The investment piece: One investment that’s no investment at all

It never fails. Whenever I venture into a store, especially a clothing store, I inevitably hear the phrase that makes me want to stage an impromptu personal-finance intervention: “It's an investment piece.”

As in, “This jacket is a little pricey, but it's a classic — an investment piece.” Or, “I need to invest in a pair of versatile black dress shoes.”

I hear it in stores, I read it in magazines, and it makes me cringe. I feel like I should carry copies of J.D.'s book with me to pass out to my fellow shoppers. (I think that scenario plays out differently in my head than it would in reality, though.)

Investment Defined

Investopedia defines investment as follows:

An asset or item that is purchased with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future. In an economic sense, an investment is the purchase of goods that are not consumed today but are used in the future to create wealth. In finance, an investment is a monetary asset purchased with the idea that the asset will provide income in the future or appreciate and be sold at a higher price.

Blazers and shoes do not create future wealth. Neither do luxury cars. That twists the definition of investment to classic, quality, versatile, etc.

Let's say I buy those black dress shoes. They're pricey, but I can wear them with everything, and they're classic, so they won't go out of style anytime soon. Great. But think for a moment about what happens when you wear a pair of shoes a lot. They hit the pavement. They get scuffs and marks. They're subjected to all kinds of weather. Taking your dress shoes out for a night on the town? You can bet other people will step on them. Or worse, spill a drink on them.

By the time those shoes have reached their expiration date, they certainly won't provide income or be sold at a higher price than what I paid for them.

While some luxury brands do hold their value — vintage Chanel, for example — it's not common. Most purchases depreciate over time, especially if they've been used and abused. No one is going to pay me retail price (let alone more) for a pair of worn-out dress shoes.

“Investment” as a Justification

When the word investment is misused to describe luxury or quality Stuff, it makes you feel okay about spending more. You aren't frittering away your money or blowing your budget — you're investing. And investing sounds like a smart thing to do. But it's not investing at all; it's still just buying Stuff.

Take a luxury car, for example. It's expensive, it loses value every day, and then there are the insurance and maintenance costs — you won't make that money back when you sell it. Fundamentally, you just need a way to get from point A to point B. Paying more for a sleek automobile isn't an investment. Of course, there are times when a particular kind of car might be required for your line of work, such as a cargo van or a work truck, but even then the rule applies: Those items will lose value. They're not investments, and it's wise to keep that in mind when determining how much you want to spend.

Buying Quality vs. Investing

Now, there's still a lot to be said for buying quality items.

A cashmere sweater does last longer, if properly cared for, than a cheap acrylic blend that'll last maybe one season before pilling and losing its shape. I prefer to own less and save longer to afford quality, and after downsizing my closet, I've become a stickler for fabric and fit.

Several years ago, I would have used those reasons to label cashmere as an investment. But let's think about what I'm really buying and its purpose: A sweater keeps me warm, but I can accomplish that with one fleece zip-up from L.L. Bean, which comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Paying off credit cards is a good investment. Funding my Roth IRA is an investment. Cashmere is a luxury and a want. I don't need it for anything other than my own enjoyment.

So Long as We're Clear…

I don't really describe myself as frugal. I try to be smart with my money, but I like indulgences, too. And it's okay to spend extra on things you want, but don't confuse wants with investments to justify the expense. Money for these so-called “investment items” should still come from your fun money part of the budget. Savings and investments should be completely separate budget categories.

When you're going to make a purchase, think about what you need, your real reasons for buying it, and whether you can afford it. You aren't likely to make money when you sell it, so purchase with the intention of using it and enjoying it yourself.

If you happen to sell it later on, that'll just be a nice bonus.

What do you think? Do you consider quality or luxury items to be “investments”? Have you ever called something an investment to justify spending a little more? (I know I have!)

More about...Clothing

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
123 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago

If I never had to wear nice suits, I would agree with you. But sometimes nice clothing is an investment because it is what you have to wear for work, which means it is an investment in your earnings potential. Obviously people take this idea overboard. But there is a kernel of truth in it. And if I were a lawyer with a fancy high-flung firm that expects its lawyers to show they are wealthy in the parking lot, I would buy me a Prius. It seems to be a way of getting around the rotating BMW leases with a… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

That’s a good point about the car being somewhat of an investment as well, depending upon one’s career. And I agree the Prius is probably one of the cheapest ways to go – the other way would be a used, older luxury vehicle if you can’t afford a new one. But either way, you need to consider the money spent on the car an investment in your career if your 10 year old Corolla is already doing the job just fine but is unacceptable for clients, business meetings, etc.

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

That’s a great point. One of our deans here has a gorgeous old luxury convertible (I think a Jaguar) that he keeps in tip top shape. You can say you’re a lover of vintage cars. He probably has higher upkeep costs, but isn’t constantly turning over leases, and nobody thinks less of him. The first thought is always, “Wow,” even though he’s had the same car forever.

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Neither the Prius or the nice suits are investments! The suits are maintenance costs, related to your career path. The Prius maybe similar to branding / advertising, but not an investment.

