There's an indescribable feeling that comes with the
first "big" purchase you make when you get your very first paycheck. My first paycheck came from the Gap when I was 18. I didn't have the cash in my hands more than 30 minutes when I dropped it on a pair of $220 black, knee-high, Frye riding boots. Did I need riding boots? No. Did I want them? Hell yes. I still have them and wear them to this day.
But even if I didn't still wear them, I'd still have them tucked away somewhere. Those boots weren't just a pretty huge purchase for 18-year-old me, but the
sense of accomplishment that came with knowing that I bought them because I joined the ranks of everyone else in the world who had a job and could buy such things, was a feeling I'll never forget. Of course my parents won't ever forget it either, as they still bring up these boots when lecturing me about being financially responsible. Whatever; those boots have lasted half my lifetime.
When considering a purchase, it's not necessarily always about how much something is," Canon Hickman, wealth manager at Equity Concepts, tells Bustle. "It's about getting value for the money that you have. Money is there to be earned and spent — it's going to be spent on something, whether it's your retirement or going out with friends. It's there to accomplish the things in your life that you want to accomplish. The real key differentiator is spending money on things that actually bring you value."
I asked Millennial women what expensive thing they bought with their very first paycheck. From the extravagant to the practical, here's what 23 women bought.
"I had just started in banking back in 2000 and got my first paycheck with my bonus. I blew it all on a designer purse. Louis Vuitton to be specific. I still have the purse 14 years later, so maybe it wasn’t a total waste." "The first thing I bought with my first paycheck was a pair of Louboutins. I couldn’t resist the red bottoms and I wanted to treat myself for successfully landing my first job." "My first 'job' was raising market lambs on my family farm. When I was eight, I raised and sold my first pair of lambs, and made all of $100. Which I then turned around and spent on a Nintendo. The original one with Mario and Duck Hunt." "I bought a Michael Kors bag with my very first paycheck from my first full-time job out of college ($200). I typically don't buy myself expensive things (e.g. clothing), so this was a big deal for me." "I'm a freelance writer, and my first real, adult paycheck was for an editorial internship, which added up to quite a large chunk of money. I walked straight from work at the Watergate to Georgetown, and dropped several hundred dollars on a pair of Tory Burch sunglasses. It was a total impulse buy, and to this day I regret nothing." "The first thing I bought with my first paycheck from my very first job when I was 16 was a Pink Ralph Lauren polo. I remember thinking when I was a teenager that they were the most luxurious looking shirts on earth and I was obsessed with earning enough money to own one since my parents would NEVER spend $80 on a shirt. To date, it is probably the most satisfying clothing purchase I have ever made. Of course, this was like 20 years ago." "I started working when I was 16 at the YMCA. When I got my first paycheck, the first thing I went out and bought was a Michael Kors bag from T.J.Maxx. I don’t use it anymore, but I still have it packed away at my parents' house." I was 14 and I remember I wanted this Royal Blue Billabong t-shirt from the local surf shop. It was $35 and I was working at KFC for $4.75/hour — my first shift was just short of making the full $35. So I had to work the following week to make up the extra... what was worse was that I had to wait a fortnight to be paid. So I had to wait a month and hope and pray the t-shirt was still there when I had my money. To this day, I remember buying it and feeling so cool. My mum never bought me surf brands!! It was like a right of passage." "I got a Betsey Johnson dress from the Betsey Johnson store, and then I was too afraid to wear it in public for like three years, because what if it got damaged? I knew I would not soon again have the stars align for such a big purchase. " "One of the first few I bought my first Louis Vuitton handbag. It was my dream bag and the perfect way to celebrate being a grown up at my first big girl job. I remember being terrified to spend that much money on a handbag, but simultaneously being so excited to do so — and more than that, the thrilling feeling of knowing that I COULD. It was such an accomplished feeling knowing that I could afford to buy my dream bag. That was over seven years ago now, and I have never once regretted the decision. Was it the catalyst to my enduring love of LV and justification of subsequent purchases? Maybe. OK, probably. But that bag still looks brand new despite being carried all the time. And my life has gotten more complicated since then, with more bills, more expenses, and more excuses not to spend that much on a handbag — so even though it was a lot at the time, I’m glad I did it because now I have it and can enjoy it when maybe I wouldn’t make the same purchase today." "I treated my family to dinner at a nice restaurant. I don't think I had a firm understanding of proper tipping at the time so the waitress probably got stiffed. Oops! (I know better now)." "I paid for half of an instrumental repair on my flute." "Although I graduated with a finance degree, when I started making real money I spent it just as fast! I probably spent $1,000 that first month on clothes, just to dress the part of my new job. I'm now 32 and much more controlled with my spending; I'm even a Money Coach." "This isn’t a very sexy answer, but I invested in a really nice desk chair. Since I work from home and sit almost all day, I knew I had to spend more than $100 on a supportive, functional chair instead of a cheap cushion with four legs." "For me, it was my bed. I bought the frame and mattress from a local furniture liquidators, but I splurged on nice sheets and a three inch memory foam topper for it. Total cost: about $650. So much better than sleeping on an air mattress or an extra long twin bed from college." "I bought the most beautiful dress from Anthropologie. It’s my favorite piece of clothing to this day! At the time, it was very symbolic of me trading in my leggings I wore to class, to looking great at my new job where I needed to look like an adult." "I remember I saved up to buy a Macbook as the first expensive thing. I was 16 years old at the time." "I bought a Proenza Schouler PS-1 bag when I was 21 after accumulating a few of my first paychecks (OK, maybe more than just a few). After years of unpaid internships, I wanted to celebrate the hard work I put in to earning money at my first paid gig, and get something that would be more of an investment piece that I could wear time and again. Five years later, it still is a go-to bag and reminds me of those great feelings I had when I started to receive paychecks." "I worked at a PR firm after graduating college and it was my first salaried job. After receiving my first paycheck, which seemed HUGE, I bought a designer purse. I spent $500 on a Coach bag and it was well worth it to me. I'd never had that much money at one time, let alone spent that much on any one item. I justified my purchase because I told myself I could use it for work. I did my due diligence and looked at multiple stores for different style and priced bags. In the end, I dropped $500 on a brown leather Coach purse and I still use it five years later." "In high school I got a job at the grocery store working at the customer service desk just so I could buy my own car. It took me almost a year to save up, but when I finally got the $2,000 I bought a 1989 Volkswagen Jette. I named it Stella. It was the best purchase of my life. When the car finally died shortly after college graduation, I begged my parents if we could keep it in the garage forever. That didn’t happen." "The most expensive thing I bought with my first paycheck was a trip to Spain! I graduated mid-term in December so by the time of the graduation ceremony in May I had already been working for five months. I decided that instead of going to graduation I would go to Spain to celebrate. Now, six years later I travel full-time so it was truly the trip that launched a thousands trips and the best gift I could have given myself." "With my first paycheck from my first full-time job post-college (2011) I bought a Nicole Miller dress. It’s a black and gray striped and ruched dress. It was probably around $300 (honestly, it’s been long enough I don’t remember exactly). To this day, I still have the dress and love it. I call it my paycheck dress because it was my first paycheck treat yo-self moment." "I bought a massage package for 15 massages since I realized how stressful the job was and that I should invest in my mental and physical health. Since then I’ve been much more frugal with my paycheck."
There isn't just a
sense of accomplishment that comes with the most expensive thing you buy with your first paycheck, but a sense of empowerment, too. You busted your butt, you maybe even worked late to get overtime, and, eventually, that thing you wanted so badly, that thing you deserved after all that work, was finally yours. Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.