Investing in the Right Items: How to Buy For Your Lifestyle

“Buy investment pieces!” is advice trumpeted by just about every blogger, yet items showcased often include items that are very clearly not synonymous with the individual’s lifestyle. It’s an easy trap to fall into. For years, magazines and the media have convinced us all that purchasing “investment” items is the way to go–but it’s never just one investment item (i.e. one bag); it’s many. You need this bag! one magazine will say. You’ll use it forever. But then in the next sentence, another luxury item will be put on display. No, this one! And then you look up and you’ve spent thousands of dollars on handbags (or shoes, or sweaters–whatever happens to be your particular weakness), and all of them are specifically of a time and place and look dated–and the cycle starts again.

The solution is simple: exercise your agency and be happy with what you own. But the implementation of that solution is almost impossible. With the constant push–on social media, on blogs, in newspapers and magazines–to own more, to consume more, how do you have the willpower to look away?

I feel the urge myself, and more often than I’d care to admit. It’s particularly strong when I’m at a loss for what to wear. Now that life has picked up again and I’m in my thirties, a lot of my clothing from my twenties no longer fits my lifestyle. I’ve donated quite a lot, but that’s left holes in my wardrobe that I’ve been unable to fill. Part of that is because it’s so hard to find well-made staple pieces. At this point in my life, I’m settled in my style, and I intend to purchase only what I’ll continue to wear in the years and decades to come. I’m happy to invest my time and energy into finding these pieces, and investing my money when I do find them. But actually locating items to fill these wardrobe gaps is another problem.

I’ve noticed that pieces billed as “classics” in this day and age generally can only be considered “investment items” based on their high price tag. My criteria seem simple and attainable (you can find my list here). It shouldn’t be so hard to find these pieces.

So how do you avoid the “investment item” trap? How do you avoid settling for something that seems pretty good but not perfect? I don’t have a perfect answer (and I wish I did!), but here are the things that have helped me.

Define your style

Defining my style has been the single biggest help in avoiding investment items (and any item, really) that don’t work for me. I have my list of items and silhouettes that I know work for my body. I know what types of accessories work for me right now and which ones don’t. When I stick to those lists, I make fewer mistakes.

Make a list of the gaps in your wardrobe

Are you missing a good everyday, semi-casual dress? Shorts for running around town? A good pair of slacks? Make your list of wardrobe holes and stick to it. It removes temptation because you know what you need and can focus your shopping energies on closing those gaps.

Figure out what works for your lifestyle

Are you a mom constantly running around with your little one? Are you living in the city and dress to impress every day? Figure out what works for your lifestyle and embrace that. Don’t get tempted into buying a new designer bag if your lifestyle is of the boat & tote variety (no shame; mine is!) Buy what you need and what works–otherwise you’ll spend money on something that will never be used.

What helps you steer away from unnecessary purchases?

6 thoughts on “Investing in the Right Items: How to Buy For Your Lifestyle

  1. Since I limit my purchases to replacements of timeless pieces, a the question I ask myself is whether am I willing to toss/donate the original? If I’m not, I know this new item doesn’t pass muster & I let it go. Perhaps that will help someone else; it works well for me!
    I adore your blog. Thank you!

    1. GREAT criteria, Nancy! I think that’s a brilliant way to judge whether or not you need something new.

      Thank you for your kind words about my writing! Happy Fourth of July if you celebrate!

  2. It can be so hard to even find simple, classic pieces that are worth investing in! I have outlined the gaps in my wardrobe, but finding items to fill these gaps is proving challenging.

  3. Criteria for me is also color. The biggest money saver in the purchase of clothing has been knowing what colors work best for my skin tone/hair color/eyes. It makes shopping so much easier and give me a wardrobe that fits together like a puzzle.

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