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago
Reply to  Luis

You’re nitpicking over words though. If they’re necessary for advancement of a particular career, then I consider them investments. Even maintenance and advertising are necessary capital costs for any business and could well be where any listed company is spending your investment in their stock.

We’ll have to agree to disagree.

Ely
Ely
9 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Yes, nitpicking. The word is the whole point. If it does not appreciate or create wealth… it is not an investment. Your clothes do not create wealth, no matter how good you need to look for your job. It’s like “saving” money by buying something you don’t need for cheaper; it’s less cost, but still not really a savings is it?

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

The entire article was about the use of a word, so I can’t understand your criticism. Besides, the whole point is about investment being something that generates income. These thing DON’T generate income, they may be necessary costs. As I pointed in other comments, would you say that the gas and oil for the truck are investments too?

The whole difference is that IF they are investments, you would expect then to generate a return; if they are costs, though necessary, they EAT part of the return. Clearly gas, oil, suits and luxury cars are of the second type.

treousa
treousa
9 years ago
Reply to  Luis

While we are being nitpicky, a Prius can indeed be an investment. I have one and back during the 2008 gas rush, my dealer that sold me the car two years prior called me up and offered me more for it than I had paid. Now, this was a perfect condition of events (high gas prices and fuel efficient vehicle shortage/rush on them). Granted, during those two years, I still spent money on gas and insurance (next to nothing on maintenance really, Priuses need very little maintenance), but I would have spent that either way.

Lincoln
Lincoln
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Years ago, I bought a used tuxedo for $30. I paid another $35 in alterations. I thought of it as an investment because I sometimes have to go to black-tie functions for work and it saves me the retail cost of a tuxedo and also the cost of a tuxedo rental.

Sometimes “investments” cost you money, but cost you less money than the alternatives.

Adam
Adam
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Agree with this comment 100%.

An outfit that causes you to get a higher paying job that you would not have gotten without it has just paid for itself and then some.

I’d call that an investment. Nitpicking words or not.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Does the same apply to tools? I know a few people who have “invested” in tools to save cash doing things themselves.

Like a suit, I’m not sure “investing” is the right word. The suit or tool allows you do something (earn more, save money), but in and of itself it doesn’t appreciate in value.

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I guess it depends on how we define investment, and I don’t agree with the definition provided here. To me, simply, an investment is money spent that has a good chance to return more money than it costs you.

David
David
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Unless your law firm pays the lease… Most firms that I know of maintain a fleet of higher-end cars for their senior staff, partners, and execs. This is simply because it shows their clients that they are professional, and earn enough to be able to afford a luxury car. I mean, would you seriously want a lawyer representing you if he pulled up in a ’95 Neon?
Also, these firms get substantial discounts for leasing in bulk. Think, a $599/month BMW becomes ~$375. Simply a cost of doing business.

Well Heeled Blog
Well Heeled Blog
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

April is spot-on: many times the word “investment” is used to sell luxury (especially with clothes). Nothing wrong with luxury, but I think where people get into trouble is that they conflate the two. Unless I buy vintage Hermes or Chanel that I have a reasonable expectation of selling for more than what I had purchased the item for, I can’t call it an investment. Enjoyment, definitely. 🙂

Ross
Ross
9 years ago

One of my friends recently bought a brand new motorcycle. While not hurting for money, I certainly wouldn’t have bought a motorcycle in his financial situation. I mentioned something to this effect to him when he told me what he had purchased, and he defended his decision with the justification that the motorcycle was an investment, because he would be able to save money on gas by driving the bike in nice weather… I just bit my tongue and stopped while I was ahead.

Clinton
Clinton
9 years ago
Reply to  Ross

I owned a motorcycle for a while. Even though payments and insurance were minimal they completely ate away at any gas savings I could expect. I would have to drive a motorcycle every day if I wanted to do better than break even on the cost of ownership vs saving in gas.

Ross
Ross
9 years ago
Reply to  Clinton

Yeah, the thing is I think he knew that it wasn’t going to save him any money at all really, but that’s how he made it right in his head.

Grog
Grog
9 years ago
Reply to  Ross

The first motorcycle I bought might be an investment (it was a nice commuter, and I was willing to ride in the rain).
– I had double the gas mileage
– Saved $8/day on parking at the office
– Paid less than half for ferry tickets for my commute (and always made it on).

Just between the parking and ferry I was saving $300/month (>$50 more than the payment), with fuel just being a bonus.

Ross
Ross
9 years ago

If you own your own business and you need to purchase a company vehicle, I would consider it an investment, as the yearly depreciation of the vehicle is tax-deductable, and it goes on the books as an asset of the company.

On top of that, if this vehicle allows you to bring in lots and lots of business, it would be hard to not see it as an investment.

