23 September 2013

how to budget for your wardrobe destiny: a verbose guide to black crow existence

Got an email the other day -- and quite a few similar -- that I'll address them all in this post for future reference. Here's the email:

From this post : A CDG mix of gifted clothing and clothing I bought. The TAO CDG shirt was a $10 thrift find from a friend, the CDG skirt was around $120 at the annual archive sale. Shoes were a gift from the brand and the jacket was on loan. I bought my glasses at a local vintage store. 
Let me give you some background on how I accumulate nice things, first, so you know where I'm coming from. I won't give you my like, tax records or specific details about my class status (y'all don't really need to be that much up in my business, I come from a working class background and I receive financial aid from school, that's the basics) but essentially I afford my luxury lingerie and CDG via a lot of bargain hunting and budgeting of my income from working 6 days a week. It might seem like I have an endless amount of CDG, this is just because I only like photographing and memorializing the items I'm wearing and love the most and those happen to be it. I'm presenting to you an editorialized version of my life and you shouldn't forget it. Anyway, I buy the majority of it myself, though there are a few pieces here and there that were gifts from friends or from the designers because I'm a lucky girl. Mostly it's all me working a little bit above minimum wage and budgeting seriously for months at a time. This is going to be a LONG post, so half of it is under the cut.

How do I budget?

This post operates on the premise you have some source of income, if you don't, I'm sorry, this post will probably be useless to you. Moving on from that point, to manage income & expenses, I use the app called Mint on my phone (available on both android and apple products) to track my finances and have multiple budgets laid out for my finances. 
  • By being specific. I have my monthly budget laid out pretty specifically into four to five categories, but I tend to adjust it every two months according to my income and priorities at the time. 
  • By holding myself accountable. If and when I go over budget, I pay myself back so I don't fall behind on my budgets or goals. If I over spend in a category, I make up for it in another that month and sacrifice one thing for another. This is super important: self-restraint and recognizing your discipline is the really the only thing that keeps you on track in the end. No one is (I hope)  making you buy things outside of survival necessities like rent, groceries, medications, transportation -- it's you making these choices, so you need to be very conscious about your limits. 
  • By making it simple. I mark down my paydays and automatically have a certain amount of money go from one account into my savings every payday. This is super simple, lazy budgeting, you don't have to worry about it that way. It's just done for you. Putting aside $50 a month automatically into savings, taking into account interest, means you're automatically saving minimum $600 a year. That's awesome and basically effortless.
  • By using every resource available. I use financial calculators on a regular basis. There are plenty of them online, I use the ones on Mint.com, but you don't need to. Here is one, I just plugged in an example amount. $900 can get you so much CDG on ebay via resellers, or multiple items at their annual sample sales, etc. 

Source: Time Value Financial Calculators

Here is an example of what Mint.com does for you in terms of goals. The downside to Mint.com's goal-keeping is that unless you have an individual account dedicated to your goal savings amount, it'll just assume whatever amount of money you have in the account it's linked to is 100% dedicated to your goal. If you open up another account just for your savings goal, though, it'll be accurate and send you weekly and monthly alerts to let you know how you're doing and what you can do to improve.  As it stands, I always over-shoot the goal amount to compensate for the money in the account that isn't dedicated to the goal.

I used Mint to track and calculate how much I needed to save and when for my London trip, which I paid for 100% myself through work-study at school. I found it super helpful for that actually. You can constantly update and monitor yourself on your phone or online, and organize your purchases and income and expenses by category (like Shopping, Education, Tax-Free, etc) which comes in handy during Tax season. It'll also show you the average amount US consumers spend in each category and how you match up. (I don't know what the average US consumer is supposed to be, but whatever.)

Here are some other budgeting apps.

My first super investment was this CDG dress, purchased at the first CDG Archive sale. Paired with a thrifted Gap striped shirt and my mother's vintage Junko Koshino suit jacket. Post here.

How do I decide when and where to invest?

