Interview Money

Interview with Naomi

Today’s interview is with Naomi, who was kind enough to share her own journey getting into a lot of debt – partially through buying luxury goods – and then finding her way out. She had some wonderful insights and I cannot thank her enough for taking the time to do this interview. Enjoy meeting Naomi!

First things first – who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

My name is Naomi and I am a professor at a university in Texas.

I would love to hear more about how you began buying luxury goods. When did you start, and what set it off?

I’m not really sure exactly what set it off. I grew up lower middle class and so buying Guess jeans at the factory outlet was a huge splurge (This was the 1990s when Guess jeans were popular!). I always liked to be fashionably “different” and would spend hours trolling around the mall. I remember hearing about brands like Gucci and lusting over a $300 pair of shoes. I never did buy them though. Fast forward to my early 20s and I remember a coworker returning from Hong Kong with this really colorful purse. She said it was a Louis Vuitton. I had no idea what that was, but I just really liked the look of it. I later found out that it was a Multicolore Speedy, and it was probably a knockoff. Fast forward about 8 years and one day I just got that MC Speedy stuck in my head. I got bored and started trolling the internet looking for one. I was an obsessed woman. I did eventually get that MC Speedy, but it took awhile to work up the courage to spend that much money!

Naomi’s former Balenciaga collectionΒ 

At the height of your luxury collection – how much did you have? What was your brand of choice?

I started off with the Louis Vuitton and built up a pretty good collection of 15-20 pieces ranging from pochettes (including limited editions) to limited edition Speedy bags. I eventually got bored of that and migrated over to Balenciaga. It was like a drug! All those pretty colors. I am one of those people who has to have the complete collection, whether it be the McDonald’s toys released with each movie or $1000+ purses. I wanted every color! I believe I ended up with about 15 Balenciagas at the height of my frenzied buying/collecting. I tried one Chanel, but I was too afraid to ever use it!

Do you think that shopping can be addicting? Can you elaborate, and in what ways?

I absolutely think that it can be addicting. In my case, I have compulsions to finish collections and I would spend whatever it took to have the whole collection! Research also shows that shopping releases chemicals in the brain that are associated with happiness. Once you realize that an activity produces that happiness you will strive to do that activity again and again. Sometimes I think it’s just boredom….I need to be constantly in motion and doing things (you won’t find me on a beach vegging out!). So I would spend when I was bored.

What was the ultimate wake up call for you, and what did you do?

The realization that I could afford these bags and all the “stuff” but I would never be able to pay cash because my monthly credit card payments were more than a designer handbag every month. At one point I had enough bags to cover a king size bed and I still wanted more. There is just something inherently wrong with that! At what point would I ever be satisfied? I was $67,000 in credit card debt, it was out of control. I set out a plan of attack to pay it all off. I sold everything in my house that wasn’t nailed down and hunkered down to pay it down. It took two years to pay it all off (a cross-country move slowed things down), but the handbags put about a $22,000 dent in the debt.

Do you ever think that in your “purge”, you went too far? Did you regret anything that you sold off?

Absolutely not. I needed to do whatever possible to pay down that debt. I had no business owning designer anything. I do regret selling the only bag that my husband ever bought me for my 30th birthday: A black Balenciaga City. He ordered it from New York and everything.

What would you do differently, if you could do it all over again (both when you got into shopping, and when you did the purge?)

I would save for my purchases (which is what I do now). I would absolutely buy designer bags again, but only with the ability to pay it off that same month (i.e., cash in the bank). As a person with some addiction issues, my current obsession is travel. We go on quite a lot of trips every year and every single one is paid for in cash. I also have a monthly clothing budget to help keep things in check. I recently had a lusting for a Balenciaga, but I just couldn’t forfeit a vacation for a bag!

Nicole Richie with her Balenciaga bags

What are some disturbing trends you have noticed with luxury goods and the consumption of them? Is it people who are younger getting sucked in, people who can less and less afford it?

I notice that the annual income of luxury consumers seems to have decreased. Designer goods used to be something that only the really rich could afford, but now I see people of all walks of life wearing Louis Vuitton (as an example). I always have to wonder whether it’s just something bought on credit or if they really can afford it. You can never tell nowadays! With the rampant availability of credit cards, it is so easy to “Buy now and pay later.” Speaking from experience, this is not the lifestyle anyone should strive for.