Ali
Ali
9 years ago

No, buying classic, quality clothes are not an investment. However, depending on your values and lifestyle, they can be worth it. I value experiences with my family and education for my son over style and beauty, but I do value the latter. Plus, my job necessitates that I present myself in a professional and stylish manner. In my situation, an L.L. Bean fleece wouldn’t be appropriate. Given my personal values and professional requirements, I won’t be cutting corners on my small, well-planned and stylish wardrobe. It provides confidence, and, yes, relates to professional upward mobility. Still, I cringe at calling… Read more »

Steve
Steve
9 years ago

I agree with Nicole that some clothes can be investments. If I hadn’t spent money on a nice new suit and shoes; I know that I would not have been offered a job that tripled my previous salary…

Jess
Jess
9 years ago
Reply to  Steve

I agree… I think that the term “investment” is used here in a VERY broad interpretation. Buying a suit jacket for an interview that ends in a salary was a good investment – because the difference between the old paycheck and the new one might be the cost of the jacket.

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  Steve

I do agree with you, but this reminds me of a King of Queens where Doug sets up an interview for his cousin but asks his boss not to hire him. When his cousin gets there, he says he bought a new suit jacket for the interview.

Adriana
Adriana
9 years ago

I agree that cars, clothing, purses, etc. are not investments AT ALL! However, as an attorney, I’m judged (for better or worse) by clients and other attorneys by the look and quality of my clothes and car. Of course, this has absolutely no bearing on how good a lawyer I am, but people are too easily seduced and duped by the thought that a BMW = good lawyer. That said, I do own certain luxury items, but I bought them all used. It’s very easy to find great deals on used items and save a bundle on the upfront costs.… Read more »

Danielle
Danielle
9 years ago

I’ve got a beautiful vintage Chanel jacket hanging in my closet… It’s true… definitely the only piece of clothing I have that will never lose value, considering I got it second hand to begin with. They just don’t make ’em like they used to! I only buy secondhand clothing now, as a general rule. Saves me lots of money, and has a near zero impact on the environment when I shop locally. Did you know a pound of cotton (that’s only one pair of jeans!) uses around 1600 gallons of water in production? Since starting only buying second hand clothes,… Read more »

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

But someone has to buy new, else there wouldn’t be any used clothes for you to buy anymore. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy used and thereby save money. But you should nevertheless recognize that for a used clothing market to exist, there must be new clothes made and bought.

Danielle
Danielle
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I am aware that my clothing exists, thank you very much for reminding me, though.
Had an Emperor’s New Clothes thing going for a sec with out you!

Luis
Luis
9 years ago

First, it is a gross mistake to say that a truck for a company is not an investment. It definitely is – assuming that it will be used to generate income. It fits perfectly the definition of income quoted in the text. On the other hand, clothes are not investments. Even if they are required for your line of work, as some commentators said, it is more properly viewed as “maintenance costs”. Or would you say that buying gas or oil for the truck is also an investment? Surely it is not. Finally, the Prius that one needs to show… Read more »

Dan R
Dan R
9 years ago

I recently purchased a few suits to wear to work, and I justified the purchase by calling it “an investment”. The goal was to present myself at work as more polished, more professional, and, hence, more promotable. In addition, I knew that nice suits would be good to have for prospective job interviews and networking occasions.

In short, I bought these suits with the hope that they would lead to the generation of more income in the future.

Isn’t this fair?

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Dan R

I agree with the gist of April’s article — that it’s usually a mistake to justify a purchase by rationalizing that it’s an investment — but I think some of you are bringing up a valid point: If a purchase (whether it’s a suit or a truck) will help you earn more money, I’d call that an investment. That’s why I consider my computer purchases investments nowadays, even when they might seem silly to my friends. My computers (yes, plural) are my livelihood. But I still think it’s usually a mistake to justify buying expensive shoes or handbags (or jackets… Read more »

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD

The truck (used by a company to make money) is not a “valid point”, it is definitely an investment. So is your computer, maybe computers.

Now for the suits or luxury cars, they are not investments. They DO NOT generate money. Would you say that the gas, oil and repair costs of a truck are investments? Nor do anything the helps indirectly a person’s career. They are necessary costs, true, but no different from maintenance or advertising costs. Nothing more.

Michael
Michael
9 years ago
Reply to  Luis

If a suit will increase the amount of money you make, then it is an investment, just like capital expenses. Analogy time! Say you’re a printer with an old one-color offset printer. You buy a new higher capacity multi-color offset printer. You can now handle higher end work which will make you more money. It’s an investment. When you replace the multi-color printer it will not be an investment since you are maintaining, not increasing, your earning capacity. Everyone happy? Now, you’re an salesman with a button up shirt and slacks. Your current dress style makes it difficult to sell… Read more »

jlg3rd
jlg3rd
9 years ago
Reply to  Luis

I have to disagree on the suit not being an investment. At times it sure is but most other times it’s not. If you interviewed for a job that pays 10k more a year than your current job and you buy the new suit and land the job because of it….it’s a good investment. I don’t think showing up for an interview in business casual would get you the job if others are dressed to a tee.

