I'm going to start this off by warning you that this, basically rant, has come about due to my irritation with some resources I've been using in the financial area of life. Part of it could be that I've spent the bulk of my life working in the fashion and related service industries. Part of it could be I'm a bit vain when it comes to my adoration of image as indirect means of communication of the self. Part of it could be because as much as I'm an optimist who thrives on belief and imagination, I'm also practical when it comes to matters of the physical state of humanity.
To be honest though, most of this post is that I flat out disagree that not buying clothes is a good strategy to financial and mental health. There are lots of books, videos, and articles out there that talk about ways to spend less money or save less money. There are literally thousands of experts out there that you could choose from to help you given whatever situation you are in and why you want a financial makeover. I have learned a lot once I sat down and really thought about my habits about where I could make adjustments-- adjustments that have actually been working.
Keep reading and I will outline them near the end of the post. You don't want to miss my feud with the style snipers. I genuinely believe that when people say to stop buying clothes in order to have more cash on hand that they are either a) truly trying to be helpful because they don't think it's important or b) are not communicating that they mean don't overspend or fail to think it through. If I'm wrong, I should be right.
I'm sure many of you are familiar with Andrew Maslow's Hierarchy. You may not feel it has any merit, and that is totally fine... but for the sake of this argument, I do. I don't particularly care which order you would place each need in the triangle because each person is different and prioritizes differently. I am making the argument that clothes pretty much fit into each section, both physical and emotional, when it comes to the human experience. Granted, the country you live in and the economic means you may have play factors in how grand or minute clothing has in your life, but either way, there is effect.
You will need a certain type of clothing to keep you cool and a certain type to keep you warm. You will need a certain type of clothing for going to work and a certain type for house-chores or fitness. You will need clothing to convey a certain message in regard to beliefs or religion as well as for certain life events. Clothing is also a reflection of how you want to fit in or what group or organizations you align with.
The need/want for clothing will never go away, nor should it. What we choose to wear, no matter how professional, how basic, or how trendy affects how we feel about ourselves and how other people relate to us either in business, romantically, or in building culture. You do not need to listen to people who tell you to stop shopping to look and feel good. All you need to do is be smart about how you do it. Here's my take on 6 items you should never feel guilty about buying when it's time to invite some new fabric into the family...
1) Undergarments. We all have those favorite undies, yes men, you too... However, we have to admit that there comes a time that the Shout spray and detergent have done all they can do in salvaging the condition of our crotch huggers and we have to let them go. I have heard stories of people keeping underwear long after they get holes in them or are overly stained or rarely ever upgrade. I've even heard of it as a business but I'm not about to even talk about that. Well you are totally missing out on the feeling of hitting the lottery when you buy a fresh set of smooth butt buddies to put on after that shower. I get that some people prefer to skip undies altogether but if that isn't you, you have my absolute permission to buy panties, briefs, boxers, etc., guilt-free-- especially if you have under 18-21 pairs.
2) Shoes/Footwear. Flats, boots, sneakers, heels, sandals, loafers... they all serve their purpose and all are subject to personal preference. Some people are fitness junkies and will need various types of sneakers from cross-trainers to running shoes. Some people are office professionals or entertainers and need something fresh and versatile to wear with their ever-changing suits or event attire.
Some people refuse to do heels or dress-shoes and feel most comfortable in cute flats or practical shoes for unloading trucks or other high performance activity. This is why there is so much variety of styles and materials for footwear, and unless we don't, we all have feet. Footwear is meant to protect our feet and enhance whatever outfit we need for the moment, which constantly changes. Find your budget but buy your shoes.
3) Outerwear. Need a blazer? Get it. Need a new coat? Get it. Need a new cardigan? Get it. Why? How about why not? Blazers work in the professional, celebratory, and casual settings when you want to show somebody that you are about that life. Who wants to be out in the rain or snow without a coat that fits, is clean, and matches the temperature? This means sometimes you need more than one.
When a blazer is too hot or too overdressed, a sweater or cardigan is the perfect fit for that cold office or an environment where modesty is required. Also awesome, you can find them as opulent or as understated as you prefer. When you want to go dark and sleek or when you want to shine bright like a diamond, all of these options are the better half to have on your arms.
4) Collared Shirts. I have such an appreciation for collared shirts and even I don't have enough of them. What I love is they look absolutely sharp on both men and women. They come in various fabrics, colors, and designs. You can look business-like and wear with a jacket or some dress bottoms, or you can be more casual in jeans, frilly skirts or even shorts. I've noticed I pick collared shirts whenever I don't really want to think about what I' wearing but I want to look like I cared.
