Since Julie’s first full job, she started shopping more and more. Looking at her last 3 monthly credit card statements, she has spent 50% her net income ($2,000) on fashion and beauty products, as well as other pretty things every month. However, she does not feel she has exceptional taste.

STEP 1: Clean Up & List What Not to Buy

Why do you want to change your shopping habits?

I feel like my place, especially my wardrobe is filled with items I never wear. I have a coat I spent $500 on a year ago but I never touch it. My clothes, accessories, books seem to just take up space and they’re quite hard to resell as fashion items depreciate in value. I want to decrease my monthly shopping budget to something more appropriate and buy quality items I will actually use frequently.

How have you started working towards your new goal?

The first step was organizing my wardrobe. In order to decipher what I really needed and what I didn’t need, I did this:

  1. Throw away any items that are too old (cosmetics especially), broken or useless
  2. Donate clothes left unworn for 3 years that are still in decent condition
  3. Join websites to sell decent items

During this process I made a mental note of items I would not buy again because I rarely use them. It’s just me. I am sure others find them useful.

  • Pants I got in case I lose 10 lb
  • Cheap nail polish
  • Hair styling products like gel or mousse
  • Makeup products with random colors
  • Magazines with beautiful pictures

STEP 2: Stick to the Rules

How do you decide between what to buy and what to skip?

I read some fun books about shopping habits, and came up with my own list.

I was literally looking at this list for 3 months whenever I went shopping. This process trained me to become a savvier shopper. I still do enjoy shopping, but now, my ability to filter out unnecessary things is much better.

Then, I think about opportunity cost. I knew that it would be a more worthwhile use of my money to buy 1 good quality silk blouse instead of 3 cheap shirts. There is always something better coming out in the shops. If I’m picky, I can buy even better items later.

STEP 3: Learn to be (Actually) Stylish

Being organized is good, but does it help you become stylish too?

Organizing items is the first step since I didn’t even know what I had before cleaning up. Then, I started discovering more ways to spend money on better style. The silliest thing I did was spending $300 for a jacket that had sleeves that were too long for me. Although it’s a really nice jacket, I look like I am borrowing it from a friend. Spending $30 on alteration can make a jacket look like a $500-jacket on me (or: can make it look like I spent $500 on myself). I found a good tailor, I brought in lots of my clothes for them to upgrade.

I also go shopping with friends who have great taste and discuss colors and styles with them. With my Asian skin tone, certain colors just don’t work. We can be objective with each others’ favorite items and decide which ones are worth the investment.

In the end, understanding myself - body shape, skin tone, personality, as well as my social obligations matter a lot more. I do think it’s truly a learning process.

What’s Your Next Step?

I watched The True Cost and was a little torn at how much I spend on fashion. I realized there’s no rush when it comes to buying the latest trends as they tend to change so frequently. Now I’d like to buy something that appreciates in value over time instead of burning my cash. I am looking for assets to invest in.

One Comment

  • I usually sort my clothes by categories (like tops, bottoms, or by seasons). It is more clear after sorting, and then I will get rid of out fashioned clothes, poor condition, and the clothes that do not fit anymore. If I have too many of one particular kind of clothes, I always try to remind myself not to buy the same again. Just some my own experience to share 🙂

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