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We know we should track our money. But what about tracking the personal things we choose to bring home? As someone who doesn’t really buy trinkets, most of what I bring home ends up being clothes.
How we spend on personal goods has been on my mind lately. I’m reading this book called Dollars and Sense, which is about how we think about money all wrong. It’s an insightful book, and one major takeaway I’ve gotten from it is this:
It’s human nature to spend money irrationally.
And when it comes to personal items like clothes, we’re even more prone to making emotional decisions. We don’t judge the value of items by their individual merits, no matter how much we lie to ourselves that we do. Think about it: if you saw a Kate Spade bag without the branding, would you still spend $300 for it?
But acknowledging human nature doesn’t mean you get a free pass to go on a shopping rampage. And it doesn’t mean you can’t infuse logic into your purchasing decisions.
One way I keep my shopping in check is by tracking my shopping habits: using Mint and Pinterest to assess what I’ve bought, and whether or not I’m happy with how much I’ve spent. Going through why I bought the things I did, and looking for patterns for why something worked or why it didn’t. Specifically, there’s a set of questions I like to ask myself:
- OK, Big Shot, so you spent all this money. Now what have you got to show for it? Am I satisfied with what I bought for the money spent, or am I horrified, like when Carrie spent $40,000 on shoes?
- Do I value this stuff? Like, for real? Because I don’t really have the mental energy for junky stuff I don’t care about.
I know it sounds harsh. And I know some of you would rather get a root canal than even think about adding up how much you’ve spent shopping. But if you don’t stop to think about how and why you’re spending, it’s hard to stop making the same mistakes. Then you can end up in an endless cycle of buying the wrong things, spending too much money, and then going to purging hell.
So, onto the analysis. How did I do last year?
In 2017, I bought 14 items (excluding socks) for $1,308.52. I then sold $297.62 worth of stuff, so the final total is $1,011. That’s $11 more than my goal, but it’s good enough, especially as I felt like I HAD to buy one item for a trip.
In 2016, I bought no shoes. This year, I made up for it by buying four pairs. Overall, I feel satisfied with how I spent, although there were a few misses.
Here’s the breakdown:
1. Uniqlo Heather Grey Crewneck Sweatshirt
Price Paid: $4.99
I bought this from Goodwill when I was in Cincinnati, and I wear it a lot at home. Actually, I’m wearing it right now as I write this blog post.
2. A.P.C. Navy Blue Shetland Sweater
Price Paid: $52.50
I got this from The Real Real. A.P.C. is one of my favorite brands, and the 80% off price was right for being brand new. But I hadn’t asked myself, “Do you need a navy blue crewneck sweater?” I ended up selling it.
3. Acne Bird Sweatshirt in Dusty Pink
Price Paid: $87
I’ve always loved this sweatshirt when I saw it online, and finally saw one pop up on eBay in my size. Except it ran really big, which I could have figured out if I asked the seller for measurements. This too went to a new home.
4. Proenza Schouler Mixed Media Sweater
Price Paid: $87.50
I saw this at Barneys once and was immediately attracted to it. Then I saw it on The Real Real and pounced. I like almost all of Proenza Schouler’s printed knits, so this is another addition to the collection.
1. Rag & Bone The Tee in Heather Grey
Price Paid: $63.75
The infamous $60 T-shirt. I’m really particular about my T-shirts, and this had the exact fit I was looking for. I always bring this with me on vacation, too, so I think that shows it’s been a staple.
2. Re/Done X Hanes 1970s Boyfriend T-Shirt
Price Paid: $4
I got a gift card from a Matches Fashion event once, so that’s how I bought this for such a paltry amount. Olive green has always been my favorite T-shirt color, because it’s so boyish. I bring this on vacation a lot, too.
1. J. Crew Billie Demi-Boot Crop Jeans
Price Paid: $53.99
My one indulgent trend item. Cropped jeans are always tough for me because I’m 5’2,” but these came in a petite size. Are they an absolute perfect fit? No, but I still wear them all the time. Most denim will never be a perfect fit for me, and I’ve accepted that.
2. Gap Softspun Marled Jogger Sweatpants
Price Paid: $29.97
I bought these to replace some old, worn-out sweats I only wore at home. It was time to get some I could wear out in public, like on long flights, etc. I felt kind of trapped into buying these, because very few sweatpant options come in petite lengths. Along with the Uniqlo sweatshirt, I’m wearing these right now, too.
