Have you ever bought something you couldn’t afford using a credit card? Have you ever vowed to pay it off later only to rack up more purchases?
I don’t expect you to answer because no one likes to talk about finances, let alone debt. But if you were secretly thinking “ME!” then you are not alone.
It is not a rare occurrence to see people rationalizing purchases, pulling out credit cards, taking a deep breath…and then what? I find myself in a generation where living above your means is a very accessible lifestyle choice, and you can’t fight the facts: Canadian consumer debt is on the rise and people my age can also expect to make less than our parents.
Unfortunately, the fashion world can be a major drain on your finances. I have always been interested in clothing, and almost always worked retail. I see beautiful things all day, everyday and often it takes more than a little willpower to come home empty handed. Even then, I probably buy more clothing than I should. Part of my job is selling – and I love helping people pick out clothes that make them feel good. Helping them pick out avoidable consumer debt however, is not my ideal workday.
For what it’s worth, there are ways to find a balance between fashion and finance, something I have sought to do my whole adult life. Here are a few ways I’ve found to bridge the gap between consumerism and common sense:
As you’ve seen here and here I enjoy shopping at second hand stores and consignment shops for good bargains on quality items. Sometimes you may find cheaper things at fast-fashion chains but for the overall quality you can get shopping second hand it is a much better deal.
2) Budget for classic looks, quality and value over quantity
You may also notice I use a lot of the same pieces in posts. That’s because I would rather have one really nice item that I’ve saved for than a handful of fast-fashion look-a-likes, as pretty as they might be. I have clothing and accessories I have been wearing for a decade, like this pea coat because I chose a classic cut/colour and took care of it.
3) Don’t spend more than you make
Simple right? But not always easy when banks will jump through hoops to increase your credit limit.
During last summer I moved to an apartment that was more rent than I have ever paid. I knew I could technically afford it on paper, but not with the lifestyle I was living at the time. In order to live alone (which was what I ultimately wanted) I had to give up some other things. The definition of first world problems, but I had to change the way I ate (cooking at home all the time) shopped (way, way less!) and lived (not being able to say yes to every show/dinner/drinks) so I could afford to live within walking distance of my work at the time and without roommates.
Alternatively, change your means:
4) Make the most of the “Sharing Economy”
Using services like Airbnb, you can not only save money, but you can actually turn a profit. If you haven’t heard of it before, Airbnb is a website that allows users to rent or rent out unique spaces all over the world. If you are planning a vacation you can save huge by renting a space in someone’s house, or you can let out a space of your own.
Sound sketchy? Surprisingly it is not. I am actually a pretty active host myself, and it has given me the financial freedom I used to have, even with a more expensive place. It’s kind of like a second job only I set my wage and hours.
Don’t have a spare space? Sites like craigslist can be used to sell things you no longer need, uber may be coming to a city near you, and that’s just the tip of the sharing economy iceberg.
5) Lose the “I deserve it” mentality
I feel like I have been programmed to react to almost everything I feel by spending money. Bad day? Buy something to make yourself feel better. Good news? Congratulate yourself with something new. Break up? Usually leads to shopping.
I’m not saying we don’t all work hard and deserve to have some of the things we desire. But buy now, pay later (aside from an education or a house) is like always playing catch up with yourself. Guess what? By the time your next cheque rolls around you’re going to want something else.
6) Direct deposit into your savings
A few years ago when I got a job that came with a raise I was really proud of, I decided it was time to stop living paycheque to paycheque. I did this by setting up a direct transfer to a TFSA each time I got paid. It happens almost instantly so I don’t ever see the money in my account. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and with a tax free savings account you can withdraw without penalty (as long as you don’t contribute more than $5,000/year total, regardless of what you take out) if you need/want to.
Start making more? Make sure you call your bank to save more too.
What guidelines do you use to stay on track???
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