Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shopping & Finances

Instead of an outfit post, I'm switching gears today.

Finances are a big part of most people's lives, so I've never understood why talking about it is taboo (perhaps I'm just nosier than most). It's obvious from this blog that I shop on a regular basis, but what isn't as readily apparent is how I approach spending money on each purchase, whether large or small.

A quick background on me:

I'm extremely fortunate to have parents who paid for my college education (thank you mom & dad). They also let me move back home post-graduation, which is something I'll forever be grateful for. During those few years, I saved up a boatload of money, some due to dumb luck (company I worked for went public and they also paid for graduate school) but mostly because I'm cheap and didn't have expensive hobbies. A healthy savings really helped ease some of the stress that comes with living in a fairly high cost-of-living area. DH and I didn't take the traditional route to marriage, so instead we contributed a sizable down payment on a home, keeping our loan at just over our combined income. A rough estimate of my finances can be broken down to: 45% taxes/retirement/benefits, 15% mortgage, 10% food/bills/necessities. The remaining 30% I bank and/or spend on fun things.

I don't really budget because I'm fairly disciplined at not over-spending. What I do is use Excel to keep track of all household and personal expenses by month and year. This way I have a reference point for comparison purposes across different categories over various periods of time. If need be, I'll make spending/saving adjustments accordingly (ie: save more prior to post-holiday sales in Jan).

When it comes to clothing and accessories (falls under my fun category), I'd describe myself as a practical spender, one who tries to take emotional aspect out of the equation and approach it logically. I haven't always been this way, but over time I've gotten to know myself better, figured out my spending habits, and can pinpoint my spending approach to a few categories:

1) Sleep on it - The bigger the purchase, the more time I'll take to mull over. I think about how the item will fit into my wardrobe, ie: do I already have something similar, does it fit my lifestyle, how often will I actually use it (cost/wear), etc. There's been many times where the high I experienced from wanting an item vanished as fast as it appeared (ahem I'm looking at you PS1). Thank goodness I took my time. I've also learned that if I lose out on an item while thinking it over, it's okay. Something else will come along.

2) Learn from experience - Sometimes it takes missing out on an item to realize how much I really want it. When this happens, I add it to my wishlist, which saves me time when I come across a similar item later on down the road. A list also keeps me organized and helps separate wants from needs, weeding out unnecessary items. I've also found that studying past purchases that never see the outside of my closet have helped me become better at not repeating mistakes.

3) Expensive does not mean "investment" - There aren't many brands/items that hold their value without significant price increases, so buying an item with the expectation of making a profit (especially in the short term) is most likely not going to happen. I used to have this mindset to help justify large purchases, but now I've come to accept that most things depreciate in value and I'd be lucky to break even. Instead, I make sure that I really love an item and can afford it. The enjoyment I get from using the item will justify the cost.

4) Dealing with the brand name game - This is a tricky one and probably the most difficult to rationalize. As my income grew, I found it was easier to spend more because I have the means to (I know, first world problems). The "more" is usually on big-ticket items rather than a bunch of cheaper items. The logical side of me understands that there's a hefty markup for the name on the label, but the unreasonable side doesn't care and falls for the allure of the name. Very few cases are as clear-cut as sunglasses (I don't care much for them, so I don't buy designer brands). I've yet to find a good balance between the two sides (and I don't know if I ever will), but I try my best not to dwell on the name and instead focus on uniqueness, quality (higher price doesn't necessarily equate to better quality), trendiness, and practicality. Most of the time I have a firm hold on my unreasonable side (ie: bought $128 AT perfect pumps over $625 CL Simple pumps) but sometimes I can't help but give in (ie: bought $1095 Burberry Marystow trench over $129 Zara trench).

5) Full price vs. sale price - It used to pain me to purchase items at full price, so I would spend a lot of time and effort (while hoping for some luck) to wait for the best sales, browse popbacks, track down sizes, etc. I became familiar with my favorite retailers through mailing lists or social media, which helped me get a good sense of the type of sales they hold, the frequency of sales, and "reasonable" price points. Nowadays, I still use that knowledge, but am much more ok with buying during a smaller sale or even at full price. The gradual shift in my mindset can largely be attributed to realizing how valuable my time is and how I'd rather be spending my free time on other aspects of my life. It helps that I also don't seem to want as much anymore, so as a result I've cut down on the quantity of purchases. The money I was "saving" through lots of sale items is essentially cancelled out when I'm buying less at higher price points.

Lastly, I always remind myself to love, use, and enjoy every purchase.

32 comments:

  1. thanks for this post, cee! as a business major, i'm always so interested to learn about people's spending & budgeting perspectives, and of course especially regarding clothing & fashion. i def agree that we have to make our budgets work for us - taking into account of our emotional and logical shopping habits. i still have a hard time paying full-price on items though.. but sometimes i go for it if i absolutely love something. as long as there's no buyer's regret, right? :)

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    1. Glad I'm not the only nosy one ;) I blame it on my curious nature, haha.

