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The Smart Girl’s Guide to Splurging on an “It” Item


Fashion splurges: Hermes Birkin, Christian Louboutins, Chanel bag, Cartier watch, Hermes scarf, Balenciaga bag

If you read this site regularly, it’s pretty obvious that you and I have one major thing in common — a passion for fashion! One of my favorite things about writing for CF is that this blog gives us a safe place to ask questions, hear what other girls our age think about crazy trends, and share fabulous tips with other like-minded fashionistas. This blog really is a community — we like to hear what you think about certain subjects just as much as we enjoy writing about them!

On that note, an important topic that most of us have on our mind to some degree is budgeting. Whether you support yourself or live off of a monthly stipend from your parents, it’s always a prudent decision to evaluate your financial state and make wise decisions based on some sort of system.

In this post, I’ll share with you some rules I follow to make sure I get the maximum benefit when I give in to the urge to splurge. Once you’re done reading these tips, I’d love to hear from you and learn other ways YOU save and spend wisely, so be sure to leave a comment!

“It” Items — Are They Worth It?

Chanel bag

Manolo Blahniks. Chanel 2.55 bags. Pucci scarves. Jeffrey Campbell Lita Boots. The legendary Hermes Birkin bag. You’ve perused the style blogs, and you’ve seen the celebs rock them. You might feel overwhelmed with lust for a particular piece, but do you love it enough for a long-term commitment?

Of course, the answer for each “it” piece will vary from person to person. For me, although my Litas were significantly more expensive than most of the other shoes I owned (priced around $150), their versatility and the way they stood out in my college town made them worth the splurge for me. On the other hand, I don’t think I could ever justify buying a Birkin bag, even if I was a millionaire! Running around $15,000, it takes some people many, many years to save up for one, then an additional wait time while their bag is made to order. Power to these ladies for their patience, but I know I don’t have that kind of dedication.

Considerations Before Splurging:

  • Think about cost per wear. CF has covered this concept before, and I always think about this when I’m out shopping. Take an item’s price and divide it by the number of times you think you’ll wear it that year. For example, I bought myself a pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers a few years ago. I literally used them every single day walking to class, unless it was raining or overcast. If I divided the cost by the amount of use I got out of them, ($160/250), the cost-per-wear on the sunglasses ends up being just $0.64 — and that was just for one year! This was a much more prudent purchase than all of those $18 sheer blouses I bought from Forever 21 and only wore twice before they fell apart in the wash.
  • Be wary about buying online. It’s far too easy to buy a knock-off or something misrepresented on eBay, so if you’re buying something major (like a premier designer bag or a pair of Jimmy Choos) I wouldn’t suggest it. Discount designer websites like Bluefly and Gilt Groupe are awesome because of the deep discounts, but the problem is that their selections are pretty limited. Personally, if I’m going to spend a lot of money on something, I like to make a day out of it — something about going to the department store, showing the sales associates that you’re actually there to buy, and getting your new item in a crisp shopping bag is so satisfying.

David Yurman cuff bracelets — a popular “it” item on college campuses.

  • Purses and jewelry are probably a safe bet. The great thing about a classic watch or most “it” bags is that they never lose their appeal. Think about your aunt’s Louis Vuitton Speedy, your neighbor’s classic Tag Heuer, or your older sister’s cross-body Coach bag — they still probably look great, and are still top-sellers for each brand! The other great thing about splurging on a designer purse or certain pieces of jewelry is that you can use them every single day without looking weird — which will make the cost-per-wear ratio awesome!
  • Be careful with shoes. Black patent Louboutin pumps are fabulous, but only if they fit you perfectly and you know you’ll wear them regularly. There’s no sense in spending hard-earned cash on an item that you can only bust out of your closet twice a year (or that gives you blisters). Think before you spend on flats as well — they are certainly more wearable for most girls than 5-inch stilettos, but flats will wear out much more rapidly. I used to have a pair of Tory Burch flats I picked up at Off 5th, but less than a year later, they literally disintegrated and left black marks all over my feet!
  • Avoid really trendy items. Remember those J Brand skinny cargo pants? Or the Phillip Lim leather shorts? Yes, those pieces were as hot as ever last year, but you rarely see them anymore. Pick up really fashion-forward pieces at places like Forever 21 — no one will notice (or even care) whether they’re designer or not, and a year later, you can safely toss or donate them.

