The Anatomy of a $60 T-Shirt Purchase

Rag & Bone The Classic Tee in Heather Grey

If I told you that buying a T-shirt was a 12-step process, you’d probably think I was a maniac. What is there to think about? You just drive to the nearest store and grab one that fits you and your budget.

Snap decisions like that can totally work out from time to time. Like when I impulse-bought a Dries Van Noten weekender bag and five years later still love it. Or that time I bought a $500 JetBlue flight pass within hours of seeing the deal, and flew to a new place six weekends in a row.

Impulse buys aren’t necessarily bad at all.

Impulse buys might even be your main MO for shopping. Every time I’m walking around the city there are more people carrying around multiple shopping bags than without. But when it comes to clothes, I’ve realized that the way I shop isn’t necessarily the norm. I could shop all day, but 99% of the time will rarely buy anything on the spot. Like, ever. It’s like delayed gratification, but times 10.

Call my industrious method crazy, but in general, I don’t think we consider our purchases nearly enough. If everybody did, then would decluttering be having a moment right now?

I’m totally a proponent of shopping slowly. This past week I bought a Rag & Bone T-shirt, and it took me about two months to buy it. So I thought, what better time to go over my exact process when making a purchase? I could list out a general “how to,” but those aren’t nearly as fun as seeing how things go down in real time.

Without further ado, the making of a purchase (kind of like MTV’s “Cribs,” but for shopping).


Over the summer (yes, two months ago!), I was walking with my friend when we passed by the Rag & Bone window. As someone who lives in simple clothes my eyes immediately zoomed in on the little grey T-shirt hanging in the window. Without even touching it I could tell it was a thicker cotton and was well-made.

Rag & Bone The Tee in Heather Grey
Image credit: Saks Fifth Avenue

Me: “Well, that’s a cute shirt.”
Friend: “Do you want to go in?”
Me: “Nah.”

I didn’t feel like shopping then; I would investigate it later. I also will never buy things right away because:

  • Things will almost always go on sale
  • I like to be deliberate about what I’m adding to my closet

1. Add It to My Pinterest Board

Whenever I see something that catches my eye I add it to my ‘2017 Wishlist‘ Pinterest board. I create one for every year because I like having a visual of all the things I want in one place. So I pin the T-shirt to the board and then I move on with my life, because the $85 price was high enough to make me pause. Yes, buying more expensive stuff is the ultimate impulse-buy killer.

2017 Pinterest Wish List

Sometimes I’ll go back to look at the wishlist and am horrified by Past Me: “What was I thinking with those Adidas shower shoes?”

Being horrified sometimes is a good thing. Not everything you add to your wishlist is something you should buy. When we see things that spark our fancies, a lot of times it’s because it appeals to our emotions (Pretty! Shiny! Something a “cool girl” would wear!). And when we’re thinking emotionally it’s not fun to think about how well a pair of Wizard of Oz red heels is going to go with our existing outfits.

2. Shop Online to Compare Prices

I do most of my shopping online, and then I go check out items in person after I’ve done my vetting. Three reasons why:

  • I’d rather do anything than shop in New York City. With stores teeming with tourists, loud music and long dressing room waits, shopping at a brick and mortar store is the definition of stress.
  • I’d rather spend my free time doing other things. Shopping online you can cover a wider range in less time: I can check five stores in a span of 30 minutes.
  • I’d rather earn points for buying things I would buy anyway, and you can only do that online.

After Googling the shirt I find the shirt in the same color and size is available at Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Barneys. Bloomingdale’s doesn’t have free shipping, so they’re out as an option.

3. Research Alternatives

*Affiliate links below*

If it’s a basic item like a T-shirt, there are lots of versions of the same thing. So I need to check and make sure I’m getting one that best suits my criteria. I have a very specific idea for what I like and what I don’t. In this case, I look at:

ATM The Schoolboy Crew – The wrong shade of gray
Re-Done The 1960s Slim Tee – Adorable, but the sleeves are a little too short
Everlane Cotton Scoop Neck Tee – Too long and the fabric doesn’t seem to drape nicely

I prefer boyfits when it comes to T-shirts, and for those who think “all T-shirts are the same,” well, you are wrong :). I’m confident that the Rag & Bone version is the one that fits my criteria best.

