How to Splurge Responsibly

how to shop splurge responsibly

The word “splurge” may call to mind a large, unplanned, impulse buy, and many splurges may occur under those circumstances. But splurges can be planned, prepared for, and worked into your spending plan. Let’s look at how:

Research

If you’ve decided that a Valentino dress needs to join your wardrobe, do loads of research on available styles, materials, colors, sizing variations, possible outlets for purchase, and return policies. Then evaluate when, how often, and with which accessories you’d wear the dress. Think carefully about how your purchase will be used. Often times, the item that sparks your initial feelings of object lust – be it a frock, handbag, piece of jewelery, or pair of shoes – may not actually work for your wardrobe, figure, or dressing needs. A splurge needn’t be an item that sucks loads of money out of your bank account, then languishes unworn. Do your research first.

Compare

The Internet is your friend. Truly it is. Once you’ve researched what you want to buy, start sussing out from whom you’ll be buying it. In this day and age, you should generally have access to at least three sources for nearly any luxury purchase.* Check shipping rates, size range availability, exchange and return policies. Do a Google search for the style and brand name and see what comes up in terms of material and color variations. In some cases, you may be limited to a single outlet, but it’s worth checking. You may find a better deal or more appealing version of your splurge-target.

Budget

This is the hard part, if you ask me. Retailers have done their best to create a climate of urgency in the shopping market these days, and it may be tempting to splurge on your splurge. But resist the urge. Unless you’ve got a surplus of money that is meant specifically for fabulous, spendy fashion items, make a budget plan and follow it. Break the total amount into weekly chunks and figure out how you can accumulate the dough quickly and efficiently. Cut back on entertainment so you can save faster. Carpool to work to conserve  gas money. Find ways to get the cash together, but don’t spend your rent on it and don’t charge it. And if you’re really worried about scarcity, ask about layaway. In this economy, more vendors than you’d expect are offering that option.

Buy

You know what you want, you know where it’ll come from, and you’ve got the cash in hand. FINALLY, the time has come for the splurging part of your splurge. In my opinion, the best way to purchase a spendy and long-lusted-after item is to make a day of it. Take the day off, get a pedicure, order a fancy brunch, spend some time in the store before you plunk down your moolah, and maybe schedule something fun so you can wear or start using your new purchase right away. Not always logistically possible, especially if you’re ordering online, but definitely adds to the splurge experience.

Enjoy

You’ve made an informed, big-ticket purchase. Use it often and proudly, knowing yourself to be a savvy splurger!

*Brand name luxury, that is. If you’re splurging on something handmade, your options will be considerably more limited.

Image is a Reed Krakoff bag. Isn’t it divine? I’m not saving for it myself, but I daydream of it …

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  • My shopping habits have changed considerably over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to shopping for luxury items. I no longer consider it a splurge and don’t really make an event out of it, because that ends up costing way more.
    I now shop for clothing maybe 5 to 8 times a year and I no longer permit myself free excursions to the mall just to browse. Taking the excitement out of it, the splurge factor if you will, has made me change focus in my life. I no longer think of shopping as a treat, a way to relax or reward myself.
    I still of course love, love clothing and accessories but I get far greater joy from looking at my closet, wearing the items I already have instead of forever pinning over something.
    It has definitely contributed to a happier lifestyle.

    • Anat

      I really like your advice. Over the past year my growing interest in style has substantially increased my expenditure, and I am battling to bring this back into control. I really want to be able to focus on what I have and enjoy it. But getting something new is just so tempting sometimes!

    • Molly

      I’m not quite there yet, but I get you in a way I wouldn’t have until recently. Even after a lot of weeding out, I still look in my closet and see a few items I love and a lot that are just okay. Even if they’re flattering, fun, and versatile, they don’t all feel like “me,” so I don’t wear them as much as those few pieces.

      I’m starting to pass by good deals on perfectly fine items, because I’m finally figuring out my personal style. I now want to spend more to get a smaller wardrobe of things that I really want to wear.

  • Excellent advice.

  • Yes! I totally agree with ALL of this post. Typically when I buy, it’s not unusual for me to buy on my credit card, knowing it’ll be paid off by the end of the month. This allows me a little freedom if that long-term want & desire comes up on a limited time sale, but I don’t get paid for a few more weeks. (Not the best route, but if I’m not carrying a balance, I don’t beat myself up too hard!)

  • Jude

    I use the envelope method for my splurges. I allow a certain amount of money to go into my envelopes every month. There are envelopes for everything from an emergency vet visit to a fabulous boot fund. It’s a cash only thing so there are no credit card purchases, no debt, and it makes me think two and three times before I make a purchase because I always ask myself if I can wait a little longer to get a better quality product.

  • Miss T

    When contemplating a splurge purchase, I actually consider whether I would I feel the same urgency to buy it if it WEREN’T considered a splurge purchase. If the answer is yes, then I go for it. If the answer is no, then I usually try to figure out what the allure of the item actually is and if I can find something with the same “sparkle” for me, but at a lower price, I go that route.

