How My $140 Jeans Are a Frugal Buy

How My A.P.C. Jeans Are a Frugal Buy

I like my clothes the way I like my stocks: I buy and hold. Case in point: I’ve had these A.P.C. jeans for 8 years.

Eventually, a hole appeared behind the left knee. And then the crotch blew out. This is when most people would throw the jeans away. But I patched them instead.

Don’t throw them out; patch them instead

When I bought them years ago they cost $140. Scratch that. Last month I bought a new pair for $195 (thanks, inflation). Sidenote: if you really love an item, buy multiples now so you can lock in today’s price. Just like buying a stock you plan on keeping for a while, it’s about the long-term strategy.

To most people, $140 sounds like an awful lot for a single pair of jeans. Why not get $20 jeans from Old Navy? They’re the same thing, they say. No, they’re not.

You see, Old Navy jeans might work for you, but I’m not shaped exactly like you. I’ve tried them all, from Old Navy to Madewell to Rag & Bone. Let’s be clear: I don’t buy into the idea that something’s automatically better just because it’s more expensive. So how does one assess a pair of jeans? It’s the FIT. Fit is different for every body. My friend and I are the same exact height, but we can try on the same pair of jeans, and they’ll look completely different.

Here’s the thing: Jeans are the hardest clothing item to get right. Especially for women. You could walk into a denim bar and be offered an array of options, but there are so many ways for them to go wrong:

  • Too long
  • Too short
  • Too butt-flattening
  • Too tight
  • Too high/low waisted

Yeah, it’s like buying a house, but for your butt.

Worn-in A.P.C. Petit Standard Jeans
A.P.C. Petit Standard fit pic

So, with endless options and potential pitfalls, here’s how a seemingly overpriced pair of jeans were a frugal purchase.

I Know What I Want

Buying jeans is not about randomly trying on jeans when the mood strikes and coming away with something that vaguely fits. You’ve got to know what you’re looking for. When you go in with a purpose and criteria, you’re more likely to come out with exactly what you need. Being frugal means discerning exactly what you want and need, and then prioritizing those needs.

For me, these were my top 3 priorities:
They need to be 100% cotton. In a sea of stretchy jeggings, this eliminates 99% of the jeans out there. Stretch jeans look fine on other people, but their clingy properties make my legs feel like encased sausages.
They need to be straight leg at the bottom. Jeans that are super skinny at the bottom don’t work for me and the shoes I wear. Again, this style I’m looking for is rarely available in the market.
They need to fit me perfectly in the waist. Waist-gap problems are the story of my life. Who wants to worry about bending over and giving people a view they never asked for?

I Wear Them All the Time

Being frugal means using the stuff you have. For the first six months after I bought them I’d wear them for months on end, and still wear them now on the weekends. I wear jeans 95% of the time, so they’re the workhorse of my wardrobe. How many people have jeans in their closet that they don’t wear? Buying things that don’t get used, no matter how cheap, is always a waste of money.

I Bought the Right Thing Once

At one point, they were the only pair of blue jeans I had for five years. Just the one. At the outset, $140 is a lot to pay for a single item of clothing, but considering I’ve worn them for 8 years, they’ve cost me a little under $20 a year. $20 a year for the perfect jeans? To me, that’s a damn deal. Being frugal is not always going for the cheapest option; it’s about holding out for what’s right for you. Every time I’ve settled for a cheaper option that I thought was “good enough” I’ve regretted it, no fail. Then I’d end up shopping MORE to find a better replacement. Settling for “good enough” created an endless cycle of bad shopping.

I Save Time

Jeans shopping is a barbaric form of punishment. There have been countless times where I’ve entered the mall super excited to look for jeans, and after trying on several pairs that didn’t fit, left feeling totally dejected. For this reason, I’m glad I haven’t had to “shop” for jeans in years. Being frugal means valuing your time so you can focus on the things that matter to you. Because these are my perfect jeans, I don’t have to waste energy finding new pairs to buytaking the train to stores, researching new brands, dealing with crowds, trying on new pairs, or waiting in line to buy. If I need a new pair of blue jeans, I simply buy the same exact pairs.

