Once I heard the doorbell, my stomach dropped. I had been waiting for this day for a good two weeks, ever since I clicked PURCHASE! on the Net-a-porter sale, waiting for this day because I knew it was going to be something I remembered for the rest of my life.
… If I was even able to survive much longer. See, if my mom got to the door and signed for the package first, I was dead meat.
I told her I wouldn’t buy the wallet. I told MYSELF I wouldn’t buy the wallet. I was a college student; it was stupid. I need that money for groceries; it was stupid. You don’t have any money to PUT in that wallet, you poor idiot. … But it was a good deal. A really good deal. And I am weak.
Unwrapping my Mulberry wallet, the most expensive thing I had EVVERRRRRR purchased, was a big moment for me. Spending that much money was something I couldn’t ever imagine myself doing, but here it was-- I had done it. It wasn’t just a wallet-- it was something I’d imagined forever, fantasized about owning, a thing that would mean I had reached an incredible milestone in my life and now had the Postman’s Lock and Black Pebbled Leather to show for it.
Sure, it was stupid. When they asked, I guiltily told my friends what I paid for it and cringed as the screams of “It was THAT MUCH?!?!?!” followed. The screams always followed. But every time, after the cringing, EVEN after my mother eventually did find the wallet and threatened to legally disown me, I realized that I didn’t care what they said, and I didn’t agree. Holding this wallet in my hands was worth it.
In a world of fast-fashion and affordable style, the value of investment seems to be lost. Forever 21 and H&M are great, absolutely-- but I could never justify throwing down a wad of cash for pieces that (while adorable) would probably only last me a season or two before they fell apart. This wallet will be with me for my entire life, through every milestone to come-- hell, I’ll be in the nursing home, pulling this wallet out to pay for my casket.
Maybe I could have timed it better, and maybe I could have put my money to better use, and maybe I’m a crazy person-- but this wallet is more than an uber-expensive block of leather. As long as I have it (which will be forever), the wallet will not only remind me of the money I invested, but of the work I did to earn it. I was twenty-one and lost, struggling to overcome some serious challenges, and I had a dream of what I wanted my life to become-- a future that would take hard work, commitment, and confidence.
Sure, I could have bought eighteen outfits at some other store for the price of this wallet, but those things would disappear. When you find something that has meaning, something to remind you that ‘hey, kid, keep going-- you’re gonna get there’-- make your move.
A lot of people have asked me how I decided upon investing in a wallet, and about my approach to investing and shopping in general. Believe it or not, I DO try to be practical with my purchases, and my money and time are important to me. Friends will text me in a purchase panic, straddling the very painful To Buy or Not to Buy fence, afraid to fork over the cash for something that looks tantalizingly wonderful.
So, for them and for you, dear readers, a few guidelines!
THE ART OF INVESTING
Throwing down an incredible amount of money doesn’t come easily to most college students, even those who (like me) have a bit of a problem giving in to impulse. Before I finally bit the bullet, I spent about two years just thinking about what I’d want if I ever got the chance. I knew what color, style, size I wanted, could tell you in my sleep. A lot of other things popped up and struck my fancy in the meantime-- but eventually I forgot about those, and this wallet was still clear in my mind. By waiting, I came to realize the things that I REALLY wanted and what was just a passing fancy. Knowing my love for this wallet was steady and sure made it easier to commit when the time was right. Satisfaction was guaranteed.
2. NARROW DOWN YOUR OPTIONS.
When I’m thinking about an investment, I’m always thinking about the future. How will this item fit into my life? Can something change and render this gloriously expensive thing utterly useless? Am I really going to use that super expensive thing? Is it going to sit in my closet? But really, how often could I possibly wear that? What if I get fat?!?!
I made it a rule to avoid investing in anything with a size. I don’t want to commit to a piece that might not fit me in the future-- which will then undoubtedly turn into a reminder of how freaking old and out of shape I am and lead me to cry over old photographs with a pint of ice cream. So even though that Chanel jacket will never go out of style, don’t do it. Wait until you’re settled in your life and have some concrete sense of where you’re going.
