Everyone has a penchant for something that they enjoy spending money on: the latest and greatest tech gadgets, delicious meals at fancy restaurants, one-of-a-kind vacations in far-flung locales — you name it. Even if you consider yourself to be the cheapest person around, chances are, there’s at least one product or experience you like to indulge in because it brings you genuine pleasure. While it’s totally normal and healthy to have that thing you absolutely love, your financial life can quickly go downhill when you start squandering your money on it. I learned that firsthand when my love for handbags got out of control.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always found joy in handbag shopping — even when my closet was overflowing with a multitude of options I had yet to touch or were barely worn. While buying clothes can be a fun experience, personally, I find there’s something more exciting and soul filling about purchasing a purse that I don’t always find in, say, getting a new dress or blouse. In high school, my unabashed love for unique and bold bags in loud prints and colors knew no bounds. On the weekends, I often found myself heading to the West Village in New York with friends to peruse the latest accessories in the Juicy Couture store, dreaming of the day when I’d be able to get one of their embroidered velour satchels for myself.
By the time I reached college and had more discretionary income by way of my work-study job, I started blowing my hard-earned cash on handbags. At one point, my collection was filled with purses galore spanning the rainbow. I had options in a selection of unconventional colors (lime green, for example) and proportions that were beautiful but absolutely impractical (like small circular-shaped ones that could barely hold my phone). It got to a point where I was buying new trendy handbags on such a frequent basis that I began running of storage space in my college dorm rooms and back in the tiny Brooklyn apartment I grew up in. What was once a harmless passion had become an unhealthy habit. But it wasn’t until a year out of college when I started reevaluating my shopping habits in general, and as a result, I started coming to terms with the fact that I needed to give up this pastime of mine — or at the very least, dial it back.
I’m far from first and most definitely won’t be the last person who broke their budget for handbags (or accessories in general). In fact, in a 2018 survey by Brandtrust, accessories were the second most common category participants between age 20 to 29 frequently overspent on. But while there’s an allure surrounding a pair of shiny earrings, sleek boots or a luxe bag, you don’t have to cave to temptation. These four rules have helped me limit how many handbags I currently buy, and they can be helpful to help you limit how much you’re shelling out on your own obsessions — be it accessories, clothes, or something else.
1. Ask yourself why you really want to buy something before you do.
It’s an age-old tip, but one worth repeating: Whenever you get tempted to purchase a product while aimlessly scrolling on a retail site or perusing the rack of a clothing store, ask yourself why you really want that particular item. Once you get to the bottom of why you feel compelled to shop, you’ll be able to figure out whether you’re getting something because you truly do need it (like getting a new cardigan in the winter since your old one is too tattered to wear) or because you want it for superficial reasons, like trying to impress someone or temporarily make yourself happy.
2. Find out how many hours of work the price of whatever you’re looking to buy equates to.
Nothing gives you a reality check sooner than realizing just how many hours of work it takes to be able to afford something. For example, say you make $15/hour and are looking to buy a $100 dress. That’s a little over seven hours of work (excluding tax). Doesn’t the dress seem a little less appealing when you look at it that way? I find that, once I start putting the price of things into perspective that way, I can better assess whether I’m just making a rash decision about purchasing something or if it’s really worth however many hours of work I have to do to afford it — instead of being clouded by how it looks or is marketed.
3. Never impulse buy anything and instead wait a while before buying something.
Rarely do you love an item as much as you did when you first saw it. Oftentimes, things might seem really cool and interesting and first, but once reality sets in, you realize you don’t actually need to part ways with your cash to get it. These days, I apply that logic whenever I’m out shopping, especially when I’m somewhere with a selection of handbags. Instead of immediately getting whatever purse catches my eye, I sit on it for a couple of weeks (sometimes months) before making the investment. That level of restraint has saved me hundreds.
4. Build a collection of versatile accessories and clothing that can be worn in a variety of ways.
If you have a habit of overspending on clothes and accessories, this tip is for you. Instead of spending on the latest trends, build a collection of staples pieces in colors like cream, black, and brown that can be worn for a multitude of occasions. Don’t get me wrong: novelty bags and clothes are great to stare at. They’re captivating in their unique design and structure. But as much as fun as a kooky shirt or purse may be, you’re often limited in how and when you can wear them. While it’s okay to treat yourself to one of those pieces occasionally, you’re far better off creating a wardrobe of timeless pieces so you can really get your money’s worth.
It doesn’t matter how careful you are with your finances — there’s always going to be something in your life that you constantly get tempted to spend your money on. While it’s totally normal to have financial temptations, you have to find ways to resist them or at least minimize how much power they have over you so you’re not constantly mindlessly spending on things you don’t need. I’m still very much a big lover of handbags, but I no longer feel the need to splurge on them all the time, and that’s all because I’ve finally set some healthy boundaries in my life. And in turn, my wallet has never felt fuller.
Shammara is a featured columnist at The Financial Diet. When she’s not writing about her financial woes, you can find her on Twitter sharing her thoughts on beauty and fashion trends and pop culture.
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