Another time I wear a collared shirt? When I feel like I need to get shit done-- when I need to jump into productivity. As I type this I'm sitting in a collared athleisure shirt. Get you some more collared shirts if you only have two or three and invest in the versatility if you are choosing clothes wisely. You'll thank me later.
5) Basics. These are staples for everybody and are usually the least harsh on the wallet. Everybody needs basics: kids, men, women, teens... no-brainer. You can't wear basics everywhere you need to go but most times they will be all you want to wear whenever you plan on staying. You'll always need T-shirts, sweatpants, jersey shorts, socks, hoodies, leggings, and other simplistic styles because they will likely be worn the most and washed the most.
This means depending on the fabric and care, they will be the first to need recycled or discarded. We work out in basics, clean house in basics, sleep in basics, eat in basics, hang out with the pets in basics, and so forth. Let's not forget that simple tees and graphic tees make excellent choices for those fun outings or business casual meet-ups.
6) Seasonal. When you do decide you are in a situation where you have to limit spending, make sure you at least cover the items you need for change in seasons. In some places, such as Virginia, when those seasons are supposed to change over, it doesn't always happen. Therefore you need spring and fall clothes at the same time.
You don't want to be in 70 degree weather wearing your winter coat and you don't want to be caught on those random 40 degree days stuck in shorts. Sometimes it's just necessary to change your closet over to full blown seasons and by the time you get rid of everything that no longer fits or no longer fits your life path, you have no choice but to restock. Hypothermia and heat stroke are not the vision in order to save a dollar.
Now that we have established the six categories that I have deemed worthy to purchase guilt-free, even when money is tight, we must discuss the ground rules. The first rule is if you have kids, their needs come before yours... sorry. One way I personally do this is I rotate my budget. I buy hers this time, I get mine next time. Or sometimes, I find what she needs and have some wiggle room to get maybe one or two things from the list I need.
If you have multiple kids, you may have to rotate kids as you go through your budget or allocate separate budgets for each one. Just keep in mind that you do not need spend tons of money on small children's clothes and shoes. They make messes, they outgrow quickly, and they lose interest fast. Once you get to teenager stage, then matters get a little more serious but even then you need to stick to what is reasonable for your situation.
My next recommendation is sign up for email lists (despite much advice not to do this) and comparison hunt like crazy. I do NOT buy at full price unless it's under $15 or I have a gift card to a specific place. I am a pretty brand loyal person, so knowing which stores have sales or deals going on helps me narrow down where to get what I need. If store A is running 40% off right now on dresses but I need bottoms and store B is running X dollars off your entire purchase, I'm checking out store B. If you are already on an email list, you can browse and favorite the items that fit your need without going to the location BUT don't buy it just because you faved it.
The next rule is be specific about what you need. Do you need work clothes? Is this for a specific event? Is this because you've worn everything you have to church 18 times? Figure out why you want to buy it and then think about how soon you truly need it. Lots of times I favorite things that I never end up buying because new needs come up that are more urgent or I find a better deal later.
If this is something you need, say in a few days and you can justify the price (on sale and without sacrificing a bill or food), make the purchase but read the return policy first. If it's something that makes you feel like you are sacrificing something else or that you "probably shouldn't get it"... you shouldn't get it. Keep looking.
Last, once you get it home or that package arrives, do me (and yourself) two favors: a) DO NOT remove the tags until after you try it on and are ready to wear it that day. Several retailers have been taking huge losses on returns and are getting more specific about items being returned with the tags attached and unworn. b) KEEP THE RECEIPT until the day you wear the item. Again, retailers are not willing to just hand over money to a person that says they ordered or purchased the item.
For all they know you walked over to the rack, got in line, and said you needed to return it without purchasing it in the first place. A receipt serves as proof of purchase and often ensures that you can get back your original form of payment, or at least an offer to exchange the item or take a merchandise credit.
Friends, I promise that if you implement some of these simple steps, you will not only get smarter about where and how you spend your money on clothes but you will feel a lot less convicted for needing them in the first place. I have been doing this for years and I probably only make 1-3 returns per year, usually due to fit from an online purchase. I save so much time by not being distracted by items I'm not in the market for and I save so much money by knowing exactly what I'm willing to spend.
Follow my Instagram @madamuplift to see how I interpret style through these recommended categories and to be able to enter to win during the monthly giveaways!