  • Anat

    I think I could count on one hand the number of items I’ve ever spent more than 150 bucks on – and even those items most have cost 200$ tops. There has never been anything I’ve craved enough to justify paying more than that. Brand names or luxurm items leave me cold, and fine jewelery likewise.

    I do overspend, but mostly on quantity.

    • Tara

      I totally agree about “luxury” items and brand names. I really can’t think of a single piece of clothing or jewelry that I own that cost more than $200 and even only a handful that cost over $100.

  • Bubu

    This is great advice. I experienced this exact phenom with two purses. One I bought on impulse at a Soho boutique that was going out of business – so it was way marked down but still WAY higher than my usual comfort level. And it is beautiful, I get a lot of compliments when I use it, but it is stiff and formal and a color that is difficult to coordinate, so I don’t use it much. Contrast to the Orla Kiely purse I splurged on last summer – I’d been eyeing it for years, thought how it would work for work and weekends, paid full price, and it was my reward to myself after finally being done lugging a diaper bag for 7 years. And I wore it EVERY DAY from the day I got it until I put it away for the winter and it brought a smile to my face every time. So yes, these guidelines are spot on!

  • Kate K

    Great advice Sal. I’m not one for big ticket splurges (mainly because I simply can’t afford it) but I am making a “someday” list and I’ll be sure to use these tips!

  • I have an annual clothing/accessories budget and everything, including splurges need to come from that. So if I make a splurge one month, I usually can’t buy anything in this category for a few months. I’ve consolidated my accounts on mint.com and it makes this type of budgeting so much easier to keep track of. And seeing this category next to the other important things I need money for really helps to curtail non-essential purchases.

  • Aziraphale

    Excellent suggestions! I agree especially with saving up for a purchase, rather than charging it.

    I’ve been known to use layaway before on Fluevogs. Three years ago I missed out on a pair of steampunk dream boots because I waited, and I still regret it. Since then there have been two occasions when a new style was offered that I desperately wanted, but had not budgeted for that month, so I asked to have them put on layaway. They were very accommodating.

  • I try to plan my splurges so I can save up for them (I buy myself a Christmas gift every year and an end-of-school-year gift, so I know I need to save up for them in advance.) I also set aside money that I earn that is unexpected or “extra” (picking up a weekend shift I normally wouldn’t work when saving up for something special.) Seems to work pretty well for me!

  • Anne

    This fall I bought a new leather jacket. I have been looking to buy one for the last few years. I researched on ebay and other sites and set in my mind what I felt comfortable spending. For two years nothing fell into my price range then on a day I was shopping for my husband, I popped into Wilson’s leather and there was my jacket: rich brown, moto style, on sale for $149.00. Called the hubs to check the finances and then bought it. I have been wearing it at least once a week for the past three months and I always feel very chic when I’m in it. I also love that I got exactly what I wanted for the price I wanted to pay.

  • Heather

    I rarely buy anything full price! I keep an eye out for sales and stalk clearance, and Ebay is my friend! The only time I spend full price is if I’m traveling and find a souvenir item of clothing, or if I need something last minute for a special purpose. (and on sports bras, because those things never go on sale for a 34F!)

    • Anneesha

      OOoh i hear ya about the bras! My weird 34F or 36E bra wardrobe is filled with elaborate, brightly colored balconnette styles from Nordstrom Rack that originally were $60-$80, on clearance for $16.99 … but to find a basic nude or black in that size, i have to save up and pay that full price.

  • For me, I tend to have a couple of steps for splurges.

    The splurge fund. I put any unused spending money aside for larger splurges down the line. This can fund either planned or unplanned splurges.

    The unplanned splurge. If I find an item that’s more expensive than I like to spend but still reasonable, and I LOVE IT (as in, I won’t take it off in the store and am standing in front of the mirror saying “damn I look hot”) I check against my splurge fund balance and if there’s free money and nothing earmarked, I’ll splurge.

    The planned splurge. This is when I see something like that purse and decide I Have To Have It. I start socking some extra money in the fund (cut my spending money in half, the other half automatically goes to the fund, for example). I also start evaluating the item I want to splurge on. Can I find something similar that I’ll love just as much for less? How much use do I anticipate getting?

  • Great post! I always take my time and save up for big-ticket splurges (usually purses) because it makes it more enjoyable knowing it’s really MINE.
    I’d also like to add that something I like to do is to keep socking away a little money even if there isn’t something specific that I’m saving up for. That way, I’m already on the road to saving up for the next big-ticket item, or who knows, I might already have the money for it and won’t have to wait until I’ve saved up for it to buy it.

  • poodletail

    Marvelous advice, whether your splurge is a $15 lipstick or a $1,500 jacket. Making an afternoon of it is a way to anticipate, enjoy, and savor the experience. It can also lead to a relationship with a sales associate who could be an ally for special deals in the future.

  • Great advice, Sal. In the past couple of years, I’ve treated myself to something splurge-y around the time of my birthday: Chanel bag (24th and 25th birthday), Prada shoes (26th), a new camera (27th). The purchases felt extra special even though I didn’t make a day of them because they coincided with my birthday and/or a vacation, and I’d already planned and saved for them.

