Fashion 101: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase

 Financial literacy touches every part of our daily lives. Our expert team of guest bloggers will always provide you with fresh insight on how to apply financial discipline to your daily activities. Today, our focus is fashion and shopping! Today’s guest is an all-star, fashion blogger that needs no introduction. Without further ado, we introduce Katherine, author of the blog Feather Factor.   

I am by nature, a passion purchaser. I love beautiful things sometimes a lot more than practical ones and thus strewn everywhere about my apartment are many items that I wanted and saved for in the past. Looking at all of them, I can distinctly separate my purchases into two categories - those that I still love and am glad I purchased, and those that I wish that I had saved my money on, and never bought. Over the years I've gained quite a bit of experience in figuring out which items are truly worth the "splurge," and I wanted to share the five questions I ask myself now, before make any major purchases.


 Wow do I love this Bottega Veneta clutch...but I'd have to use it everyday to justify the cost!

 1. What's the cost per use? Fashion lovers may be familiar with the term "cost per wear," where we look at how much an item would cost, if we were to divide its cost over the total number of times we'd wear it in a time period. Basic black handbag - pretty good cost per wear. Show stopping long sequined gown - maybe not so much.

I love this rule, and also have to remind myself to apply the "cost per use" equation to other areas of my life. I've wavered forever on buying an iPad because it's expensive, even though I would gladly fork over the same amount for a clutch handbag. But really - how much would I use an evening clutch, vs. an iPad? When thinking about it that way, the iPad is a better use of my money.

2. Is this a life long obsession or just a phase? We've all had a hobby that we thought we'd love forever and thus spent a lot of money on - only to lose our passion entirely several months/years later. I'm totally outing him now, but for my stepbrother, that hobby was Magic cards. We just found a whole stash the other day hidden in the closet and he must have spent thousands on those things, convinced that he was going to play the game for life. And now? He just wishes he had the money.

It can be hard for us to distinguish between a passing phase and a life long passion - but try and be honest with yourself before investing a lot in an item. Recently, I was crazy about getting a pair of leather pants. They're really popular this season, and I was actively drooling over a $$$ pair at Barney's. In the end though, I theorized that they were more than likely a passing trend for me - and bought a pair of faux leggings at Topshop instead for $40. And hey - if the trend ends up staying around for longer - I'll invest in a good pair of leather pants then, and it would have only "cost" me $40 in the meanwhile.

3. Am I willing to take the risk to see if it gets cheaper? Most things in life - clothes, cars, and even real estate - go on sale at some point. It's largely a matter of time, and patience. But - some things don't ever make it on sale, and some just get more and more expensive. There's a price that we're all willing to pay for a) instant gratification and b) the security of knowing that we have what we want, guaranteed, right now. You should figure out what the price is for you. For me, if I see a bag that I really, really love - I typically buy it immediately, even if it's full price, because it may not make it to sale, or be even more expensive next year. For clothes though, I typically hold out for sale because I'm willing to lose out on the item even if it doesn't make it there.



The jacket I was obsessed with but then never wore...originally from this post

 4. Is it just about the chase? This question may be totally foreign to some of you, but to many of us that have a crazy hobby that we're passionate about - sometimes the whole pleasure of acquisition is actually "just in the chase" and not in the actual item itself. Quite a few years ago, I fell in love with an expensive Alexander McQueen jacket that I just had to have - I thought about it all the time and obsessed over it, and finally bought it. But once I bought it and the 24 hour long "new purchase" euphoria wore off, I found that I hardly thought about it, or wore it. it was more exciting for me to actually think about having jacket item in the future, than actually owning it. And now of course - I wish I had never purchased it. Now when I find myself obsessing about an item that I want - I try to make sure that it's not just about the anticipation.

5. Would I rather have the money in my bank account? This is probably a total "duhhh" to some of you, but for me, it's a question that I have to ask and remind myself time and time again. So often, we can feel removed from actual money when we just have to slap down a credit card to pay for a major purchase. It's hard to think about that new pair of shoes directly making the number on your bank account statement go down when you just get a big jumbled credit card statement at the end of the month. So now, when I want to buy something big - I don't just ask myself, "Will I use this?" and "Can I afford it?" I also ask myself the simple question: "Would I rather have this item which costs $X, or would I rather have $X still sitting in my bank account at the end of the month?" So many times, the answer will be yes to the first two questions, and then no to the third. And so I say no.

These five questions took me a lot of mistakes and trials to finally learn, and I hope that this was helpful to some of you out there. I love hearing about other's tips on purchasing - so if you have any, please share! Thank you for reading and happy holidays!



About The Author: Katherine is a native of and currently lives in San Francisco, California. She has worked in a variety of industries including retail and finance. She attended college at Berkeley and later received an MBA from Harvard. Katherine writes the blog Feather Factor, and her hobbies include reading, watching TV and eating noodle soups. 



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