4. Look for a Cheaper Version

You never know what kind of gems you’ll find on eBay, so forgetting to check eBay is a mistake. It’s not uncommon to find new items on there that are still being sold in stores. So I see if there are any sweet deals for a brand-new version with tags. I find one…but the seller is from Peru. I shy away from sellers who aren’t in the US, because it’s harder to track the packages that way. I don’t want to risk buying something I can’t track, so that’s a bust.

5. Wait for a Sale

My next option is to wait for a sale…because I know there will be one. I just have to be patient. Since it’s a basic shirt, it most likely sells well, and items that sell well don’t get marked down. So that means I have to wait for one of the big three Friends and Family sales: Shopbop, Bloomingdale’s or Saks. These sales usually are a set percentage discount that applies to almost everything on the site. In October, guess what? Saks comes out with their 25% off sale! With that promo, the T-shirt would now cost $63.75. It’s time to get serious.

6. Research How It Looks on a Real Body

Now I go into mega-research mode. As you may know, retailer photos are super deceiving. How many times have you went onto, thought something looked amazing on the model, took it home, and then it looked like a sack in real life? Gap and J. Crew are notorious for that. For that reason, I don’t trust retailer images anymore. Plus, most people aren’t built like models. We can’t just put on a potato sack and look good.

To find non-retailer photos, I search Google Images as well as hashtags on Instagram. Sadly, no dice.

7. Look for Real Reviews

I check some of the reviews on the retailer sites and most were 4+. That’s a good sign. Then I Google the T-shirt name to see if any bloggers have written about it. My friend, Newinspired, has a review (with pictures!) that gives it the nod of approval, so that’s a good sign.

8. Try It On in Person

So now for the real test. Because of the aforementioned reluctance to shop in person, I’ll only go try on an item in person if I’m seriously thinking of buying it. I also always like to take pictures so I can ask a few trusted advisors their opinion (like my friends on Instagram :)).

Rag & Bone The Tee in Heather Grey

9. Justify the Purchase

I have two grey T-shirts…but I don’t love them. How do I know? Because I have a white T-shirt that I always reach for because I feel great in it. How much you care about something shows in your actions. The grey H&M and Old Navy T-shirts? Those are buried at the bottom of my closet. And if you let your stuff stay buried in your closet you probably don’t care much about them. This T-shirt would be bought to replace those two sub-par shirts, which I’d just donate.

Then I ask myself, “What happens if I stop liking it?”
This is an important question. If I’m going to buy something impulsively I have to know that I’ll be able to resell it. But if I’m going to keep it, then I’m going to be much more selective in my criteria. Since T-shirts tend to wear more quickly, reselling isn’t really an option. I’m fine with that , but the key thing to note is that I thought about the consequence.

10. Check Shopping Portals

Now I’m gearing up to pull the trigger…but not before I check to see if I can earn extra points by shopping at Saks. I check out Cashbackholic to see which shopping portals are offering the most points. Cashbackholic is not always 100% up to date, but it’s a good first step. Saks is 5% cash back if you shop through the Chase portal. I also check my Chase Freedom and Discover It cards to see if there have any other promotions I can stack on top. Chase is doing 5% cash back on department stores. 10% cash back is a pretty sweet bonus!

11. Pull the Trigger

Now I log into the Chase portal, click on the Saks affiliate link and get taken to the Saks website to check out like I normally would. Total: $63.75

12. Move Item to ‘My Closet’ Pinterest Board

After I buy the shirt, I move my pin from the ‘Wishlist’ board to the ‘My Closet’ board. I use this board to track all the things I buy.

And that’s my system! Maybe my process seems overly complicated and painful, but sometimes I think a little bit of pain is a good thing. If I had to choose between being thoughtful and spending less, or being impulsive and spending more, I’d always go with the former. I should note, that being thoughtful about purchases doesn’t mean that it will be a perfect addition to your wardrobe, which is a different story, but your financial goals will be a lot happier.

Your turn: Do you have a process for deciding what to buy? Or do you struggle with impulse buys?

Image: The Luxe Strategist

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