I've lived in every salary range, starting at $100 a week and moving up to $10,000 a year, then 12, 22, 50, 100, 225 and beyond.

My father raised me to believe that debt was a terrible thing. In our house, it was akin to a character flaw, like laziness and what he called trifling. So when I moved away from home and was $1,800 in debt within a year, I felt I'd failed. I never told my father, nor would I have dared to borrow money from him. So I took out a consolidation loan at 21 percent interest, ate a lot of raisin bran for dinner and bought the cheapest car I could afford?a bucket on wheels, I used to call it, but it got me to and from work. I tithed 10 percent to the church and shopped for clothes only once a year.

I paid off the $1,800 and vowed never again to create more bills than I could pay. I just hated the way overspending made me feel?anxious, like I couldn't fulfill my obligations. Irresponsible.

I still think twice before I buy anything. How will this fit in with what I already have? Am I just caught up in the moment?

And I know for sure that you enjoy everything a lot more when you're not overreaching. This is how you know you've shopped smart: You bring home a purchase and there's not a tinge of remorse, and whatever you got feels better to you ten days later than it did when you first bought it.

I feel blessed to be in the unbelievable position of being able to buy anything, anything I want. I remember the first time this occurred to me. In 1988 I was in Tiffany's trying to decide between one china pattern and another. I was going back and forth, and finally my shopping buddy said, "Why don't you just get both? You can afford to." Oh my God?I can. I can. I can get both! I started jumping up and down in the store like I'd won the lottery.

Since that time, I've had many one-or-the-other dilemmas. Often I force myself to choose (upbringing) or decide which friend I can give the other to. More than anything, I hate waste. Uselessness. The things you buy represent how you see yourself?how you wish for people to see you.

You're a smart cookie. Let the world know it.

What Oprah Knows for Sure


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