1. K. Jacques Ponyhair Cernay Sandals
Price Paid: $74.45
I had a pair of K. Jacques sandals already, but the soles were really worn out. I found these from The Real Real, basically brand new.
2. Woman by Common Projects Achilles Low Leather Sneakers
Price Paid: $225
I got these from SSENSE as a backup pair, for when my current ones die on me.
3. Newbark Melanie Loafers
Price Paid: $76
I mostly wear sneakers, but I wanted to mix it up with a dressier shoe. I was so excited to find a brand-new pair for such a steal. Again, from The Real Real.
4. Isabel Marant Étoile Bart Sneakers
Price Paid: $152
Bought these from The LOIT, a random store in New Jersey I found one day who happens to have really good sales sometimes. These look similar to Adidas Stan Smiths, but I like these more because there’s a little hidden wedge. I also think the leather quality is much, much better than Adidas.
1. Acne Herringbone Canada Scarf
Price Paid: $119
I’ve always liked Acne Canada scarves, but the price point was always a little too high for me to pull the trigger. But then I saw this one on sale. Plus, they sell really well and have good resale value.
2. Helly Hansen Aden Rain Jacket
Price Paid: $62.79
I didn’t own a rain jacket, but felt like I needed one for my New Zealand trip. The weather there is really unpredictable, and I didn’t want to get caught hiking in the rain.
3. Three Pairs of Falke Invisible Socks
Price Paid: $40.50
I used to buy cheap invisible socks from H&M, but they would always slip off my feet. These have rubber grips on the heels, so while they’re expensive, I totally swear by them.
What we choose to buy is interesting, but what’s also telling is what we choose to NOT buy. If you take a minute to assess why you didn’t buy something, you can uncover some clues to help you with future purchases.
Two items I wanted but didn’t buy last year:
1. Rhié Digital Print Silk Dress
Rhié is one of my favorite lesser-known discoveries. Since they’re a smaller brand, retailers are hard to find. But one day I saw this dress miraculously pop up on The Real Real, although it was one size too big.
2. Alexander Wang Floral Print Shirt Dress
Do you ever see a fashion show and make a mental note of THAT ONE ITEM that just kind of sticks with you? I’ve had this dress on my list for years, but it never came up in my size. Then I saw it on The Real Real in pristine condition.
And why I didn’t buy them:
Can you see a pattern here? I LOVE a great print that is modern and cool, but not overly feminine. Give me a designer who can create his/her own prints, and I’ll be interested. Even though I could have bought each of these for less than $70, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Because there were a couple details I couldn’t really overlook:
One, I don’t really wear dresses.
And two, I need to pay attention to how things will fit on my specific body. The Alexander Wang dress would hit just below my knee caps, which makes me look short. The Rhié dress was just the wrong size altogether, and since it’s already a long dress, would have overwhelmed my frame. I’d fallen for settling for the wrong size before, assuming I could pull off an oversized look. Not anymore.
Passing over these items means that I can still appreciate certain things from afar, but I don’t really need to own them.
What I Sold
As mentioned above, I ended up selling two items that didn’t work, plus a few more so I could get my spending close to budget. If the numbers below aren’t an after school special for why one should buy secondhand designer clothes, then I don’t know what is.
|Item||Price Bought||Price Sold|
|A.P.C. sweater||$52.50 new||$41.07|
|Acne Bird sweatshirt||$87||$107.60|
|Isabel Marant T-shirt||$45||$36.36|
|Charlotte Olympia Daisy wedding shoes||$150 new||$92.50*|
|Girlfriend leggings||$20 new||$20.09|
*Shipping that box put a big dent in my net profit, dang!
TOTAL SOLD: $297.62
My 2018 List
My wishlist is a living list that’s constantly changing, but here’s what’s on it right now:
1 black belt
1 pair of black jeans
1 striped button down
1 cropped sweatshirt
1 silk tropical shirt – BOUGHT
1 pair of fun sunglasses
1 set of matching PJs
1 quilted puffy parka
If you want to be a more mindful consumer, try tracking what you’ve already bought to see what’s worked, and what hasn’t. It can be as simple as using the Notes app on an iPhone, or as complicated as an Excel spreadsheet where you track how many times you’ve worn each item. Whatever the method, the principle is the same: it’s hard to improve what you don’t measure.
How did you do in 2017? Are you on the track-your-purchases train, or would you rather bury your head in the sand? What’s on your list for 2018?
Feature Image: Unsplash