“I like my money right where I can see it… hanging in my closet.”
That’s one of the most loved and often quoted lines of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City. I’m always niggled and a bit worried whenever I see this quote shared, posted or instagrammed.
We women are often told that shopping till we’re dropping will solve our problems, wipe away our sadness and relieve our misery. In short, retail therapy has been lauded as a cure-all for whatever ails us. The more investment we see in our clothes closet, the better we should feel about ourselves and our money management, right?
NOT NECESSARILY! Think of the cash – missing from your wallet – that hangs in that closet in the form of unnecessary, unused clothing. How about the fur-lined vest that was irresistible in the store but you’ve never worn; or the sequined pink cocktail dress worn one time only for your brother’s wedding two years ago? The money spent on ill-considered purchases adds up.
Consider instead a sensible rationalisation of your purchases. Our clear-cut method, “Cost per Wear”, is an easy-to-use guideline and can eliminate your spontaneous or impetuous shopping habits forever. The Cost per Wear method relates the number of times you will wear a piece of clothing to the amount of money you have to spend to add it to your treasure-chest of a closet.
What is “Cost per Wear”?
Cost per wear is a mathematical way for you to determine if an item you want to purchase is worth buying. Divide the cost of the purchase by the number of times that you realistically think you will wear it.
If you can foresee wearing the red dress costing $88 fifty times, the cost per wear will be $1.76. However, if you buy a white dress for $25 and only wear it once, its cost per wear is a whopping $25. Even though the red dress cost more, you get more value with this purchase than with the cheaper white dress.
Evaluate your Future Investments by Cost per Wear
Before shopping, learn to evaluate the clothes you want by calculating their cost per wear. This is essential to avoid wasting money (and closet space!) on an item that you are going to end up wearing just once or twice.
When you shop, select quality clothing that you can wear frequently over the course of several years. Think of the versatility and durability of the clothing, how soon it will be out of fashion (or come back into fashion!) and whether you would actually love wearing it.
Make sure that what you are buying is multi-purpose. Can you wear it for both work and casual events? A wrap dress is a great investment as it can be worn for professional meetings, dinner dates and brunch parties. If, however, on the other hand, you buy a Forever 21 tutu dress, you will be able to wear it only on specific occasions.
Be careful when shopping for special-event dresses. Special events do not occur more often than once or twice a year. Remember that you most likely will not want to wear a “repeat dress” too often. The best thing to do is to purchase a simple dress that can be dressed up or down and accessorised according to the occasion. For more formal events, glam yourself up with fancy makeup.
Try to invest in everlasting classic fashion items. Most fashion trends last for only a short of time. You know your 3 pairs of gladiator sandals that you just love? They are now in last season’s sales bin. Classic items transcend seasonal fashion and remain in style forever.
A good-quality blazer is a classic investment. It can be worn during cool and moderately warm seasons. Blazer jackets are high-class and always in fashion, unlike the sequinned or bohemian styles that verge on the flamboyant.
When shopping for seasonal clothes, be sure that they work well in the season or seasons when you’re thinking of using them. For example, a popular Burberry pulloveris hard to fit into an exact season all on its own. According to purchasers reviewing it, the pullover is too heavy to wear in hot weather, and too light to wear in cold.
Invest in quality materials. If clothes are not durable, your cost per wear for the cheaper items might still be high. Some items shrink after 2 or 3 washes or their dye runs.
From time to time, do pamper and reward yourself. Buy your dream item after appropriate consideration that you really do want it. Just remember to be in control and reward yourself occasionally as a treat – and not all the time! Don’t lie to yourself in order to justify that you will wear the piece often – just so that you can calculate a low cost per wear.
Method: Evaluating your Current Wardrobe by Cost per Wear
Most of us utilise only 20% of our wardrobe. The ideal wardrobe utilisation rate is 50%.We should aim to increase our utilisation rate by evaluating our clothes by cost per wear and weeding out unwanted items in our wardrobe.
Start by categorising your wardrobe into t-shirts, long pants, long dresses, short dresses and others. Next, sort out your go-to pile, those items you wear most frequently, from each of the categories. Usually these will be the clothes that you know you feel good wearing and that you depend on. Do a similar pass on your accessories – shoes, scarves, hats, necklaces – by sorting out a go-to pile for these too.
Take a look at the clothes and accessories that are not in your go-to pile. Now, sort out the remaining piles into your seasonal go-to pile. Your seasonal go-to pile should consist of the items that you wear frequently within certain seasons.
Now get rid of the leftovers. For example, sell or trade them on second-hand clothing and accessories websites. Carousell is a great place to offload your second hand items.
Otherwise, donate leftover items to a favourite charity organisation. A fun way to get rid of your unused items is to have a swap party with your friends.
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).
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