I spend most of my money dedicated to clothes in one month, whatever  month the CDG sale is. So, May. I might buy a lingerie set every three or four months on super sale and that might set me back $60 or something similar, but then I work overtime to make up the difference. I never, ever buy anything full price. Not ever. I will wait months and months if I have to to get something I want on clearance, but that is perfectly fine with me. Here are some questions I ask when I buy a thing:

  • How long have I been wanting this? Why do I want this? -- If the answer is only a few weeks (or even just that day) or even just a month, I'm not gonna get it. I buy things that haunt my dreams and that I've already imagined in my closet and in endless variations of outfits. It has to mentally be mine already before I hand over my money. Do I want this because I saw it on three other girls that I'm envious of or do I want this because it will get me closer to my ideal look and goes well with other things I already own? Am I being influenced by shit bloggers wear?
  • Is the material and quality worth the price? I'm straight up obnoxious about the fabrics I want. This doesn't mean I haven't forked over hundreds of dollars for polyester, it just means I have spent a lot of time researching why they used polyester instead of like, a pure cotton blend. Rei and other designers I like often use manmade materials because cotton and jersey don't stand up to the processes they like their clothes to go through. They'll double boil wool and custom dye it, then stamp it with rubber cement, blah blah blah. That being said -- I'm not down with paying hundreds of dollars for a dress made of polyester blend that is scratchy and is comparable to a fast fashion dress that will inevitably be made in imitation. I want to spend my money on designs worthy of the hours I put in to afford it, and I want those designs to be inimitable (or the original of many imitations) and ethically made. These requirements eliminate a lot of things for me, which just makes buying shit way easier in the long run. I know lots of high-end brands that use sweatshops or other fuckups, and I don't buy from them. These are the same designers lots of people masturbate over on style.com every season -- your faves probably aren't perfect. 
    • When it comes to lingerie, pricing and value have to be measured differently than other things. I know plenty of people complain about a mid-range bra like, Huit or something, costing $60, when we'd all like to pay a cool $10. Well, that shit ain't happening, buddy. I only buy lingerie on sale, but even then, it still needs to be budgeted for because a bra on sale might still be $60 as opposed to a fast fashion set which might be like, $30. But you know what? Considering the quality of the materials and the time it takes to draft comfortable bras in small (and ethical) workshops, and all the time that is put into it, I'm fine with it. People deserve to be paid for their work just as much as I want to have nice things in exchange for my work. Capitalism tells us we should consume a lot for as little effort as possible, but when that comes at the cost of someone getting screwed over, I would really rather not participate. I started a pretty rad discussion about lingerie pricing on my Tumblr, should you wish to know more about the industry and  it's prices. 
  • Basic questions we can all consider: how much will I be paying per wear? If you're buying a well crafted staple item for $60, like a well made bra, you might wear it twice a week, for 3 years or something like that. By the end of the first year, the cost per wear will be down to $0.57. When you think of it this way, poorly made, lower quality items will be rags by the second year, but a well made, ethically produced shirt will last you (ideally) a lot longer. There are exceptions to this of course, but I think it fits the bill mostly. I think long term and examine garment construction & quality before I plunk down my dough. Some designer is made terribly, some is made perfectly. I don't think a label makes anything inherently more valuable, there are extenuating circumstance to everything. You've just got to be an educated consumer and determine if something is worth it to you, based on the quality involved, and the circumstances you're living with. Another question: If I don't buy this now, will I be able to in the future? I set aside a large lump sum for an annual major purchase at the Archive sale because I know there is absolutely no other opportunity for me to buy seasons old comme in person at such a steep discount. All of the purchases I've made at an archive sale have been iconic looks that are basically future museum pieces, and I know that they will be impossible to buy elsewhere. If it's something #iconic in a rare way, I suck it up.There are items from labels that are constantly re-issued, though, and the prices never go down on these. Like Margiela Tabis -- you're never really going to find them for less than a fixed price, because they are a staple of the brand. There are things that will not be reproduced and will just fall into oblivion and there are things that will be there season after season. Depending on what it is, I factor my budgeting and time necessary to meet my goal accordingly. 
In the end, though, these are just my personal guiding questions based on the things I already own and the circumstances I find myself in. I am a very privileged girl in the scheme of things, many things people find themselves paying for, I receive for editorial consideration or as gifts or as compensation from my work. I hope I'm very clear about this privilege, I know there are a lot of people who blog who aren't and it's hard to trust voices because of it and I want to have that baseline of trust with you (I'm also a journalism major, so it's been ingrained in me that blogging without disclosure and some kind of editorial distance is unethical.). I do work and earn these so called 'free' things through the labor I go through photographing, networking, styling, assisting, researching, writing, etc, to become a trusted voice in the beauty and fashion blogospheres, so I don't really consider anything "free". These things still come at a cost of time and money spend to get to a place of influence.

