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Don’t be Seduced By All The Bargain Sales Right Now

You’re getting them; I’m getting them. With the state of the retail sector, we’ve all been getting them for at least a month: the most amazing, attractive, drool-worthy emails from retailers that we have (or perhaps have never) either visited, filled a shopping cart for, or purchased something from. (And yes, I do know that ending a sentence with a preposition is ‘a bad thing’, but I could not figure out how to do that sentence without that.)

Now that the holidays are over, it’s even more tempting. I received one today with the headline: “The one you won’t want to miss: $5.99 and UP!!!”

That’s the sort of thing that, except for the fact that I have never been able to use my store credit card to shop ON their site, would have, in the past, had me with the plastic out, clicking off item after “bargain” item. But, I have taken an entirely different philosophy about my closet these days that I would like to share. I think it works for all genders and certainly makes ME feel that I’ve got one more thing under some modicum of control.

Read this whole thing and then do it, OK – Aunt Toby doesn’t want anyone to break a leg or a clavicle running up and down the stairs to do this.

This is an assignment, so go get your notebook and pen. Draw a line down the middle of a page. Go stand in front of the closet and imagine some particular event that happens to us all – sometimes several times – in a year. Pick events that frankly make you go crazy in terms of deciding what to wear. On the top of the left hand side of the page, write: Event. On the right hand side, write: Outfit. Under Event, write the first thing that comes to your mind. Here is an example:

Funeral – Close Relative
Funeral – Not Related But Close
Job Interview

Stare into the closet and ask yourself the following question: What do I have there that is appropriate for the occasion?

While everyone does NOT have tickets to President and Mrs. Obama’s Inaugural Ball in a couple of weeks (if you do, Aunt Toby envies you, unless you don’t have an appropriate outfit – as you know, the Rules of Shopping say that when you need something wonderful to wear, all wonderful things disappear, POOF!), but everyone sooner or later has a funeral, a job interview or a wedding to go to as a guest.

Calling hours and funerals are usually events that are announced rather suddenly and leave us anxious in terms of dressing appropriately. Lacking time to do an adequate search and shop for appropriate attire only makes the occasion worse. A call to come in for a job interview can provide the same anxiety; usually you get a couple of days notice, but Aunt Toby once got a call first thing in the morning and was asked to show up before lunch! Weddings usually give the greatest notice but still are fraught with dressing problems.

Men are very lucky: All they need is a good dark suit (navy or medium grey will carry you through all seasons; navy and charcoal grey is great for the winter), a change of nice dress shirts, a couple of good ties, good dress shoes in black (not loafers) and dark blue or black socks. That outfit will carry them through everything on the list plus weekly attendance at your chosen house of worship. Men are very lucky.

For women, a nice blouse and medium colored or dark suit (not black or navy; looks too much like an airlines uniform) or dress (knee length, not too low in the neck, with some sort of sleeve; if you can get a matching jacket, do that) will get you through everything except for the summer wedding. A pretty tailored dress and hat will get women through that and there is the added usefulness of wearing it to work or church and shaming people who show up in blue jeans and tatty tee shirts with their coffee mugs on Sunday mornings.

Now, let’s think about that: For the guys, one outfit focused on a dark suit. For the ladies, one outfit for winter focused on a dark suit or dress and one outfit for summer focused on a tailored dress. All eventualities. All stressful times. All taken care of with one outfit – sort of like that “One Ring to Rule Them All,” right?

So, go back to the email adverts and the closet and ask yourself the important question: Do I or don’t I have that one outfit? Is there anything in those adverts that I am getting that is going to get me that outfit? What do I really NEED? Don’t be seduced by the photography or the pricing or perceived bargain-ness.

If they are showing the sort of clothing on your list, it’s time to think seriously about investing in that one outfit. If not, take the money that you would have spent doing the “click throughs” to the shopping cart and put that money away and SAVE IT.

Go visit places that have good solid clothing of this sort and watch sales (right now is a very good time – in colder areas, get all wool or nearly all wool for suits; if you live in warmer areas, look for tropical weight wools or fabrics with some wool in them – keeps wrinkles down – for suits; dressier fabrics that do no wrinkle or have to be dry cleaned for dresses). Men, if you can get an extra pair of pants with the suit, that is a great investment. If you need a pair of good black conservative pumps or tie dress shoes, the same goes for that.

As you visit, try on clothing and get comfortable with the process, put away more money. When you find the items you need, get them and put them in the closet. Think of this in the same way as buying staples for the kitchen shelf: They are there and ready for when you need them. That way, when you get the call for the job interview, or sadly, for a funeral, you can just reach in the closet, pull out your outfit and you are good to go.

You can get more wear out of the outfit and reduce your per-wearing cost by wearing your outfits to work or religious services or to go out to dinner. But you will have an outfit. You will not have to run around trying to find something appropriate to wear, having to pay more than you had planned on, or perhaps not finding anything that fits.

This way, when you see advertisements or things in stores or magazines, you can ask yourself, “What are my clothing needs for the next six months or a year? Is what I’m seeing something on ‘my list’? Or is it something that is appealing to the eye but has little wearing value in terms of what I need and will eventually end up in the bag for the charity or the landfill?”

NOT buying stuff we don’t need is another way to save money.

(cross posted at Oxdown Gazette)

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  1. gnome de plume says:

    Hi Toby! I love your blog. Beautiful layout!

  2. htwollin says:

    Ah, une carte de visite de La Veritable Gnome!!! Felicitations, Gnome! (OK, I’ve exhausted my 10th grade French) You are the very first “civilian’ commenter!! Thank you so much. My plan is that this is the place where we can explore things in more detail than I can at the Lake – with more pictures, video demonstrations, interviews and so on.

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