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Why My Designer Jeans Are The Budget Part Of My Wardrobe

I like my clothes the way I like my stocks: I buy and hold. Case in point: I’ve had these A.P.C. jeans for eight years.

Eventually, a hole appeared behind the left knee. And then the crotch blew out. This is when most people would throw the jeans away. But I patched them instead.

When I bought them years ago, they cost $140. Last month, I bought a new pair for $195 (thanks, inflation). Sidenote: if you really love an item, save up and buy multiples now so you can lock in today’s price. Just like buying a stock you plan on keeping for a while, it’s about the long-term strategy.

To most people, $140 sounds like an awful lot for a single pair of jeans. Why not get $20 jeans from Old Navy? They’re the same thing, they say. No, they’re not.

You see, Old Navy jeans might work for you, but maybe I’m not shaped like you. I’ve tried them all, from Old Navy to Madewell to Rag & Bone. Let’s be clear: I don’t buy into the idea that something’s automatically better just because it’s more expensive. So how does one assess a pair of jeans? It’s the FIT. Fit is different for every body. My friend and I are the same exact height, but we can try on the same pair of jeans, and they’ll look completely different.

Here’s the thing: Jeans are the hardest clothing item to get right. Especially for women. You could walk into a denim bar and be offered an array of options, but there are so many ways for them to be wrong:

  • Too long
  • Too short
  • Too butt-flattening
  • Too tight
  • Too high/low waisted

Yeah, it’s like buying a house, but for your butt.

So, with endless options and potential pitfalls, here’s how a seemingly overpriced pair of jeans were actually a frugal purchase for me.

I Know What I Want

In my opinion, buying jeans is not about randomly trying on jeans when the mood strikes, and walking away with something that vaguely fits. You’ve got to know what you’re looking for. When you go in with a purpose and criteria, you’re more likely to come out with exactly what you need. Being frugal means discerning exactly what you want and need, and then prioritizing those needs.

For me, these were my top three priorities:

  • They need to be 100% cotton. In a sea of stretchy jeggings, this eliminates 99% of the jeans out there. Stretch jeans look fine on other people, but their clingy properties make my legs feel like encased sausages.
  • They need to be straight leg at the bottom. Jeans that are super skinny at the bottom don’t work for me and the shoes I wear. Again, this style I’m looking for is rarely available in the market.
  • They need to fit me perfectly in the waist. Waist-gap problems are the story of my life. Who wants to worry about bending over and giving people a view they never asked for?


I Wear Them All the Time

Being frugal means using the stuff you have. For the first six months after I bought them, I’d wear them for months on end, and I still wear them now on the weekends. I wear jeans 95% of the time, so they’re the workhorse of my wardrobe. How many people have jeans in their closet that they don’t wear? Buying things that don’t get used, no matter how cheap, is always a waste of money.

I Bought the Right Thing Once

At one point, they were the only pair of blue jeans I had for five years. Just the one. At the outset, $140 is a lot to pay for a single item of clothing, but considering I’ve worn them for eight years, they’ve cost me a little under $20 a year. $20 a year for the perfect jeans? To me, that’s a damn deal. Being frugal is not always going for the cheapest option; it’s about holding out for what’s right for you. Every time I’ve settled for a cheaper option that I thought was “good enough,” I’ve regretted it, no fail. Then I’d end up shopping MORE to find a better replacement. Settling for “good enough” created an endless cycle of bad shopping.

I Save Time

Jeans shopping can feel like a form of punishment. There have been countless times where I’ve entered the mall super excited to look for jeans, and after trying on several pairs that didn’t fit, left feeling totally dejected. For this reason, I’m glad I haven’t had to “shop” for jeans in years. Being frugal means valuing your time so you can focus on the things that matter to you. Because these are my perfect jeans, I don’t have to waste energy finding new pairs to buy — taking the train to stores, researching new brands, dealing with crowds, trying on new pairs, or waiting in line to buy. If I need a new pair of blue jeans, I simply buy the same exact pair.

I Value Them

We live in a disposable culture where clothes are cheap impulse buys, and when they bore us or show the slightest amount of wear, we throw them away. As I mentioned before, when the jeans developed holes, I repaired them instead of throwing them out. I wash them cold with Woolite dark. I never put them in the dryer. I fold them nicely and put them away in their drawer. I never, ever toss them on the ground. I take care of them, because I respect them for how they’ve made my life easier.

Frugality is about appreciating what you have. And part of appreciating what you have is not settling for what’s “good enough,” but buying the right things in the first place (if you can afford them), even if the price is a little higher. I’ve never regretted a perfect purchase, no matter the price.

What’s something you buy that most people think is a splurge but you think is actually frugal?

The Luxe Strategist is a New Yorker saving half of her income. She chronicles her money-saving strategies on her blog.

Image via Unsplash

  • Louise Scott

    Love this post. I get poo from friends for having designer jeans, but Ive had those jeans for 4 years. Beautiful basic well fitting and always always in my closet.

  • Alves Narayana

    Honestly, considering how much my body changed from 28 to 30 (and I haven’t had a baby yet), buying more than one would be a total waste of money. Also, I moved, my job profile and my social life changed, barely 1/3 of what I had fits my body/lifestyle now, including gym clothes, shoes, you name it.
    But I do agree with you. I did recently splurge on a pair of jeans that will last me a long time even if my body changes a bit more. 😉

    • These are great points. I definitely take it for granted that I’ve stayed the same and have had the same style since I was a teenager so I get that I’m a total anomaly. Multiples won’t work for many folks, but I find it works pretty well with shoes, too (unless your feet grow still!).

      This is more about the fact that people flip out and judge when they see you spending a lot of money on something that they personally wouldn’t. But if you’ve really thought the purchase through and use the item it actually is pretty frugal.

  • I would love to buy more jeans but the pain of going shopping is real and I think everyone loves goes shopping except when it is to buy the much necessary jeans. I also found a brand, not to expensive, that may have the perfect pair of jeans for me, but I’m still trying to look for that ONE brand that has everything I need, as I have the same problems you have

    • I don’t think I have a difficult build, either. Just for fun, I went to Levi’s yesterday to try on their Skinny 501s. They were beyond HORRIBLE on me. Yep, never doing that again. Sticking with what I know.

  • Nat

    I bought all my best jeans secondhand. If you know exactly what brand you want, this might not work, but otherwise you can try all different sizes and brands. Now I have a few pairs but they all fit perfectly.

    • I’m a secondhand queen! Unfortunately, these never showed up. Like, ever. But I’m with you in concept.