Emilio Pucci Scarf

  • Would it fit your style? No matter the mystique a piece might carry, it’s not worth a dime if you know you won’t wear it. I’ve never worn a silky scarf in my life, so I don’t anticipate any Confessions of a Shopaholic Rebecca Bloomwood-esque moments in my near future. While we’re making confessions, though, here are a few of mine: I secretly hate the look of Louis Vuitton monogrammed bags. I have a strange crush on Tyler the Creator. I only wash my hair twice a week! Wow, that felt great. Anyways, stay true to yourself and your sense of style.
  • Denim! A really flattering pair of dark-wash jeans is a great investment piece. In fact, I haven’t bought a new pair of jeans in years because of my wise denim purchases in the past! Boot cut, skinny, and slightly flared cuts are all safe — watch out for too many trendy embellishments, though! Some of my favorite brands that keep their designs relatively simple are Seven For All Mankind, William Rast, and Rock and Republic.
  • Be smart about clothing. A $70 plain black tank top from Burberry probably won’t give you much bang for your buck. However, a classic Burberry trench coat that you’ve wanted for years will be well worth the money because it will be a closet staple for the rest of your life. I don’t see a need to drop tons of cash on things like pajamas, panties, sandals, graphic tees, or leggings, no matter who makes them.
  • Use your head. No “it” item is ever worth sacrificing your health, safety, or credit score for. I know sometimes fashion websites joke about shopping at Barney’s but living on Ramen noodles, but I personally think that is a really bad idea. No one wants to get in a Carrie Bradshaw situation where you have to hit up your friends to bail you and your closet full of designer goodies out of a tough financial bind. Come on, that’s just idiotic! No pal (or banker) will want to help you if you’re dressed better than they are. Be a responsible spender, and it will pay dividends in the long run.

Now we want to know what you think!

We all have splurged before, but how thought-out are your large purchases? What “it” items have you splurged on? Were they worth it? What rules do you follow to make sure you won’t get plagued with buyer’s remorse? What pieces are in your dream collection? Are you saving up for anything in particular right now? Continue this discussion in the comments section!

Posted on on February 16, 2012 / Filed Under: Shopping / Tags: , , , , , , ,

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36 Responses to “The Smart Girl’s Guide to Splurging on an “It” Item”

  1. 1
    February 16th, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Great post! For years I thought I wanted a Mulberry Bayswater but when I actually stopped to think about it, I realised that while it would be a great work-wear bag it probably didn’t fit into my slightly more casual look. I’m now saving for an Alexa instead which I think will work with any and every outfit.

    Personally though, I’m a discount girl at heart! :)

  2. 2
    February 16th, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Loved this post. However, if I were a millionaire or won the lottery, I’d definitely buy myself a Birkin :)

  3. 3
    February 16th, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Great post! I always use the “cost per wear” idea when making major purchases! Another suggestion: check thrift stores. I loved the Coach Classics Collection and I almost purchased one. However, I found several very similar authentic Coach bags at my local thrift store! You might not always find what you are looking for exactly, but if you keep and open mind, you can save a lot of money!

  4. 4
    February 16th, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Nice post with lots of good reminders. I see lots of young women on my campus splurging on the latest trends from the big stores and I think, “how much did that ensemble cost?” Especially looking at the construction of some of these items…

    I too think of splurges as investments – “will buying this bring me long-term happiness/cool-factor/pride/satisfaction/etc?” I rarely splurge on clothes – I don’t own tons of shoes, purses, or trendy stuff – but I did buy two Ray Bans (Wayfarers and Aviator smalls) recently and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. They are iconic and were SO worth the cost. I wear them everywhere. On the other hand, I spend most of my clothes money at the Goodwill, so I don’t feel so badly about an occasional retail splurge.

