“To spend or not to spend? That tis the question.” Every once in a while I receive inquiries concerning clothes and finances; specifically, how do I balance the two. I’m always reluctant to answer because I have found that there is no perfect answer to any question dealing with the following:
I’m pretty sure terms like “different strokes for different folks” and “to each his own” were invented to absolve, resolve and dissolve arguments surrounding any of the above topics. Instead of stating what I feel to be the ‘right answer’ for deeply subjective questions, I prefer a ‘this is what works for me and this is what I believe” approach. My retail doctrine is simply that: Mine. I’m not an expert. I’m just a girl who loves clothes. You may find another financial philosophy that you like better. Don’t worry. No hard feelings. =)
I shaped my retail spending strategy at a very early age. When I began working at the age of 14 I implemented my very first clothing budget… And by “budget” I mean, “spend every solitary cent on clothes you can without incurring an overdraft fee.” As adulthood reared its ugly head, I had to amend this “Spend to the Precipice of Poverty” dogma to accommodate my increasingly expansive financial landscape. Who knew life had so many monetary demands! FICA, Social Security, health, dental, and vision insurance, IRA, 401k, car insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, weddings, moving expenses, rent/mortgage payments, food expenses, utility expenses, travel expenses, entertainment expenses- not to mention miscellaneous expenses, and more expenses, expenses, expenses, expenses, oh, and more expenses. It all seemed so complicated! And while it took some time for me to develop a system that works best for my budget, the best advice I can give to balance clothes and finances is to use common sense:
1. Get a financial advisor.
Whether you have $0.10 or $10 million in your bank account, if you are not an expert on finances, invest in a resource that can help. It can be a financial planner, investment broker, financial planning book, or app (Mint.com is my personal favorite). Find away to keep track of your income/expenses and ensure that you are meeting your financial needs before you are accommodating your lifestyle wants. Yes you NEED a savings account. Yes, you NEED to pay your rent on time (It’s not worth paying late penalties, TRUST ME!). And while sometimes we feel there’s an article of clothing that we NEED (I mean have you seen THESE little numbers by YSL!) if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we don’t. It’s a painful pill to swallow. But it’s important. And once you come to the realization clothes are just that- clothes, it takes a lot of pressure off meeting your other financial goals.
2. “If you can’t buy it in cash, don’t buy it at all.“
My first retail job was at Express when I was 16 years old and our signature sales line was, ‘Would you like to open an Express Card and save 15% on your total purchase today.” In retrospect it makes me sick to my stomach to think how many innocent souls I enabled into Credit Card Captivity. Here’s the honest truth: no store credit card is worth it. None. And the blunt truth is any amount of money you save from using the store credit card you will just end up paying back in interest. Trust me- if stores were not profiting (quite heavily I might add) off of credit card sales, they wouldn’t promote them as hard as they do. Am I the only person that has been down right ACCOSTED from a sales person trying to get me to open a credit card! And before you think I’m picking on store credit cards, I don’t think you should use any line of credit to purchase clothing. Whenever you buy clothes use cash, check or debit cards. NEVER credit. Not even to buy a Retail Unicorn. A Retail Unicorn is a term I made up that refers to any item that meets the following criteria:
1. It’s absolutely gorgeous!
2. It’s on sale!
3. It’s in my size!
4. It’s the last one left! (Therefore if I don’t get it I will be eternally unhappy!)
To date I have found 11 Retail Unicorns in my life and have had to leave countless others behind, much to my dismay and frustration. However, the pain you encounter missing out on that one must-have item will not even begin to compare to the pain you experience having credit card debt. It’s just not worth it.
3. Value is the key.
My college Economics professor once told me, ‘A dollar is only worth what you can get for it.” When it comes to finding the balance between clothes and finances make sure you are getting the best value for your money. Money is a precious commodity and no matter if you have a lot or a little of it, it’s important to take financial responsibility seriously. Only buy clothing that is a good value for your money. That means you are getting just as much out of it as you are putting into it. Obviously, this is a qualitative metric so only you can know the answer to that question. At the end of the day trust your judgment… unless of course your judgment tells you to buy clothes using a credit card. Then no- you should kick that judgment in the crotch and run for cover. =)
Until next time,