Alright. I've got the money now, but where do I go from here?

If you've managed to set aside some lump sum to go to something you've dreamed about -- congrats! On my sidebar, I have a list of places where I personally shop. My favorites for lingerie are ASOS, Journelle, Hautelook, the Outnet, Yoox, and Gilt. Net-a-porter occasionally has great discounted designer lingerie too, but you have to constantly check for your size. I buy 100% of my lingerie online, even if i visit Journelle's brick-and-mortar locations to try things on. I list where I buy lingerie here in much more detail. My friend Cora has an amazing blog with tons of lingerie resources should you choose to explore other options, I realize my selections suit smaller busts like mine but leave the rest out in the cold.

For clothing -- I sometimes honestly find designer for very, very cheap at Beacon's Closet or other thrift & consignment stores in the city. It's not that hard to do, you just have to be thorough. I love Tokio 7 too, it's a fashion kid staple. But these are inaccessible if you aren't located near Manhattan, I get it. If you have a Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack or even Burlington or something similar nearby you in the suburbs, chances are you can get a decent selection of mid-range to high end from there, too. I got my Gareth Pugh & Alexander Wang things from Nordstrom Rack actually in Los Angeles for like, 20% the retail prices. You can also snoop through Ebay and other online retailers and get good deals if you find reputable sellers. I've purchased from A Bathing Ape Tokyo's Ebay store before, and NYC A La Mode before as well, both are reputable and offer decent prices -- you might find better prices on the ABA stuff, but NYCALM run 20% off sales on already discounted items in perfect condition and you likely won't, unless you get lucky at a consignment store or a sample sale.

So. The short of it? Research and self discipline and resources makes my closet happen. I check multiple sources on a daily or weekly or monthly basis and I have no shame about trying to find coupons, discounts, or networking for discounts through friends. For every big ticket purchase, I put a lot of hours in to pay the sticker price but even more to actually find (or wait) for the opportunity to actually buy it. Research is what saves you the money in the end. I hope you found this helpful & leave a comment with your own consumer methodology, I'm super curious! 


Jamie James said...

Thank you Arabelle! I've been following for years and always admired your ability to save up as a young person.

Disco Abe said...

Very good post.

Hazel said...

Suuuper helpful. Mint is the best thing ever. I recently opened a separate account for my freelance dough and every month a little bit transfers to my savings. I have friends and family who don't even have a savings account and I can't fathom why anyone would choose not to open one. As you said, it's basically effortless! And there's no monthly fee for students, at least at my bank.

Much respect for putting this together, girl. There's always a bit of fear that goes into talking about money and dealing with finance but I think it all stems from not knowing how some things work. The only way to get over that is by educating yourself/googling the hell out of everything really. god if only they taught us this stuff in grade school!

I know I'll make real use of your tips, so thanks for your transparency. you da best, but you already know that, hah

Christian Anhalt said...

thank you so much for this

Arabelle Sicardi said...

I think the stigma is so so damaging and def bleeds into my relationships with other people. Actually in my middle school, bankers from like, Goldman Sachs and Chase etc would visit us and explain to us basics of checking and interest etc on a yearly basis and give us workbooks, which I gather is unusual but their offices were also located like three blocks away and I figure it was like early recruitment. I found it very annoying at the time but now I'm very grateful because that early introduction to savings and practical mathematics prepared me really well. I've definitely made mistakes re: my finances before but it's all a learning experience.

I probably need to get around to opening up a seperate account for freelancing too, now that you mention it. I'm dragging my butt but I truly dread tax period right now lol.

Happy to help.

Arabelle Sicardi said...

Aw thank you for sticking around for so long and the kind words!

vanesa said...

If I didn't have to pay for college out of pocket, I would be wasting a majority of my cash on clothing which thankfully I don't do. But I am also super picky on what I buy when it comes to making a big purchase. I have to think and dream constantly over an item until I can decide to buy it. xD

Mary Van Note said...

This is one of the best fashion blog posts I have seen in a long time. So great! Finance is something I struggle with (saving, to be more specific) and I always wondered how other people did it. Thank you so much for this. I had no idea there were such useful apps out there. I'm going to check them out. I also really appreciate all your mentions of shopping ethically. I have not bought any new designer clothing or accessories yet, could you mention where you find the information of which designers are ethical?

Honore said...

