Escaping the Fashion Money Trap (Part 2) - Keep Thrifty

Escaping the Fashion Money Trap (Part 2)

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Last time, we talked about the history behind the fashion money trap. With part 2, I’ll give you the six tactics I use to escape the fashion money trap and help me live a richer life.

Picking Back Up

If what we talked about in part 1 made buying based on fashion sound like a really bad deal for you, then we’re on the right track. We need an escape plan to avoid all this nonsense.

Baby pushing another baby through a doggie door saying "Quickly! While there's still time!"

Here are a few simple rules:

1. Buy for Quality

Here’s a tale of two t-shirts. Or, rather, a tale of 16 t-shirts.

Going to a popular big box retail store, I found “premium” t-shirt for sale for $8.00.

Presuming the quality that can be expected from this kind of supplier, lets say this shirt has a useful life (both from quality and fashion) of 2 years.

Over the next 30 years, I have to buy a new t-shirt every 2 years for $8, totaling $120 for the 15 I buy over that time.

Alternately, let’s say I go with the insanely cool concept of the 30-year t-shirt, which I can pick up to day for (after currency conversion) $49.55.

Man, that’s a lot to put down for a t-shirt, but hey - they guarantee it for 30 years and it costs about 40% of the total for the 15 junky shirts from the big box store.

Between the cost savings and the significant reduction in how much waste I’m creating, this sounds like a double-win.

2. Shop Secondhand

As an alternative to buying for quality, you can always try to pick up some reasonable-quality clothes that were discarded way too early. I’ve picked up a few “name brand “ pairs of good jeans from Goodwill for $8 each.

All it took to get them ready was a run through the wash. That said, the “fashion-driven quality” of pants like these is apparent and as a result I’m likely going to be focusing more on buying for quality in the future.

The jeans from goodwill lasted about as long as new pants from the store, but any jeans that only last for 3 months just aren’t built for a family with 3 active munchkins :)

3. Buy What You Like

Parachute pants, zubaz, and hypercolor t-shirts - the list goes on of clothing fads from my youth. Every generation has them, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to buy into them.

If it’s your style and you love it, then go to town, but don’t feel the need to buy something just because it’s what others are getting.

Ask yourself what you’ll think when you look back on pictures of yourself 10 years from now. Try for “I could still wear that”, instead of “What was I thinking?

Men in suits at a wedding wearing zubaz

What were these guys thinking? (source)

In addition, if it’s not comfortable, don’t buy it. There’s no good reason to buy something that makes you uncomfortable; you’re much more likely to get rid of it early.

4. Consolidate and Simplify

How many outfits do you have in your closet?

If you have enough outfits to last you a month, that means you’re only wearing each 12 times a year. If you’re honest, that’s not even true for some of those outfits.

Most likely you’ve got a handful of favorite outfits that are your first choice anytime they are clean. This means there are ones on the other end of the curve that hardly ever get worn (if even ever).

Why not consolidate and simplify your wardrobe? Downsize your number of outfits to just enough to last you a week or 10 days.

This will make sure your favorites are available all the time.

Beyond this, it’s worth questioning whether you need all the different styles of shoes, jackets, belts, and other items. Most likely you can trim these down to a smaller set.

I get by on one jacket a year (my winter jacket good enough for Wisconsin weather). If it’s cold enough to wear a jacket, I wear that one; if it’s not cold enough, I don’t.

One woman even applied these concepts to the point of wearing the same thing to work every day. If you really love an outfit, why not wear it every day?

5. Fix What you Can

Somewhere along the way it became uncool to fix stuff that was broken instead of replacing it.

Maybe we’re using the need for repair as an excuse to feed the fashion monster and buy a new style.

Maybe it’s convenience (AKA laziness) or us not feeling confident in our abilities to fix things.

Either way, these are some pretty lame excuses for the most creative and learning-focused species on the planet.

At best, get a sewing kit and figure out how to do some basic repair on your clothes. Sustainability-focused companies like Patagonia provide repair guides to help you along the way.

Macguyver: "What do you mean duct tape won't fix it?"

Is this a dated reference? People still know who Macguyver is, right?

At worst, try to stretch things out by following the older “lifecycle” that our ancestors did. For me, a ripped pair of jeans becomes my new set of painting pants or pants for doing yard work.

6. Only Buy to Replace

This one helps not only your wallet but also your sanity by keeping your house from getting cluttered.

Only buy to replace something that’s not working and can’t reasonably be fixed

The happiest people on earth tend to be those that find joy in what they have instead of continuously wanting for more.

One way to start living that today is to commit to not buying in a way that adds to your existing possessions - only buy to replace possessions that have exceeded their useful life.

Fashion is Universal

A final note here as you battle the pressures of the fashion culture. Remember that, while clothing probably the most obvious industry, this concept isn’t limited to this alone.

The same fashion tactics have been used by makers of furniture, home design, cars, electronics - pretty much everything you use.

Diligence in fighting the temptation to keep up with the latest trend will help you not only keep money in your bank account; it’ll help you find peace with your own style.

Be comfortable in your own skin, no matter what you’re wearing. If you can accomplish this you’ll find yourself living a richer life in more ways than one.