Save vs. Splurge

{By Rachel Coker}

If you’re anything remotely close to a living, breathing female human being, you probably spend a lot of money on clothes.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing—it’s just a fact. Hey, I’m right there with you! One trip to the local J. Crew store can wipe me out for the month, and leave me sitting on my bed surrounded by my leopard print pencil skirt, red patent wedges, and cashmere twinset (hey—it was sixty percent off!) and wondering, “Where did all my money go?”

My biggest problem with shopping is knowing when to save and when to splurge. I’m a huge bargain shopper, so I tend to get my priorities messed up sometimes. I spend all my money on adorable, crazy clearance items that are colorful and cute and feminine, but probably not the best thing to pull out on an average forty-degree day in November. I mean, those pink and purple suede heels are so adorable, but seriously—how many chances will I get to wear them on a regular basis? Not exactly the most practical thing to throw on while running to Walmart. Just saying.

All of my adventures (and misadventures) in shopping have led me to develop a set of guidelines for my buying habits. Because I tend to go a little crazy at the J. Crew clearance racks, I needed to come up with a plan for my money, so that I actually invest in the things I need while still having cash left over for those fun little purchases that just make life a happy place.


The first thing I had to learn how to do was stop spending so much money. Ugh. This was hard for me. Because, like I said, I love getting a good deal! But I had to finally get to a point where I could see a cute pair of shoes on sale, take a deep breath, and honestly say to myself, “I don’t need these hot pink wedges. I will rarely ever wear them and I need to keep saving for a pair of boots.” Then I can walk away with my wallet still full and my conscience still clear. It’s hard, but very rewarding to be able to outline what frivolous purchases fit into your budget, and what items you just need to walk away from.

Tanks and Camis

I think this goes without saying, but it’s just as important what goes under your clothes as on top of them. Duh, I know. But anytime I find basic tanks and camis on sale, I buy them. My only standard is that they have to be cotton and they have to be under ten dollars. But I’ve found so many great basic pieces on sale at Gap or Target, that I never have to spend more than five or six bucks for a cami. So I buy them cheap, and I buy them in every color imaginable, because I know I’ll wear them every day. Modest is hottest, people. Buy some tanks and camis to wear under your favorite tops and dresses.

Gap cami - $11

Gap cami – $11


I never spend that much on jackets. I’m not sure why, but they’ve never seemed that important to me. Coats are important. Jackets aren’t. Weird. I think it’s because I always cover up my jackets with scarfs anyway, and everyone’s so busy looking at the cute scarf that they rarely notice the jacket underneath it. So I can get away with basic khaki jackets and colorful cotton blazers. A great jacket doesn’t have to cost more than twenty dollars. Try looking on clearance racks around November or December, and you’ll find tons of nice, high-quality jackets for under thirty dollars.

Target blazer - $30

Target blazer – $30


I have friends who will argue this to the death with me, but I just do not see the point of buying expensive makeup. I am a Covergirl-girl through and through, and I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than five bucks on a tube of mascara. Twenty-five dollars for mascara is insane. Just get the kind in the pink and green tube (I think it’s Maybelline?) that only costs a few dollars. Get yourself some CVS coupons and buy some cheap makeup, and I bet no one else will even tell the difference.

Maybelline mascara - $5

Maybelline mascara – $5


Huge kudos to the few celebrities that are actually making cardigans cool again. (I’m talking to you, Zooey Deschanel!). The general public is eating it up, and more stores than ever have adorable cardigans on their shelves this fall. I pick them up on the clearance racks at J. Crew, Gap, and Banana Republic all the time for fifteen dollars or so each. I wear them all the time, and they last quite a while, so I’d say they’re a great cheap find!

J C Penneys Cardigan - $14

J C Penneys Cardigan – $14


I never really bought expensive clothing until I was in my teens. I could never justify asking my parents to spend the money, and I was growing at such an excessive rate (we’re talking five-foot-six in fifth grade) that none of my clothes stayed in my wardrobe for very long. But then I got older, and started making my own money, and slowly began realizing that some things are just better the more expensive they are. Not in a snobby way, but in a totally practical way. High quality leather is just always going to beat pleather. It’ll last longer, look better, and totally make up for however much you spent on it. However, buying nice things takes time. You have to save. It takes making little sacrifices (like saying no to some frivolous purchases), and even bargain hunting to find the most bang for your book. Here are a few of the things I think every girl should save for and then splurge on.

Leather boots

I mean, come on. You will wear them every day. You know it. And while you could buy a thirty dollar pair right now, how long do you really think they will last? I learned the hard way that after a while, cheap boots just look, well, cheap. So here is my secret for getting really nice leather boots: Save your money for a while, and then never pay full retail. This fall, I saved up $170 for a nice pair of boots. And I was super determined to find a pair of $300 boots for that very price. And I did! After weeks of perusing Ebay,, and Sundance Catalog Outlet, I found the perfect pair of boots. They were brand new, one hundred percent leather riding boots by J. Crew, and they retailed for $358. I made an offer and bought them for $170. And you know what? I know for a fact that I will wear those boots with everything, and I bet they will last for years. Dresses, tights, jeans… They were a great investment and well worth the extra money.

Nine West Boots - $110 (on sale from $170!)

Nine West Boots – $110 (on sale from $170!)

Special Occasion Dresses

This may seem contradictory, since the whole point of this article is to splurge on items you will wear all the time, but sometimes it’s just as important to feel special on one particular night. And the fancy dresses at Forever 21 don’t always cut it. Sometimes you just need a gorgeous vintage cocktail dress or shimmery blue gown to really make you feel beautiful. And those things don’t always come on a clearance rack. Sometimes it’s worth it to save your money and splurge on the most gorgeous dress you can afford. Memories don’t come with a price tag, and you’ll complete forget about the pain of pinching all those pennies when you step out in that gorgeous dress. It’ll be so worth it.

Modcloth dress, $165

Modcloth dress, $165


Believe it or not, as much shopping as I do, I only buy about one handbag a year. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love bags, but cheap purses just won’t cut it. They get scuffed and damaged way too easily, and usually aren’t structurally sound. I’d much rather save for a month or two and buy one really nice, classic bag, then wear it every single day. Once again, this is where bargain shopping comes in handy. The last bag I bought this year was way back in the spring. I saw it on the Kate Spade website, fell in love, and bookmarked the page. Then I waited until it went to clearance, was price cut after a few weeks, and then was cut again when the whole website had a sale. I used a coupon, got free shipping, and my bag ended up being close to seventy percent off the original price. But it’s still a great, high-quality bag that I wore almost every day this summer.

Cambridge Leather Satchel, $102

Cambridge Leather Satchel, $102

What items do you save on, and what do you think is worthy of splurging? Everyone has a different opinion, so it’s all about what’s important to you!