She shops mostly overseas to save money too!
In today’s confessional we meet a savvy Data Scientist who purchased her first designer bag in her mid-twenties and has rapidly gown her collection into the double digits. Though she’s envious of those tPF’ers with Sales Associate relationships, she’s a smart shopper—buying many of her bags overseas to save some cash and sometimes considering bags from the secondary market. She’s quite practical with her purchases and extensively researches prior to pulling the purchase trigger, even taking into account how often she’ll use an item, which she deems her ‘cost per wear’ mentality. Read on to learn more!
Gender Identity: Female
Location: New York, NY
Occupation: Data Scientist
Household Income: $270,000
Are you a PurseForum member? Yes
How many bags do you own? 10
How much is your collection worth? $20,000
What is your most expensive bag? Chanel Medium CF – black caviar SHW. This one is also very special to me because it is my husband’s gift to me after we got engaged. He is a frugal person and earns less than me, but he didn’t flinch when he bought this because he knew how much I was longing after it. Originally, I walked into the store with the intention of buying it myself – I had been researching and obsessing over it for a long time, and luckily the SA managed to take the last one from the shelf as soon as another customer decided not to go for it. I never made a large purchase like that (and still haven’t I guess!) so my head was spinning and my hands were shaking. He stepped in and stopped me from pulling my credit card out of my bag, and said “Let me get this for you, it’ll be your engagement present”.
I knew I had to marry him.
What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? None in terms of importance. I think “important” is too broad and abstract, how do I measure importance? To me, most used bag is Gucci Soho Disco, most sentimental bag would be the Chanel medium CF, most traveled bag is Chanel WOC. I don’t place importance on the brand when I choose which bags to purchase, I look for timelessness styles. That said, I have been gravitating more towards Chanel and LV lately. It is known that they hold their value the most (Hermes as well but I have yet to acquire one), and in my opinion, they hold the value because the style is timeless to consumers.
What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? 25.
I got my very first bonus as a consultant at the time, and I felt it was time for me to make a big-girl purchase. I wanted a bag that holds a reasonable amount, versatile to match with many outfits, and ages well to serve me many years to come. I did a lot of research for a couple months and finally decided on the Balenciaga City in black with classic hardware. I remember the SA in Barney that sold it to me said she loves hers and use it as a rainy day bag because the distressed leather ages so well, at the time I thought she was insane for carrying such an expensive bag in rain!
Well, 4 years and 10 bags later, I can now understand what she meant. This bag is truly a workhorse, the older it gets the better it looks. I can’t say I wear it as much as I used to, but I appreciate how much of a beating it took from me and still serves me well over the years.
Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? I would say Chanel CF and Balenciaga City for the stories mentioned earlier. Honorable mention is Gucci Soho Disco. It was the first ever bag my husband bought for me while we were still dating, it was a birthday present. Aside from the sentimental value, it’s simply my most used bag. I carried it so much that the strap broke and the tassels have frayed and even got dipped into fire once! I took it to repair and now it’s back on its full use again.
Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Yes, assuming the person in question is aware of and recognizes the brand. When shopping in department stores, carrying a nice bag will determine whether the sales person is likely to be attentive or not. It’s an unfortunate reality because my financial status and purchase remains the same regardless what I am wearing that day. However, it is understandable when the store is busy, the sales associates have limited time and attention to allocate to each customers, they will of course use visual cues to determine who are most likely to have money to spend, and cater to those customers more. In those cases I’m not offended, it’s simply human nature. When I go shopping with the intention of purchasing something, I will wear a nice bag for that reason.
When it comes to friends and family, the bags don’t pay a huge role. My mom rolls her eye and makes fun of my spending habits. Some of my friends like bags too so it’s fun to exchange stories together, the ones that don’t care about handbags are all fairly supportive though they probably don’t know how much I really spend on them.
At work, I find people do judge the kind of bags everyone carries. So you don’t want to be too flashy in front of your boss and coworkers but also have a decent one in front of your clients to show that you’re successful. I wish it was easy and I can carry whatever I want, but unfortunately perception does matter. So I tend to stick to the mid-to-high range classics like Longchamp, LV Neverfull, occasionally my Fendi Peekaboo, that one always seem to fly under the radar despite the price point.
How often do you buy new bags? On average twice a year. I try to save as much as I can when I buy bags because they’re expensive and I work hard to earn money! When possible, I save the shopping, especially the higher price point bags, until when I travel to Europe (for leisure), which happens about once a year. So to me, all these bags becomes souvenirs of the trip, and I am reminded of the happy times whenever I wear them. I acquire the lower price point bags domestically since there’s not a huge price difference. This happens about once a year as well.
Which stores do you frequent the most? I think my collections is fairly even between different brands, and since I do majority of shopping overseas, there’s also not much boutique loyalty to speak of. I am inspired by TPFers who have their “home boutique” and their SA, and sometimes I wish I had that. However, the shopping abroad and purchasing bags as souvenirs is simply a bit more enjoyable to me at the moment. Perhaps when I get older and have made my rounds in all the major European cities with luxury boutiques, I will stop with the “souvenir bags” and establish relationship with local shops.
Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Yes, my Fendi Peekaboo was purchase from eBay. In fact, I got it authenticated in the forum here! I love and appreciate the TPF community for offering the authentication service and making buying pre-loved bags more stress free. My philosophy on buying pre-loved bag is mostly from economical standpoint: if the style and brand has good resale value and staying power, I will buy new, otherwise I’ll buy pre-loved. My preference for bags are the classic styles so I end up buying mostly new bags. However, I just fell in love with the Fendi Peekaboo, and knowing that Fendi does not keep their price as well as Chanel or LV in the resale market, it just made sense to get a good quality second hand and save money.
Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Yes and No. I sell old bags when I stop loving them or using them, but I don’t do it with the intention of funding a new bag. The selling happens when I purge some old items around the house, I try to sell items that are still in good condition on eBay and would still have an “audience”. So far I have not sold a premier brand handbag yet since I’m still enjoying them, so I have yet to find out the success and price I will be able to get with my limited transaction history.
Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? Not at all. I think in the past I felt the urge to catch up to trends and get the bag that everyone else has. As I get older I am able to look at it more rationally, I also have a more mature relationship with money. If a bag doesn’t suit my taste, I don’t want to spend money on them. I’d rather put my money on something that adds value to my life and often times, it may not be a handbag. That said, I certainly get “inspired” by social media and occasionally changing my perception on a certain style and fall in love with it. So there are those instances where I end up buying that style, though it was never due to pressure.
Do you consider your bag purchases investments? Not in the traditional sense of financial investment. I don’t buy bags with the intention of selling them or reaping a profit. However, I do think about the financial longevity and “cost-per-wear” of the bag and I try to maximize/minimize whenever I can. This is actually a key factor to consider aside from the bag being aesthetically pleasing. Before I buy a bag, or any luxury items for that matter, I do extensive research on what fits inside, weight, wear and tear, versatility, staying power, etc. Then I do research on the most economical way of buying it. Hopefully I’ll have a daughter to pass some of them on as heirlooms.
Who influences your buying decisions? Friends, influencers, TPF! Inspirations comes randomly and I don’t really seek out inspirations. Typically it takes multiple sources to inspire the same bag for me to eventually pull the trigger. When I do fall in love with something, the research is mostly done on TPF and YouTube.
Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? No, since I purchase many items abroad. I do see how they can be helpful though, maybe eventually.
Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? For me, it’s more a souvenir, or a badge or honor. I buy something to remember a trip, or to reward myself after a promotion. I look at my collection and am reminded of all the happy memories that they brought me, so it’s more sentimental. My shopping habits has also evolved over the years as I get older, especially after I KonMari-ed my house. Now I have better judgement of what I like and what I will keep liking in the future, so I shop less impulsively and really evaluate what the item can add to my life and how I feel about myself.
Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? Sometimes, I find a bit more prevalent in department stores, especially the beauty counters. Luxury boutiques usually have well mannered associates, though disclaimer: I almost always walks into boutique looking put together, and I’ve never been discriminated for my race (I’m Asian). When the store is crowded, I do notice the sales tend to be more attentive with shoppers who are clad with more expensive outfits but I don’t take it personally.
The worst service I received was in a cafe in Paris on Ave. Montaigne. We stayed at a hotel on the same street so we wanted to stay close for the lunch due to the jetlag. I noticed the wait staffs only seated Asian customers in the interior of the restaurant and was unwilling to take our orders after we requested to seat further out near the street.
Who pays for your bags? Myself mostly. My husband paid for some but we have joint accounts.
Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No, I split my paycheck into saving and checking accounts as a guideline, the checking account is typically for necessities such as mortgage, utilities, food, basic shopping. Savings are set aside for travels, luxury items, financial investments, etc. I consider bag and travel similar purchases, they’re to enhance my life style and add memories to my life. We don’t have a strict budget but I think annually traveling + shopping is about 20k-30K.
The Taboo Topics
Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? When I was in high school and college, I have bought a super-fake. My family is not wealthy and I didn’t make any money at the time but wanted to feel like a grown up so at the time. Of course I regret the decision now but at the time I was simply too young and my priorities were very different. I don’t buy counterfeits anymore, I’ll either cough up the money or not buy it at all.
Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? No, actually I try to involve him as much as I can, I value his opinion and he is often the voice of reason whenever I’m tempted to buy something I don’t really need. I also love taking him shopping with me to be part of the experience with me. He’s very supportive so there’s no reason to hide. Plus we have a joint account so he would find out anyway!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Nothing crazy to afford the bag, I think I’ve been very rational when it comes to bag shopping. I typically research for at least 2 months, sometimes over a year even. However, I went through extra length trying to obtain an Hermes from Paris but failed. I had 4 days there went to 3 appointments. Looking back, I do regret not giving up sooner and enjoyed more time in the city instead. But hey, another reason for me to return! As for the Hermes, I don’t know if I will ever buy one, paying more than retail just seem a bit crazy to me!
Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I think at one point it felt that way. It was in the start of my career and I didn’t earn a lot but wanted to keep up with a lifestyle that’s a bit out of reach for me. I think I had an unhealthy relationship with money, and always left my worries for tomorrow. I was not in debt but also never managed to save. After I met my husband, he has taught me how to spend money on where it matters. Also, my salary has more than doubled since that stage of my life, and the disposable income (salary-cost necessities) more than quadrupled so I could simply afford more.
The Rest Of It
Any other expensive hobbies or passions? My husband and I enjoy traveling and good food. We both appreciate nice watches but are only starting to acquire them.
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