As an incorrigible shopper, one of the dilemmas with which I frequently grapple is how much to spend, and on what. There is no shortage of things that catch my eye, so I find it helpful to my budget to make (and stick) to some general guidelines. [I don’t like to call them “rules”. Rules just invite breaking, don’t they?] While not everyone might find each of these relevant to their own shopping habits, my experience has taught that they do hold true.
Where to Spend
1) Shoes. Knowing of my love for Stuart Weitzman, you are not surprised, surely. But it’s not just a matter of my being a “shoe person”. A good quality pair of shoes can, and should, last for years. You may need to invest a bit of extra money from time to time for maintenance (mainly re-heeling), but you’ll get more wear out of your original investment than from something that will fall apart – or fall out of fashion – in a couple of seasons. Shoes have the additional advantage of not being something you grow out of (after a certain age) – your dress size might go up or down, but your shoe size is much less variable.
That is not to say that every pair of shoes you buy should be pricey. Some types of footwear don’t need to last forever. Flip flops, and to some extent ballet flats, are a good example. Not all good quality shoes cost an arm and a leg. Plus, even expensive shoes go on sale sometime. The point is not to spend wildly on shoes; it’s to spend wisely.
2) Pants. Almost everyone I know has trouble finding pants that fit – and these are people with perfectly normal proportions. It makes sense, then, to pay a little bit more for a pair that does fit, especially if you happen to wear them a lot. I would add that it’s even more worth it if you can find a pair of dress pants that fits and is lined (such a bonus in this climate), though they’re pretty rare.
3) Coats and jackets. Living in Alberta, you’ll need a jacket, sooner rather than later. In all likelihood, you will need two or three – one for “regular” winter (which passes for spring/fall around here), one for Alberta winter, and one for “deep freeze” (a.k.a. January). Unless you are willing to give up on fashion for 6 (or more) months of the year, your jacket has to combine function and style – a difficult task in minus-50-with-windchill weather. But it is possible to find stylish jackets … they are starting to make parkas that are designed with regular figures in mind, and not the Michelin Man. They will just tend to cost more. Considering how much wear you will get out of them, that shouldn’t be too hard to rationalize.
4) Suits. If suits are a daily part of your (working) life, it’s worth making sure that they are close to a second skin as possible. That means comfort … which, in turn, means fit. Which, as it usually does, means extra moolah. I’m a big believer in the principle that if you’re going to buy a suit, you should always buy the most expensive one you can afford (and that’s a relative scale). There’s nothing worse than a suit jacket that feels like a straight jacket – you know, the kind that doesn’t really let you stretch out your arms properly – or, God forbid, polyester pants. Polyester pants + a hot day + a chair = office worker’s hell.
5) A little black dress. Not every dress in your closet needs to be “top of the line”, price-wise. And not every black dress you own will be the “little black dress”. The LBD should, ideally, be a classic, timeless dress you can and will wear for years. Something that fits perfectly and makes you feel like you’re wearing your comfiest pajamas whilst looking like a million bucks. If you find that dress, it’s worth splurging on. Trust me.
Where to Save
1) Shirts and T-shirts. Look, does it really matter how amazing a $200 T-shirt feels? Personally, I don’t care if the cotton was hand-spun by the hands of the pharaoh himself; a T-shirt is still just a T-shirt. If I have to pay more than $20 for one, it had better come with fireworks and its own parade. The same general principle applies, with a caveat, to dress shirts. Obviously, it’s more difficult to find $20 dress shirts (though not impossible; thanks, Superstore!), so you’ll probably have to spend a little more right off the bat. Additionally, sizing in dress shirts can be a problem for some people, which may require additional investment to get the proper fit.
Generally, spending a lot on tops does not make for a good “investment” because tops are much more likely to be trendy purchases than other pieces in the average woman’s closet. And while they can be really, really nice, they will rarely make or break an outfit. There are exceptions, of course. I have fond memories of that Jason Wu Spring 2011 blouse (the one with the big bow).
2) Jeans. Finding jeans that fit is much, much easier than finding dress pants, and there are plenty of low priced alternatives. Denim fanatics will no doubt disagree with me about the necessity of $200+ jeans, though.
3) Sunglasses. There is no end of cute, affordable sunglasses out there. The health protection offered by most $30 pairs is the same as that offered by $300+ pairs. Unless you require prescription sunglasses, or cannot do without a logo, there is no real reason to pay a lot of money for sunglasses, especially given the likelihood that you will lose them/break them/scratch them within the year.
3) Nylons. They will run. And the more expensive they are, the sooner they will probably do it. It’s Murphy’s Law.
It’s Up to You
1) Bags. I bet you’re surprised, right? Bag lady over here, telling it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on bags. Here’s the thing: if you want a bag that holds up over time, you need to go for quality, which usually comes at some sort of premium. If you are someone who likes to change bags every season, quality becomes a secondary consideration and it makes more sense, budget-wise, not to break the bank every time. And if you’re not a bag person, then the whole debate is moot.
2) Jewelry. I’m a big fan of costume jewelry; not everyone is. One thing is for sure: you can’t get diamonds on a cubic zirconia budget.
3) Yoga pants. I admit, I’m not a yoga person. Maybe that’s why I fail to understand the point of paying $100+ for a pair of what are, essentially, fancy sweat pants.
4) Underwear. Some people are OK with the 5/$25 special at LaSenza. Some people can’t live without their $20 Hanky Pankys. I wouldn’t dream of asking anyone to justify their preferences in that department.
Your turn – what do you spend/save on?