(I published this also over at Grechen’s Closet, but I don’t allow comments there, and I’m interested in what you have to say on this. Honestly, it turned out to be more of a rant than I meant for it to be, but I am SO TIRED of people thinking that because we spend money on bags or clothes, that we’re “rich” or not interested in saving money. I shop on a very limited budget; I’ve only recently purchased a few things after months of not buying ANYTHING for myself. And the over-use of “budget” shopper or “budget” whatever really gets me going. I mean, “budget” is SUBJECTIVE, everyone has a budget, for some it’s a little as $50/month for clothing, for some it may be $1,000; they are BOTH budget shoppers. Anyway, read more below, a lot more, and then chime in, I’d love to hear from those of you who disagree with me on this!!)
I will freely admit I’m not a budget shopper. At least, I’m not a budget shopper in the sense that it means searching for the cheapest price possible on everything. I DO shop using a budget, my budget, of which the clothing portion is pretty low per month. So, in that sense I am a budget shopper…but let’s get real here: I love contemporary and designer brands, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, I only occasionally buy clothing/shoes/accessories at Target, and buy all my groceries at Whole Foods. AND, yes, I buy $200 jeans on my budget.
Let me explain:
First, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart mostly because there’s never been one near me; most of my Wal-Mart experiences were while I was out of town, visiting my grandparents. Whenever I did visit a Wal-Mart, I couldn’t wait to leave; the stores were always grimy looking, the lighting WAY too bright, and the clothing, just “cheap” looking. But when a Wal-Mart opened up near me, I totally wanted to give the Wal-Mart experience a second chance. The store was brand new, in a nice part of town…so how bad could it be? I lasted about 7 minutes in there. I think it was partly because it was so huge and unfamiliar – I know my way around every Target in the city by now, and always feel “comfortable” shopping there, but this was a totally new experience, and I was overwhelmed. The lighting was also harsh, things were just piled everywhere, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for. So I left. And I don’t think I’ll return. Call me an elitist, snob, whatever, I’m going to spend my money where I’m comfortable, and at places I like. It’s MY MONEY.
But I don’t hate Wal-Mart – in fact, I think it’s a great American success story. Yes, they have their problems, and they don’t always handle things as well as the should, but they employ millions of people in this country, they’ve given a HUGE market to many companies that wouldn’t otherwise have had access to that, and they provide low-cost items to people who need them. I can only speak about my personal experience and choices when it comes to shopping and buying, and will say that getting something for the cheapest possible price is not my final goal – I also care about who makes the clothes I buy, where they come from, and what they are made of.
But, YES, if I KNOW I can get something cheaper at a certain store, I will try to make sure and purchase it there, but the thing is, it’s not ALWAYS cheaper at a certain store. For example, the Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent I use was on sale at Whole Foods for $4.99 recently, cheaper than Target; so I bought a couple. But it’s not always cheaper there. I’m not going to drive around all over the place to buy one or two items for a couple of dollars less – in my opinion, that is environmentally and personally irresponsible. And honestly, between stores, there’s not much of a difference in price on most of the items I buy (although sometimes my Kashi cereal is a dollar more at publix than Whole Foods), and yes, I buy primarily name brand products, or for groceries, I’m comfortable buying the Whole Foods private label, which is very affordable in my opinion. And it is MORE important to me to know that I can go into Whole Foods and not worry about anything having partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in it or artificial ingredients, and that I can always find organic alternatives, than just getting the absolute cheapest price. I love my body and want it to be healthy.
I can’t speak at all to Wal-Mart clothing because I haven’t tried it, but I do hear from some people that some pieces do hold up over time. And if you’re getting down to pennies per wear, that’s all good by me. But I CAN speak to the quality of clothing at Target, I’ve bought many things from there, but most I’ve ended up giving away. Hardly anything fits me the way I like it to fit; for example, I’m wearing a cute “sweatshirt” by Merona I bought there a few weeks ago, which I wear in spite of the “off” fit: it’s too big through the shoulders, and small at the hips. It’s also a little tight across the back, but for $20, I’m willing to live with the “off” fit for now, but I probably won’t forever. And because I had to stretch it out around the hips to fit, I probably busted a few seams, which will cause it to degrade more quickly over time. And I can’t size up, because then it will be just HUGE through my shoulders…but that’s the story of my life. By now, I KNOW which brands/designers fit me well, and I tend to stick to them. For the couple of hundred dollars I’ve spent on clothing at Target that is no longer in my closet, I could have purchased 4 tees by James Perse or Splendid that WOULD still be in my closet, and continue to be in closet for years. Target clothing = high cost per wear, James Perse = low cost per wear. James Perse wins.
Wait a sec…to get this out of the way, yes, I know that paying more for something doesn’t automatically mean it’s better quality. But again, I’m speaking from experience here, and that’s all. I know the quality of the brands and stores I’ve tried, and this is a comparison based on what I have found to be true.
