Friday, July 20, 2012
So. I am back and forth, back and forth on this issue. I really don't know what to think about it, except that I do think about it, and I feel "guilt" about it, and then I feel some resentment about that. I never "thought" about if before. It was never an issue. I don't know why, all of a sudden, it is coming up for me.
The issue is: buying clothes.
Obviously I have mentioned I am doing this Dave Ramsey financial plan. My financial goals include:
have money in savings for emergencies
pay off my debt
move into a better living space
make some (?) extra money with my little business
be in control of my money
I do ok when the issues are absolute. But when there is wiggle room... I flail. A bit. One of these areas involve clothes shopping.
When I was saving my Baby Emergency Fund, it was hard, but also easy in a way. There was no thinking, no going back and forth. It was just no, no, no, and no. N.O. all the time.
Now I am past that point. And while DR is very strict and specific about saving and not wasting money and paying off debt... when he talks to people for whom getting out of debt is going to take 5-6-7 years or more, he is a bit more relaxed. It is one thing to go on an Abstinence-Only plan for 18 months-2years. But no one can really expect a regular person to do that for 5-6-7 years or more. Somewhere in there, you have got to have a life.
Add to this, my own situation. When DR talks to people who are sinking under debt, it's because they have been living way beyond their means for some time. Just spending and not thinking. Not feeling the money go out. They also generally have livable incomes. When some family makes $80-100K or more a year, and they have $50K in debt, that is generally just laziness with money. Sell some of that excess crap you've bought - the boat, the too-pricey car, the new electronics. Tighten your belt for a short time - cancel the cable, stop eating out, drop that pool membership.
I'm in a different situation, in that before I started FPU, I had been living in a state of bare subsistence-only for several years (due to job loss and then going to school and working part time). I tried to do a garage sale but really, I have nothing left to sell (evidenced by how little money I made). I had dumped everything extra I owned, just jettisoned my life. Moving twice in 2 years will do that to you.
While I have a job now (and it's a good one, I am thankful every single day), I am an entry-level librarian. We do not tend to make the big bucks. I make less now than I did before this atomic bomb exploded into my financial life, and I have tens of thousands of dollars more debt. I spent my first 6 months working just kind of catching up with things I'd had to let slide for so long. Things like getting a root canal so I could eat. Getting my car fixed so it was safe to drive. Getting my hair cut decently. Buying sheets for my bed. And taking people out to dinner, people who had helped me significantly when I was down on my luck.
Anyway, back to the clothes thing.
I struggle with it. Technically I have clothes. I am not sitting here in rags. I have some clothes, as we all do. But I struggle with getting dressed, sometimes. It seems like I have plenty of clothes, yet getting dressed can be a struggle. I owned 2 pairs of jeans. One pair had a hole coming out in the bottom, so I could only wear them with certain longer tops and sweaters. If it was too hot for the sweaters, and the long top was dirty, I could not wear these jeans. One pair was capri length, so I wore them with boots, and they didn't fit in the waist, so I was constantly hitching them up.
I went out and bought two pairs of brand new jeans from a shop at the mall. It was about $100 for both. This is a huge amount of money to me. The thing about jeans is, I am at an age (and a pant size) where I cannot get away with cheap WalMart jeans.
Then summer came. I owned one pair of shorts that fit. One. It's 100 degrees outside, my car has no AC, and I have one pair of shorts. This is a problem. I went to Old Navy, I spent $35 on shorts. Now I have 3 pairs.
I now carry a summer tote bag to work that I bought at WalMart. It is a straw bag, and I like it, but the straw at the bottom has already torn and it is very obvious (I have had helpful ladies on the bus point it out to me "Did you know your bag is torn across the bottom?" Embarrassing.). And yes, I do look at the tote bag section of all the discount stores where I shop regularly. I have been looking for a month now. This is the kind of thing I am talking about.
Clothes should be on my monthly budget. I usually put $20 in a clothing section. That buys me things like new underwear (obviously I do not buy the type of undies where that $20 buys me 1 pair). Socks. A cheapo top.
Today is casual day at work. I am wearing: a dark orange t-shirt I bought at the thrift store and wore thru grad school, so it's several years old. A pair of work out pants I bought a Value City that I also wore thru grad school (at least 4 years old). A pair of new flip flops I bought at Marshalls for a trip I took to a water park resort in April. I only bought the sandals because the Birkenstocks I had been wearing for 6 years had finally died a painful death. I only owned one pair of sandals. This is what I am talking about.
Wait, what am I talking about?
Oh yes, guilt. Guilt over shopping. Guilt over buying clothes. Even though most of the time (90% at least) I am buying stuff because "I need it." But then, do I need it? No, I don't. I have clothes. Sure they are old, beat up, and cheap, but I have them.
See those dresses above^^^^ ? They are on sale right now at my new internet nemesis, aka Zulily. I actually clicked on a Facebook ad about a month ago and discovered this site. Their offerings are from various manufacturers and they are like the Marshalls of the internet. Instead of cheap crappy clothes, they are good quality clothes, just sold cheaply. I clicked on the link initially because I have been thinking that I would really like a maxi dress or two. I not only don't own any maxi dresses, I own only two dresses to wear to work, period. One, I can only wear in the summer, over leggings, and the other, I can only wear in the winter, also over leggings.They are both distinctive patterns, so they can't be treated as "basics". I wear them both, a lot.
So anyway. I clicked this link since I had maxi dresses on my mind. I looked around and I saw this maxi dress that made me fall off my chair, it was so gorgeous. And in my size. And $17. Seventeen. Dollars.
