Closet 101 Money

Five Questions on Purchasing

I wanted to share with you all a post that I wrote for D.R.E.A.M NYC. D.R.E.A.M is a wonderful organization dedicated towards achieving financial literacy among urban youths, and they asked me to write a piece for their blog that touched on fashion/shopping and budgeting. I was happy to do so as financial education is a topic that I feel incredibly passionate about! My post below:

I am by nature, a passion purchaser. I love beautiful things sometimes a lot more than practical ones and thus strewn everywhere about my apartment are many items that I wanted and saved for in the past. Looking at all of them, I can distinctly separate my purchases into two categories – those that I still love and am glad I purchased, and those that I wish that I had saved my money on, and never bought. Over the years I’ve gained quite a bit of experience in figuring out which items are truly worth the “splurge,” and I wanted to share the five questions I ask myself now, before make any major purchases.

Wow do I love this Bottega Veneta clutch…but I’d have to use it everyday to justify the cost!

1. What’s the cost per use? Fashion lovers may be familiar with the term “cost per wear,” where we look at how much an item would cost, if we were to divide its cost over the total number of times we’d wear it in a time period. Basic black handbag – pretty good cost per wear. Show stopping long sequined gown – maybe not so much.

I love this rule, and also have to remind myself to apply the “cost per use” equation to other areas of my life. I’ve wavered forever on buying an iPad because it’s expensive, even though I would gladly fork over the same amount for a clutch handbag. But really – how much would I use an evening clutch, vs. an iPad? When thinking about it that way, the iPad is a better use of my money.

2. Is this a life long obsession or just a phase? We’ve all had a hobby that we thought we’d love forever and thus spent a lot of money on – only to lose our passion entirely several months/years later. I’m totally outing him now, but for my stepbrother, that hobby was Magic cards. We just found a whole stash the other day hidden in the closet and he must have spent thousands on those things, convinced that he was going to play the game for life. And now? He just wishes he had the money.

It can be hard for us to distinguish between a passing phase and a life long passion – but try and be honest with yourself before investing a lot in an item. Recently, I was crazy about getting a pair of leather pants. They’re really popular this season, and I was actively drooling over a $$$ pair at Barney’s. In the end though, I theorized that they were more than likely a passing trend for me – and bought a pair of faux leggings at Topshop instead for $40. And hey – if the trend ends up staying around for longer – I’ll invest in a good pair of leather pants then, and it would have only “cost” me $40 in the meanwhile.

3. Am I willing to take the risk to see if it gets cheaper? Most things in life – clothes, cars, and even real estate – go on sale at some point. It’s largely a matter of time, and patience. But – some things don’t ever make it on sale, and some just get more and more expensive. There’s a price that we’re all willing to pay for a) instant gratification and b) the security of knowing that we have what we want, guaranteed, right now. You should figure out what the price is for you. For me, if I see a bag that I really, really love – I typically buy it immediately, even if it’s full price, because it may not make it to sale, or be even more expensive next year. For clothes though, I typically hold out for sale because I’m willing to lose out on the item even if it doesn’t make it there.

The jacket I was obsessed with but then never wore…originally from this post

4. Is it just about the chase? This question may be totally foreign to some of you, but to many of us that have a crazy hobby that we’re passionate about – sometimes the whole pleasure of acquisition is actually “just in the chase” and not in the actual item itself. Quite a few years ago, I fell in love with an expensive Alexander McQueen jacket that I just had to have – I thought about it all the time and obsessed over it, and finally bought it. But once I bought it and the 24 hour long “new purchase” euphoria wore off, I found that I hardly thought about it, or wore it. it was more exciting for me to actually think about having jacket item in the future, than actually owning it. And now of course – I wish I had never purchased it. Now when I find myself obsessing about an item that I want – I try to make sure that it’s not just about the anticipation.

5. Would I rather have the money in my bank account? This is probably a total “duhhh” to some of you, but for me, it’s a question that I have to ask and remind myself time and time again. So often, we can feel removed from actual money when we just have to slap down a credit card to pay for a major purchase. It’s hard to think about that new pair of shoes directly making the number on your bank account statement go down when you just get a big jumbled credit card statement at the end of the month. So now, when I want to buy something big – I don’t just ask myself, “Will I use this?” and “Can I afford it?” I also ask myself the simple question: “Would I rather have this item which costs $X, or would I rather have $X still sitting in my bank account at the end of the month?” So many times, the answer will be yes to the first two questions, and then no to the third. And so I say no.

