Category: Budget

What I Bought: April 2015

So, I’ve decided to do things differently this month. Before I tell you all about what’s different, let me start at the beginning.

I’ve been feeling dissatisfied lately about my closet. Perhaps “dissatisfied” is not the right word. I love the clothes I have, or the very least, the majority of them. But it started to feel like there were too many of them; too many clothes, too many choices, too much guilt – about not wearing some of them enough, about being too wasteful. I’m fortunate in that I can afford to be wasteful with my money. It may not be the best use of it, but I look at it this way: if I’m spending my (fun) money on something that makes me happy, then it’s fulfilling its intended purpose. And, certainly, the experience of shopping for new clothes, and reinventing myself with new clothes, is very enjoyable … except that it passes, and I am left with more clothes than I need, and feeling guilty about wasting the resources that went into making all those unnecessary clothes.

Paring down my wardrobe, which I do regularly, is only half the story. As long as I keep buying things at the same rate I have been, nothing will really change. Deep down, I’ve known that for a while. I’ve talked a good “mindful consumerism” game before, but real change is hard. What I needed to do was to divorce the act of shopping from the act of (sartorial) self-expression. No easy feat. We are constantly bombarded with images of cute, new clothes, and I have an over-active imagination; I can easily weave narratives around new clothes that can justify any purchase. I’m sure you’ve seen some of that on the blog. I need to learn to admire something, without wanting to own it. This may sound incredibly obvious and simple to some of you, but it requires a not insignificant shift in perspective for me.

The reality is that clothes will probably never be purely functional objects for me. [And it seems as though this is the case for more and more people these days.] There will always be a sense of romance about them, for me, as there is about books. Of infinite (and hopeful) possibilities. With that in mind, however, I am still ready for a change. I think. And here we are.

In an effort to shift my perspective on shopping, I decided to try a new approach. Some new guidelines.

  1. Buy only 1 new item.
  2. Can buy replacements for any item already in my closet, provided the cost per wear of the item to be replaced is $4 or less.
  3. Bags not included.

So, yes, this month I decided to buy only 1 new item. I wanted to force myself to be truly mindful about my shopping, while still having an opportunity to be a little impulsive. I already have all the clothes I could possibly need, so I wanted to focus on making sure that anything I added was truly special.

I also allowed myself to purchase replacements for items already in my closet, with one condition. This was a modified version of the “one in, one out” rule, but with the added caveat that the cost-per-wear of the item I was replacing had to be $4 or less. Why $4? It’s a somewhat arbitrary number, but it’s about the cost of a chai latte – in other words, a frivolous throw-away cost. Admittedly, this rule does nothing for the environment (a garment discarded before the end of its useful life is still … one more unnecessarily discarded garment) but the idea was to force myself to be really mindful about this category of spending as well. It can take a surprising amount of time to get down to a $4 CPW (think of it this way: a $40 item, worn once a month, will take 10 months to get to that magic number – and not everything in my closet gets worn every month), which should eliminate too-quick turnovers. Because, yes, I’m thinking of turning this into an on-going experiment.

Oh, and a couple of exceptions: bags and pants. The first one probably needs no explanation, but about the pants: if I gain or lose enough weight to necessitate a change in sizes, I will buy new pants regardless of the cost-per-wear of my old ones. Saggy/sausage-casing pants are the worst.

So, how did I fare this month? I bought three things ($452) and received one gift (from my husband). Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Earth, Music & Ecology striped dress ($23 via consignment) – This looked like a dress you’d find at Anthropologie, but it turned out to be from a Japanese brand. Which may explain the slightly Lolita-esque vibe. Now, admittedly, that doesn’t sound like something an almost-35 year old should wear, but I think it’s cute without being too twee. Plus, it replaced my Joe Fresh striped dress from last summer (CPW $1.45), and I have a bit more leeway to be immature in my weekend wardrobe.
  2. Nine West slingback pumps (gifted) – I call these my “witching” shoes because the slightly higher vamp makes them look, well, a little witchy. They remind me of the current Vince Claire pumps that are all the rage, but for a fraction of the price. They are replacing my beloved thrifted Jimmy Choo Merrit pumps (CPW $0.24). Sigh, I know. It’s a sad day, but the time has come. The leather has completely peeled from the tip of the Merrit pumps, and while they remain in otherwise decent shape, I can’t wear them at the office anymore. They’re being relegated to commute duty, until they give up the ghost entirely. The Nine West replacements are probably not as classic a choice, but I do still have my plain Stuart Weitzman pointy toe pumps, so I wanted a edgier pair for my alternate.
  3. Babaton Brady sweater ($9 via Value Village) – I haven’t quite decided whether this will replace something in my closet (there are a couple of candidates) or represent my permitted “new item”; I couldn’t resist a silk & linen blend sweater for under $10, though. It looks vaguely Isabel Marant-ish. The yarn is a mix of red, white, and black, which works well with my wardrobe palette. Also, there was this …
  4. Red bag ($420 via eBay) – Obviously, this is not just any bag. Obviously, it’s getting its own post. [If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know all about it, but I’m hanging on to the surprise element here a little bit longer.]

