This week’s closet confessional comes from a 30-something from Toronto, whose relationship with retail evolved from once getting a university degree in a field she wasn’t passionate about (in order to afford shiny things). Now, she’s prioritizing paying off the mortgage and taking a much more conservative approach to shopping. Many of us should be able to relate to this reader’s journey, which is why we picked it to be featured today.

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The Basics

Age: 34
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Toronto, Canada
Occupation: Finance
Industry: Non-Profit
Salary: $40,000
Household Income: $150,000

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? Yes

How many bags do you own? 20

What bags are in your collection?

Burberry Prorsum Patent Turquoise saddle bag
Louis Vuitton Damier Trevi
Louis Vuitton Black Épi Pochette
Coach Red Large Clutch
Coach White Convertible Hobo/Messenger
Kate Spade White Loden
Hermès Bleu de Prusse Birkin 35
Gucci vintage navy crossbody
Gucci vintage Black Leather Diana Shopping tote
Gucci Vintage Canvas and Leather saddle Bag
Fendi Vintage Black handbag
Rebecca Minkoff ‘Mink’ Julian Backpack
Prada Black Nylon Crossbody
Long champ large totes x2 (Bilberry and Navy)
Coach Black make-up bag (the one that started it all!)
Coach Brown Signature Soho Duffle (circa 2005)
Le Sportsac Black Crossbody

Canadian brands!
Danier Black Saffiano Tote
Holt Renfrew Gold Silk Clutch (with BV vibes)

How much is your collection worth? $22,000

What is your most expensive bag? Hermès Bleu de Prusse Togo Birkin 35cm

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? The brown vintage Gucci saddle bag – my mom bought it when she was about my age during a trip to Paris. She said she loved it so much that when my parents went for dinner that night she couldn’t take her eyes off of it and had no idea what she was eating.

The black Coach make up bag – I grossly overpaid $200 for this tiny bag, but it was my first time buying something designer in a high-end department store, and it deceivingly fit a lot. Memories!!!

And really all of them have a memory attached – whether it was purchased in a special trip, gifted for an occasion or was just an incredible find.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I was 21 or 22, and it was the Coach Black Jacquard makeup bag…which was followed up by the, insanely expensive to me at that time, Coach Soho Duffel.

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? Most do!
The Prada nylon messenger bag is a special one that I bought in Milan on our honeymoon (50% off at the flagship Galleria store).

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? When I’m shopping in a high end store it does. Most of my friends aren’t into bags so they don’t recognize many bags (or at least haven’t mentioned!).

At work I feel like there may be a of couple people in the know about my bag brands, but I don’t feel like it changes their perception of my work ethic, values, or personality.

The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? Rarely. Most of my bags were purchased about 10 years ago and are luckily classics I still love.

I wasted too much money in my 20’s buying things as coping mechanisms or because I felt this need to amass « things ». It’s made me take each purchase really seriously to ensure I absolutely love it and don’t already have something that suits the need. I feel really lucky (and a little ridiculous) to own the bags I own.

Which stores do you frequent the most? Consignment stores – with 2 young kids it’s the best way to make the most of your money! With the savings we put them towards our mortgage (which will be paid off in a month!) and semi-annual trips.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Yes – I’ve purchased from a consignment store ($80 for the Gucci vintage navy Crossbody), Goodwill ($4 for the Fendi) and most recently purchased the vintage Gucci Diana tote on eBay. I was not as much a fan of the eBay search as I’m quite paranoid about receiving a fake, though I did get it authenticated, but I really loved and had been searching for that exact model/style. But overall I find purchasing secondhand bags online difficult as I am paranoid about spending anything over $100 on something that could potentially be a great fake, that I can’t inspect in person first.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I have sold old bags, but not explicitly to pay for a new purchase. The reason for selling is because I don’t love/use it anymore.

I’ve sold 1 on Kijiji and 1 at a consignment store.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? No – I’m lucky to have a range of bags at various price points (which was part of the reason I bought the Birkin – to put a stop to the madness of always wanting more!). But I’m also surrounded with a really great group of friends where we rarely talk about material things and focus more on listening and supporting one another.

