If you’re here, you might be a member of the FIRE community. You might already subscribe to a lifestyle of frugality and minimalism. Perhaps you’re a fellow reader of Mr. Money Mustache’s excellent blog. Like so many others, reading MMM was the spark that got me started on this journey — I find his attitude and approach inspiring, and I’ve tried to implement as many of his habits as I can to streamline our own lifestyle and get away from consumerism.
So it’s really tough to admit that there are certain things on which I just. can’t. get on board with the Mustachian agenda. When I come upon these points of disagreement, I feel like a consumerist zombie who has bought into the false bill of goods society has sold me. Then, I question whether I’ll ever reach financial independence with this softie attitude…. then I keep right on doing what I’m doing, and write you a blog post about it.
What am I (jokingly) beating myself up over today? Spending money on looks — clothes, hair, skincare, and makeup.
I have always found frugality and maintaining a pulled-together look to be in tension. During my entry level years making an entry level salary and living in painfully expensive New York, personal care took a major hit. I cut my own hair and wore clothes I had bought on an employee discount while working retail before starting my first professional job. I rarely bought new clothes or beauty products.
After a few years of this, things had badly declined. I opened my drawers and saw a sea of shabby, worn out clothes. I was making ends meet and saving money, but my personal image and confidence were suffering.
Fast forward to today, and I’m still feeling the tension. I go through phases of spending money on nice haircuts and products, then decide it’s too much, cut back, feel bad about how I look, go back to spending the money. When I got married a few years ago, I spent a small fortune on skincare and had glowing, beautiful skin on my wedding day. Immediately thereafter, I decided keeping up with the expense was frivolous, cut back, and went back to having unreliable, sometimes unmanageable skin. Same with clothes and makeup. Just an endless cycle of cutting back, feeling shabby, spending, then feeling sheepish about the spending….
I don’t watch much TV, but my husband recently introduced me to the rebooted Queer Eye and I tore through the entire season. I love how positive they are about each person — they’re not trying to make them into something they’re not, but trying to make them into a more polished version of themselves. It’s amazing the difference a little self-care can make in how people present and feel. An oft-repeated mantra around the Greener Pastures household is: “you look good, you feel good, you are good.”
And so… in preparation for my new job, and hot off a binge-watched season of Queer Eye, I went out and got A NICE HAIRCUT. And, GOT MY HAIR DYED. And, GOT MY NAILS DONE. And (not for the job, just for life), a BOUGHT A NEW PAIR OF JEANS. WHOA, Y’ALL. That was pretty spendy. It totally busted my March budget. But it did feel good to start the new job looking like the serious person I hope they’ll think I am…
And yet… my work wardrobe is still in such bad shape I find it hard to figure out what to wear every single day. My husband, too, talks about doing some wardrobe refreshing. So… for those of us who are not retired are still slogging along in the workplace with workwear needs, but trying to be frugal about it, what to do?!?!
I know MMM would say, go buy everything you need at Costco, and Mrs. MMM says use the same makeup for 10 years, you’re fine! But…. That ain’t working for me.
I’d like to cut out both the guilt of feeling like I’ve blown a bunch of money and the feeling of shabbiness that comes of letting things go too far without refreshing them. A friend recently told me she makes it a point to buy two new blazers each season. I thought this was a pretty good idea — if you buy 2 in the spring for spring/summer and 2 in the fall for fall/winter, you’d be buying 4 per year — that doesn’t sound so bad. You could set similar goals for other work staples, and then since you already planned to buy specific things, you wouldn’t be as likely to go off the deep end and buy a bunch of stuff you didn’t really mean to get.
Another option would be to pick an amount of money you want to spend each quarter on clothing, and then just stop fretting about it once you’ve made that decision.
On a whim, I decided this week to sign up for Le Tote (no, they’re not sponsoring me) and try clothing rental out. In theory, you could get some rotation into your wardrobe without actually having to buy and keep a lot of new stuff. Their subscription is a monthly charge, and you can send back your stuff as much as you want to get new stuff (or, if you like it, you can buy it)… I fear it might just be a sneaky way to get me to buy stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise bought, but I’m already in for a month, so I guess I’ll report back on how it goes!
What’s your solution to looking put together in a professional workplace without breaking the bank?? Or, have you reached some zen-like state of post-consumer freedom from these worries? And, if so, how do I get there too?!?!