In yesterday’s discussion about how to live frugally without looking like a loser, a few people chided me for wearing frayed clothing. MissPinkKate wrote, “Wearing a frayed sweatshirt isn’t a sign you’re frugal — it’s a sign you’re too lazy to buy cheap clothes that look nice, which can be done.” And Shirley said:

J.D., I promise I am not picking on you, really, but I laughed out loud when I read your comment that you “might” try to get rid of your ratty clothes over the next year. Come on.

You are a man who erased all your debt in three years, right? I think you can purge your ratty clothes and replace them by tasteful thrift shop finds in a couple of weeks at most. You don’t need a ton of clothes. Seriously, most of us end up wearing the same few pieces over and over again even though we tend to have closets full of clothes. You can do it, J.D.!

Even in your work-from-home state, you should be “dressing to the shoes” every day because we are all more productive when we are dressed to work. Words like “might” and “try” mean you’ve already made up your mind you are not going to do something. I know, I am guilty of using them at times just like everyone else.

“This is so true,” Kris told me. “I don’t think you have any intention of getting rid of your old clothes. I’ve tried to throw them out several times, but you always rescue them.” She’s right. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to purge my old clothes, even when they’re worn.

My favorite episode of Seinfeld (“The Marine Biologist”) begins with Jerry lamenting over the demise of his favorite shirt, Golden Boy:

“See this t-shirt?” he says to Elaine. “Six years I’ve had this t-shirt. It’s my best one. I call him Golden Boy. But see, look at the collar. It’s fraying. Golden Boy is slowly dying. Each step brings him one step closer.”

My wardrobe is filled with Golden Boys. The pajamas I’m wearing now are frayed at the waist. My socks have threadbare heels. And the sweatshirt I have on isn’t just frayed — there are holes torn into the seams.

My wardrobe hasn’t always been this run-down — when I was a spender, I bought new clothes all the time. But three years ago, as I began to take control of my money, I stopped buying clothes. Though I’ve purchased a few items since then, I’ve mostly made do with the things I already own. Now normal wear-and-tear has begun to take a toll. But somewhere in those three years, I must have moved from spender to tightwad. The idea of buying new clothes seems crazy — they’re so expensive!

Perhaps it’s time to strike a balance. I have $150 in Land’s End gift cards. There’s a good used clothing store near my home. I think it’s reasonable to purge some of the most run-down items from my wardrobe, give myself a budget, and buy a few pieces of quality clothing.

Otherwise, I run the risk of crossing the line from “frugal” to “slob”.

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