    You probably don’t need me to tell you that there were a lot of things I liked, but didn’t buy, this month. Let’s take a look at a few:

    Love Moschino Wool Dress

    Love Moschino dress
    Love Moschino dress

    This was an adorable dress and a great bargain to boot (Winners clearance, $69 down from $450-ish). However, there was nothing in my wardrobe that it could have replaced, and there were a few reasons why I decided not to make it my “freebie” this month. One, it was 70% wool (made in Turkey), which meant that it was quite itchy, and prone to piling (some was already evident). Two, either the dress didn’t sit as intended on me, or else there was a design/manufacturing flaw, but the pleats did not lay down symmetrically all the way around; a minor issue, but it would have bothered me had I bought it. Three, while classic in a gamine, Chanel-esque way, the style was ultimately a little too young, and too cute for me. I could have worn it to work, but I don’t think it would have presented my preferred image.

    Frye Rachel sandals
    Frye Rachel sandals

    Another awesome Winners bargain: $62 down from $168. I didn’t end up buying them because (a) they were ever so slightly too small; and (b) I already have at least 4 pairs of strappy casual sandals (which is probably 2 too many), and this one didn’t really need to replace any of them. This would have been a great find for someone in actual need of a good quality summer sandal … alas, that person was not me.

    Anne Klein crepe shift dress
    Anne Klein crepe shift dress

    So, um, I stopped in at Winners a lot this month. This was another sale rack find ($44) that didn’t work for me. You can see the problem in the photo on the right; if the dress had been the correct size and fit properly (see pic on the left), it would have been a no-brainer. Some peeps on Instagram suggested that I get it tailored. Here are my thoughts on that: the quality of the dress was not good enough to justify what would likely have cost upwards of $40 in alterations. The crepe material was so-so; one of the sleeve hems had already come undone. With that said, I will keep an eye out for this dress at Winners, on the off chance another store has my size.

    Linking up with Franish and the other budgeting bloggers – do check them out for more fun, virtual shopping.

What I Bought: March 2015

So … this was a spendy, splurgey, buy-all-the-things kind of month. Basically, a lot of things I’d been waiting to buy for ages just … turned up all at once. I just couldn’t pass them up, you guys. Alright, I have all kinds of excuses reasons, so let’s just get right to it. I bought 10 items for $420 (original retail approx. $1,231), and they are all awesome sauce.

J. Crew Beanstalk print blouse
J. Crew Beanstalk print blouse

I think my favourite consignment store is jacking up its prices on some brands, like J. Crew. I don’t know if their general clientele is finally getting more familiar with J. Crew (and, hence, willing to pay more for it), but me no likey. I probably overpaid for this blouse, but it was one I had lusted after when it was in stores, and missed on clearance, so – justifications, I haz them. Plus, I think it’s going to look cute for work.

I should add that this is the retail not outlet version of this print, and is therefore made out of silk, not polyester; I won’t buy another 100% polyester piece again if I can help it. I may consider rayon (the jersey-feeling kind), but that’s about it. Speaking of which, I bought a cute Pleione blouse on sale at Winners for $23, and it’s made out of rayon and I ain’t mad at it – it wears comfortably.

Amaryllis Pink Wool coat
Amaryllis Pink Wool blend coat

Also at Winners, I picked up this pink wool blend coat (70% wool, 30% polyester). Trust that it looks cuter in person; it actually reminds me a little bit of the pink Carven coats that were all the rage about a year ago. I first admired it when my kids’ godmom wore it to brunch. Now, it is a fact that she looks fantastic in pink, and I’m not quite sure that I pull off the colour as well, but … for $36 (down from $100), I’m willing to take a chance. Plus, the coat is made in Romania, and I feel like that’s some kind of sign.

