Lynn is the sort of prudent at-home mother who never makes a financial misstep, but just once she wanted to live as though money were no concern, and so it was that she revealed the shameful tale of her Anthropologie splurge. Just once, she wanted to buy an outfit—a whole outfit, not just a skirt or blouse—from her favorite store, and furthermore she didn't want to wait until it went on sale. She picked a beautiful green and yellow sweater with a matching skirt, but when she got them home, they never fit quite right, and she just about never wore them, and they're still hanging in her closet, compounding the misery.

Likewise, when Sandra was pregnant with her first baby, she came into a windfall, which she spent on a pair of expensive teak lawn chairs, on which she planned to sit while breastfeeding. But the chairs proved more demanding than the newborn; they were like a pair of young lovers who expected Sandra to be their handmaiden, oiling them and protecting them from any violation (sun, rain, a sweating glass of iced tea) that might in any way cause them harm. She ended up rarely sitting on them, and regretting every penny they'd cost her.

Now that we were letting our hair down, Jody made a confession: "I hired a decorator to do my house once. I hated everything he suggested, and while I was mustering up the courage to fire him, he quit! Unfortunately, not without first cashing my check." ("I realized that if you loathe someone, no matter how cleverly you think you're disguising it, the odds are they loathe you, too!")

Most of us know a lot about money, including how to manage it. When I was a schoolteacher, splitting the rent on an apartment and chronically broke, I nonetheless forced myself to put aside the maximum contribution to the school's pension plan—and it was that set-aside money that helped my husband and me, eventually, buy our first house. Sandra is on a one-woman mission to get parents to stop sending their children to ruinously expensive private schools, a mission that is helping thousands of families stay out of debt, and Sarah has hit the ground running after her divorce. We can all take care of business when we have to. But still, when we talked about money, the first thing that popped into our minds wasn't savings plans and investment strategies; it was dresses and lawn chairs. If we knew the answer to why women so often think about money on the small scale, we'd be...Suze Orman. And unfortunately we're not, so I changed the subject.


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