I Value Them

We live in a disposable culture where clothes are cheap impulse buys, and when they bore us or show the slightest amount of wear we throw them away. As I mentioned before, when the jeans developed holes, I repaired them instead of throwing them out. I wash them cold with Woolite dark. I never put them in the dryer. I fold them nicely and put them away in their drawer. I never, ever toss them on the ground. I take care of them, because I respect them for how they’ve made my life easier.

Frugality is about appreciating what you have. And part of appreciating what you have is not settling for what’s “good enough,” but buying the right things in the first place, even if the price is a little higher. I’ve never regretted a perfect purchase, no matter the price.

What’s something you buy that most people think is a splurge but you think is actually frugal?

Image: The Luxe Strategist

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  • Yes yes yes! A good pair of jeans (or any clothing item) should be an investment, especially when it’s a staple and fits well. I think the most difficult thing is sometimes I have been known to become really focused on the item fitting one area and not realizing until after buying it looks totally strange from another direction. An example would be like a drapey top where the top drapes perfectly but then I notice the hem is a little short.

    I still like to also do a per wear calculation as well as do an assessment for maintenance (how frequently do I think I’ll need to dry clean it, will it wrinkle and will I have the discipline to iron it every time?!)

    • Haha, clothes that fit strange from another direction is a legit problem! I find that when I get pictures from a 360 degree angle, it’s much easier to uncover funky fit issues.

      I loooove wrinkle free clothes because ironing is so tedious. I have this one vintage plaid shirt that has a magical anti-wrinkle quality to it, and I reach for it all the time because it’s so easy.

  • Jax

    I love them! I absolutely appreciate finding a good pair of jeans that fit right. I don’t think that I have an uncommon body type, but shopping for jeans tells me otherwise. Whenever I find a pair that fits, I buy several at once. Because like you, I wear my jeans all the time. And then patch them up when they start to wear so I can wear them even longer. The most I’ve paid is $75 (maybe $90?) and it made me cry, but they definitely were worth it. I used to get my jeans at The Limited, but they have gone out of business so it’s time to begin the hunt again for an elusive pair of jeans that fit well.

    I do cringe on how much a good pair of jeans cost, but it isn’t worth it to me to buy a pair of jeans that make me feel frumpy just because they are cheaper. Call me vain, but as long as I have the money, I will spend it on clothes that make me feel good. If I can find a deal, great! If not, the emotional benefit of nice fitting clothes well justifies the expense.

    • Yeah, sometimes I feel like people don’t realize you can’t just roll up to the “jeans store” and automatically come out with a good fit. Even if you have a common body type. Also, the whole non-standard sizing, and vanity sizing doesn’t help matters, either.

      Ugh, don’t you hate it when something you love gets discontinued? When that happens I usually hop on eBay to see if I can find the item there. Usually I can if I’m patient.

      I don’t think getting clothes that make you feel good is vain at all. Whether we like it or not, the way we dress sends a message. And I agree with your insight that clothes are emotional buys. Much more so than a lamp or something.

  • ‘it’s like buying a house, but for your butt’ – That is fantastic! ha!

    Even as a guy I have terrible trouble finding jeans that fit. Being a former runner I am quite skinny with large legs. Finding a pair of jeans can be verrry tricky. I found a brand called Agave Denim that fit great and are worth every penny.

    If they last that long, then the cost per wear is absolutely worth it! That is next level frugal in my opinion! Great article!

    • I just looked Agave, and dude, those prices are definitely ouchy, but I like how they are made in the US. If they were made in a cheaper place, but still retailed the same, that’s when I get mad.

      Yeah, you don’t just buy the first house you see!

  • Oof, my most expensive jeans I bought was in college when I bought a $200 pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans. I was trying to be cool. And I guess those jeans lasted me for a while, but this was back when slim fit jeans weren’t cool yet for guys and when I tried them on recently, they seemed gigantic to me! In retrospect, I regret that purchase, but maybe it’s because there’s been a big sea change in Men’s clothing between 2005 and 2017 – or maybe it’s that I went from idiot college kid to an adult? I dunno.

    • Seems like you went with a trend, but I totally did that too, when I was younger. Nowadays, when things are expensive I try to keep the style as classic as possible. Less risk that way!

  • I love buying multiples of something that works because the “buy one, loving it, and then never finding it again” is the worst. And jeans are like a house for your butt!

    • I know, right? There are still these other pair of jeans that I have to stalk on eBay because they don’t make them anymore!