I am part of a little group online which talks about money issues, and one interesting thing we’ve discussed is how much our society is influenced by celebrity culture. Celebrities are much more visible than they ever were. We see celebrities carrying Louis Vuitton and think “Oh, we can be just like them.” It used to be that we would aspire to be like our neighbors, which is OK because they probably own a home of the same value and have a similar annual income. There are very few of us who will ever have the income of Jessica Simpson, but yet we all wear the bags, accessories, and shoes of a person worth hundreds of millions of dollars. There just seems to be something wrong with that.

What are some pieces of advice that you can share to help us gain some perspective? On balance, budgeting, saving for the future?

Well, some of this depends on where you are at. If you have ANY debt, then I highly recommend sitting down and figuring out how much debt you have. Take a look at that number and figure out how to get it to zero. There are two things you can do: Make more money or spend less.

Otherwise, with zero debt, I think it’s all about balance. Set goals for yourself, whether it be short-term goals like an upcoming vacation or a new bag, or long-term goals like a down payment for a home. I have approximately 10 savings accounts at ING that are earmarked for different vacations, general savings, house down payment, etc. Figure out a plan that works for you. There is no magic number, but I think we all need to balance the desire for the newest bag with things like retirement.

Currently, I have a lot of student loan debt and I am balancing that with my current travel bug. I still allow myself to travel, but I pay more than the minimum payments on my student loans. I have a plan to pay off the loans within 6 years as opposed to 25 years.

What are some of your other hobbies and passions?

I am a homebody, but I LOVE to travel! Remember, I like collections and so right now my goal is to visit all the countries in the world. I have a long way to go, but in the last 2 years I’ve visited around 16 countries and have 2 more coming up in the next few months.

I am also a runner and am currently training for a marathon. Again, another obsession πŸ™‚ I started out just running 1 minute at a time, then a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon. It seems silly to quit there, so I’ll finish off the collection and run a marathon in February.

And finally – please share something surprising about yourself πŸ™‚

I once got stuck at the bottom of a mosh pit at a Marilyn Manson concert πŸ™‚ Ahhhhh, the joys of youth! Now you’ll find me at Lady Gaga and Katy Perry shows.I really hope you enjoyed the interview! I definitely related to Naomi during this post, especially on the travel bit because I love it. Thank you again Naomi and have a wonderful Wednesday everybody!

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  • Lindsay @ A Walk in the Closet
    December 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Wonderful interview! Thanks so much for interviewing these lovely ladies, Katherine. You are a great interviewer – the questions you ask are exactly the ones I want to hear responses to!

    Naomi's story is inspirational – what a strong woman to be able to admit to a addiction and then successfully combat it. Kudos to her!

  • meghan
    December 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    This is a great interview! Does she have a blog? I particularly like the bit about making sure you have enough in the bank before actually making a large purchase. I make sure to do that. And then the part about spending being an addiction? It absolutely is. And I am addicted. Oh my. Clicking the Buy or Submit button gives me an instant high and is so so bad. I use to keep all my finances in order. Some months (like this one) are not as pretty, but at least I know where I stand.

  • Lindsay
    December 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Wow, this is really inspiring! I, too, have a lot of student loan debt, so it's amazing to hear that she can pay it off in 6 years. Budgeting has really been in my plans for year, so hopefully I can cut mine down too!

  • Maca
    December 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Wow, this is certainly an inspiring post. Thanks for sharing!

  • NatalieCottrell
    December 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Awesome advice! I love your choices for interviewees! Always interesting reads. πŸ™‚

  • Leona
    December 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks for this interview! I'be been where Naomi was & got out too so I can completely relate. Sometimes it's really tough living with a no-charge it lifestyle, but when I think back to when I had debt, it makes me feel alot better.

  • Susan
    December 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Great interview Kat! I love Naomi's honesty. As a "mini" Shopaholic I can totally relate to her – a person with a bit with of an above average income with the shopping appetite of a celebrity millionaire. lol. doesn't help either. It just increases my appetite for spending. Self-control is indeed tough to find until reality sits.

    Enjoy your vacation and happy holidays to you and your new hubby!! Thank you for taking the time to post on your blog for us devoted readers. πŸ˜‰ You are great!!