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  Luis

Michael, Your analogy does not hold. A printer is an investment, because it is a factor of production. It generates more money than the old printer – or sometimes, the same money, when the old one loses its capacity. You can estimate the ROI and if you conclude that the ROI is low or negative, you will stick with the older printer. The suit is nothing like that. You can’t estimate the ROI, you can’t even decide not to buy it! If it is for an interview, it is at most a bet; if it is your work attire, it… Read more »

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  Luis

Dear jlg3rd, If you land a job JUST because of the suit, don’t take that job; the company is dangerous. The suit at most HELP you land the job by avoiding the interviewers getting distracted by your bad taste. That is why it is not an investment, it is not central to your objectives. It is a necessary cost, nobody is saying for you not to do it. Just don’t consider it an investment. Actually, IF it was an investment, should you make it? The probability of NOT landing the job is usually bigger than landing. Would you INVEST in… Read more »

Barb
Barb
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

How about if a purchase helps you “save” more money (this may be nitpicking, but im on the saving side vs earning income when at all possible). In general, in my experience buying mid to upper range quilty will last my longer. I still have a t shirt that I bought at seven years ago, and I still can wear it. It while it cost more than the five dollar walmart shirt-it didnt cost seven times as much, and in additon to the cost of a new shirt has saved gas and shopping time.

Everyday Tips
Everyday Tips
9 years ago

I do believe in buying quality items because I hate when things fall apart. However, I don’t want a salesperson telling me what is an investment, that is something I will determine.

I am not a snazzy dresser by any means. However, some professions do require a well-dressed employee. Doesn’t mean it has to be ridiculously expensive, but you have to make sure your appearance matches what clients would expect.

The only thing I view as an investment is money. My house isn’t an investment, my car isn’t, and certainly not my clothes.

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
9 years ago

When it comes to clothing, shoes, purses, etc, I can’t speak from personal experience, since I’m terrible at properly storing and caring for those goods. I know someone, however, that is a purse fanatic. She only buys specific labels, and she takes exceptional care of them. Whenever she decides to sell some of her collection, the purses are in high demand, and because she’s cared for them so well, she always makes back much more than she paid for them. So in her case, her purchases *are* a sort of investment item. I think the key is that she knows… Read more »

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
9 years ago
Reply to  Nancy L.

If she’s truly making back “much more than she paid for them” then there are some really stupid purchasers out there.

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  Nancy L.

It may be seen as an investment, but it will only be a good investment if the money she makes with them covers not only the purchase cost but also the maintenance cost and some profit.

Alexandra
Alexandra
9 years ago

I think you’re making too much out of what is merely a catch phrase. No one thinks that the nice suit they buy will actually make them money, or be worth more later on. It’s just a quick way to say “this expensive suit is worth buying because even though I can get something cheaper, this will last longer, be in fashion longer, and eventually will work out to be less expensive than that cheaper suit over there because I won’t have to replace it as fast.”

But you can say it quicker and everyone knows what you mean.

LCM
LCM
9 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

Exactly!

CNM
CNM
9 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

I agree.

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

Totally agree.

LCM
LCM
9 years ago

This seems a bit picky to me. We use the word “invest” in many ways in our day to day lives that does not line up with the official definition of earning a monetary return in the future. How about when I buy a gym membership to “invest” in my health? I am going to receive a return on that investment, but not financially. My return is my healthier body. Similarly, if I buy an expensive pair of running shoes I could consider it an “investment” into my running hobby with much better returns (comfort, speed, etc.) than a cheap… Read more »

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  LCM

You are right, but the whole point was that by this line of thinking you may end up wasting money. Thinking of a gym subscription or a pair of shoes as “investments” make them seem more valuable than they really are. They are expenses, period.

Nothing wrong with expenses – in the end, we want to “invest” so that at some point we can “spend”!

So, my taking away of the text is: do not mix up, do not fool yourself, by giving more value to an expense by calling it as an investment.

Des
Des
9 years ago

Meh, this is a bit too narrow and technical an interpretation to be of any value. You define investment as “An asset or item that is purchased with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future.” but then go on to say that a work truck is not an investment, even though it is used to generate income. By your definition, paying off debt is not an investment because it is not an asset and is not used to generate income. I disagree with that. Obviously, the hope in buying well-made, classic pieces is that you… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago

Wow – I completely disagree about the clothes. Not for everyone, of course, but for big law attorneys or other high powered jobs, there can be no question clothes are an investment in your career. You can’t just show up to work in clothes from Walmart – your career absolutely will suffer.

Shallow? Maybe. But that’s life in the big city.

Ann
Ann
9 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Really? I show up to work in a “big city office job” in jeans, sneakers and tank tops and I still get paid six figures. I like to believe my competence matters more than my wardrobe because there are a lot of snazzily dressed people out there who can’t find work.

Claire
Claire
9 years ago
Reply to  Ann

Your case is anecdotal, not general. As Mom of five clearly stated, the comment does not apply to everyone, but to certain professions (citing attorneys as an example). And with all due respect, perhaps your “six-figure” income could be higher if you dressed up more.

Should promotions be entirely based on technical competence? Maybe, maybe not, and even the elements of job competence aren’t narrowly definable. In any case, some employers to judge based on appearances, like it or not.

Ann
Ann
9 years ago
Reply to  Claire

If appearance mattered so much, I wouldn’t have seen so many people in my office get laid off or fired even though their wardrobes were better than mine.

Another one got let go two weeks ago and he wore very nice suits and ties. Unfortunately, his incompetence became obvious after the dazzle of his clothes wore off.

