Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lessons in Chic-onomics: Fashion

I’d like to make “Lessons in Chic-onomics” a regular feature on Fiscally Chic. In it, we’ll examine why we spend money and our priorities instead of “do this” and “don't do that.” How you spend your hard-earned money is definitely a personal decision, so this is just an avenue for helping you think about your spending habits. And these aren’t black and white issues. But maybe I can help you save a little money in the process.

OK, so our first lesson in chic-onomics covers clothes! Fall clothing lines are in full-swing and the weather is getting a little cooler in Chicago.  So obviously there’s the temptation to go out and buy all new sweaters, boots, scarves, and coats. But before I go crazy and overhaul my wardrobe, I like to think about the following items:

  1. Why am I buying this? Is this a need or a want?
    • When I moved to Chicago, I obviously needed a new winter jacket since the weather is much colder than St. Louis. On the flip side, I have more scarves than I can shake a stick at. Probably don’t need a new one.
  2. Do I already have something similar in my closet? While out shopping, I find myself drawn to items I already own. This might be great since things will match (see #3 below), but do I really need that many button-down shirts, cardigans, and pencil skirts? Unless I get rid of one, probably not.
    • Take inventory of what you already have and make a list of items that you need to fill out or update your wardrobe.
  3. What will I wear it with? If I can't think of three separate outfits, it might not be right for me.
  4. Do I love it? Not just like it, but really love it and want to wear it every day?
    • Recently I needed a new pair of casual shoes. The overly friendly saleman talked me into buying a pair of shoes that cost double of what I wanted to spend and they didn’t exactly fit my needs. They were cute, but I didn’t looove them. So I returned them. I continued my search and found exactly what I wanted at Gilt and they were under my budget! Score! Actually, they were out of stock, so I did additional searching online and found them for even less ($39!) at (plus free shipping and no tax!). Even better!

5. Does this item fit me now? Do I need to lose weight to fit into this? Or will I have to get it tailored?
6. Are there hidden costs in maintaining my purchase? Like spending money on dry cleaning?
7. How often will I wear it? What is the cost per use?
    • I will happily spend $100+ on a pair of running shoes because I know I'll use them almost daily. For instance, I ran approximately 375 miles in my last pair of shoes which is $0.31 per mile. The silver shoes I recently purchased for a wedding: $30. I've only worn them once, so we're looking at $30 per use. Ouch in comparison to the running shoes 



8. If I’m patient, will it go on sale? Or if I have to have it now and the price goes down, can I get a price adjustment?

In general, I would rather buy higher-quality investment pieces and jazz things up with accessories, be it scarves, jewelry, or flowers. And I rarely buy things full price.

Since I love numbers and equations, here’s a little quiz to help you calculate whether an item is worth buying. I found this quiz in InStyle magazine a few years ago and it hits the nail on the head. (Obviously there are items that don’t follow these rules, such as wedding dresses and suits for interviewing if you work in a casual environment.) Start with a value of 100 and add or subtract as you go:
  • Does it go with more than three things you own? YES (+5); NO (-10)
  • How many seasons can you wear it in? ONE (-5); TWO (+0); THREE (+5); ALL FOUR (+10)
  • Would your boyfriend, boss and glammiest girlfriend all approve? YES (+5); NO (-5)
  • How often will you wear it? OFTEN (+10); SOMETIMES (-10); ONCE (-15)
  • If it’s a clothing item, does it need dry cleaning? YES (-5); NO (+5)
  • Will it transition from day to night? YES (+5); NO (-5)
  • When was it last in style? WHEN WASN’T IT (+10); FALL 1991 (-10)
  • Do you need to lose weight for it to fit? YES (-50); NO (+5)

50 and below – Purchase at your own peril.
50 to 95 – Proceed with caution.
100 to 120 – You love it. It looks great and is a good choice! 
121 and above – Buy one in every color!!

How did you do? Did some of your purchases surprise you? If you need help finding the latest looks for less, I recommend visiting Jill. She finds the best clothes at a fraction of the price!

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