Ivanka Trump Two Tone Floral Sheath Dress
Ivanka Trump Two Tone Floral Sheath Dress

I was looking through my IG feed at the beginning of the month (trying to figure out if I had worn a particular outfit before), and came across an old Winners changing room photo in which I was trying this Ivanka Trump dress. “Hmm, cute,” I thought to myself. The style is similar to my beloved Joe Fresh sack dress, and it’s a silhouette I like a lot these days, even though it’s not particularly figure-flattering. I decided to take “just a quick look” on eBay to see if the dress might still be found. Well … you know what happens when you take “just a quick look” on eBay – you end up buying something. Or is that just me? Ahem. Luckily, I managed to snag this dress for a good deal (even cheaper than the Winners sale price 4 months ago), and since I had a bit of a US$ balance on my Paypal, I didn’t even have to take the currency exchange hit. Score!

J. Crew Factory pants
J. Crew Factory pants

So, these J. Crew Factory pants look questionable, but hear me out: I really do think that they translate a little more “edgy” and a little less “I gave up on style” in real life. I’m not sure when I became a pants person, but I guess the proof is undeniable. I’ve bought a bazillion pairs of pants in the last 2 months, and I love wearing them. Never saw that coming, right?

Nathalie Lete Hamatreya Skirt
Nathalie Lete Hamatreya Skirt

I’ve been waiting for this skirt to pop up on eBay in my size for almost a year. No joke.

LOFT Tipped Utility Blouse
LOFT Tipped Utility Blouse
LOFT Marisa Windowpane Pants
LOFT Marisa Windowpane Pants

I’d held on to a LOFT gift card for 6 months (since my birthday!), and decided to finally pull the trigger. Part of the reason why I’d held on to the card for so long is that the only LOFT store in town is located in WEM – an inconvenient trek with the kids in tow (and they are almost always in tow). Another part of the reason was that I haven’t been inspired by anything LOFT has put out since the summer … until now. It’s as if they foresaw my current black and white obsession, and decided to send me a gift, or two. I’ve been hankering for a pair of windowpane print pants since last month, and while I had hoped to find a black-on-white colourway, LOFT’s version is nice too. The tipped utility blouse is just too cute to pass up – especially with the collar buttoned up – even if it is 100% polyester (sigh, that resolution lasted all of 2 paragraphs). Together, minus the gift card, these two pieces set me back about $34.

J. Crew Regent Blazer
J. Crew Regent Blazer

True story: I stalked this blazer online for months, waiting for a deep price cut to coincide with a generous discount code … and it never happened. I think I saw it once for around $120, but the only size left was 2. So I basically gave up on it. But then! When I was at WEM to visit the LOFT store, I also stopped in to J. Crew to check out their sales rack, vaguely hoping to find some cute jewelry for work. (Why, I don’t know. I wear, like, the same 2 pairs of earrings every week. Must be that magpie instinct). But I saw something better: this blazer. I knew, instinctively, that it was a store return (because it’s been out of stock for ages) and wasn’t optimistic about the likelihood of it being the right size. Except that it was! And it was marked way down, with an extra 40% off on top of that. As I was trying it on, and admiring its lovely reflection, my husband was, like, “don’t even pretend you’re not getting it.” Well, don’t mind if I do.

Zara Box Pleat Midi Skirt
Zara Box Pleat Midi Skirt (navy not black as pictured)

I know, you guys – I actually bought something for full retail price. I feel like this needs an extra long explanation, and here you go. For months now, one of the must-have items on my shopping list has been a navy skirt. Initially, I was looking for a pencil skirt, because that is the silhouette I used to wear all the time. But, while I still love the look of pencil skirts, the reality is that I don’t find them as comfortable as I used to (even after losing some weight). So when I spotted this fuller silhouette at Zara (in navy), I had to try it on. And I really liked it.

The midi length is trendy right now, but I’m confident that it’s a classic. The material is a cotton-poly blend, which is acceptable; although it has a subtle pattern, and I would have preferred it plain, I can live with it. I still hesitated, a lot, over this purchase – and not even because of the price (I had just received my annual bonus for last year, and was feeling celebratory). Zara is the definition of fast fashion, and I have been trying to move away from that in my purchases for the last few years. It’s probably an arbitrary line in the sand, because I still shop at places like J. Crew and Joe Fresh (who source their wares from many of the same places, I’m sure), but I feel like I need to have it drawn somewhere, you know? Well, I guess I crossed it anyway, this time. The skirt is made in Portugal, which made it seem a little better.