Pamela
Pamela
9 years ago

I agree, April, that calling something an “investment” is often a justification that makes something you want to do acceptable to others. Certainly calling clothing an investment is a big stretch. But the contrarian that I am also chafes at the whole notion that something is worth spending money on only if we can justify it economically. Where did this whole justification come from? Home buyers say they want to “invest” in homeownership. But if they buy for only a few years and move on, chances are they won’t really make money on their “investment.” Why can’t we just tell… Read more »

April
April
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

I completely agree. The issue I have with the loose use of the word investment is when it gets used to sell people on something more expensive than they wanted. Yes, some jobs require nice clothes, but you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on clothing–I know there are nice secondhand stores in my city. I fully recognize that when I buy new, somewhat expensive clothing (at least to me), I’m doing it because it’s what I WANT. I have a hard time finding things that fit in resale shops and I find the shopping experience in general, at… Read more »

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
9 years ago
Reply to  April

I absolutely agree with this. There are people who dress professionally out of Penney’s and look fantastic. They know how to purchase clothes that flatter them and fit them.

I also cringe when people say they are buying expensive suits because of the quality. I can’t remember the last time an article of clothing ever fell apart on me. I am bored with it long before it gets near to wearing out. But I do realize to state the above is heresy to alot of women.

Ali
Ali
9 years ago
Reply to  E. Murphy

As a woman whose husband, father, and brother put a higher premium on high quality clothing than I do, it’s simplistic to to define this issue according to gender stereotypes.

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
9 years ago
Reply to  E. Murphy

It is whatever it is in your family. But in my experience, women are more clothes conscious over all then men. And more likely to justify spending big bucks for “quality.”

If it isn’t that way in your family, fine.

Jennifer A
Jennifer A
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

Also these days most brands (even the very high end ones) are not made in the US anymore (like China) and pretty much share the same quality with the mass produced brands. So I really can’t see the value of buying a high end brand unless they specifically have something special about them… ie. handmade shoes from Italy.

Jennifer A
Jennifer A
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

I agree with you… In my case, my CL shoe purchase was an investment in myself & my own interpretation of what makes me happy – I feel DAMN good when I wear them and they do give me some magical confidence. HAHA!!! A male co-worker of mine was shocked by the price and as a joke I removed one shoe and told him “This half of me(with the shoe)feels like a million dollars! This other half (no shoe) feels blah”. 🙂 I am by no means telling everyone to buy it. It’s what works for me. I will not… Read more »

chris
chris
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

I totally agree. I think a well made pair of shoes, a good kitchen tools, or local micro brew are all priorities for me because they bring me pleasure when I use/consume them.

Two cheaper pairs of shoes, two cheaper spatulas that melt the first time you get them near something too hot or two cheap beers are not going to bring me half the pleasure of having one thing that I really like.

MacroCheese
MacroCheese
9 years ago

Sometimes my wife wishes I would invest a little more into my wardrobe.

Sometimes, she’s right.

Personally, I feel that investments are anything that gets you closer to financial freedom.

Joseph mwangi
Joseph mwangi
9 years ago

This is a good post for those of use who use the word ‘investment’ to justify any spending. I know true investors look for deals which makes me one true suit investor coz i just bought three very nice suits for $173 two weeks ago – but the last suit i bought was my wedding suit three years ago.!!

MutantSuperModel
MutantSuperModel
9 years ago

Sorry April, you’re way too overreaching on this one. I think an investment in Stuff is the same as an investment in anything: “An asset or item that is purchased with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future.” You’ve missed the main point: WITH THE HOPE. The fact is some things, do appreciate in value over the very long term. And luxury items have a better chance than regular, run of the mill items. You haven’t provided any significant research to debunk this at all. Look at Tiffany, Faberge, Lalique, Lenox. You’ve mentioned Chanel, but… Read more »

April
April
9 years ago

Yes, I see your point, but most folks aren’t buying Hermes and Aston Martins. This article is more about the phrase “investment item” being used to describe more everyday purchases, like the dress shoes in my example that will be worn day-in and day-out, not vintage, one-of-a-kind, etc., which I mention DO have the possibility of increasing in value (assuming you can keep them in good shape). And I also fully agree about buying quality, but my point is that those dress shoes will not appreciate in value, so it’s best to determine what you can afford and stick to… Read more »

Lindsay
Lindsay
9 years ago
Reply to  April

If a salesperson told me an item of clothing was an investment, I don’t think I’d be able to control my laughter.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

The point April is making has to do with the excuses people make up in order to overspend by calling things an “investment” when they are clearly not. “I’m going to invest in some speakers”. No, if you’re not in the business of being a DJ or something similar, your speakers are an expense, even though the “returns” in “quality time with your record collection” may appear to be solid. Sure enough, usage defines words, not dictionaries, so “to invest” has had multiple meanings in its history (to clothe in official robes, to besiege, etc), a history which the invention… Read more »

Michael
Michael
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

“I’m going to invest in some speakers”. No, if you’re not in the business of being a DJ or something similar, your speakers are an expense.

At what point does it stop being an investment and become an expense though?

If I say “I’m going to take $10,000 and start a DJ business”, isn’t that an investment? It’s the same as if I take $10,000 and invest in someone else’s company (eg. via stocks).