  • Eliza

    My splurges fall into two categories: big and little. Big splurges come 1-2 times a year, depending on the price of the dream item. I tend to set a loose budget first, choose a specific hole in my closet I want to fill second, and shop last. This year I’m looking for a pair of flat brown boots, and the perfect chunky sweater if there’s enough left over.
    Little splurges come from my weekly budget. I ride the train home almost every weekend, which ends up costing about $11 total. Any weekend I don’t ride the train, I splurge on something small (less than $11) that seems a little frivolous but makes me really happy. This usually means a bottle of nail polish, something from the local thrift store, or fresh fruit/flowers. After I’ve made my splurge for the weekend, the change goes into general savings. This works for me, because I have an outlet for impulse purchases (which often feel more like a splurge than my larger but more practical purchases) but am still spending less than a ticket home.

  • I seldom splurge…and so I have birthday/christmas cash gifts from years ago in a sock drawer. Yes, a sock drawer. I had been looking at a Victorinox watch (Sundance catalog, cherry red face) for YEARS but I thought it was too pricey. Never goes on sale.

    And then it hit me….just open your sock drawer and order the dang thing! It arrived this morning and I’m delighted with it!

    • Sal

      YAY! So glad, Susan.

    • C’est Chic!

      Congrats, Susan! May your enjoyment endure (as I’m sure it will!)

  • Very good post. I agree on all points.

    When I fall for a luxury item, I think half the fun is the pining for it. If I don’t think of it, I don’t really want/need it. But if it keeps popping into my head and I can’t stop thinking about after a month, then I know there is some merit to it. I recently “splurged” (with a plan) on a pair of Chie Miharas I had been salivating over for 3-4 months. I am thrilled they are mine and I know I will enjoy them greatly. Even better they were even more comfortable than I had dared hope.

  • My last splurge was a Skingraft skirt. It is AWESOME – layers and layers of frills and metal rings. It looks like a carnival skirt. I have been eyeing the thing up for literally 2 years, but it was about $250US, plus high shipping because I’m in New Zealand. But one day I was on the site and saw they knocked $100 off, so I was IN.
    The thing about splurges I think is you have to look at the cost-to-wear ratio. For me, I love outlandish, dramatic clothing, so while in NZ dollars this skirt was RIDICULOUSLY expensive, even on sale, I’ve already worn it so much, and every time I do I’m all smile because the frills make me happy and I clip things on the rings, that it’s been more than worth it.

  • Tracy

    Since I do a lot of shopping at my local resale shop (I get a lot of “free trades”) and thrift stores I don’t really spend much on clothing. However, I always allow myself a splurge during Christmas and my birthday, usually a pair of really NICE shoes or boots. 🙂

  • Carol N.

    I put the unexpected money towards splurges – bonus checks, birthday cash, even rebate checks from other things I’ve purchased go in a ‘splurge’ fund. I don’t always splurge on clothing items though but I have been looking at some blue leather boots for over a year now and even though our winter weather never gets really cold enough for boots, I may just have to order them since I keep going back to them over and over.

  • Mel

    I buy jewelry once a year with a planned splurge. Knowing that I will get at least one fabulous piece every year kills cravings for junk and I enjoy the game of putting things on and off my wish list during the year. I’m sure the one year cooling off period has eliminated a lot of poor choices.

  • Impish

    I’ve only splurged once and it was totally worth it – I’d admired the mulberry bayswater bag for literally years, and this past summer when I finally finished med school and got a Real Job, I bought it. It cost almost half my first paycheque – but since that first paycheque was over twice what I’d been living off each month for the past five years at uni, it felt totally manageable. I’ve been responsible with my money ever since, but I use that bag every day, it’s still as stunning as the first time I saw and admired one, and I figure that if I was lusting after one for that long I’m not likely to go off it anytime soon now I actually have it.

  • It’s been fascinating to me to watch my “wants” lists change since I’ve been blogging. Some items disappear after a week or two and other persist for months until I find it in the thrifts. My closets are now stuffed and my project for the new year is to learn to delay gratification with the end goal of buying designer something or others. I have a budget for the year, but truth be told, I am already stalking a Hermes scarf on eBay! Yikes!

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  • Great post, the word “splurge” makes me nervous so this is definitely advice I can use!

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  • V

    I agree with your article completely. Over the past few years I have dedicated my splurges to handbags such as the marc jacobs stam, proenza shouler ps1, miu miu st cocoa, louis vuitton duffel bag, balenciaga motorcycle bag, balenciaga wallet, louis vuitton recital bag, prada makeup bag and i think thats it. I am hoping to add ONE more bag to this collection (a hermes birkin bag) hopefully oh and i think i need a chanel… classic.. I think that these are all classics and some are must haves which is why i make the splurge. Also handbags are something a women wears every day! They are used so often. I’m hoping to start splurging on shoes soon specifically christian loubitons 🙂 Occasionally I’ll splurge on winter jackets because I think its important to have nice warm coats that will be worn all throughout winter. Other than that I wear mostly basics. I only splurge on things that I will be wearing every day such as bags coats and shoes. Def are things worth the splurge 🙂