      Re buyer's regret: Oh man, I've certainly experienced that. I can happily say the feeling doesn't occur as often as it used to, so I am learning!

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  2. Cee, thanks for your finance post. I snoop around your blog sometimes.

    Thanks for this post because it's nice to learn about other people's spending and perspective, and how they got to the point they are now. However, reading your post, I can't help but to be a little envious. I guess the downside of it that it also makes me look at my own life. I'm in my mid twenties already, and to be honest, I don't think I am as accomplished as many young women my age range. I also graduated college with a degree, but I have yet to find a stable job. Hence, my finance situation is really sad. I only hope that I can one day in the near future find a stable job with a good income so that I wouldn't have to worry about my fiance situation on a daily basis.

    As someone who also adores fashion, but doesn't have the mean to actually afford beautiful pieces, I am really envious of you guys, the fashion blogging community. I hope that one day, I will be able to afford the pieces that I adored too.

    Cee, do you have have tips on how to look for job? I really want to have a stable job so that I will be able to live life easily.

    Thank you for your blog and this post.

    Love,
    Lina

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    1. Hey Lina! I'm sorry to hear that you're having a tough time finding a job. No matter what news outlets say, I still don't think the economy's in great shape, so know that you're not alone. I'm not sure I'm qualified to give job hunting advice in my own industry, let alone others that I don't know well. Some general tips off the top of my head... I'd say polish up your resume and have others read it to give you feedback. Can you ask friends/coworkers/acquanitances to see if there are any openings at their workplace? Some employers are much more likely to hire a "known" person rather than a stranger. I would also browse meetup or professional websites to see if there are any networking events that you can go to to meet more people. Also think about what kind of marketable skills you have that may not even relate to your degree and see if you could broaden the scope of your job hunt. I'm of the belief that most people don't work at their dream job, so it's okay to "settle." Once you find a job, you can explore the possibility of pursuing your passion then.

      Thank YOU for being honest. I've also felt envious of others, whether it's material things, relationships, careers, etc. It's so easy to compare ourselves to people who we perceive is doing "better," but keep in mind that we don't know all the details. Someone could be having a great career, but it may be at the sacrifice of another part of their life. I think it's fine to want nice things because it'll give you a goal to work towards. Work hard, focus on one aspect of your life at a time (career), and I'm sure you'll be on your way in no time. Do keep me updated :)

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    2. Cee, thank you so much for replying. I do apprecite your insights and tips.

      I'll be sure to keep you updated, hopefully in the near future.

      Thanks again,

      Lina

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    3. Hi Lina, This is a suggestion: If you can afford it, you might want to look into volunteering a couple of hours a week in your chosen field. Three ladies in my department volunteered & later were hired as Program Directors.

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  3. Hi Cee! I've been following your blog but never commented. I love how you shared your spending habits and perspective on purchasing. I've always wondered that about fashion bloggers because some brand name items are quite hefty, and post after post there's always something new and expensive.
    Thank you for opening up and sharing this with us. Reading this post made me rethink what I should be doing, and you made a great point about your time being valuable and to have that be considered when looking for big sales. (Like extreme couponing, the time they spend couponing, they could be holding a job that more than makes it up for what they 'saved'!)

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    1. Hey there, thanks for taking the time to comment. I think most of the big bloggers make a ton of money through affiliate links/ads, have high-paying careers, come from wealthy backgrounds... or perhaps a combination of the above. Of course, there are probably some that are in debt. I'd love to know too (darn my nosiness), but can only speculate.

      You make me sound so wise, but really I'm not, haha. I may finally be maturing (gasp) and so part of that process is reflecting on past experiences and learning to improve from there. I'm glad you found this post helpful though :)

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  4. Really great post, Cee. You actually inspired me to write a similar post. People really gloss over the fact that finances are a HUGE part of what we do as bloggers as well as our daily lives. This post goes hand in hand with what you said in a past post about being true to yourself and not overspending. I love the methodical way you approach purchases, I do the same thing (ahem, Chanel WOC mulled for a good 2-3 years!)

    Lauren
    thepearshape.com

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    1. Lauren, for some reason your blog's blocked at my work, so I don't get to visit as often as I'd like =/ But I'm really looking forward to your future post.

      Now you're just making me look bad because I didn't debate nowhere near as long before purchasing my WOC ;)

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  5. I enjoyed reading this - I myself have a set, albeit generous , amount for clothes, dining out, etc. I also don't have expensive hobbies other than shopping (haha), so it leaves me an ice chunk to spend. Mulling over purchases helps immensely - even if its a $20 F21 top, I'll sleep on it. I will say this as a former GA girl & a current resident of 6500ft altitude city...get good sunglasses. They do make a difference in eye health long term. $300 Pradas aren't necessary, but a pair of $100 Ray Bans will do a lot to protect your corneas.