I find it difficult to accept that none of my $10,000 of business expenses is actually an investment.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Right, if you’re putting money into your business you’re (presumably) buying a productive asset, which is not considered an expense– the expense is the *depreciation* on your asset, but you expect the return to cover the depreciation and then some (profit).

The person I was quoting was a friend in grad school– buying speakers for him was not an “investment” except in the stretched, self-deluded definition of the word that April appropriately critiques.

OK, I’m going to take a break from the computer and invest in a latte now. 😀

average guy
average guy
9 years ago

Let’s quibble over words, why don’t we! Since words, in this case “investment”, can be interpreted in many words, any debate/argument/discussion is meaningless. If someone needs good looking clothes, car, etc., for their work, they need it. What words do we need to put to that? The real issue here is what sales people are using to try to motivate you to spend your money, or what words they are using so you can justify the purchase to yourself (both are the two sides of the same thing). Hey on the other hand, if I need something, and the salesperson… Read more »

April
April
9 years ago
Reply to  average guy

This is it exactly: “The real issue here is what sales people are using to try to motivate you to spend your money, or what words they are using so you can justify the purchase to yourself (both are the two sides of the same thing).”

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  April

Hi April,

Nice article.

Now I think the point is not as much on the salespeople. They only say that because IT SELLS! As you can see by many of the reactions here, a lot of people is eager to believe in the salespeople assertion…

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  average guy

Oh, I should have put my response above here. O well. Please refer to #29.

retirebyforty
retirebyforty
9 years ago

Quality clothing is not an investment to me. Anything that doesn’t make money is not an investment – a house, a car, nice shoes, are all consumer liability.

Nice clothes will depreciate and even if you need them to do business, it’s not investment. It’s business expense to me.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard someone in a store describe *anything* I’ve been considering purchasing as an “investment”. Especially not clothing. Are all the stores you shop at on Wall Street or something? Heck, I’m in the process of buying a house and nobody has described even that as an investment.

My dad once gave me a gold coin, which he may have described as an investment, but that actually was its purpose (I still have it, because as a gift I’d feel bad selling it, even if it made more sense as an investment strategy).

Susan
Susan
9 years ago

Don’t know about men’s stores, but sales people in women’s clothing stores use the term “investment” all the time, particularly when talking about career clothes and more pricey suits, jackets, dresses, etc.

Betsy
Betsy
9 years ago

Investment is certainly a misnomer, but some wardrobe items have many times the use and value of others. I’ve found over the years that one piece that is high-quality and exactly right is worth any number of cheaper items that are none of them quite the thing. Always better to lay out the money for one thing you really need (whether it be an overcoat or a party dress), and nail it exactly, … than to skimp and end up with a near-miss that has to be replaced, duplicated, made up for, disguised, mended, etc. and never quite does the… Read more »

Laura in Cancun
Laura in Cancun
9 years ago

I have to agree with previous posters that nice work clothes can definitely be an investment. It’s not so much investing in the clothes, but investing in yourself as an income generator. It can help you get more clients, a raise or a promotion, which means more money! (But I wear a uniform everyday, so what do I know? haha) That being said, I did recently mention I was going to “invest” in a new purse. It was my *incorrect* way of saying that I really really need a new one. I think that’s what the article is trying to… Read more »

Mary
Mary
9 years ago

If you define an investment as “An asset or item that is purchased with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future.” How can you say paying off a credit card is an investment? Paying off a credit card will save you from an expenditure (interest) in the future, but the act of paying it off will not generate new money. It’s a good idea, but it’s not a true investment anymore than the items of clothing would be. When people say a piece of clothing is an investment piece, they often mean that by spending… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago

Up until recently I could get away with wearing payless or similar cheap shoes. I don’t have a lot of shoes but now when I’m replacing worn out shoes I’m going for a higher quality. I consider them an investment in my feet/health.
I’d rather buy my older daughter more timeless (versus cheap trendy clothes) that will wear better and I can hand down to my younger child when the time comes especially for things like jackets.

Lindsay
Lindsay
9 years ago

Good article! Just because I’m a contrarian I will have to point out two things: 1. Clothing is an investment – meaning generates income – if it is bought for a job or client interview where appearance matters. 2. I wish I could go back in time and invest in all those jeans and pants in the 80s and 90s that actually had a waistline at the waist, I could make a killing selling them now! lol but that is a bit of a joke, since I doubt I’d earn more than I paid for a pair of Guess or… Read more »

khadijah
khadijah
9 years ago

Just as you can assign different meanings to the word “WEALTH” and and “VALUE”, you can have a different definition of “INVESTMENT”. They ought to be parallel, though. When talking about finance, “investment” is as you described with wealth defined as monetary gains/value. When talking about Stuff, “investment” is as described but the wealth is the increased value of emotions or anything non-monetary. Example: If I buy a new dress specifically for a hot date… and assuming it elevates my self confidence and turns out that date went successfully and opened the door to a relationship and so on and… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
9 years ago

