My Shopping Sabbatical, Money Matters, and First Impressions

I had an entirely different post scheduled for today, but I've been feeling more than a little indignant lately, so let me get on my soapbox for a moment and rant.

My shopping sabbatical (no clothes or accessories purchases for 5 months) has almost reached the 3-month mark, with the incentive/reward at the end of the 5-month haul being a Chanel purse. I figured spending the money I'd saved during that period on an extravagant purchase I otherwise wouldn't be able to afford would be great motivation for staying on track. I'd have one purchase that would last me until I become a little old lady, as opposed to lots of cheap trifles that would break or wear out and end up in a landfill. In other words, I'd start buying for quality from now on, not quantity. This rationale was my way of easing my consumer's guilt associated with such an extravagant purchase.

Most of the friends I've explained my rationale and my shopping sabbatical to have applauded my decision and been excited for me. However, I've also had loads of judgemental disapproval heaped on me. "I think that's a ridiculous amount to spend on a purse," said one friend. "You could, you know, use that money to see the world," said my friend E.

The comment that stung the worst, though, came from my ex: "You are stupid beyond belief. No words can describe how stupid you are." We were talking online; he'd just returned to Mexico after a 5-week trip to Alaska. He said that if he'd had the money, he would've flown to Vancouver to see me, and then jokingly asked me to pay for his flight. I jokingly replied that I was saving up for a purse, then added, "I like you, but I like the purse a little bit more" in Spanish. When I told him how much the purse was, disbelief turned into anger and he uttered those words.

The more I thought about what he said, the angrier I became. We had broken up and we still had residual feelings for each other, but at the end of the day we were just ordinary friends. We weren't obligated to each other in any way, and we certainly didn't owe each other face-time. He chose to spend his hard-earned money on a trip to Alaska instead of seeing me. So what's wrong with me choosing to spend my hard-earned money on a luxury I've fantasized about for months instead of seeing him? If I spend my money on the bag, at least at the end of the day I'll have the bag, whereas with him...I don't know what we have, but it doesn't exactly smack of long-term commitment.

I vented to my friend E, and after getting some of that rage out of my system, I began to sympathize with my ex a bit more. The cost of a Chanel purse is obscene in the eyes of someone from Mexico City who's used to a low cost of living and couldn't give a hoot about designers. Plus, he was probably more hurt than anything else that I'd choose to spend the money on a bag instead of subsidizing his visit to Vancouver.

E pointed out something else when I complained about how I was sick of being judged and taking flack from people: When I step out with the purse once I get it, I'll inevitably invite stares and attention and negative snap judgements from people, many of whom might dismiss me as some spoiled high-maintenance Asian girl. "Let's just say you see a 24-year old driving a BMW," he reasoned. "What do you think [immediately]? Parents bought it." And E has a point. People aren't going to care that I paid for it myself with my full-time job, that my credit rating is stellar, or that I've never been in debt once in my life. They aren't going to care that I'm quite frugal normally and that this is a one-off purchase that's intended to curb my excessive consumption habits in the long run. They'll look at me with disgust in their eyes as though they were looking at a BMW-driving 24-year-old.

When all is said and done, I'm going to do what makes me happy despite what others may think. As any fellow shopaholic will know, it's taken a lot of willpower for me to come this far. That purse at the end of the road will be all the sweeter as a reminder of my discipline.

Alright, rant over. Thanks for bearing with me. I'll return to the regular scheduled programming.


  1. It is a tricky situation. People make me feel guilty for the size of my wardrobe despite the low price of most pieces, but at the end of the day for me it is priorities. I have friends who dine out, go to sports events, concerts, get their nails done, etc and they don't notice that all these little expenses pile up. I am very frugal in all parts of my life except maybe my wardrobe...
    Anyway, I think is admirable that you should save the money for something you really want. Also, why is it always so offensive that people should spend money on themselves than others? What has anyone ever done for me that they deserve my hard-earned money for a frivolous trip?

  2. I think it's cool that you have the willpower to save for something you really want. I'm curious what you think about owning a home though. I've always believed that owning a home (or condo) should be the first priority for savings.

    I saved and bought a place a few years ago which recently sold for much more than I paid for it. Real estate is an investment which (usually) appreciates. Now I feel free to buy other things, like expensive purses or something similar. I know I am in the financial position to do so at this point in my life.

    Anyway, I do love your blog and am sure you'll be successful in your shopping sabbatical. If you can give up buying clothes for several months you can save for anything!

    --Em (no blog!)

  3. A lot of people don't understand how much will power it takes to go without shopping for 5 months especially during the summer months if your on vacation and don't have a lot to do so good for you on that note!
    While I can see your ex's point - a purse lasts forever and the ticket would only buy you a short amount of time
    Do what makes you happiest and don't care what others think. They can save for what they want you do what you want

  4. The Clothes Horse: Thanks for the vote of sympathy!

    Em: Owning my own home in the future is a priority for me too. I'm waiting until the market slows down a bit in Vancouver because right now the prices are so overinflated. My parents don't mind me living at home (their traditional Chinese mindsets actually prefer it), so I've been able to save up a lot for short-term and long-term goals (the purse, travel, a future home). 70%+ of my paycheques goes into savings.

    Arielle: Thanks for the support! I work full-time and don't have a real summer vacation, which means I can spend more time earning money than yearning to spend it (huzzah!). I think I was more upset about the sense of entitlement underlying his comments more than anything. He broke up with me and we're not dating. Why should he feel like my money would be better spent funding his trip?! If we were dating, then yeah, I'd want to see him and make it a priority to save up for regular trips to Mexico. But we're not. End of story.

  5. Sounds like you're on the right track, you're definitely not just blowing your paycheque. 70% is a good savings.

    Regarding your ex -- wow. Expectations like that end when you break up. Even when you're dating though I wouldn't expect my partner to pay for my plane tickets.


  6. Your ex is the stupid one. Him asking you to pay for a flight for him when you're not together is ridiculous. That said, if you're worried about the purse price, perhaps you could save instead to go to Paris for a week during soldes or something and getting multiple fair quality items that will have more sentimental value.

  7. Trisch: I've been saving like mad these past few months because I also want to spend three weeks in London, Paris, and New York this fall (one week in each city). By the time October rolls around and it's time for me to leave, I'll have enough for the purse and the trip. It's funny, though. When I'm abroad I spend most of my time walking around or going to museums and attractions because I figure I can go anywhere in the world and shop, but when I'm in a new place I want to make it my first priority to do things that I can only do in that place. That being said, I'm really excited about the mummy room in the British Museum!

  8. As I've said before, everyone has their own priorities. I'm sure people spend money on things you think are stupid, and vice versa. Screw them. It's your money and your life, do what you want to make you happy.

  9. I think saving up for a large purchase like that is the most responsible mindset you can have. If everyone thought that way our economy would be doing much better right now and our landfills would be much smaller.

    I think that most people don't realize that in the end twenty $30 cheap items that fall apart after the 3rd wash cost the same as one really nice $600 pair of shoes that will last you a lifetime - and will probably hold their value too.

    So buying that bag is a good investment, and the CPU (cost per use) over the course of it's lifetime will end up being the same as a $35 knock off that falls apart in 6 months.

    I am very proud of you, and you should be very proud of yourself!!!


Back to Top