Shopper’s dilemma: When to splurge

St. Louis Post-DispatchSeptember 4, 2013 

Every shopper faces the familiar question of when to splurge and why.

Splurges should be special. That means not daily or weekly, but rare. By definition you are going above and beyond with a splurge.

If this is a regular occurrence, you’re probably just out of control.

•  Need it. This is that category of purchase you abhor. You need a pair of khaki pants for a uniform. You have to buy a black blazer for your business meetings. If you buy something disposable that you'll never wear again, guess what? You'll probably never wear it again. So instead of grousing and grabbing the first thing that’s vaguely tolerable, consider making an investment.

•  Desire. This is a very large category of wish list items that is ever expanding. So many wants, so little cash. My suggestion is that splurges of desire should not be impetuous. You see it, you want it, but you should wait to buy it. Instant gratification can be a drug. It clouds your judgment. Interrogate yourself before you buy it. Do you already have something to wear with it? Do you have anything similar to it already in your closet? Where would you wear it, and what could you wear that you already own?

•  Wardrobe staples. Go for quality, not quantity. If you buy things that don’t completely satisfy you, you’re always on the hunt for something else. I have a friend who has a denim addiction. She has a stack of more than 100 pairs of jeans. Meanwhile, I own about 10 pairs of jeans, and I’m convinced I have too many. Why? Because I wear three in heavy rotation, and – no shock here – the pairs I wear most often were more of an investment. Staples are workhorses, so they should be up to the task. If you aim for the best fit and the best quality, you'll find that a few clever splurges will save you money – and closet space – in the long run.

•  Unicorns. Into every shopper’s life an unexpected surprise will come. This will either become the legendary item that elicits hundreds of compliments for years to come or the weird aqua albatross in the closet you'll regret for years to come. This cannot always be predicted. It helps if you can imagine yourself wearing it somewhere specific in the near future. Now ask all the desire questions from above. Even if the unicorn in your shopping cart becomes your greatest shopping regret, you should be absolutely convinced of its unique beauty when you purchase it.

•  Status item. A class of splurge requires careful planning, and this is the status item. The Tiffany & Co. necklace, Prada sunglasses, Cartier watch, Gucci handbag. Most of us have some treasure we’ve been coveting, and this is not to be entered into lightly. Do your research. Pay in cash. This should be purchased outright, not by installments. If you can’t afford it, the time is not right. Buy it when you’ve earned it; that’s what a splurge is really all about.

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