What’s your stance on fast fashion? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Linking up with Franish and the other budgeting bloggers.

What I Bought: February 2015

I didn’t think that January could be topped for sheer busy-ness, but I was wrong. Oh-so-wrong. February, I don’t even know where to begin with you, but the gist of it is this: you sucked. In every which way imaginable. The kids were sick almost continuously, work kicked my ass every day (and twice on Sundays), and I barely had any time to sleep (and then there was that time I got the stomach flu), much less celebrate any special moments (ahem, 7 year dating anniversary) with my husband. Honestly, I can barely muster the energy to write this post. But … habits, you know. So let’s get to it before I pass out entirely.

I bought 5 4 things and received one gift (from my husband), bringing the total to 6 5 items for an out-of-pocket cost of $201 $174. That’s a high-ish total, but the 3 things I paid for were all retail purchases bought out of necessity – so, while I did buy them on sale, I didn’t wait for a clearance sale. Anyway, I’m not really sweating it because all of the things I got this month are great pieces for my work wardrobe; considering how much time I spend at work, it’s money well spent.

First, let’s talk about this:

3.1 Philip Lim dress
3.1 Philip Lim dress
prettiness
prettiness

You already know the story of my never-thought-it-was-gonna-happen dress, but let’s revisit the financial details for the sake of this budgety post. It cost $157 (down from the never-gonna-happen $815), and I spent $0 out of pocket thanks to a gift card. This is the kind of budget math I could get used to. All that aside, I adore this dress, and I’m not the only one – it’s a compliment magnet. The colour IRL is closer to the second photo, a beautiful rich navy (see it here and here). A minor quibble: the dress is not lined, and the silk fabric is quite prone to static. Considering the original retail price, tsk tsk.

February was also the month of my Pants Situation. As in, I suddenly, desperately needed new pants.

Banana Republic Sloan ankle crop pants
Banana Republic Sloan ankle crop pants

I ended up buying three pairs, because once I took the plunge and paid retail for a pair of BR Sloan ankle crop pants, well … there was no turning back, apparently. I got them in black, grey, and a black-and-white check print. I also finally figured out that my preferred Sloan inseam length is Short; despite the fact that I’m 5’7, I must have extra short legs, because I always seem to prefer the way petite cut pants look on me. BR only stocks Short (petite?) sizes online, so this was also my first experience with ordering through their website. So far, so good. I appreciate that they offer free shipping for purchases over $50 (I’m looking at you, J. Crew and LOFT!).

Banana Republic Sloan Skirt
Banana Republic Sloan Skirt

I also ended up buying the Sloan pencil skirt when it was an extra 40% off. Can you believe this: I haven’t had a black pencil skirt in my closet in nearly 2 years. Talk about missing a closet staple!

[Edited to add: I’ve decided to return the skirt. When I got it and tried it on, I didn’t like the fit or the material. I really want something more similar to my old Tahari pencil skirt: soft ponte fabric, with a good sturdy lining. Black pencil skirts are not that hard to find at places like Winners, so I decided it would be better to keep looking than keep a piece I wasn’t crazy about. I’ve survived without a black pencil skirt for a while, I can make it a few more weeks or months.] 

Beige by eci dress (lookalike)
Beige by eci dress (lookalike)

This was an impulse buy at Winners, paid for by my husband, just because. (He’s a keeper, for sure. For anyone interested, it was on sale for $38 and there were lots of 10s and 12s still available.) It’s not exactly the same as in the stock photo, but close; I think the slit in my dress is not as high, and the red is more vibrant/prominent. (The stock photo is of a NY & Co. dress, and I find it odd that two companies would put out such similar dresses.) I was drawn to the abstract print, and the asymmetrical slit; the dress looks work-appropriate, but with a twist. The material is that thick scuba-esque fabric that was all the rage last year, which … is interesting. I mean, I’m interested to see how it holds up to wear, and how it looks with my office wardrobe staples. And, in case you’re wondering, this brings my total dress tally to approximately one bazillion.

Linking up with Franish and the other budgeting bloggers, so get clicking you guys! Then come back and tell me how you did this month.