  • katattack2000
    December 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Great interview Katherine πŸ™‚ I would definitely not want a credit card debt and would rather be obsessed with travelling to other countries πŸ™‚ Experience the world thats what I say πŸ™‚ Hope you are having fun on your holidays!

  • amy b.s.
    December 28, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    this is a great interview and something i think we all can easily fall into when we're serious about buying high quality goods, but don't necessarily have the cash on hand to do it.

  • Mica Perez Cataletto
    December 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Kudos to Naomi for taking responsibility of her debt and her life. I think she has a good metric going forward – cash or no purchase!

  • skippysays
    December 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    What a great interview- thank you Naomi for doing it and Katherine for posting it!

  • Angie's Closet
    December 28, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Thank you for this interview Kat. I'm currently in the same situation. Around the time I started my blog, I started selling some of my Prada, LV bags and accessories on Ebay and consignment shops. I realized that I only have two arms, so why do I need so many bags ? This year was rough for me, and I found myself on alot of unwarranted shopping sprees. Now I'm thinking savings accounts and retirement. I still think about bags, but not as much. I look, but I don't buy. Once again, Thank you Katherine and Thank you Naomi for an insightful interview.

  • lexi920
    December 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    This is a great counterpoint to the usual luxury porn interviews. Do not get me wrong – I LOVE those interviews and pictures of shoes/handbags I will probably never own. This is a great interview, like a "when reality hits" kind of moment. Naomi gives great advice and great insight of becoming financially responsible – yes, you can buy that Baleciaga bag if you really save for it. I do have every intention of paying off my credit card bills and student loans but it's tough when I know I can buy a Chanel,LV or Balenciaga at a consignment shop.

    I also share the love of traveling too. If given the choice of a month with my family in a villa in Tuscany or Provence or a Chanel handbag – I will choose Italy/France with my family because that's a memory I will carry with me forever. Sure, I could carry a Chanel forever but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't take it out everyday and I couldn't carry my husband and daughter around in it!

    Please feature more of these interviews!

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    December 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Kat, I love how you balance between the eye candies and reality check interviews. I remember when i first set my eyes on a Louis Vuitton Speedy. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I sat for months trying to figure out how to own one without dipping into my savings.

    That was how I got into consignment business which started as a part time venture while working full time as an engineer. I compared handbags to shares and would buy low and sell high. Over the years, I sold off my entire collection of LV and Chanel and "converted" them into a handful of Hermes bags. To date, I hardly dip into my savings which I consider as emergency and investment fund. I'm so pleased I have only 4 designer bags because 1) I no longer struggle to find closet space 2) it's stress free to shift the 4 bags whenever we move (we've lived in 3 countries).

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    December 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Kat, I love how you balance between the eye candies and reality check interviews. I remember when i first set my eyes on a Louis Vuitton Speedy. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I sat for months trying to figure out how to own one without dipping into my savings.

    That was how I got into consignment business which started as a part time venture while working full time as an engineer. I compared handbags to shares and would buy low and sell high. Over the years, I sold off my entire collection of LV and Chanel and "converted" them into a handful of Hermes bags. To date, I hardly dip into my savings which I consider as emergency and investment fund. I'm so pleased I have only 4 designer bags because 1) I no longer struggle to find closet space 2) it's stress free to shift the 4 bags whenever we move (we've lived in 3 countries).

  • newpetite
    December 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Wonderful interview! Thanks Katherine for introducing Naomi to us and thanks to Naomi for the wonderful insights! We all need the reality check once in a while!

  • Anna
    December 28, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I can absolutely relate to wanting more and shopping while you're bored (guilty). I, however, set high end designer goods as a goal to be achieved; I don't buy expensive things on a whim. Sure, I could ask my family for a bag but ever since I chose to pay for ALL my shopping entirely by myself (I'm a college student too) I need to watch my spending.

    Thanks for the interview – it sure brings back memories πŸ˜›

  • Anonymous
    December 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Great interview. I am a member of Naomi's money discussion club and I was there from the start to the finish of her debt payoff journey. It really was fun to watch someone succeed at something that seemed so monumental. If she can do it, anyone can and should.

  • Anna
    December 29, 2011 at 2:07 am

    I love this interview! I love how honest she is and that is very brave of her to do. Well done.

