One Year Purchase Review: April 2015

I appear to have completely, shamelessly abandoned my personal budget in April 2015! In my defense, I did earn $800 of freelance money, so I guess I decided to just spend that instead of saving it toward our goals. This is why I feel like freelance is a losing game for me: I get so stressed by the extra work that I just spend all the extra money.

The purchases were part spring fever, and part legitimately work wardrobe-related. This was the month I decided to "invest in my wardrobe," with mixed results! I'll start off with the biggest, boldest purchase of all...

Blazer: $293.24

This is by far the most I have ever spent on a single item of clothing. It's a high-quality, name-brand, charcoal gray, wool, silk-lined blazer, suitable for work. At first, the price tag made me say, "No way!" But the fit was unlike anything I have ever worn. It was the first and only item of clothing that I have had NO reservations about the fit or the look. It was just perfect, and instantly made all my outfits look more professional. I could literally wear jeans and T-shirt under it and I would still look meeting-ready.

Worth the money? Yes. I absolutely still have and frequently wear this, and it continues to be my object lesson in "you get what you pay for… (some things are worth paying for!)"

Stitch Fix: $214

This was my first and most successful Stitch Fix. I used the service a few times before deciding that I was too specific about what items I wanted, and too likely to send things back. I do think that the experience helped me to get a better handle on what my "work style" was (not that I still have that work style, since I now work at a more formal office), and also helped solidify for me that I don't actually care that much about style!

In this case, I kept three of the items: a $99 pair of skinny jeans, an $89 navy blue dress, and a $26 metal cuff bracelet. I'd deem this semi-successful. The dress is still in my wardrobe, and I like it a lot. The jeans looked amazing on me for a few months, but then I stopped wearing them, and now they no longer seem to fit (I'm not sure if they ever did, really.) The bracelet, which was made of thin wires, came apart and began to stab me within a few months. But the dress! The dress.

Worth the money? $89 yes, $125 no.

Rain Jacket - $56.21

This is mostly a practical purchase, since we get very rainy springs here, and our summers are peppered with sudden rainstorms. I still have this, and like it. It's waterproof. It fits. And it's hot pink, so I like wearing it!

Worth the money? Yes.

Four (4) Pairs of Smartwool Socks - $36.59

I had just learned about wool socks, which I completely still endorse. They're warm but also breathable, so you can wear them all year round! These weren't the smartest purchase, though. The Smartwool brand is okay (not as good as Darn Tough, in my opinion), but my big mistake was getting "lifestyle" socks instead of hiking/walking socks. Lifestyle socks come in cute colors, but they're thin, and most of these ones developed holes within a year. I walk a lot, so cushioned and reinforced socks are not only more comfortable, they're a smart investment, since they last longer. That said, I could probably only get 1-2 pairs of hiking socks for this price point.

Worth the money? Sorta? Let's say "qualified yes," or ½ worth the money ($18.29 yes, $18.30 no.)

Goodwill stuff - $33

Over three separate shopping trips. I have no idea what this was (I didn't take notes).

Worth the money? I'm going to say yes since I enjoy Goodwill shopping. Even if I don't still have the items I bought, they were probably worth it even if I only wore them a small number of times.

H&M Tank Top - $5

I was wowed by the low price point, but I don't think I even wore this once.

Worth the money? Nope! This is the opposite of the stance I took with Goodwill ("eh, cheap, so probably fine"), both because I'm pretty sure I never wore the item, and because the environmental cost of new fast fashion is far greater than the fairly harmless hobby of Goodwill "borrowing" (since I return almost everything eventually!)

2 pairs of shoes - $160

Unlike the two pairs of shoes I picked out for myself from a kindly old man at a shoestore in March 2015, these shoes were purchased off my friend, the Practical Cranberry Nut Roll, after she tried them from her Zappo's order but found the fit slightly off. (We wear the same shoe size, but have different foot shapes.) She suggested that the navy blue cloth pumps and teal fancy sandals might work for me. I tried them on, and they both turned out to be fantastic fits and very comfortable! I agonized about spending so much on a whim for things I hadn't even picked out, but I'm so glad I got them both. Nut has classier taste in shoes than I do, and the shoes filled roles that I didn't already have locked down because I'm so bad at shopping for nicer things. Also, the colors were great for my palette.