  • Definitely my MacBook Pro. It might have cost more than a normal laptop but I’ve had it for eight years! And it seems still going strong after hours of daily use. I would never consider switching to a cheaper one when I know the quality just won’t be there.

    • That’s the thing! No one really questions a laptop purchase, because you use it every day, but for some reason, if you spend a lot on of a pair of pants you wear every day, people wig out.

      8 years for a laptop is amazing! I have a non-PC and the thing can barely hold a charge after only 6 years. I’d definitely consider spending more if it meant less hassle and more longevity.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Cheryl

    Know what else sucks to buy? Bras. I buy expensive, well made ones now (Le Mystere – Google “Oprah’s favorite bra”). I’ve tried so many uncomfortable bras. Now that I found one I like, I buy several at a time and wear them until they wear out. It’s not worth buying and discarding cheaper ones because (a) it ends up costing at least as much to keep replacing them, (b) I hate constantly discarding them as it is so wasteful, and (c) my preferred style is so darn comfortable, and keeps the girls in place and looking well!

    • OMG, you’re so right! How could I forget about bras? Also a barbaric form of punishment in terms of finding one that actually fits. Like you, I use the same principles that I use for jeans–find one that works, and keep buying the same version.

      I have a T-shirt bra from Natori I paid full-price for, and pending I take care of it (hand washing, etc.), I don’t think I need to buy a new one ever again.

    • Danielle Kubes

      Omg I spend so much money on my bras! Like $135 every 6 months. But when you have large breasts (over a c-up) that’s how much they ARE. I see so many girls walk around with breasts spilling out and unsupported because they refuse to spend money on bras. Sad that mall brands like Victoria Secret and La Senza still haven’t caught onto the fact that many woman have breasts (and that that a d-cup IS NOT A BIG SIZE).

  • Thanks for stopping by!

    It’s not evident in this post, but I’m the queen of patience when it comes to shopping. I usually shop sales and secondhand and can get MOST of what I want this way. But for these jeans I know it’s very rare to find them in a thrift store or secondhand online in my exact size or brand-new. Actually, I’ve never seen them used period. The brand also based in Paris, so buying them while on vacation there could save like, 30% because of the VAT.

    You’re so lucky that thrift stores have great stuff where you are. Where I live now, thrift stores are a total ripoff. But I agree with you that there are major gems to be had, if you’re in the right town. I used to live in Boston, and my friend and I would hit up yard sales in rich, nearby towns and basically make out like bandits.

  • Hey James,

    Thanks for reading. Sorry for the delay in getting your comment up, but I didn’t delete it. I just checked to see why it didn’t appear and I see now that your comment was from a guest account. Disqus makes me moderate all of those.

    You have a good point re: the same body type for an extended period of time. I’m an anomaly because I haven’t grown much since I was 14, so even things from high school still fit me now. But I definitely get that that’s not the norm, nor do I expect it to be. My post wasn’t meant to be read as a “how to”, but more like a counter-viewpoint against the common beliefs that I encounter–that cheaper is always better, and that people who spend more on things are mindless consumers and just trying to keep up with the Joneses.

    With that said, I don’t think the ideas I talk about are limited to just jeans. You can definitely apply the same kind of strategy/thinking with more size-static stuff like shoes, wallets, etc.

  • Steve Cousins

    Hate to say or proud to say, I’m not really sure? The best fitting pair of jeans I own, and they fit well, no dad jeans for me, cost me $9.99 last year at Walmart and they weren’t on sale! Faded Glory, worn constantly since purchase and they still look like new. 100% cotton, fit my runner body pretty well without being snug anywhere. You did pretty well but I swear I think I may hold the world record for good looking jeans that were almost free.

  • I agree with you 100%! It’s usually quality over quantity for me.

    My biggest splurges were a Celine and a Balenciaga bag. It was a little hard paying so much upfront but they’re quality pieces made by artisans that I know I’ll wear for the rest of my life. I’ve had my Celine for 3 years and it’s been through a lot but still looks brand new.

    • I like how you refer to designers as “artisans”, because that’s how I see it, too. I see clothes as art in many ways, and not simply utilitarian.

      Which Celine do you have? I considered getting the trio bag, but I have one similar already.