These five questions took me a lot of mistakes and trials to finally learn, and I hope that this was helpful to some of you out there. I love hearing about other’s tips on purchasing – so if you have any, please share! Thank you for reading and happy holidays!

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  • Ugly Duckling
    December 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Great post! I always ask myself question one and work things out that way! It's such a good rule to think about! Justifys a lot for me!!

    Amelia @ Ugly Duckling

    I Was An Ugly Duckling


  • Lisa
    December 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    What a great reminder and I very much admire your passion for financial education in a world where it is so easy to spend, spend, spend! I hope to come back to this post every time I see something on sale or feel the need to drool over. 🙂


  • NatalieCottrell
    December 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    This is such a great post! Really sound advice. We all make ill-advised purchases (I'm a chaser, big time), but this mental checklist prior to purchases can help keep that to a rare occassion. Especially the question of "Would I rather have that money in my account or hanging in my closet?". It should be obvious, but I've never thought of it that way.

  • Adele
    December 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Very sensible thought process xoxo

  • B. in the Know
    December 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Those are great questions to ask when purchasing things – and they have come in handy recently as I have been out shopping!
    Much love,

  • jelita78
    December 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    smack me right in the face!
    great post indeed.

  • JJ
    December 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Wonderful post! I often wish I could afford more "big-ticket" items, but never can get myself to splurge on them because I feel that no, I don't have enough in my bank account to justify such a purchase. But the thing is, I don't feel the same way about smaller throwaway pieces from stores like H&M, and end up purchasing TONS of those per season – but those purchases add up! If, instead of doing that, I tried to save up…well, it would definitely be more practical!

    What I try to do to curb my purchases is itemize everything I spend on an Excel/Google spreadsheet which is divided according to categories (shopping, entertainment, food, bills, etc.) and this allows me to feel less guilty (or moreso, depending on the month…) when I'm trying to determine whether I DO have the money to spend on any given item. It's a relatively new thing I've been doing, but it's already helped me loads!

  • Ella Pretty Blog
    December 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Amazing post Katherine. All the points you listed make complete sense to me, but are not often things that I think about when I want something. Your point about the chase versus the actual item is something i should think about more. I'm this world of blogging and Tpf, sometimes the purchase and the reveal are more fun than the item itself lol! Am going to try avoid purchases like that. Also, the cost per use point is one which actually supports my wish for a Chanel woc. I need an elegant clutch for evenings – and I truly think I'd get a lot of careful use out of it.

  • Lindsay K
    December 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    D.R.E.A.M is such an amazing organization. I'm glad to hear that you lent your sensible and very smart advice to their blog:)

    As much as I love fashion- I deliberate all of my purchases before I plunk down for them. I take a lot of pride in loving everything that I own and actually wearing it. Wonderful post!

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    December 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    This is such an informative post, Kat! Love it! And I couldn't agree more. I found myself nodding my head on every point that you'd made.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    December 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    This is such an informative post, Kat! Love it! And I couldn't agree more. I found myself nodding my head on every point that you'd made.

  • Rubiiee
    December 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Its great to hear other caring about there wallets, and actually informing others – I feel like this isn't talked about so much in the blogosphere of fashion and beauty. Thanks for sharing!

  • skippysays
    December 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Love this post Katherine, and I think it's such an important topic that does not get discussed enough among fashion bloggers. Thanks for addressing it so openly and frankly!

  • Hilliary@ Happily Ever Healthy
    December 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Great post, and great advice!

  • Style Servings
    December 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Really great post for an important cause!

  • Lindsay
    December 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Great tips! I think it's so important to be thoughtful about what we purchase, whether it's a big ticket item or not. I've developed my own sense of wardrobe building and the hardest part for me is distinguishing between classic item or current obsession, hence why I buy a lot of black!

  • newpetite
    December 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    It is so tempting to buy everything that we see and somehow even though we know….we forget to stop n think. Great post Katherine!

  • couturecoco
    December 12, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    It must be something in the air, am starting to read great stuff like this in the blogosphere 🙂
    This is what I do:
    *know what you have in your wardrobe (carry around a list if you have to), be realistic and (brutally) honest about what you actually wear, use and make a list of ONLY things that need replacing or to fill a gap as your life evolves (eg more work clothes or more casual)
    *have a 'dream' goal of items that you really, really, really want because everyone needs motivation
    *whenever you feel tempted to buy something, STOP and ask whether you need it or want it and whether it is worth it or better to wait (and save the money) for your dream item instead
    *break it down into smaller chunks of weekly savings that you can make or even just to keep at the budget you've set yourself so it doesn't seem so daunting and will be a little less painful!

