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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vice, Virtue, Expensive Handbags

Sometimes I surprise myself. A new blogpal, Hostess of the Humble Bungalow (and beautiful garden), asked for advice on a new purse, while lamenting that she could never afford the LV, Chanel, or Hermes of her dreams. In my response, I said something along the lines of: Instead of buying a nice second choice bag a year, why not frugalize your life a bit and buy the one you want? I pointed out that if she cut out $100.00-$200.00 a month from her budget, she could get her bag in a year or two. At least the Chanel or the LV. She could maybe buy a Hermes wallet.

I know it can be done, because I did it. Mr. FS fell in love with some artwork in a gallery back in grad student days (circa 1978). It was called "Stitched Metaphor" and was made of strips of handmade paper stitched together. It was $300.00. That was the monthly stipend. We decided to get it together for $30.00/month. That proved pretty easy to do. The gallery owner let us take it home after a few months. She knew we would keep our promise. Surprisingly, we still like it, but even if we didn't, it would have been worth it.

When my future mother-in-law saw the artwork, she said, I wish I could afford something like that. People always say things like that. If I tell them they can afford it, they disagree.

I'm not a purse girl, but if Ms. Hostess is, why not pick a bag and use it for the next 5-10 years. They never go on sale, so you know you won't be upset to see one for half price.

I skimmed through a post on Get Rich Slowly, which was on how to deal with your financial vices. The vices in question were not heroin addiction or the like, but things like martial arts lessons. Commenters rightly pointed out that these were not really vices. Defining some of the wonderful things we can do with our money "vices" reminds me of the oft-heard Oh, I was bad. I ate cheesecake. OR I was wicked. I bought some shoes.

Honestly, the whole point of frugality is to be able to get what you desire. If someone handed me a couple of thousand dollars and said Indulge yourself!, I wouldn't buy a Chanel bag. I would probably buy an armoire.

I read somewhere that iconic bags can be sold on the secondary market for about 80% of their original price. So honestly, it's a good investment, at least compared to my mutual funds.

I await further reports from the Hostess on this important issue.


Duchesse said...

Consider consignment. Amazing- women turn in perfectly fine bags! In my city I regularly see Vuitton, St Laurent, sometimes Hermes. There are online sites if there's nothing in your town.

When people describe martial arts lessons as a "vice", it shows me why I don't read those blogs. A discretionary purchase is one thing, a vice is another, and if you don't know one from the other, you have not had much fun.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I will keep you in the loop as to my bag shopping!
I will also look into the suggestions made by Duchesse.

Revanche said...

Are you surprised that you've lived by perfectly sensible guidelines ever since grad school days? Because this sounds quite reasonable to me. :)

I may call things that aren't "indulgences" but only in respect to my personal budget. Like right now, I *really* want a nice apron, I'm cooking so much (see tomorrow's post!) but it would be an indulgent purchase on my currently irregular income. It's not a bad purchase in the long run, though, just not a good one right now.

Duchesse said...

Yes, Revanche! I much prefer the term "indulgence" or "treat" to "vice"- although my cooking is sometimes a crime.

Accounting Dude & Frugal Chick said...

It bothers me all the time when people say to me, "I wish I could afford to travel as much as you do." I have tired to explain how we are able to afford to travel and people just don't get it.

Funny about Money said...

"...the whole point of frugality is to be able to get what you desire."

Well said!

And one aspect of that is defining what you desire. Frugality allows us to identify a goal and attain it without having to ruin ourselves financially.

It's easy to lose track of this bright point of wisdom, and then to find oneself pinching pennies for no other reason than to pinch pennies. The point (i think) is to be able to live the way you please or to travel or to buy something you really do want, without having to feel bad about it.

heh heh... "Frugality is never having to say you're sorry."

metscan said...

Hi you!-Surprise. Please come over and visit my blog!

Chance said...

I'm with you, better to save up and get what you really want. The pleasure of having that bag, the one she really wants, will far outweigh the sense of deprivation she might feel with the bag she doesn't want. I'm in pay-down debt mode right now, so I can't afford the Shun knives of my dreams. But there is an envelope set up now, that is getting 10 bucks a month, as a committment to getting those very expensive knives in the future. I will really enjoy them.

metscan said...

Hi FS! If what you wrote, that the whole point of frugality is to be able to get what you desire, then I definitely want to be one. I got my first designer bag ( the one I have showed in my blog ), so that my husband called a YSL boutique in Germany ( he speaks the language, not me ). A very friendly Mr. Sharkey took charge on from there. And then one day- the UPS-service delivered the bag to me. All, but one of my bags ( 7) are bought in the same way. I got pictures via net of them and made purchases. Surely a designer bag is expensive, I have had to save in other things in exchange. But if you really want something badly, you are willing to make sacrifices! I´d much rather have one fine bag, than many just-so,so´s

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse-The only thing that would concern me about consignment is that it--like ebay--is a way to "launder" fakes.

@Hostess--I look forward to hearing about your decisions.

@revanche--The first thing most of our grad school friends did upon getting a job get in debt. Many of my colleagues have debt problems. So a period of poverty does not necessarily ingrain good habits.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Accounting Dude--Amy D of Tightwad Gazette says the same thing about some of her purchases. She also said that when she tried to explain how to do it, her listeners eyes would glaze over.

@Funny--Yeah--sometimes it's hard to figure out what you want--as opposed to what your parents, colleagues, and neighbors think you should want. Not to mention the advertising industry.

@metscan--hi! I am honored! I don't really have time to do it, so I will pass on to my daughter who is supposed to be starting a blog w/ a few of her friends.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Chance--Can't wait till you get your knife. Then you can tell me if it's as good as they say they are. My son wants a Global when he graduates, but maybe a Shun would be better.

@metscan--You exemplify the more European--or in your case Finnish--attitude toward material items. Buy less. Americans tend to want moremoremore. Quantity over quality. That's why the thrift stores in the US are overloaded--not the case in Europe.

metscan said...

Thank you F.S. for your reply. Most of the blogs I read are indeed by N.Americans, and I have silently been wondering about this craze over thrift-shops. I have had no idea what the secret of them is. But now I do. I´m still wondering that, is it absolutely so necessary to do all the buying, even if you can get it for practically free. Is all the stuff really necessary?

Chance said...

Well, don't tell him about Korin then

Global and Shun are mass-produced high quality Japanese knives, and whether one is better than the other is simply a matter of personal taste. Both knives are entry level compared to the Japanese knives at Korin which is like a crackhouse for Japanese loving foodies. There is a quail egg cutter for 8 dollars there that I want bad, and you can get a bespoke knife for a mere 1200 bucks. This site is wehre I go to drool while I keep my eye out for quail egg cutters at Goodwill.