  • I only buy $100+ jeans. Typically I buy from Nordstrom which has a fantastic return policy. Instead of patching those holes yourself, you can bring them back to Nordstrom (yes years later) and return them for a brand new pair. I heard that return policy is changing unfortunately. 🙁

    • Oh yes, Nordstrom is famous for their return policy, so that’s a great tip. Once, someone stole my Nordstrom’s package from my stoop and the store sent a new package, no questions asked. Unfortunately, the brand of jeans I like isn’t sold there.

  • Kandice

    I just found your blog through Rockstar Finance! I agree with you. I bought a pair of Citizens for $200 about ten years ago. I’m still wearing those bad boys, even with size fluctuations. *ahem* Also, I’m still carrying a small Gucci crossbody bag my parents bought me when I was 12 (we lived overseas and visited Italy) — I’m 44 and used it this week. The cost per wear has to be mere cents by now.

    • CPW is a legit strategy. Yeah, as I get older I buy fewer and fewer things because all my stuff lasts forever!

      Oh, and thanks for stopping by!

  • Dr. Curious

    I’ve got 3 pair of “cheap” $80 Banana Republic Traveler jeans. They felt, for lack of a better word, like butter the first time I tried them on. As the name implies, they are awesome for travel but dressy enough for a Michelin star restaurant. Even more than jeans, I splurge on running shoes. My Brooks Glycerin sneaks cost over $100 per pair, but they are worth every cent to my precious toesies. Love the blog, BTW! – Dr. C

    • Sounds like you prescribe to my strategy of buying multiple pairs! Hmm, all my travel jeans look mad worn, so your traveler jeans must have some sort of special property to work in a restaurant.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Oh, I love that one! I used to want the vertical cabas with the side zips, but this one is more classic and the size is better for shorties like me!

    That story is (sorry) morbidly funny. Here in the city, it’s a legit concern: How steal-able is my bag???

  • The jeans that have stayed the longest in my closet are the ‘raw denim’ ones like your APC, including a pair of Diesels that are over a decade old – I recently had to move the top button over 1/2 inch so they wouldn’t be so tight! They still fit great everywhere though. I think adding stretch to the denim makes them lose their shape much quicker.

    I wish I could buy multiples of my faves! But often I don’t realize how perfect they are until I notice how often I wear them, and by then it’s too late! There’s a particular Rag & Bone t-shirt that I have an eBay search alert on because mine is yellowing now 🙁

    I will definitely buy multiples of this $68 Under Armour sports bra that is just so amazing, and I’d love to replace all of my inferior bras with this one eventually. It’s front zip, so it’s easy to get off when you’re sweaty and gross, and the fabric is super soft. The running tracking app I use, MapMyRun, is affiliated with Under Armour and frequently has mileage challenges that spit out coupons when you do well, so I log as many miles as I can just to get those coupons, lol. Whatever works as motivation I guess!

    • Yeah, I long for the old days when stuff was made better. The only stretch jeans that NEVER bagged out for me were Acnes. But it was only 2 percent (the max I can do), and they don’t make that style anymore, of course. Gotta keep trolling eBay for pairs to pop up.

      That’s happened to me too. Not realizing something is a game-changer and needs to be bought in multiples. I have an Isabel Marant white T-shirt that is so precious to me, I treat it like a Faberge egg, haha. Every time I’m done wearing it, I put Oxyclean on the arm pits and hand wash it, no fail.

      I didn’t know that Under Armour gave coupons with the app, but that’s a genius incentive!

  • Serenity he

    wait, you’re not suppose to put jeans in the dryer? lol… i suck at laundry

    • Yeah, girl! They’ll shrink that way. For my special/expensive stuff, I usually wash cold and then just hang dry.

      • Serenity he

        Good tip, I’ll keep that in mind. I’ve yet to find my $140 jeans.

        • I actually tried on some Levi’s the other day, and they looked terrible on me. Yep, confirmed–sticking to my expensive jeans.

  • Nina Thomas

    It isn’t insanely expensive but I LOVE my Longchamp bag. My friend has always wanted one but chooses practicality and frugality first. To her, even if she bought a $40 bag over and over again- let’s say once a year for a couple of years, it would be cheaper. For me, it’s not just about the cost. I love the look.

    • Longchamp bags are so practical and I like how you can fold them up. Your friend seems like a classic case of short-term thinking. If she added up all those bags she could have bough one bag that she loved. And I agree buying things for other qualities besides just cost is where it’s at.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