    A nice watch, a good winter coat, and an awesome leather jacket are all good investments, as well.

  5. 5
    February 16th, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Awesome tips! Last year I bought myself a Coach bag which was a big splurge for me but I use it everyday and never regretted the purchase! My previous splurge was a pair of Ray Bans too – also used daily! Now for my next splurge… that pink Pucci scarf! *drooling*

  6. 6
    February 16th, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I love this post I always use the cost/wear ratio when spending big. I also watch department stores for end of season sales because they put pieces on sale that will work next year like a pair of black steve madden heals for half the price.

  7. 7
    February 16th, 2012 at 11:44 am

    This is a very smart article, Chelsea! Whether it’s a pair of $150 shoes or a $3,000 bag, we all have our own limits and what we consider splurges. Either way, when you go about buying something expensive, these are great things to think about!


  8. 8
    February 16th, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I splurged on a 80 dollar Vera Bradley tote bag before :) I want a Guess bag which I will get when I get my Macy’s gift card.

  9. 9
    February 16th, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I really love the information in this post. You give great ideas to consider! And I also can’t believe I’m not the only one who “secretly hate(s) the look of Louis Vuitton monogrammed bags” and “only wash(es) my hair twice a week!” ;) Haha I suppose it’s because I think those monograms are an overkill and to be honest they look a little tacky, and I also see SO many people wearing those bags. It’s getting old. And as for the hair? Well, mine simply doesn’t get dirty very quickly!

  10. 10
    February 16th, 2012 at 11:56 am

    I love this post because I find myself splurging A LOT and this makes me feel better about it. I’m a junior in college and I have a job, and my mom thankfully gives me an allowance, so I buy a lot of nice items–but they’re all really practical to me. And I work really hard at school and at my job (LONG COMMUTES man!) so I feel I deserve it.

    Splurges that come to mind:

    – Marc Jacobs Hillier Hobo bag. I got this for my birthday! It’s a nude color so it’ll go with everything and it’s slowly becoming an MJ classic!
    -Marc Jacobs book bag for school. Also in a neutral color. Holds A LOT. Doesn’t fall apart like my other book bags. I’ll have it for years
    -Michael Kors tote bag. What can I say, I like nice leather bags. A black leather bag will NEVER go out of style
    -I also have Ray Bans and I wear them almost EVERYDAY. I’ve almost had them a year and they’re as sturdy as ever. I was so tired of my F21 sunglasses breaking. So annoying.
    -Tory Burch Reva’s. Workplace staple. Could not live without
    -I also splurge on technology like my iPhone and my Beats headphones. Quality tech just streamlines my life–can’t live without it. I’m pretty sure an iPad will be my next splurge.
    -High end make-up purchases–just for creams and foundation though. I don’t mess around with what goes on my face!
    -DEF perfume! Good smells make me feel good :)
    -I also spend a ton of money on my hair, as a black woman, it’s a MUST. But that’s a whole ‘nother story lol

    Most of my splurges are accessories though. I’ll never pay tons of money for clothes, especially t-shirts or sweaters, or trendy items that wont be relevant in one year. So I mainly just splurge on the staples. TOTALLY worth every penny. All of them!!

  11. 11
    February 16th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Great post, Chelsea! I totally agree with everything you said (including the part about not liking monogrammed bags haha). I also buy a lot of stuff secondhand, either at Goodwill or at consignment shops, and I wind up getting great quality for very low prices. (I bought Tory Burch Reva flats at Goodwill for $7!! Although that was really lucky…no idea why someone would donate them, as they’re brand new.)
    Most recent splurge was a red leather jacket from Zara. Although I do have some concerns that it might not be in style forever, it’s a piece I know I’ll wear to death in the next few months (once it warms up, anyways) and besides, it was down to $60 from an original $250!
    P.S. If I had the cash, I wouldn’t buy a Birkin either, but I’d definitely get myself one–just one–pair of fabulous, fabulous Louboutins.