What usually prevents me from shopping online is the shipping cost. With the $6 shipping, this dress was $23. If I saw the dress in a store for $23, I'd probably buy it. So I bought it. And then... the real kicker...
When you buy one item at Zulily, and pay for shipping, you get free shipping on anything else purchased that day.
I bought another lovely dress. Not a maxi. But lovely. And $15. I'm taking it camping with me, yes camping. It is this stretchy jersey material and I wear as a long tunic over leggings or black capris. I can wear it as a beach cover up. I can wear it as a nightgown. I can wear it to work. That is a good use of $15.
So that was $38 I spent last month. The dresses came in and they are lovely and they fit, but more importantly... they look good on me. Look, when you get up above a size 12 or even 14 and now you are in plus size zone, it is very hard to find clothes that look good on you and make you feel good about yourself. At least, it is for me. But here I got these two summer dresses, both not only looking and feeling great (because they are not cheap dresses), but also ... distinctive. Not the same stuff that everyone else is buying at Lane Bryant or Target, and you see that woman, and you are thinking, "oh yeah I just saw that top at Old Navy last week"
I have not worn the maxi dress I bought. Not yet. It is... well it is skimpy on top. Too sexy for work. I might be able to add my shrug to it, but I don't have a bra that will work with it.
So today I went to Zulily and guess what... they had bras in my size for sale. Okay I have 3 bras I wear and all of them were $5 at WalMart. They are pretty and comfortable and machine washable, but seriously when I see pics of myself now I cringe because they do not lift or separate anything. They basically just make me presentable to go in public and not smack myself in the eye with my boob flopping around. I don't look good.
It is hard to find bras in my size that are pretty, and that aren't $50. So here I am, struggling.
I should say this... I technically "have the money." This is not a credit card issue. I actually have extra money. My Emergency Fund is funded. My brakes went out on my car and last week I replaced them using money I earned from my business (super exciting!). I have 7 sinking funds set up, with various amounts of money, all for things to buy that future needs. I finished paying off my first credit card of the Debt Snowball this month, and that was exciting.
But this extra money is supposed to go for other things. Like paying off my next debt. Like saving to move.
See those dresses? The one on the left is my favorite color combination. That combo is aaaaaalll over my Pinterest. The only reason I didn't buy it was because it is too sexy to wear to work, and also, I don't have a bra to wear with it. The only reason I didn't buy the one on the right is because they were out of my size. The only reason I didn't buy the one in the middle is because... well it is black and I was telling myself I have enough black things in my wardrobe.
But I did buy another dress. Another maxi dress. I'm pretty sure I can wear it to work. It's another of my favorite color combos, as I know from pinning it all over my Pinterest.
So with shipping, I spent $48 today. A dress and a bra. And I am struggling with it.I have more than enough cheap and crappy clothes to wear to work for the summer. I do. I wear the same 10 outfits to work, over and over and over, all summer, and the same 10 outfits over and over all winter.
One of the things I like to read online are fashion blogs, written by regular people. I like this one, and this one, and this one, for starters. I credit these blogs with making me actually want to make some effort with my daily choices, with getting me to buy accessories and wear them, with helping me appreciate the creativity of regular people fashion.
Recently I have been re-reading Sally's entries about her ban on shopping for clothes. It has given me a lot to think about. Because while she banned herself from buying new clothes, she gave herself $40 a month to spend at thrift stores, and she spent it. At the end of her self imposed ban period, she spent $48 on a single pair of sandals (in March. In Minnesota.). She never actually stopped shopping, because she still spent that time looking, hunting, planning, and checking for things. She just stopped actually purchasing. Well, mostly. She still bought a lot of stuff. And yet she was still able to save over $1300 in cash, in 6 months.
I don't know what Sally's income or out-go is. I don't know what she makes, is she saving for retirement, is she prepaying off her mortgage. I just thought about this. I have this guilt because I have bought 2 items of clothing this month when I already got 2 new items last month. See how that works - buy some stuff one month, don't get to buy next month.
And then I read this blog, where the blogger again, went on a shopping ban of several months (clothes only). And she writes that she saved a pile of money because she usually spends $300-400 a month on clothes and accessories. I almost fell out of my chair.
What people do with their money is not my business, but I am talking about it because these bloggers kindly put it out there. These things have all been swirling in my head for at least a week. I don't think reading these entries this week has encouraged me to shop. I have been reading most of these blogs for years and never had a problem before.
So I don't know where I am going with this. I have no grand conclusions. This is an area of struggle for me. The simple answer is to give myself $50 a month to spend on clothes, and then fricking spend it, and not feel any guilt about that. Apparently $50 a month is a ridiculously small amount to spend. The reason I don't do that is because I do not go out looking for clothes and shopping purposefully. I am more opportunistic. I rarely see clothes in stores (bras, shoes, you name it) that I actually want to buy. Even if I like an item, I weigh in my mind if the amount of liking I feel is worth the price tag, and really, it rarely is. Buying clothes is generally more traumatic than rewarding or fun.
So what happens is, when something comes up (like the 3 dresses above), and I love them, they are in my size, they are something I have been looking for or thinking about, then I want to just buy them. And somehow, as I have gotten older, I find myself less and less content with the dregs of whatever I can find in a thrift store or discount store. I find as I get older that I want NICE clothes. I want to look nice. I want to feel comfortable. I want to look like I made some effort with myself.
I kind of want to go back to Zulily and BUY THOSE OTHER DRESSES. But I also want to pay off all my debt and be free.
It's not about the $48. It's about the habits. It's about the mental space. It's about the struggle.