I have mentioned many times before how addicted I am to James Perse, but that is because I KNOW that whatever I buy, I will love the way it fits on me, I know I will wear each piece forever, and it will always keep it’s shape. My oldest James Perse tee is 5 years old, and I wore it a couple of days ago. Good as new. I also know that Goldsign jeans fit me better than any other denim brand. Again, I bought my first pair of Goldsign jeans 4.5 years ago for more than $200 (a TON of money for me at the time) and I STILL WEAR THEM. The seams are not pulling apart, there are no holes in the denim, the fit is perfect, and they still make me feel great. I do have a couple of pairs of Gap jeans that are okay, but I’ve also had a few pairs of Gap jeans that have fallen apart after a year or so. Again, for the several hundred dollars I have spent over the years on gap jeans that I no longer wear, or that have fallen apart, I could have bought one pair of FABULOUS Goldsign jeans that would stay with me forever. But this is also where I’m different from most shoppers – those who are concerned more with quantity over quality. This is why H&M, Zara, and Forever21 do so well, they sell cheap, seasonal, trendy items for people who want the latest thing, and want MORE of it. Maybe I was like this before (many years before), but now, I care more about having one or two pairs of GREAT jeans, one pair of shoes, several basic tees, a few cashmere sweaters, somes dresses/skirts and a GREAT bag, and I’m good to go. My goal is to have a minimal wardrobe – made up of quality items with longevity. Honestly I am at the point now where I don’t need anything, and will NOT need anything for a LONG time, at least through next year. And I’d still like to get rid of many things. MY goal is not to buy as many things as possible for the cheapest amount possible, so if my monthly clothing allowance is $100 (that’s close to what it is), I’m not going to go out and spend the $100 for 5-6 tops & dresses at Forever21, Zara, H&M, Express, Target, etc., I am more likely to save the $100 so I can put it towards a cashmere sweater or new bag. AND if over the years, this is your strategy, you’ll always have your basics, and won’t need to buy new things every season. This is my ultimate goal – I’m in fact, almost already there, and it feels great.
That, basically, is how you can buy $200 jeans on a budget…but to take it just a bit further, you can also buy a $600 bag on a budget, or $300 shoes, and go on a $1,000 vacation. It’s ALL ABOUT PRIORITIES, and saving money. Make a monthly clothing allowance and stick to it; if there’s some leftover or you don’t spend any of it one month, put it in an ING Orange Checking Account and watch it add up. If you have something specific you’re shopping for, start saving for it so you can whip out your Orange debit card and buy it WITH CASH. There is no better feeling in the world than paying for something with cash that you worked hard and saved up for. If you choose to sacrifice something else in your budget one month so you can put more money towards your clothing allowance, then do it. Maybe you cancel Netflix for a couple months and use that money to save up for a cashmere sweater. Or spend less on eating out for a couple of weeks so you can put that money towards a new bag. It’s all about the choices you make and your goals for life. And there’s nothing wrong with sacrificing eating out or movie delivery in favor of a classic, high quality cashmere sweater. You decide which cashmere sweater you want, how much you’re willing to pay for it, then save up to buy it. But I do also believe in buying at a discount if you can – I hardly ever buy anything online without using a discount code. I don’t buy anything offline anymore because I know I can find it cheaper online. And sometimes I wait for sales, if I have experience with a brand, or know it goes on sale often and for a great discount (Inhabit Cashmere). But I don’t buy something ONLY because it’s on sale or the price is too good to pass up; that always ends badly for me. You also need to get to know your shopping habits and adjust them accordingly – it took me a few years to rid myself of shopping at outlets and scouting sale racks; I was tired of getting rid of SO many sale items (with tags still on) that I bought because I was blinded by the price, not because I loved the item.
I’m not saying that you have to spend a lot of money on things either. If YOU’RE happy spending less money AND you know it may be of lesser quality than a more expensive brand, then you accept the trade-off; you’re just deciding that you’d rather spend money on other things. Which is fine. I personally would rather have a few, excellent quality sweaters, tees, jeans, shoes & bags than a lot, and I’m willing to sacrifice certain other things to have them (I use the same razorblades FOREVER because I hate paying $8 for refills!). So the idea that if you’re a “budget” shopper, you cannot possibly afford $200 jeans, is bogus. If you think $200 jeans are worth it, then you CAN afford them if you save your money to buy them. But you may not think that ANY jeans are worth $200, or shun people who would spend more than $100 for a handbag. Like I keep saying, it’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to pay for something, but don’t judge the people who disagree with you, or who WOULD spend way more than $100 for a handbag. I cringe at the thought of paying $8 for razor blade refills, but can easily spend upwards of $500 (in cash) on a bag that I love. You have to assign priorities to nearly everything in your life and there are always trade offs to any decision you make. The key is to make EVERY decision consciously – with your FULL attention – so you are aware of what you’re getting, AND of what you’re giving up.
What do you think? do you have a “shopping philosophy”? What’s important to you when considering buying something? Let us know!! (especially if you disagree with me)