  12. 12
    February 16th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Loved the article. I can’t remember if I ever splurged on anything, but I would if i could…
    I’m bad at managing my money, but this just might make me start saving some money for a good bag.
    and speaking of the Hermes bag, as much as I love it, here it costs around my entire university tuition, as much as it’s beautiful it’s ridiculously expensive.

  13. 13
    February 16th, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    It’ really good and really helpful!! I agree with a lot of things!

  14. 14
    February 16th, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    These are really good tips. So many people just buy on a whim without thinking about money! I’m graduating soon, so budgeting and figuring out where my income will come from has been taking over my thought process lately. Thanks for writing this post. I’ll use its insight next time I go shopping for sure!

  15. 15
    February 16th, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I found this article to be incredibly well reasoned. I have some splurges in my closet- my Cole Haan boots that I’ve had for 3 years and are still beautiful and put a spring in my step every time I wear them, my Tiffany diamond studs that I bought as a present to myself when my weight loss reached 50 lbs and they make me feel gorgeous even when I’m sweating it out on the gym, and most recently my Michael Kors Hamilton tote in black with silver hardware that I use everyday, is big enough to hold my macbook when necessary, and makes me feel polished. Worth it.

  16. 16
    February 16th, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    @Emily – did you see the Alexa bag was on sale at RueLaLa today?

  17. 17
    February 16th, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    thanks for the great post! i hate louis vuitton monogrammed bags too! i just think they look so ugly.

    anyway, i think something more people should consider is also the quality of an item, which is something i think was hinted at in this post. granted most of the designer items mentioned here are fabulous quality & if used everyday, will still hold up for years after careful use. but just because it has a designer name does not mean it’s of good quality.

    i happen to be a fabric snob & love discount, so if i want something nice, i usually hit up the outlets & places like marshall’s, tj maxx & goodwill before i go to the actual store.

  18. 18
    February 16th, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I absolutely loved this entire article. My hubby is abusiness major and he preaches this to me all the time. I try to avoid very trendy trendy items and invest in staple items that will last forever. I just started thrifting and you can invest in gently used items that are stpales for life. I love it and this article is going on my harddrive. Sometimes you need cold reminder! Also thanks for the suggestions.

  19. 19
    February 16th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Great article Chelsea!! I think that its a waste of money spending a fortune on things that go in an out of style so quickly. If its gonna be a timeless fashion then go ahead and splurge and take good care of it because it will last forever. I have a bunch of splurges in my closet but when I take them out year after year it seems worth it!!!!

  20. 20
    February 16th, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    One time I got a Marc by Marc Jacobs bag at Blooming Dales on sale and plus I got extra 10% off for being out of state. Also I got Coach shoes on sale at DSW.

  21. 21
    February 17th, 2012 at 1:01 am

    I VERY rarely splurge, but right after Christmas I had a bit of gift money and I decided to buy floral Doc Martens, which were $130. May not seem like much, but I’m used to getting a lot of items for $130, not just one pair of shoes. When I first got them in the mail they were slightly uncomfortable and I was really upset. Then I went online and found out that Docs take some breaking in before they’re comfortable, so I wore them around the house and sure enough now they’re comfortable. :) I’m really glad I got them. Even though they aren’t a “timeless” piece or a “classic”, they’re cute and quirky and can be worn in pretty much any season except summer…so I think they’re worth it!

    I agree with your advice not to splurge on sandals. Unless they’re good quality wedges or extremely intricate….they WILL fall apart by the end of the summer, the more you wear them, the quicker it’ll happen. One thing though – just because sandals at Forever 21 are $8, does not mean they’re a great buy. I’ve had two pairs of sandals from F21 where the sole would break/snap completely in half while I was wearing them!!!

  22. 22
    February 17th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I love hearing everyone’s thoughts on splurges! I bought a Balenciaga city bag last week that I’ve been lusting over for years and finally saved up enough for, which is what inspired me to write this post!

    @Camille –how do you like your Beats headphones? I’m thinking about investing in a pair myself!