AMEN! The misuse of “investment” has become a pet peeve of mine since I started actually investing! I am a reformed clothes horse- weekly trips to the mall were the norm and I never left empty handed. Quality is important to me, but I only shopped at inexpensive stores or from the sales racks at higher end stores. I used the “investment” excuse whenever I purchased anything over my (cheap) price point. Of course, I ended up with a closet full of clothes I never wore. But I was a smart shopper, right? Hah! I’ve changed my ways by adopting… Read more »

jackowick
jackowick
9 years ago

Yeah, “investment” is a war of semantics, but the general point is still there, paying for an item that will reduce cashflows out either due to lifespan (amortization), maintenance, or elliminating redundancy. I have friends who love those “shoe-sneakers” made by Madden and Sketchers because they can go from the office to the park to a date and they look fine, but of course they aren’t high quality so they wear out as normal. Paying extra for a luxury car that you intend to dump in 2,4,6 years is never an investment, and “high resale” doesn’t justify high cost of… Read more »

i agree
i agree
9 years ago

I think there are two overlapping meanings to the word investment used here. 1. the investment itself (product you buy). 2. the act of making an investment (expectation of payoff is required). Stocks, bonds, real-estate and such are accepted as investments in the first sense because they are usually used as investments in the second sense. Only if an investment (1) makes financial sense can buying it constitute an act of investing (2). You can not know if an investment makes financial sense without crunching the numbers or paying someone to do it for you. My opinnion is that unless… Read more »

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  i agree

Perfect comment!

Jane
Jane
9 years ago

I think you could also apply this criticism to remodeling. I watch a lot of HGTV and I can’t tell you the number of times that people justify spending $10,000 on a soaking tub or thousand dollar light fixtures as “investments.” I agree with April that this is really just an excuse to splurge. If they use that vocabulary, ultimately it is probably because they either feel bad about the extravagance or just want to find a way to justify it. I would much prefer someone to say, “I bought that ridiculously expensive vanity, because damn it, it makes me… Read more »

JC
JC
9 years ago

The whole clothing-for-work issue is best described as a CAPITAL COST. Capital costs are fixed and are therefore independent of the level of output. That is to say, a $500 suit on someone earning $100K/year is the same as a $500 suit on someone earning $50K/year. There’s no immutable correlation between the capital cost and the output/roi. Hard work and career advancement would increase the output/roi. Not a wool suit.

Shara
Shara
9 years ago

I can invest in a depreciable good, even by your definition, if the investment saves me money in the long run by avoiding the cost of comparable items. My husband needs an electric drill. He has saved us countless dollars by doing his own home repair. I have therefore INVESTED in a nice drill that will last long enough that his cost per use is much lower than something with lower up front costs. I need a presentable winter coat for work. I have therefore INVESTED in a higher quality coat that will wear well and need replacing less often.… Read more »

L. Marie Joseph
L. Marie Joseph
9 years ago

“I prefer to own less and save longer to afford quality”

Genius, you just described me

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
9 years ago

EVERBODY in this discussion is claiming this. It has become a meaningless cliche. But no two people agree on what they mean by quality.

Andy
Andy
9 years ago

This is a slippery slope of logic, because investments don’t always pay dividends that are cash. For instance, buying a higher-quality bed does indeed provide a dividend to me in the form of higher quality sleep and therefore better concentration at work.

I understand the point you’re trying to make about salespeople playing on your heartstrings to justify the expense of an unnecessary purchase. However if we adopt too narrow of a definition of an investment, I feel that other quality purchases might end up getting lumped in with “indulgences”.

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago

I really enjoyed this article. It helped me to put in perspective my female colleagues who are constantly purchasing Coach bags and calling them ‘investments’, because Coach lasts forever, etc. But every year, they still have to buy the new line, or others will know they are carrying last year’s bag! What a terrible investment!!!

KC
KC
9 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

Coach bags do last forever and I treasure mine. I have 4 or 5 that are over 10 years old. I rotate them in and out and keep them clean and well cared for. I bought one at the outlet last fall ($90), but other than that I hadn’t bought a nice purse in years. But if I put these purses on eBay I won’t get what I paid for them. They are certainly not an investment. But I do feel overtime I’ve saved some money due to my maintenance and care of quality merchandise and not replacing a cheap… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago

I have considered world travel an investment, whether correctly or incorrectly. I think of it as building a wealth of knowledge – though it certainly is not a financial investment.

Tanya
Tanya
9 years ago

I absolutely disagree with your notion of “investment.” About a year and a half ago, I was in need of a new pair of dress boots because my others had been worn until they fell apart. I found a black leather pair – at a cost of $250. Far more than I planned to spend but I have no regrets because they are by far the best-fitting, most comfortable, most versatile footwear I owe. Chunk out of my budget? You bet. An investment in good shoes I wear most of the time at work and elsewhere, that make me feel… Read more »

csdx
csdx
9 years ago
Reply to  Tanya

Reminds me of the passage from Terry Prachet’s Discworld books: (From the Discworld Wiki) The Sam Vimes “Boots” Theory of Economic Injustice runs thus: At the time of Men at Arms, Samuel Vimes earnt thirty-eight dollars a month as a Captain of the Watch, plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots, the sort that would last years and years, cost fifty dollars. This was beyond his pocket and the most he, Vimes, could hope for was an affordable pair of boots costing ten dollars, which might with luck last a year or so before he, Vimes, would need… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  csdx

+1

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  csdx

Ooh, nice quote.

