For many years, shopping for the perfect outfit was my sport of choice. I had a near-perfect excuse. To compete for the best jobs working in the most prestigious law firms in Century City, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills, I needed to dress almost as well as the attorneys did. It was expensive, but it didn't matter. Don't hate me, but when the saleswoman at Nordstrom showed me a beautiful St. John's suit, I fell in love.
I don't remember how much I paid for my one and only St. John's back then, but it wasn't cheap. Today, one of these business suits will set you back $1,700 to $2,600 if it's not on sale. The thing is, it was definitely worth it — to me anyway — because I believed it would help me get better jobs. Plus, I thought that high-quality clothing would last years, which I considered valuable. Do I make the same decisions today?
Though we both enjoy the hunt for the perfect outfit, my friend Megan's shopping experience is entirely different from mine. She has loved shopping in thrift stores for her clothing needs ever since she was in college. She's especially fond of vintage clothing — which can be pricey at times — but she sets a limit on how much she'll spend on each piece she buys. Whether it lasts a long time or not isn't as important to her because her overall investment is capped. But Megan admitted that when she bought a dress for her friend's wedding, she bought something new at a popular retail store.
Men aren't immune to these situations either. The need to dress professionally still exists today in many fields and it can really put pressure on a person's budget, especially when starting a new career. Even if a man goes to work in jeans, he may also need to buy steel-toed shoes or other expensive protective gear for safety reasons. And you might agree that a man's business suit can cost just as much as a St. John's suit.
What's behind “Do what works for you”?
To me this is a good example of what J.D. Roth was talking about when he said, “Do what works for you” in relation to your finances. The choices we make are based on our individual beliefs, values, and priorities — which is why we don't always make the same decision as the next person (or even the same decision we made before). So even though Megan believes buying her clothing from a thrift shop is good for her financially, and she values the look that she can achieve with vintage clothing, if she came in to work next week and learned that she would be interviewed on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” would her priorities suddenly change and cause her to purchase a St. John's Collection dress for the event?
As for myself, I don't make the same decisions I used to because my priorities have changed too. In fact, I find that priorities can change quite rapidly, while my beliefs and values remain fairly constant over time. For example, I still believe that dressing nicely can improve your ability to get a good job or a promotion and I still value high-quality clothing. But these days, high-end clothing is only valuable insofar as it supports my current priority, which is my health.
My husband and I ride our bicycles nearly every day now. So as fall drew closer last year, he started to shop for good rain gear believing that we could extend our riding season if we bought rain jackets. When he found a store that was selling the jacket for $70 less than every other store, it became a high priority to him and he bought two of them right away, saving us $140 on a purchase we think supports our health goals. It was just neat that it also supports our savings goals too.
So Readers, what is the most expensive thing in your closet, and was it worth it? Do you have another example of “Do what works for you”?