This is gonna be an epic(ally long) post, so let’s just get down to business. Ahem.

1. I Shop. A Lot.

I mean, obviously. Have you seen my monthly recaps?

Every now and then, I feel guilty about this. One, it’s bad for the environment and society generally. There is really no justification for this one, so I won’t even attempt to give you one. I try to minimize my personal impact, but I’m fully cognizant of the fact that most of my efforts (i.e. shopping second hand) are dependent on other people continuing to feed that cycle. So, yeah.

Two, it’s wasteful. There are better things I could be doing with that money. Also, more responsible things. But I do try to do good deeds wherever I can, and I am responsible with 95% of my money, so I feel like I should get a pass on this one. I’m a firm believer that discretionary income should be spent – at one’s discretion, naturally – in ways that maximize the spender’s happiness quotient. Would I be happier if I spent my “fun money” differently? Honestly … probably not. Probably definitely not. Which brings me to …

Three, I feel like I ought to be apologetic about loving something as frivolous as clothes as much as I do. On the other hand, some folks love comic books, or sports memorabilia, or those creepy Reborn dolls, and people call them “collectors”. I collect clothes, ok? Just because clothes happen to be exclusively functional objects to most people, doesn’t mean that they’re not something more than that to me. People collect all kinds of weird shit, right?

Four, I feel like I’m perpetuating a blogger stereotype, and promoting potentially irresponsible behaviour. And this is where it gets sticky. As a blog reader, one of my pet peeves is the growing trend in Bloglandia towards the normalization of chronic over-consumption. I know that makes me sound like a hypocrite, given what I’ve just admitted about my own spending habits, but bear with me.

Blogging is all about perceptions. By choice or necessity, almost no blogger is completely transparent about every facet of her life, and that includes her financial situation. At the same time, successful blogs are almost always those that create the illusion that this is not the case. That the blogger is like a close friend … and there are no secrets, lies, or half-truths between friends, right? And that is fine, I guess, although perhaps we (readers) could all occasionally use a disclaimer. (“Things depicted on this blog may not be as they appear.”)

The problem is that there are lots and lots of readers out there, all of them with differing levels of discernment. Do teenage girls reading a popular blog realize that the lifestyle portrayed therein belongs to the 1%? That it is not possible – unless you are a statistically almost insignificant minority – to have no job yet spend tens of thousands of dollars every month on clothes? And that, for everyone else, doing so probably requires tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt? And that doing that is really, really irresponsible? Some do. Some don’t. And some adults might not either. The desire to believe a fairytale can be a powerful antidote to reason.

So, while I don’t believe in policing people’s spending habits, I do worry about the implicit messages being sent with every haul video, and shopping wish list – my own included. For my own part, I’ve toyed with the idea of being more transparent about my finances – as they relate to my shopping behaviours – in an attempt to avoid creating any misleading perceptions. But I worry about the privacy implications and, more importantly, about coming across as an insufferable twerp. It’s a bit of a dilemma.

I will say this, and leave it at that: the clothes shopping you see reflected in this blog is my only significant personal indulgence, and it’s one I can afford without undermining my family’s financial security. And I hope that, if you’re ever inspired or tempted to shop because of something you see here, that you do so as long as it’s not at the cost of your other life goals.

2. I Shop Smart

Pats on the back, give them all to meeeeee.

Just kidding. The truth is, I had to learn to do this because I needed to reconcile (a) my love of clothes, and (b) my love of fiscal responsibility. Some people might consider the answer to be less, but more strategic, shopping. Not me. I love the thrill of the hunt and the thrill of getting to “play” with a new piece. I want both in my life – for a reasonable price.

I’ve beaten you over the head with my mantra before – buy the best quality you can find for the lowest price you can get – but let’s take another whack at it. Obviously, “best quality” and “lowest price” are subjective. For me, the former means comfortable and flattering style, as good a fit as possible (in an off-the-rack garment), new or almost-new condition, natural fibers (as much as possible), and an appealing (to me) aesthetic. Bonus points, of course, if it’s made in N. America or Europe.