    My extra motivation is to set a good example to my kids on how to be responsible with money. My parents were very old school and didn't believe in talking about money. What you are doing is just fantastic! Thank you for sharing.

  • makeupandpearls
    December 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    it's always something that's good to think about…

  • Dionne
    December 12, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Good tips, especially for this spending time of year!

  • SassyUptownChic
    December 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    This is excellent Katherine! They are important questions that we should all ask ourselves before purchasing.

  • just tututiny
    December 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Perfect timing for this tip during the holiday season. I usually always wait for things to go on sale to buy it and like you said, sometimes it's gone before I know it ;( Will have to take your advice and just live a little. I will tell hubby you said this next time I need to buy something, lets see if it will fly 😉

    In the meantime, I am back from hiberation with a giveaway, I hope you will stop by 😉

  • katattack2000
    December 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Great post Katherine 🙂 I love your financial tips and it does help with shopping!

  • The Little Dust Princess
    December 12, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you for these tips! Your posts are always so helpful to me : ) I've thought long and hard about an expensive pair of leather pants as well.. but I spent that money on a handbag instead. Cost per wear for a handbag is muchh cheaper than it is for a pair of leather pants.. for me anyway. 😛

  • swisscecilia
    December 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Thanks for the break down. Cost per use makes the decision easier! Congrats!!

  • Call me M
    December 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Really loved this post! You're right about everything. Sometimes I ask myself some of these questions, but others I just ignore them. I should do it more often.

  • The life after
    December 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Great tips!!! precious!

    The Life After

  • Rola
    December 12, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Great post with great questions to self. I do not over-indulge in expensive fashion as I got older. I find myself saving my money for a new hobby, real estate for investment type properties. Though I still have a weakness for designer bags, shoes, and makeup;) Thanks for stopping by my blog too.

  • Alena: Oh, It's Just Perfect!
    December 13, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Fabulous post. Trying to figure all of this out can be quite daunting when you have your eyes on something that you just love. Guess it helps to take a step back and really think through the purchase.

  • Tina
    December 13, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Great tips, especially for this holiday season! Thank you, Katherine!

  • Katherine
    December 13, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Thank you so much for all of your comments and tips everyone! I had so much fun reading them this evening 🙂

  • SS
    December 13, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Great post! That's what I need now. I was trying to buy anything by cash when I could not afford to buy expensive stuffs and it worked. But once I started working, my budget is larger so I use credit cards, and tend to buy more and more stuffs. I keep tracking everything I bought and check every week sometimes depressing, but it a kind of works.


  • jo
    December 13, 2011 at 4:02 am

    Great tips. I really like your birkin bags. I'm not sure if you had a post regarding how to purchase one. If you do, let me know. Thanks!

  • tiffyama
    December 13, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Love this post! Our economy and financial situations continue to change throughout the years, so saving money wherever we can is key. I like your 5 questions though. Very helpful!

  • Chelsea Elizabeth.
    December 13, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Thank you, this is very helpful. I just got a bank account and I really need to figure out what to/what not to spend my money on.

    <3Chelsea Elizabeth

  • twigski
    December 13, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Thanks for the post!I too follow the cost per use justification.Sorry to hear you have not worn you jacket. I can see why you fell in love with it!My rule I need to follow is shop for the climate you live in; not the one you wish you lived in!I moved to the desert several years ago & my closet is full of tall boots.I can't stop buying them!Last year I purchased a mink stole!I have no idea what I was thinking!

  • Hannah
    December 13, 2011 at 5:17 am

    What a great post! I am such a shopaholic, this is really helpful! Lovely blog I'm following now 🙂

    xoxo, H

  • elleandish
    December 13, 2011 at 5:42 am

    This was such a great, well written post! 🙂 Thank you for writing about your shopping experiences.. it inspires me to think about my shopping priorities as well.

  • littlemissandrea
    December 13, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Awesome post, Kat! It really is a wake up call for me to think about my spending as of late.. I've been finding myself wanting so many things I probably won't use often! And I'm always reminded by those pieces in my closet with the tags on years after purchasing. Thank you for sharing your tips 🙂

  • Karen (littlepiecefnb)
    December 13, 2011 at 7:58 am

    First off, thanks for visiting my blog and being one of my followers Katherine! =) This is a very well writen blog post…it will definitely make me think more in the future before buying. Most of the time for me, I can't resist bargains/sales so I end up buying a lot of stuff I don't wear in the long run or absolutely love. I have to think about what different outfits I can make from one piece nowadays and if it would need any alterations. Look forward to reading more from you!