    @Julianna –those Tiffany earrings sound awesome! I love the idea of rewarding yourself with something amazing for reaching a goal you’ve set for yourself.

    @Kristina –I’ve been thinking about buying a pair of pink Dr. Martens, good to know that they take some time to break in.

  23. 23
    February 17th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I would love the following:

    Mulberry Alexa in Oak
    Balenciaga City with oversized rose-gold hardware in Black
    Chanel 2.55 in black
    Chloe Paraty in any color
    Proenza Schouler PS1 in any color

    Some day it’ll happen. Haha. :P

  24. 24
    February 17th, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    This is such a great post! A lot of us have expensive taste on a college student budget. Next time I lust after a designer item, I’ll think about these tips and make sure I think long and hard on it before starting to save up for it!

  25. 25
    February 18th, 2012 at 3:17 am

    When I read your confessions about hating monogrammed LV bags and having a crush on Tyler the Creator, I had to stop for a moment and make sure I didn’t write those lines myself!

    Two of my biggest investments were a pair of Nine West boots and a Dooney and Bourke purse. After wearing the boots for 4 years, I have finally worn the sole out (and yet, I can’t seem to let go of them!) And I’ve used my Dooney for nearly 3 years.. I constantly switch between purses but I always end up going back to it.

    I’m quite proud of my smart splurging… :)

  26. 26
    February 18th, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I’d have to disagree on the Houlihans. Those jeans are still worn and trendy. I live in NYC and I see girls wearing cargo pants/Houlihans every day. I think that was a bad example. lol.

  27. 27
    February 21st, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I’ve always loved the LV monogram actually (I agree it’s overdone, but I think it’s still classic and not cheesy when worn properly!), so a monogram speedy was my first real splurge around two years ago when I was working my summer internship!
    I still love it to this day (although I do often think what it would have been like to have gotten a damier canvas instead…), and I look forward to saving for more splurges in the future, mostly on bags or jewellery only, though! :)

  28. 28
    February 21st, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    i think accessories are a much more worth-while splurge.. investing in shoes or clothes doesn’t make too much sense to me because your size can change whenever.. i’ve lost about 65 lbs and really regret having spent money on some designer items.. including shoes (i went down half a size in SHOES!! what the heck..)..

    so purses, YES.. jewelry, definitely!

    p.s. the chanel 2.55 is going to be my first investment :)

  29. 29
    February 29th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I’m dying for a classic black chanel 2.55 bag, but it costs a steep $3,500, which I could never afford. I agree with you on buying classic pieces though-they really do stand the test of time and last longer. I just couldn’t justify spending thousands on a bag, at least not right now!

  30. 30
    March 3rd, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I splurge on tights because they’re all that keep my legs warm when it’s cold out. Good tights are worth money; great tights are worth even more. Especially if they’re predominantly wool. Sooo warm and comfy. x3

    I confess: Last fall I called my mum to help pay for a pair of shoes I wanted but didn’t quite have the money for. Spent almost twenty minutes convincing her, but she finally relented and said she would help. Oh my gods, they were SO worth the money; I receive compliments on them almost every time I wear them, and they’re an awesome conversation starter with classmates and others on campus. One of my profs even commented on them! Some of my friends think I’m crazy for wearing heels to class, but they’re only about two inches, are suuuper comfy even with the amount of walking I do and they make blah days better because of how cute they are!

  31. 31
    March 12th, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I’m super bad for designer items. I got my first designer when I was 15 (a Louis Vuitton Speedy) and since then it’s just become such a downward spiral. This year was meant to be the year that I cut back on really expensive fashion purchases (at least according to my BF – tsk) but so far I’ve bought a Prada wallet, Celine bag and just last night I ordered the Valentino Rockstud.

    Although as much as I love my designer, I could never buy a Birkin. And the Chanel 2.55 is almost $8,000 here (I live in Australia, land of the markup!) so until I either find a really reliable source, that’s crossed off my list for now.

  32. 32
    February 16th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Shannon… What do you think of the chloe Marcie mini satchel? Is it too small? I know it’s a well made bag and is my max that I will spend on a bag..

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