Over time I’ve learned what I like (classics) and what is most functional for me, so I don’t pay too much attention to trends. I’m also a fan of minimalism, so I find marketing and « almost sold out!!! » gimmicks a bit annoying vs. enticing.

That said every now and again I get a shopping itch, but it’s often a coping mechanism for dealing with a stress in life.

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? I consider the Birkin to be an investment (but won’t be selling) / I consider my bag purchases things that have dual purposes because they are both beautiful and functional and that makes me feel happy and confident wearing them. I plan to pass them on to my girls down the road, but those are gifts, not investments.

I consider index funds to be investments.

Who influences your buying decisions? Classy broads. The list for the vintage Gucci Diana shopper tote started when I saw this mid-50’s woman at a restaurant next to me. She was well put together, but not over the top, and I loved the uniqueness yet simplicity of her purse and style.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Not really because I don’t shop very much. When I was younger and in purchasing mode it was nice to build relationships and get to know them, but it wasn’t instrumental, even for my most expensive bags.

Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I am a nerd and I love finding optimal solutions to problems. I learned that one of the things I loved in my « acquisition » stage was researching, understanding, comparing, and analyzing my choices. Trying to also see if I could find a discount.

I have intentionally used shopping as a coping mechanism during stressful times, but I really try to make sure it’s something I’ll use, otherwise it’ll make me sad, rather than happy, to have wasted money and time (and space).

Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? There have been times I was overlooked if I was dressed average…but also times I was treated well while dressed average.

I’ve never felt like my Asian background resulted in inferior service. When I was younger I did find sometimes I would be ignored – so maybe a bit of age-ism or judgement there.

The Money

Who pays for your bags? This gal.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No – I’ve been super keen to pay off our mortgage so extra funds have been put towards that. Bag purchases have been $200-$500 over the past few years, which is doable within our discretionary funds.

The Taboo Topics

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? A counterfeit was purchased for me as a gift when I was younger. I used it a bit, but didn’t find I felt happy using it, so I stopped. I have not purchased a counterfeit and would prefer to purchase something that is not pretending it’s something else. I try to be authentic personality-wise and open to sharing my vulnerabilities with others, so buying counterfeit isn’t a good fit.

I have family members who have purchased counterfeit and while I don’t encourage it, I’m not personally offended by it (though I do recognize there are other impacts from the counterfeit industry).

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? No – we consider all income to be ours, so while I don’t feel like I need permission, I’ll give a heads up if I plan to spend a few hundred on something (similar to how I would like for him to do the same for me).

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Complete a university degree in a field I’m not passionate about so I could afford to purchase material things without feeling a pinch (like bags). In fairness, I was a wee babe when I started university and didn’t know myself and my passions at that time.

I still consider it the craziest thing I’ve done to afford a bag.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? Yes, it’s a problem when I unintentionally buy things I don’t need or love.

I struggled with constantly shopping’s in my early 20’s when I worked many hours in a job I didn’t love in a toxic environment. I overcame it by:

1. Determining what was my ultimate bag (not just a great bag, but my ultimate – P.S. this was before the Kardashians were on the Hermès train) and focusing on acquiring that.
2. Reflecting on my priorities – not just for money, but also my time and relationships to peel out the things that were not adding value.
3. Reading about intentional living.

The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? We love to travel, but again, I’m all about trying to find the optimal solution – checking flights, AirBNB’s, etc to try to save money there to leave more for food, entertainment, and exploring.

I also love me some regular massages – indulgent and healthy!

Anything else you would like to include?

Purchasing advice:
1. Only buy something that you love more than what you already own and that you’ll use.

2. Don’t carry a balance on your credit card to purchase a bag. That 20% interest rate is a slippery and difficult slope!

3. If you can pay for a bag without carrying credit card debt, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t reeeally afford a bag for any reason (e.g. you’re frugal, your income level, because of the way you dress). That’s not their call to make!

4. Purses are fun ways to express yourself without the agony of changing body shapes (Amen!). Enjoy carrying them, but know that your worth and value come from who you are as a person, not what you wear/have (this took some time for me to learn). Surround yourself with people and communities who bring the best out in you.

P.S. Please consider supporting our small, bag-loving team by clicking our links before shopping or checking out at your favorite online retailers like Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or any of the listed partners on our shop page. We truly appreciate your support!

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