I have a friend who I go to for money advice because he knows a lot about the stuff. Investments, loans, couples’ finance, you name it, he can help you with just about any money-related topic. His savings skills are so impressive that in 2015, he was able to pay cash for his New York City apartment. They’re not cheap so I had to ask him, how did you do that??? He told me he had to make a few sacrifices to pull that off, including suck up his pride and live with his dad for 15 years.
I was impressed but I also knew there had to have been a guiding principle or some rule he followed to help him stick to his goals. He told me he followed one simple rule:
“I never bought anything I didn’t absolutely need.“
He’s an attorney and works for himself, and because he’s pretty much the only one he can depend on for money (which I can relate to), budgeting, setting priorities, and following them has become second-nature to him.
But what does he do differently from the rest of us, and what could I learn from him? I wanted to know and I wanted to learn how to improve my savings skills. These are some of his money-saving strategies we talked about:
- He’ll replace before buying. If his shoes can be repaired and resoled, for example, he does that before he even thinks of buying new ones. Same for toasters, sofas, plumbing fixtures, everything!
- He never buys anything he can’t pay cash for. Including an apartment, apparently.
- He buys what’s on sale. When he shops for groceries, for example, he’s flexible and buys only items on sale that week.
I decided that following Frank (not his real name)’s rules strictly to the letter, would never work for me. I’m the type of person who will buy new underwear because I’m too lazy to do laundry. I could however, observe some of them… most of the time… or at least, try. I resoled a pair of shoes once and to my surprise, it almost looked like new when the shoe repairman was done with it. Long-term though, I can’t be bothered.
I tried buying what’s on sale but what worked best is to stock up on paper goods only. A closet full of stuff drives me nuts… practicality be damned!
What I now do is rarely pay full price for high-ticket purchases. And I was able to create clothes shopping rules that I can stick to, and it’s been surprisingly easy. Later, I’ll share why but these are the 5 types of clothing I no longer buy:
1. Sales items that need repair
After convincing myself it was a steal, I used to buy clothing that was a size too big, was ripped, missing buttons or needed a little bit of repair. But I rarely ever got around to repairing those items and they would end up sitting in my closet until I donated them to a friend or Goodwill. So, I no longer buy those.
2. Clothes that are too small
As women, we’re forever on a diet and a part of us really believe that even though we’ve been at our current weight for 3+ years, a new purchase will inspire us to finally lose those 10 pounds. Rarely does that happen and so I never buy clothes that don’t fit the size I’m at now.
3. Special event clothes
For weddings and other special events, I will dress up something versatile that I own and I have enough high-end pieces I rarely wear to choose from. If I buy something new, I will think about how I will wear it after the event. I will ask myself…
- Is it versatile?
- Does it fit my personal style?
- Do I own accessories and separates to go with it?
- Is it in the budget?
4. Impulse purchases
In the past, there were so many times I would buy something because it looked pretty or interesting. I would think, I have to have it! as if just owning a pair of boots would make me happier. Okay, it did… but only for a day or so.
I’m doing a lot better at managing all sorts of impulses, including this one. This is something I’ve figured out: a lot of my “wants” are aspirational but if I don’t live the lifestyle for Prada weekend wear, do I need it? For my lifestyle, I know the pieces I wear all the time, so if I’m going to impulse shop, I’ll get another great tee, black slacks, pretty blouses, calf boots, flats, and rings. Controlling that impulse leaves money in the bank to go on vacations and buy wine.
COACH TIP: When I first started observing this rule, it wasn’t easy to resist the urges that overtake me when I walk into Nordstrom. My workaround was to buy the item and mark my calendar to return it in 2 weeks if I was no longer crazy about it or had buyer’s remorse.
5. Fast Fashion
With a friend from work, I used to go to Forever 21 and Zara religiously every Friday. It was our little ritual. Then one day, after getting some climate change education from a woke princess named Eva Kruse, I began to rethink the habit. In her TedTalk about changing the world through fashion, Kruse talked about the role of fashion in the world’s water shortage. She felt that businesses and consumers could come up with solutions by making more ethical choices. Her talk convinced me to rethink fast fashion.
Now when I see something selling for $12, I know it’s most likely at the expense of the environment. I also know that when I shop, I’m looking for clothes that look fresh and amazing on me. My tastes have grown more sophisticated and I now pay attention to details. Fast fashion doesn’t.
Here’s why it’s been easy for me to stick to these rules: They make sense for ME. The money I save goes to paying for classes, vacations and helping me have a bigger life.
Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. Using systems, routines, and some psychological trickery, she can help almost anyone hack their mind and life for greater productivity. Email email@example.com to find out if she's available for one-on-one work.