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    December 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Kat, I've made my fair share of mistakes. I went for amazing designs but soon realized that they just don't look all that great draped or the colors when folded didn't look right. I'd recommend starting with simple but wearable designs like Tohu Bohu or Ex Libris. Some people look amazing with a busy design but I'm not one of them. Choose sometime that suits your skin tone. Don't be afraid to go for bright colors as long as they pair well with the rest of your wardrobe.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    December 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Kat, I've made my fair share of mistakes. I went for amazing designs but soon realized that they just don't look all that great draped or the colors when folded didn't look right. I'd recommend starting with simple but wearable designs like Tohu Bohu or Ex Libris. Some people look amazing with a busy design but I'm not one of them. Choose sometime that suits your skin tone. Don't be afraid to go for bright colors as long as they pair well with the rest of your wardrobe.

  • RosaLovesDC
    December 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Great tips Katherine. I have been trying to think more about quality versus quantity and it really helps me make the right decisions as to what to add to my wardrobe, how to fill in the gaps, etc.

  • signature mix
    December 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Oh the joys of being a passion purchaser! I'm really enjoying your posts on personal finance. It's definitely something that isn't talked about enough in the fashion/personal style blogging world and it seems to be something you're passionate and knowledgeable about. I really love these helpful tips.

  • audrinajulia
    December 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    very helpful post. Two years ago I've started purchasing on line and I could say it cost me much than when I'm buying at the mall. maybe you can call it impulsive buyer on my part on the things that I really wanted most. For the meantime like the one I post on my wishlist, these are the things that I really want to purchase for the next months. I think it will be a good reminder for me to stick to what I really want. Also in some point, I'm always thinking if the things I want to purchase and drooling over will apply to my lifestyle,..and if my answer is NO then I will convince myself not to and stop lusting over it. thanks for your wonderful tips and longing to read more financial advise from you. Happy holidays Katherine!

  • Holly
    December 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    love this post. and LOVE the jacket! you need to wear it! not only is it beautiful but it also looks really simple and easy to wear, esp. now that you're not at berkeley or in college! it's so pretty!

  • Beautifulnoir
    December 13, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Great tips!

  • Rod and Alex - aka: "Rolex"
    December 14, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Wow! Your cost per use is taking me back to econ! 🙂 The clutch is lovely!

  • The Blonde @ Stylish3
    December 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Great tips! I go through a similar process every time I make a major purchase. It's good to slow down, ask yourself these questions and make sure you're not making an impulse purchase.

  • Urban Jungle Fashion
    December 18, 2011 at 2:37 am

    This was a great article. Well well written and right to the point. I love the cost per use idea.

  • Vicky
    December 18, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Wonderful post. I so enjoyed reading this one, and agreed with everything you said.

  • meghan
    December 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    My God this is a great post. I am realizing lately that I have a major minor shopping problem. In that I mean I buy so many things that cost less than $100 here or there and don't think about it that much because I have no CC debt, can afford it, and feel like it isn't a big deal. But at the end of the month you're SO right. I look back and I definitely wish in so many cases that I had just saved the money and not bought the item. And when you say that the last question might be obvious, you would think it should be. I always like to think that I'm very financially savvy, but you hit the nail on the head. Instead of just asking, "can I afford it? Will I Use it?" I've got to start asking if I would rather have the $55 here and $79 there sitting in my bank account. I need to print this post out and hang it up somewhere. Seriously I'm hitting print now.

  • Mrs C
    February 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Excellent post! Something for me to keep in mind as I am the kind that shops but still finds nothing to wear. Luckily, I only splurge on key items but still nothing to wear. Anyway, fantastic blog and very inspiring for a new blogger like me. Thank you!

  • Mrs C
    February 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Excellent post! Something for me to keep in mind as I am the kind that shops but still finds nothing to wear. Luckily, I only splurge on key items but still nothing to wear. Anyway, fantastic blog and very inspiring for a new blogger like me. Thank you!

  • TripsTreasures
    April 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Love this post ! I often ask myself these questions, but sometimes I notice I'm not answering them honestly, haha 🙂 But overall, it definitely helps.
    new outfit post!

  • Red Trench and Suede Boots | Feather Factor
    May 16, 2012 at 7:41 am

    […] I am so happy that some of you found my 5 Questionspost yesterday helpful, especially since I’ve been trying hard to stick to those rules myself. […]