Worth the money? Absolutely. I went from not knowing what shoes to wear for work or classy occasions in the spring and summer, to absolutely having those categories locked down. These remain two of the most comfortable, best looking work/occasion shoes I have ever owned.

Binoculars - $60.19

I already had a $300 pair of binoculars which I used for evening and weekend birdwatching ventures, so it felt frivolous to get a second pair, but I wanted a pair that I could leave at work, since I often went birdwatching along the river near my office building at lunch time. I didn't want to mess up my expensive pair by transporting them constantly, nor did I want to leave an expensive pair in my unlocked desk (not that anyone would probably steal my binoculars--and they didn't!) I was shocked by how similar in quality this pair was to my $300 pair, making me feel a little foolish about getting such an unnecessarily fantastic pair before. Actually, I sometimes prefer using the cheaper pair since I don't worry as much about losing or damaging it.

Worth the money? Absolutely. Even if I'd only used these binocs for work birding during the six clement-weather months I held the job by the river, it would have been worth it: $10 a month for a totally absorbing, extremely enjoyable, sanity-saving lunchtime activity? Yes please! But I still do use these today when I go birding with my wife. It's nice to have two pairs of good binoculars so we don't have to trade back and forth.

3 linen T-shirts - $51.75

I got these lightweight, slouchy, linen shirts for warm and springy weather, and I ended up loving them for the most part. One of them didn't look quite as good as the other two due to the colors, but I didn't come to that conclusion until I'd worn and washed them, so I couldn't return it; I just donated it. The remaining two ended up being staples of my summer wardrobe since they were so lightweight and airy and cute-looking. I still have them, although now they seem to be a bit too small. I'm not sure if I grew or they shrank.

Worth the money? Let's say $34.50 yes, $17.25 no (for the two I kept vs. the one I gave away). Even if I don't wear them again this year, they got a ton of wear last year, and I'm actually considering getting one or two similar tops in the next size up to replace them.

Hemp T-shirt - $34

I already had this shirt in black, and I loved it. It was one of the few black items that I insisted on keeping post-Color Revolution. I think this was an attempt to get it in a color more suited to my palette, gray, but the actual shade of gray was very brownish, and not really my color at all. Besides, the second T-shirt just wasn't as good as the first. The stitching unravelled, and it just didn't look as nice. I'd say this was another lesson in "don't try to replicate success in another colorway," but I actually did end up getting the same shirt again in blue just last month, and I like the blue one a lot! So, who knows. Life is random.

Worth the money?I guess I'll come down on the no side here, since I should have returned it when I saw it wasn't really my gray.

Earbuds - $16.49

These just broke last month!

Worth the money? I guess yes, I mean, $16.49 is worth it to have earbuds for a year, I guess. I replaced them with the exact same kind.

The Reckoning

Total Spend: $960.47 (of which $883.71, or 92%, was clothes!)
Total Worth It: $760.92, or 79% of total spend. Not bad, really!
Total Not Worth It: $199.55, or 21% of total spend. A low percentage but still a fair amount of money. $99 of this was a pair of jeans that no longer fits, and $100.55 of it was dribs and drabs of middle-priced items.

Lessons Roundup

  • If you find EXACTLY THE RIGHT THING, it's worth the money. I haven't given a second thought to finding a blazer since then, and it was a nigh-impossible task before!
  • I'm too picky for Stitchfix.
  • Practical outdoor gear is usually worth the money--and getting a fun color doesn't hurt!
  • For a "fast fashion" fix, Goodwill is your friend. Avoid H&M.
  • Nut Roll has better taste in shoes than I do.
  • If color is as important to you as it is to me, limit online clothes shopping to stores with good return policies, and take advantage of them! Colors are hard to gauge from photos on a monitor. Don't convince yourself to like it, don't promise yourself you'll dye it. Immediately return anything that isn't the color your dreamed and expected.
  • Investing in gear for a hobby that brings you a lot of joy is a good idea, but it's a good idea to check if you really need the top-of-the-line stuff. High-end gear may not be worth it if you don't notice a big difference in quality for your purposes, and you may actually feel freer with an easily replaceable middle-of-the-road item.


  1. I did freelance this year too, but same as you I get so stressed out that I buy myself delicious lunches. It's not a perfect solution.


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