I do have one caveat: shoes. A good shoe is always a good investment-- the more classic, the better. Sure, our feet still do change sizes sometimes (my mom grew two sizes after having me, that poor woman), but you can preeeeetty much count on them to stay mostly the same. But if you’re going to invest in a pair of shoes, just be smart, please. Yes, those Louboutins covered in spikes are AMAZING, but are you going to want to wear those when you’re 45? An investment is built to last, so lay down the dough for something reliable-- a classic style for every occasion, or a pair that is SO completely you that it’ll earn its worth in your forever wardrobe.
Some no-fail investments: a wallet (I’m biased), a great bag, sunglasses, a luxe cashemere scarf, diamond earrings, leather gloves, a watch. They wont go out of style, you can’t outgrow them, and they’ll always be in use.
3. BE PRACTICAL; DO NOT GET DISTRACTED BY SHINY OBJECTS.
Don’t give all your money away for a dazzlingly beaded clutch or a party skirt to end all party skirts-- seriously, I mean it, don’t. Those things are beautiful and exquisite, but unless you’re J. Lo or Rhianna you aren’t going to be wearing fabulous fancy things all that much, babe. I know, I’m sorry. One of the reasons I chose to invest in my wallet is the fact that I knew I’d use it every single day. Cost per wear, people-- COST PER WEAR! If I use my wallet every single day for one year, it’d be like spending 58¢ a day. Worth it. Now say I fall in love with a $800 mint-colored silk dress-- its formal, the fabric is thin, and it only goes with one or two things in my closet. If I’m able to wear it three times in a year, divide $800 by three and each time it’s like spending $267 to get dressed that day. Still kind of expensive, isn’t it? That dress won’t earn back its cost, so it probably isn’t a good idea to buy it.
Even though my wallet came to me unexpectedly, I’d been building a savings plan in my mind for some time. I knew I couldn’t just use an entire paycheck willy-nilly, and that if I set aside money carefully I’d eventually be able to make it happen. Take a close look at your finances (or, in my case, lack thereof), and what would be a manageable amount to set aside for the investment. If its $20 out of every paycheck, great-- put it aside in a special place where you know you wont touch it. Figure out how many installments it’ll take to earn enough and write it down. With a little planning, something that once seemed like a crazy dream now has a timeline and a due date!
5. PREPARE TO SACRIFICE.
My glorious Mulberry purchase didn’t come without consequences. After spending an exorbitant amount of money, I settled into a spending freeze for the next month or so. I knew that by committing to such an expensive buy, I’d be forced to give up little luxuries-- I wouldn’t be able to cheat the rain by taking a cab to class, I couldn’t indulge in the dessert aisle at the grocery store, dinners out would have to be put on pause. But because I was prepared, I didn’t run out of money or find myself in a panic because of a late rent check. Find the places where you can cut back a little, trim the fat, and that big purchase won’t be as destructive as you first thought.
6. INSTAGRAM THE CRAP OUT OF THAT THING, TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS, AND CUDDLE IN PRIVATE.
Brag, betch! You earned it. You thought hard, worked hard, sacrificed hard, and played hard. Go ahead, act like a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills-- this is your moment to shine! As silly as it might seem, going through the process of making an investment really is a great accomplishment, and holds more power than you might think. It isn’t just a silly waste of money-- it’s a sign of dedication, maturity, ambition, confidence, and faith in yourself and your future. It’s a promise that you’ll always move forward, but never forget where you came from. That gorgeous, perfect thing you bought tells the story of you.
So if you see me, don’t hesitate to ask me for a look at my wallet. Call me crazy or call me selfish, but I don’t feel a single bit of guilt. This wallet isn’t only the most stupidly perfect-looking wallet ever, it’s a testament to my perseverance through a personally challenging time, a time-capsule of my 21st year as a senior in college, and a physical reminder of the promise I made to myself to never give up on what I want.
My mom still says she has half a mind to kick me to the curb, but I at least I’ll be able to zip up my begged-for change in a fabulous place.