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    1. Here I was, all proud of myself for not wanting all nice things in my life and you have to bring up good sunglasses. Jk. I really appreciate your comment and experience. I don't spend much time outdoors and have only made sure the ones I buy block out UV rays. Off to do some research soon!

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  6. I really appreciated this post as well. I'm finishing up a graduate degree, and my clothing budget has been non-existent for the past three years. It will be tight for the foreseeable future, but I also need to look professional, put together, creative and stylish (I'm an interior designer). The idea of putting together an appropriate wardrobe for this profession on a budget is completely overwhelming at times, so I really enjoy reading about how other approach money and clothing.

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    1. Thank you Jillian for sharing bits about yourself! Casual clothes can already be pricey, so I can imagine the daunting task of a professional wardrobe on a budget. I think your journey would be an interesting and fun read because while there are many design blogs out there, it'd be different to get a glimpse into the wardrobe of an interior designer.

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  7. Thank you thank you thank you! I love seeing posts like these and love your tips! Please do more posts like these!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed this post. I don't currently have any more posts similar to this in mind, but I'll be sure to do some self-reflecting and pick my brain :)

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  8. I think you set a great example for young women everywhere! The blogosphere as a whole can promote a highly consumeristic and materialistic mentality to impressionable young fashionistas (glad that the hidden advertising agenda has gotten some press lately), but you are an exception to the rule ;-)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words <3

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  9. Very nice post Cee! Agree with a lot of your approaches. I've also seen a trend with myself as far as buying less, but settling for smaller discounts and/or paying full price. I think it has to do with a growing confidence in knowing my style and taste, coupled with a decent closet foundation which leaves room to buy "statement" things there and there, but who knows.

    And there is only one thing I own that has actually appreciated in value...that crazy red Chanel flap! I've seen those things go for nearly twice what I paid for it a few years ago! Apparently you can invest in colored Chanel bags...who knew?

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    1. But Kelly, you can't sell your red Chanel flap! The red's gorgeous. I bought my black flap for $2700 a few years back and I believe it's now up to $4400+tax, so I can probably make a profit if I sell too. It's not going to happen though because I'd kick myself if I ever have to re-buy.

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  10. I appreciate your honesty and it is why I read (instead of just look at pictures) your blog. There is something very genuine about you that set you apart from other fashion bloggers! Thank you for taking the time to do this for us. You are awesome!

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    1. Thank you Helen for your kind words. Sometimes I wonder if I come off as a braggart if I talk about the good things in my life, or if I'm trying to gain sympathy if I talk about the bad. I'm still trying to find a good balance, but I'm glad you can see that I'm trying to be myself, albeit on the blunt side :)

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  11. Great post :) I do like your style and can tell that you are a smart stylish shopper :) Great insight to how you spend :)

    katattack2000.wordpress.com

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  12. I've been loving both "ramblings" posts this month, Cee! This topic is close to my heart and I really enjoyed reading your perspective behind your shopping and styling. Kelly also brings up a funny memory of mine about Chanel and your bullet # 3 - in my former blog, I actually remember charting an analysis about the return from re-selling certain designer handbags, versus major stock index returns during the lows of 2009. As my stocks plunged, I "invested" in a pre-owned Chanel bag which is now going used for about 4x the price. But of course there's no letting go of it now!

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    1. Thanks, Jean! I'm all rambled out for now :)

      Your charting experience brings a smile to my face, which my nerdy side can really appreciate. My MIL dabbles in the stock market, but not that well according to DH. I keep telling him that she should've bought Chanels instead, keep them in her closet, and would be making a killing if she sold them now. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

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  13. Great post!! Carrie

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  14. been following for awhile but was always lurking :P my fiance and i are looking into houses now (unless we move to SF, in which case rent there is equivalent to paying for a mortgage anywhere else, ugh)and so this post was close to my heart. thank you for sharing the decision making process and detailed breakdown behind how you handle your finances. <3

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    1. Hi Tiffany! Lurk away ;) Ahh, house hunting... it really is a roller coaster ride, but definitely one that's worth it if you're thinking of settling down in one area long-term. Best of luck to you! And congrats on your engagement and upcoming wedding!

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    2. Aw, thank you! You're so sweet :)

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  15. As an aside, I chuckled at your use of !=. I don't think the average person knows that means ! means "not."

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    1. D'oh! You're right, the thought didn't even occur to me. My head's been buried in code much too long! At least I didn't use <> haha. Thanks, Justine.

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