds. Thanks for the spark.

  8. Thank you! So good to hear someone voice what I’ve been going through, or realizing, the last two years. I recently turned 60, and celebrated with a glorious week in Mexico and five of my girlfriends. It was glorious, had done a similar trip yen years ago when I turned fifty. We all agreed it was very therapeutic and should happen more often.
    See you in Greece! That sounds fabulous !

  9. I realised quite some time ago that I really don’t need any more things! Actually trying to get rid of some…now it’s (mostly) all about me!

    Am all for experiences, but some of the best aren’t about ££ either. Totally dreadful Easter weather so stayed home, had a ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ fest, apart from the paintings loved the presenters clothes/jewellery, may copy! Fab weekend, good food accompanied by several glasses champagne, what’s not to like! Grew my dyed hair out several years ago, now shiny silver, paint my own nails/toenails, occasional Spa visit, but facials weekly at home, most of clothes come from eBay. Love to paint, sew, visiting my cookbooks to get some new dishes going! Now have a dog….she is divine, if a little naughty, love her to bits…..& now walk more!

    Retired 2 years ago….3 visits to States to visit my family, 1 to Paris, several to London…more family, week in sun in G. Canaria…..more planned! Member of various clubs, societies. Do like my home to be comfy, now re-decorating with a boho
    vibe. All I need to do now is retain my vg health fingers xxed. Life is good!

  10. Great post and comments.
    I retired 2 years ago and am now more aware of the finances. I’ve made some changes to my lifestyle. But I do go to the same hairdresser for my cut and colour
    albeit not as often. My regular facials lift my spirits and do wonders for my confidence. I am still learning the importance of loving yourself and like the term ‘cherish’. One has to work at it and not be complacent.

  11. Elaine, you so eloquently took the words right out of my mouth!! I’m the same age, and I’m roaring through my “cardboard box money,”so I don’t have to live in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere. Loved your posts and the comments of other readers because I’m not alone…. When we get really old, perhaps we can pool our resources and put together a community of cardboard boxes. Oh the stories we can share with one another! Brenda

  12. Great post. It is a challenge to turn life long outside caring inwards to self care but certainly worth it. I agree – it is money well spent.
    Thank you! Suz from Vancouver

  13. The child in us has always realized the importance of “being” happy and “doing” happy. As adulthood edges in we become more responsible and feel a need to care for and about the things in life more than ourselves. As life passes, and it does too quickly so often, we often, in our alone times, glimpse into our childhood. We see and remember pleasures and desires, memories of joy. And, speaking for myself, it was all those little joys, the small self indulgences that helped us through the responsibility part.

    I , like the author, have begun to let some adult tasks be put on”wait”. Somehow happiness is taking priority. And the happiness is usually in the smallest of things. Time to read, to paint. A walk in nature, a movie with popcorn, A museum or gallery visit, manicures and pedicures, a caramel mocha latte. Enjoying company of friends, lingering over breakfast in a quaint restaurant with them. Interacting with animals. Adding a few dabs of perfume. Sharing time with loved ones. Late night conversations on life.
    Oh the list is long, the pleasures grand.

    So what that my dishwasher needs repair, I wash dishes by hand and enjoy the process, using my prettiest cup for tea. I buy a little surprise for no reason for a friend and tuck their smile into my heart. I give compliments to strangers. I hug longer. I forgive more. My light shines brighter, my stars have become more beautiful in any darkness I have endured. Peace embraces my heart and nurtures my soul.

  14. Ha! Tried this Elaine on my birthday weekend in February. This will probably make you laugh! Inbetween looking out for my dad with alzheimers and my grandson and trying to run a small business and keep everyone happy, took myself to a local hairdresser, with pics of the potential new me, after two years of cutting my own hair…. I know! Yikes! Within seconds the scissors were being slid down my hair which did alarm me, but I thought, hmmm, OK. So last week I had to cut it again myself to get rid of all the split ends, which I literally hadn’t seen in years. Then, with Spring on the horizon tried a back scrub and stubborn spot removal at a local beauticians. Ended up at GP with an infected ‘sebaceous syst’ and a course of antibiotics! Such bad luck, but on the positive side, sticking with my wonderful yoga and meditation class! One day, I’m coming on your ‘Write it down’ course!

  15. I completely agree! I’m making changes in your direction right now. Being more present. “Doing It Now” (whatever It is). Because “If Not Now, When?”

    Fortunately, I’m also discovering new pleasures in caring well for myself physically — fruits, veggies, exercise, good sleep, physical therapy, etc. And other pleasures and rewards come from emotional and spiritual self-caring routines — meditation, walks outdoors, good books (and bad ones, too), music, and so much more!

    Thank you for reminding me that at this age stuff isn’t the stuff that rewards. 😉

  16. It’s happening to me too ! I have a deep love affair with makeup and skincare, that’s Clarins and Chanel. What a boost for the soul and how I love it, never do guilt !

  17. Love all the comments, at this moment I’m sitting in an airport lounge in Perth Australia heading home to Melbourne after nearly 5 weeks helping my daughter with a two and a half year old and a new born who arrived the day I came here, I’m pretty tired and sad to be leaving them, many tears, but a very rewarding time for all of us.
    I agree about taking care of ourselves, I have much planned for the next few months, two o/s trips and now Christmas to look forward to with this lovely little family. Not to mention the massage and facial I’ve booked for this weekend. Take care all, Joanne

  18. Oh Elaine!!! This made me smile from ear to ear! I could hear you saying this…..over a good glass of plonk (or that G&T I have waiting for you up here in the muddy countryside!) and I just want to share it with every woman I know who says “I feel so guilty” about all the silly things that they think are more important than themselves and the way they really feel inside. I bet your hair looks fabulous!

  19. Couldn’t agree more! For my recent (change of decade ) birthday I said to family, please No stuff! I have reached peak stuff.. I asked for ‘experiences’ I now have an IOU for a trip to Oslo in May, a Norwegian phrase book and a promise to accompany me on any adventure in the future (from my son) Looking forward to all of them. Oh and that bathroom painting…can wait…

  20. So true! I’m on my second trip to Paris in two weeks. (I used to live here before retiring so why not?) Indulging in 4* luxury hotel, and all my favourite restaurants. Enjoy while I still can. In June I’m attending one of Elaine’s writing retreats.

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