Lowest price can be tricky, because everyone has different price set points; my personal goal is buying things at around 30% or less of their original retail value. Although, in some cases, this might mean that I’m still paying a significant part of the retail mark-up, it’s a good compromise – a “sweet spot”, if you will, where I don’t feel like I’m overpaying, but finding decent quality is still relatively easy. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule; I sometimes buy things at regular cost, and other times at even greater discount. When I tally up my current wardrobe, though, the total out-of-pocket cost is about a third of the original retail value. That makes me feel a lot less guilty about my, errr, extensive inventory.

Le fin.

OK, your turn to ‘fess up. What’s been on your mind lately?

9 Comments on Style Confessions, vol. 2

  1. Having a blog the last (almost) two years has helped me spend less believe or not. I wasn’t excessive before by any means as I don’t have expensive tastes. The monthly budget recap helps keep me honest & I’ll always pause to consider a purchase, do I “need” it etc.

    I probably also spend less as I now have two kids. Pre-them I used to buy (high street) items whenever I saw something I liked as I had the disposable income! Now I’m an online shopper and never without a discount code!

  2. This is a really good post. It’s so rare for bloggers to be transparent about this kind of thing, and sometimes even the most level-headed adult needs to be reminded that lifestyles portrayed in popular lifestyle blogs are not real life.

    That said, I have the opposite problem. I admire clothes from afar and have to be pushed to actually buy them. Seeing monthly haul posts actually encourages me to do some shopping for myself for once!

    • Thanks! It’s a sensitive topic for a lot of people, so I understand the reluctance to really address it, but I do believe a dose of reality is often much needed.

      And, hey, in some ways your problem is a nice one to have – definitely easier to handle than the reverse.

  3. Thank you! When I started reading fashion blogs I thought, “how do these women afford all their clothes??” Thanks for being honest and helping us see/understand how you budget.

    • Thanks for reading! I kind of wish I could be MORE transparent/explicit about my budget, and how it fits into our family’s bigger financial picture, but I’m just not that comfortable with that yet. I do hope this helps a little bit 🙂

  4. I want to echo what others have said — it’s nice to have someone be transparent about more than just what’s in their closet. (I also love how honest and proud you are when it comes to getting deals! That’s how I shop, too. When I have money, that is.) But it’s definitely a fine line to cross when it comes to discussing more personal things like your financial situation. I’m a relatively new and very small blogger, but I struggle with similar things — which sections of my life do I reveal, and how much? Bloggers discussing their financial situations could be a healthy dose of reality in a world that can certainly be a bit too glossy, but I also think it’s unfair to expect that of anyone, or expect anyone to give an entirely honest picture of it.

    Reading and writing blogs is tricky!

    • I love getting deals! Although, I also know there can be a dark side to bargain hunting when it’s taken to extremes (as in all things).

      Establishing boundaries in blogging – especially when it’s a hobby, not a full-time job – is so very tricky. Until people learn to look at blogging like reality TV – i.e. fully scripted/staged – there will always be a need for transparency or disclaimers. I’m choosing to go more with the latter, for the sake of those privacy concerns. It’s something every blogger has to decide for themselves.

  5. God bless you for this post! I discovered style blogs about 5 years ago and stupidly allowed myself to make some REALLY dumb choices about how much I spent…and yep quite a lot is on credit cards. I’m trying to make a conscious effort to stop shopping and appreciate the items I have which I really don’t enough. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • That’s a really common situation, and I feel for you. It sounds like you have got things under control again, though, and I wish you all the best in that. I know blogs can be tricky (because I succumb to the temptation to buy the latest thing I see online, too), but there ARE blogs out there that focus more on style – and learning to use and love what’s already in your closet – as opposed to shopping. Those are the kinds of blogs I like to read … and they’re better for my wallet too 😉