Big fashion buy: A guide to splurging responsibly

  • Article by: SALLY MCGRAW , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2013 - 3:50 PM

Have your eye on a big-ticket item? This step-by-step guide will show you how to ‘treat yourself’ responsibly.

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Before you splurge on that must-have addition to your wardrobe, think it through, check your budget and consider how and when you’ll wear it.

Photo: Mary Altaffer • Associated Press file,

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Fall fashion magazines are crowding the racks — their images of luxurious, covetable clothes and accessories pushing many style-conscious women to ponder a seasonal splurge. The word “splurge” calls to mind a large, unplanned impulse buy, and many such purchases occur under those circumstances. It may seem romantic to splash out on a whim, but a long-lusted-after item should be researched, vetted and worked into your overall spending plan. Let’s look at how:

Research

If you’ve decided that a Valentino dress needs to join your wardrobe, study up on available styles, materials, colors, sizing variations, possible outlets for purchase and return policies. Then evaluate when, how often and with which accessories you’d wear this dress. Think carefully about how your dress will be worn, and do your best to craft at least five outfits around it. Think, too, about the “it” factor: Is this a classic, timeless dress made from quality materials that will endure for years, or are you drawn to it because it’s so of-the-moment?

Oftentimes, the item that sparks those initial feelings of object lust — be it a frock, handbag, piece of jewelry or pair of shoes — may not actually work for your wardrobe. A splurge shouldn’t be an item that sucks loads of money out of your bank account, then languishes unworn. Make sure you’re buying something that you’ll wear or use for years to come.

Compare

Once you’ve researched what you want to buy, start sussing out from whom you’ll be buying it. Even if you’ve spotted the splurge of your dreams at a local store, resist the urge to buy on sight and run some online comparisons first. In this day and age, you should generally have access to at least three sources for nearly any luxury purchase, with sites like Shopbop, Net-a-Porter and Revolve competing against legacy stores like Nordstrom, Saks and Bloomingdale’s. Check shipping rates, size availability, exchange and return policies. Do a general search for the style and brand name to see what comes up in terms of material and color variations. Consider checking eBay in case a gently used version is on the market. In some cases, you may be limited to a single outlet, but it’s worth checking. You may find a better deal or more appealing version of your splurge target.

Budget

Retailers have done their best to create a climate of urgency in the shopping market, and it may be tempting to splurge on your splurge. Resist the urge. Unless you’ve got a surplus of money that is meant specifically for fabulous, expensive fashion items, make a budget plan and follow it. Take the total amount and break it into weekly chunks to figure out how you can accumulate the dough quickly and efficiently. Cut back on entertainment so you can save faster. Carpool to work to conserve gas money. Limit your other fashion purchases for the time being. Don’t spend your rent on it and don’t charge it. If you’re worried about scarcity and stock levels, ask about layaway. In this economy, more vendors than you’d expect are offering that option.

Buy

You know what you want, you know where it’ll come from and you’ve got the cash in hand. Finally, the time has come for the splurging part. If you’re buying a truly costly item that is likely to be passed down through generations, consider making a day of it. Take off work, get a pedicure, order a fancy brunch, spend some time in the store before you plunk down your moolah, and schedule something fun so you can wear or start using your new purchase right away.

Sound over-the-top? Consider this: Making a splurge purchase into a special event helps set this experience apart from other shopping. This may prevent you from falling into the financial trap of believing that splurging is no big deal.

Enjoy

You’ve made an informed, big-ticket purchase. Use it often and proudly, knowing yourself to be a savvy splurger.

 

Sally McGraw is the Minneapolis-based author of Already Pretty (www.alreadypretty.com), a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image.

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