I consider shopping and budgeting a bit of a sport -probably because I have never played any real sports- but really, it’s very difficult to create the perfect closet on a limited budget. For me, my list of wants is usually pretty long…and my wallet’s funds are a lot shorter. Over the years I have made many mistakes in budgeting and have tried to learn from them. I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you all (over a multi part series – I have lots of wisdom OK???) and would love to hear your tips and tricks too.
So here we go – Part 1 of my personal shopping and budgeting rules:
1) It’s a marathon, not a sprint. What’s with my sports analogies? Anyway, what I mean by this is that for me, going on temporary spending “bans” and etc have never worked out well. I end up usually just feeling first deprived, then a little smug and superior towards the end (I don’t need the mall! I am Discovering Myself and Other Hobbies), and then when the ban’s ended, going on binge buying all kinds of questionable items. Now, I try to keep a consistent level of spending – of course there are peaks and troughs, but I never starve myself - I love fashion. Everything in moderation and within your means – and you should be OK.
2) It will go on sale. Unless it’s a classic handbag or piece of jewelry. Otherwise, it will pretty much be going on sale, it’s just a question of how long you are willing to wait. I violate this rule all the time by buying things full price, and even wrote about it here, about this dress that I just had to have because it was sooo beautiful. And now, guess what? I’ve only worn it once in the past few months and now, it’s on sale! GAH. Of course sometimes I will still pay full price for convenience or because it is just so cheap it doesn’t matter too much – but I always feel a little bad.
3) Will I wear it in two years? That’s how long I try to envision any new purchases lasting – at the very least. This rule has been very handy, preventing me from purchasing everything from certain aggressive gladiator sandal styles to various studded items (but not all of them). I always think about all the things I’ve wasted my money on in the last few years and what I would get if I had those funds now – that usually serves to make me put down whatever neon item has caught my fancy.
This, my friends, is an example of of when I should have listened to my 2 year rule. I bought this Blumarine dress because it was a) pretty and b) I love Blumarine. However, I neglected to think about whether I could ever wear it out! I don’t know if you notice…but there is a giant, clear lace diamond in the middle of the dress! I’m not sure if my 21 year old abs were good enough for this but I should have known that even a year later they would be in no shape to be displayed! I’ve literally only worn this dress once in five years, to a Donatella Versace themed party. Yes, I came as Donatella!!
4) Be like Warren. Despite some of his recent troubles, I really think Warren Buffett is the man. He is notoriously frugal and is a world class investor. I always try to look at my purchases with the same frugal eye. I don’t mind buying luxury items – but I’d always like to get them for the best possible price. I try to negotiate everything possible – something that’s really come in handy during our wedding process. That being said, I never try to wring every last dollar out in a negotiation – most of the time it’s better to go for a fair deal that lets both parties walk away happy.
5) Don’t be obsessed with “The Best.” I went through the phase where I bought lots of cheap, disposable fashion, and then figured out that investing in a few quality pieces ended up being a better deal. But I think often times we can take that “invest in quality” mantra too far – it’s wonderful to buy yourself “the best” of handbags, shoes, jackets, etc. But your whole wardrobe doesn’t all have to be these big name designer items. Quite often we find cheaper items more disposable simply because we buy so much more of them – it’s easy to say that you never wear that one dress you bought for $15 at Forever 21 – it’s because you bought ten different ones from there! Of course you treasure your brand name items more. But try this: figure out what brands work for you – it should be a mix of high and low – and try to buy sparingly, no matter what the price tag. It’s worked for me, and helped me appreciate all my items a lot more, no matter what label they have.
Whew, that was long! I hope this was helpful to you (if just a little tiny bit) and I would love to hear some of your tips and tricks for shopping and keeping in budget as well.
For those who want to read on: Part 2 of Shopping and the Budget was published here!