  • Emily
    December 29, 2011 at 2:57 am

    This is such a fabulous interview! I totally know the feeling of feeling down and going on a shopping trip to turn my mood around! The thrill of shopping is something that will always make me happy…but when I save for something I really want, it makes getting that item that much better!

  • bluevalentine
    December 29, 2011 at 8:02 am

    What a great interview. Naomi hits on some really interesting points. It's so true that the visibility of luxury goods nowadays has warped people's perceptions of what's normal. People who live ordinary lives and have ordinary incomes can be found strolling around with $3000 handbags, and the more of this we see, the more tempted we are to treat ourselves to the same luxuries.

    I know someone who can barely cover her rent from month to month, let alone pay down her insane credit card debt. Yet she sees other people enjoying luxuries like new cars and Louboutins, and thinks, "Why not me? Don't I deserve those things too?" So she goes deeper into debt to make herself feel better and look more "successful"… and it has become a dangerous addiction. The more debt she accrues, the worse she feels about herself, the more she shops to fool others (and herself) about her money problems. It's very sad.

    Sometimes I go a little crazy too, but I limit myself to places like H&M where I can't do too much damage!

  • Alice McGenniss-Destro
    December 29, 2011 at 10:17 am

    thanks for sharing! i love to read authentic interview material it produces answers that are unique and offer true insight πŸ™‚ x great blog now following you! x

  • couturecoco
    December 29, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Great interview! I think just about everybody will relate to some or all of what Naomi shares. I totally agree about all the celebrity thing and that it is a question of achieving the right balance for yourself as an individual in your stage of life. And yes one should always plan for the future because it gets here faster than you think!
    Enjoy your travels and I look forward to reading all about it soon!

  • Jennipher
    December 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I think this was my favorite of all the interviews you have done (and I love them all!) I especially appreciated Naomi's comments about how our culture elevates celebrities so much and we see pictures of them carrying luxury goods, so we think we should be able to have them too. It was a really good reality check and will hopefully help bring a little sanity to my wishlist! Thanks!

  • Susan
    December 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    this is by far my favorite interview! a good reality check and insight of a real person with a regular job with a grown up bills to pay off. i always wonder how people with regular jobs can buy thousands of dollars bag – never once cross my mind that they will use the card and pay later. glad naomi is able to get some self control! not easy and good for her. traveling is by far the best and would never trade that with any luxury items.

  • Anonymous
    December 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Best interview ever!!! Thanks for posting this…

  • Noelani
    December 29, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    This is a fabulous interview, and full of such thoughtful advice. How brave to share all this, but hopefully someone takes the guidance to heart. I remember my own brush with debt post college and broke, but I am thankful each and every day that I met my husband and cleaned up my act!!

  • Angela Khurdajian
    December 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    What a great interview. This should be an eye opener for those who are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling with their expenses, yet buying $1500 bags.

  • Maria
    December 30, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Great post for those who buy beyond their means! But for those who have no debt and can afford luxury goods along with travel vacations, your eye candy posts are the best!!! πŸ˜‰

  • Sarah Roads
    December 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Love this interview. I am with you, my luxury is travel. I would rather have an experience over stuff any day. Such an inspiring story you have, I'm sure it will help others see the light! Thanks for sharing. xo

  • Latkes and Dim Sum
    December 31, 2011 at 2:35 am

    Such a thoughtful interview – thank you so much!

  • Anonymous
    December 31, 2011 at 4:17 am

    ocd to an unhealthy degree

  • fabulouslyfrugirl
    December 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you for this reality check interview.

    I usually don't comment on fashion blogs and sometimes I feel so out of place being "surrounded" by Chanel bags and Loubies that I cannot even imagine purchasing. I do enjoy ogling at the beautiful pictures though, and I try to take what I can from the beautiful fashion blogs and incorporate my own "look for less". So thank you for presenting both sides of the coin! πŸ™‚

  • audrinajulia
    January 3, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Love the reality of this post. COngrats to Naomi for bringing her self out of debt. She will serve as an inspiration. Again, great interview Kat! Happy new year!

  • The Blonde @ Stylish3
    January 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Great contrast to your regular interview subjects. After seeing some of your other subjects' collections, it's nice to have a reality check to keep me from going on a shopping spree!

  • Faith J.
    January 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Fabulous advice from a fabulous woman, thanks Naomi for being so open.

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