I have found that taking time every few months to research ways to make products that I use everyday is a great way to shop more ethically and save money. Like figuring out that I can make laundry soap from borax, washing soda, and and a little dish soap was really awesome. It was also really great to be able to share the method with my Mother who is extremely sensitive to color and scent additives.

Arabelle Sicardi said...

Honestly there's never just one place I find this information, it's more just information I accumulate thru my networks in the industry, word of mouth from people who work in manufacturing, interns who've done runs to their factories before, sometimes through BoF, sometimes thru other means. It's just a constant information mill that I sift thru and file away for later. Fashionista sometimes reveals this information as well.

Arabelle Sicardi said...

You're welcome! I'm glad you find it helpful.

Bethany Rose said...

Eep this is such an informative inspiring post, before I read your blog I never thought someone like 'me' could afford beautiful things but you have inspired me to work hard and save money <3

Also random question but I re-watched your video about the state of fashion blogging and I was wondering if you still feel the same way? Whilst, I'm not a blogger I do have a blog and love reading blogs. And I dunno I've just been feeling a bit rubbish about the blogosphere recently and have begun to question whether it's a very nurturing or accessible environment anymore. Like I kinda just wanna hit delete on my blogspot most of the time haha. But yes I would love to hear your opinions on the subject!! :))

Hope you're good



Abigail said...

Love this post, it's horrible that every time that I want to buy something fancy I end up broke! ( I'm 14 so being broke isn't the worst thing ever, but still, not being able to TAKE THAT BABY WITH YOU HOME is sad.) (By baby I mean something amazing and not an actual baby, just to make that clear).
I've created a new blog, take a look and maybe maybe follow? :3 I know it's horrible to ask sorry x
Abigail c:

Arabelle Sicardi said...

Hi babe! I'm honored to have inspired you.
Hmm. I haven't rewatched the video in awhile but from what I can recall saying, yeah, it all still stands. I've made more peace with the fact it's not going to go back to being a "more authentic" or less capitalistic scene though. It's just the way things progress, where ideas start, money follows, following the standardized themes of glossy ideas and standards. Or whatever smart phrase I can say about it -- my brain hurts from transcribing 30 pages of fashion week interviews. I wouldn't call fashion blogging exactly a nurturing environment as a whole. There are communities and niches within it I consider my sisterhood, but it's not a whole big happy family.

Suzanne Amlin said...

Great post! My first visit here and found an amazing article where I am taking away something. I'm a bit of a shopaholic and find deals everywhere (I shop mostly on ebay and on sale groups on Facebook) but I'm trying to switch over to buying one thing I really want per month and skipping the cheapy so-so items. I'm only wasting my money and filling my closet! Running out of room AND money!

A Coin For the Well

Ana The Zeka said...

I want to buy ethical, local clothes, but our market is overrun by big chains :( .
I might find local clothes, but they're not of good quality (the designer ones; the basic ones are good, but basic - I have everything I need, more or less), and the one that are are a few hundred kilometers away... and I have a thing about not using up resources if I don't need to (why waste gas and put those fumes into nature just so I could buy a tee)?

Leah Das said...

I'd agree with Arabelle about there being not just one place for ethical/sustainable design. It's such a growing sector right now and there are varying levels of ethical too.

Some designers very clearly label themselves as 'ethical' designers, whereas others may use elements associated with ethical design/production (such as local production, sustainably produced fabric, operate a-seasonally etc) but not necessarily market themselves or be completely ethical. If that makes sense? Actually, if you're interested in buying more ethically, there's lots of information around and it's not just limited to buying habits. Like, making your own or recycling are elements that can factor into having a more ethically inclined wardrobe.

Anyway, I might have to do a whole post on my own blog lest I eat up all Arabelle's comment space, but there are sites like Honest By (http://www.honestby.com/) which aim to promote transparency about production & pricing and one I stumbled on recently called Zady (https://www.zady.com/) which is US-based and sort of has a similar mission. It might not be right for your budget, but hope that's useful anyway!

valerie said...

Great skirts! that is all.


Garen Abel-Unokan said...

I rarely read blog posts more than twice, but the posts where you discuss your personal relationships with clothes and make-up as a working class woman is something I come back to over and over and over again. I really like how transparent you are about everything wrt to money and buying habits. Sometimes in the blogging world

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SmSorif Khan said...

Do you remember when you were a baby and your parents or
grandparents would give you a gift? Even if it was the best gift in the world,
it wasn’t Christmas or a birthday if it was just one gift.

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