To Save or to Spend: That is the Question

There are two types of people when it comes to shopping: those who believe you get what you pay for and those who believe that it's smarter to buy multiple items for the price of one overpriced item.

Photo by Ellen von Unwerth for Vogue

BY TIASHA BHUIYAN                                 

ONLINE CONTRIBUTOR

There are two types of people when it comes to shopping: those who believe you get what you pay for and those who believe that it’s smarter to buy multiple items for the price of one overpriced item.

Also known as the high end snobs vs. the practical penny pinchers, although I think that is a bit extreme. I don’t think anyone should fall into either category because they’re both, well, wrong.

There are certain items that are worth the investment, but having high quality clothes isn’t always necessary. On the other hand, buying a higher quantity of cheaper lower quality clothes won’t always give you the value for your money. So, how do you decide when to splurge and when to save? Well, I have a few tips.

Let’s start with splurging. It doesn’t matter whether your idea of “high end” is Gucci or Topshop, the rules are the same. When you’re thinking of items to invest in, think staples. I’m always willing to spend money on items that I know will need to be durable and be used often. I live in boots so I need them to be sturdy and cute, not rip after two days. Meanwhile, I only wear sneakers for rough conditions like the gym or for travelling so they need to be well made and last for years. Coats, especially since we’re in Canada, are essential and lower-end ones although may fulfill the aesthetic but usually lack insulation, making the product useless.

The reason I invest in jeans is a little less practical than the rest, but honestly, higher end jeans just fit better. You could find pairs for $30 at Urban Planet, but they don’t have the size ranges like Levi’s or even American Eagle. Keep in mind that some items are unique to their brands too and are incomparable to alternatives – I can’t find anything that’s quite a replacement for Topshop’s Joni jeans. Speaking of fit, investing in professional clothes like a well-structured blazer and dress pants is a necessary part of adulthood.

Now let’s go to the lower end. Look, I do not tolerate any H&M slander – my cotton/rayon t-shirt and I are perfectly happy. I never really splurge on tops since they’re what I buy most often. Since they take up most of my wardrobe, I don’t repeat them as much so durability isn’t an issue. Plus, there are so many styles of tops I couldn’t afford to invest in every single one!

That brings us to my next point: trends.  Brands like Zara, Forever21, and H&M are always keeping up with the latest thing in fashion and have dupes for celebrity-inspired outfits which are perfect for experimenting. I saw an 80’s inspired, sequined, shoulder-pad clad dress on sale at H&M that I never would have looked at in a higher end store. I got it on a whim and fell in love with it! That’s what’s great about a low price point, even if you aren’t happy with the result you won’t be broke. If you spent $300 on a fedora from Rag & Bone and never wear it, it hurts a little bit. But if you buy a $10 fedora from H&M and love it, you could invest in the more expensive version down the road.

However, when even when you’re shopping for “cheap” items, things do add up and impulse buying is common. You may think you’re getting a bang for your buck but you could just end up with a badly made product, or a product you don’t even really want. Trust me, I almost bought these hideous booties from Zara just because they were 85% off (shout out to my friends who talked some sense into me). If you wouldn’t buy it full price, it’s usually not worth it.

So, there are pros and cons to saving and spending so explore and find your balance. As a last bit of advice, here are 5 questions you should ask yourself when shopping in general:

  1. What did I come here shopping for?

If it’s the item, get it. If not, focus on what you came for first.

  1. How many items in my closet does this go with?

You should be able to plan at least 3 full outfits including bottoms, shoes, outerwear, and accessories that go with the item. If not, drop it.

  1. What occasions can I wear this for?

You shouldn’t buy it if you’re not willing to wear it at least 3 times within the next 2 years. An exception would be experimenting with cheaper options, but be careful not to go overboard.

  1. Are there any alternatives?

If there are, consider if they’re worth it. Consider aspects like colour, cut, and material to see if the cheaper one measures up.

  1. Can I afford it?

There’s a general rule that you can’t afford something unless you can buy it twice. This may be a little harsh, but for buying clothing, which isn’t actually necessity for most of us, it’s a good rule to live by. Don’t spend $400 unless you have $400 left over for a rainy day.