Björn
Björn
9 years ago

Not all investments are purely financial.

My latest camera lens was an investment in fun.
My latest move to a bigger and more expensive apartment was an investment in life quality.

Neither were financial investments. 🙂

KC
KC
9 years ago

Shoes and clothing are never investments. They are merely maintenance costs. Investments are something that can go up in value. The only articles of clothing that can go up in value are quirky items that usually have some pop culture value – think Air Jordans from the 80s. This type of investment is very much a gamble. Even if you job requires fancy clothing – and some do – you can usually make do with used clothing or something that is off the rack but fits you well. Tailoring goes a long way – make sure your clothes fit you… Read more »

Heather
Heather
9 years ago

Does something have to appreciate to be an investment? What if it just depreciates less than the other options? In the case of a well-made, functional pair of shoes: I could buy a pair of black shoes at Payless for $20. And in two years, buy another pair for $20 or $25. And in another year or two buy another pair for $25 or $30… Or I could go and get a well-made pair at wherever (I honestly don’t know much about shoes) for $100 or $150 that will last 10 years (or more?). Even if I need to have… Read more »

Luis
Luis
9 years ago
Reply to  Heather

The definition of investment as “something that appreciates in value” is wrong. A truck will depreciate, but will bring you more money than what you paid for it, so it is an investment.

Now, to your point, something that does not create money, only “depreciate less” is not an investment. It is a wise expense, but an expense nonetheless.

ka$hwell
ka$hwell
9 years ago

if you take the definition very literally, then of course you are correct. most clothing, with the exception of some kind of valuable antique, will not produce any future wealth. however, you can call a nice suit or a fancy dress or a cool hat an investment because presumably it will “pay dividends” in a qualitative as opposed to a qualitative way. with this new suit, i will get a new job. with this cool hat, i might meet a girl who thinks i’m cut in it. that sort of thing. wealth and benefits do not and can not always… Read more »

Jesse
Jesse
9 years ago

Someone may have already said it, but I believe an investment piece is a quality item that someone purchases based on the assumption that at let’s say 150% of the price of another item that will last half as long, you are creating value because you will not have to replace it sooner.

People who use this excuse to justify buying expensive luxuries are clearly mistaken though.

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
9 years ago

I wrote a similar article a while ago – it really bugs me when people say they’re “investing” in this or that. But I didn’t publish my post in the end because I looked up a dictionary definition of the word and there are definitions which don’t stipulate a financial gain. For example, one definition is: To put money, time, or energy into something, especially for some benefit or purpose. Most expensive shoes certainly do have benefits or purpose that aren’t financial. So do most luxury cars – the benefit might be a more comfortable commute as well as status… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

As I wrote in a post before, definitions mutate with usage and languages evolve. Usage coins the definition, the dictionary is a mere registry of accepted usage. The word “invest” existed before the invention of the stock market, and it meant different things. Today it means something different and tomorrow it will mean something else as well as decades pile on. The usage you point out likely derives from the financial definition, as it is similar in concept– previous definitions of “invest” didn’t include the future benefit notion. The problem is that this usage, being derivative, and therefore confusing, has… Read more »

Ru
Ru
9 years ago

If you want to “invest” while spending money on something material and pretty, may I suggest buying some art that you love? Limited edition prints from established artists and small pieces of work by newer artists are pretty much a guaranteed return and in the mean time, you’ve got something good for your wall. You need to be in the loop though to work out what’s going to be hot. If you don’t move in the art circles, stick with safe, known names (it’s possible to get sketches from classic artists for under £1000). Art movements revive from time to… Read more »

Naomi
Naomi
9 years ago

Are there any confirmed cases of a job offer *because* of a suit? I can just hear it:

“Well, we weren’t going to give you the job, but because you were wearing the $1,500 suit from Nordstrom rather than the $750 suit from Men’s Wearhouse, we decided the job was yours.”

Preposterous.

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago

I suppose some things are also bad investments…

sam i am
sam i am
9 years ago

I think it’s a bit presumptuous to make assumptions about people based on a single sentence. Saying you are investing in a pair of shoes is more of a saying than an actual literal statement, but I digress. There are definitely merits to buying something of quality versus buying junk that just won’t last or that you’ll regret wasting your money on. Or for instance, buying something middle of the road when what you really, absolutely want is something higher end, then it makes a lot of sense to save up for that goal, because you’re likely to eventually buy… Read more »

Avistew
Avistew
9 years ago

I’ve never considered anything investments (except actual investments. You know, when you put money somewhere and then sell it down the line and get more money) but I’ve based costs on use. Something I’ll wear every day, I’ll be willing to spend more on than something that’s a one-time use for a “special occasion”. Lots of people work the opposite way. They’ll wear cheaper stuff in everyday life, and buy something very expensive for wearing them once, or twice, or very rarely. I can’t say I get it. You get so much less value! I think people often think “it… Read more »

shares