I have the great privilege of knowing a self-made business woman who started her first company (a consignment store) during the recession and was able to turn a profit within the first year. We met two years ago when I first moved to L.A. and we marveled at how quickly she had been able to pay back her bank loan and how much free time she now had to take vacations or even mid-day training sessions — she’s a triathlete– in so little time.
The secret, she said, was that she had awesome sellers that were growing her customer base faster than she could keep items in stock… sellers with Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Louboutin to unload. Her social media savvy means that I get a constant stream of these ultra-discounted (but still several hundred dollar) items on my Facebook newsfeed because I “Liked” her business.
I myself, have been trapped by the lure of her store… constantly going in and checking for deals on designer merchandise to show off to my friends or buying gifts for family. I bought a fantastic Tory Burch blouse once just because it was in my price budget and because of the label. It very recently made it into my Donate pile because I’ve only worn it once and it doesn’t flatter me as much as some of the other pieces in my closet. Here in L.A., I keep falling for this lifestyle that I can’t truly afford to have.
Luxury Lifestyling Traps to Be Aware Of
I just received another Elle magazine in the mail and more than half of the pages are advertisements for luxury products. When I log onto Bloglovin’ I check out my favorite fashion and lifestyle bloggers, and see them pairing Chanel with sweatshirts or wearing LV to the beach. Many a night have I spent on sites like BagBorroworSteal rationalizing how much I need a purse or how I deserve a pair of shoes.
CNN and Money have reported that luxury brands had a very quick rebound from the recession as all that tightening of the purse strings made people crave luxury a little bit more, like when you go on a diet then splurge on the most decadent dessert ever when confronted with the opportunity.
Re-training my Brain
The whole concept of this minimalist challenge is a small component of something I’ve been yearning to understand for years: conscious consumerism. The idea that every dollar we spend is a decision made. When I was vegetarian and even now as a paleo student, I see every dollar I spend as a vote for something. A vote for more humane animal practices, a vote against greenhouse gas polluters, a vote supporting local business over big business. You get the idea, right?
In this spending re-training process, there are three things I keep telling myself.
- Affordable luxury brands are still not a good value if you can’t use them. (Don’t buy those spiked Louboutins if you’ll only wear them to one or two events!)
- Discounted luxury brands are often still not affordable. (Some of the purses and shoes I’ve almost pulled the trigger on are the same cost as a whole month’s worth of groceries. Definitely had some soul searching here.)
- Expensive, high-quality pieces are absolutely worthwhile where they make sense. (Example, a great laptop for your home business or a pair of all-weather boots that double for work and play.)
I think the biggest challenge we all face is that the lifestyles of the 1% have become so common in our middle income households that the lines are blurred between standard and next level living. True story: I saw an elegant woman standing in line at Costco last week, wrapped in an Hermes scarf and carrying a Chanel purse. What is she doing at wholesale Costco?
As I rid my closet and life of the “stuff” that never gets use, I’m trying to promise myself not to let these things creep back in. I WILL let myself upgrade to higher quality shoes, clothing, and electronics, but only as a replacement to something I sell, donate, or that broke. I WILL consider how the cost of the item impacts other goals I have, like a chance to travel abroad or to buy something else I need. I WILL continue to practice self-restraint. And I will (try) not to look at Facebook pages, blogs, and magazines that tempt me to conscious spending vows because I want my dollars to mean just as much to me as they do to the places I spend them.
No questions. Just your thoughts.