Most of us have debt. Even those of us that pay off our credit cards in full typically have a large mortgage or student loan debt we are slowly trying to chip away at and make payments toward. This week’s confessional comes from a Product Manager who obviously loves bags and is not only greatly influenced by what she sees on Instagram, but she’s also about to be debt-free. Many of us try not to be sucked into the “fake world” that social media influencers portray, but that doesn’t mean who we follow doesn’t impact our purchasing decisions (hey, it happens to me too). On top of that, this in-depth confessor not only lets us in on her buying and shopping habits but also her saving habits. She and her husband plan to be completely debt-free in a little over a year. Read on to see how she affords her bags!
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Hartford, CT
Occupation: Product Manager
Salary: $118,000 plus variable bonus – (cash and stock) anywhere from $10k-$20k
Husband’s Salary: $78,000
Are you a PurseForum member? Yes
How many bags do you own? 12
How much is your collection worth? $32,700
What is your most expensive bag? Chanel Large Shopping Tote
What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? My Dior Diorama bag was my first foray into higher end luxury handbags. Before this bag I had made a handful of Louis Vuitton purchases and Coach/Kate Spade purchases as well. This bag changed things for me because I was buying it for ME – I wasn’t buying it because others had it, or to have MORE bags in my collection, I was buying it because it spoke to me and I fell in LOVE. I was in Vegas with my husband celebrating my birthday and fully intended to buy my first Chanel flap bag, but we walked into Dior and I couldn’t tear myself away. I loved the sleek look of the bag, the limited color and I was instantly sold. To be honest, because it was such a big purchase, it took almost 3 hours with the credit card company on the phone to be able to get the purchase processed. It was worth it – we drank champagne the whole time and took pictures. It was quite memorable!
What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? 21 – a small blue and brown Coach hobo. I remember graduating from college and walking around San Francisco with my dad and my sister and we walked into the Coach store. At the time, being a poor recent college grad, I was in shock of the prices and in awe of the beautiful handbags. I begged and begged and begged and my Dad agreed to purchase it for me for my birthday. I think even HE was in SHOCK at how much he spent (and it was probably less than $300).
Let me back up – I actually had a Kate Spade black nylon messenger bag in college as well as a couple of other Kate Spade classic bags (a red Sam, a black Shopper Tote), however my Aunt worked at Neiman Marcus as the time and was always gifting me handbags on clearance plus her discount. I never purchased these bags myself or asked for them, they were gifted to me, but it made me fall in love with handbags. Another bag she gifted me probably in my early 20s was a small Fendi pink/lavender shoulder bag – I had never heard of the brand and worked it to the BONE until it had a hole in it. I ended up selling it years later (when I started buying LV, I sold ALL of my “non-luxury” handbags – Coach (except for my original one), Kate Spade and the Fendi) for like $20 on craigslist.
I regret this now.
Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? It’s actually my most recent purchase, I was able to snag a Louis Vuitton Reverse Monogram Pochette Metis. I had just moved to a new city and was NOT in the market to buy a new handbag (let’s just say in the prior 6 months, I had bought a Chanel Shopping Tote, 2 Chanel Wallets and a YSL wallet on a chain – my husband was NOT happy). But I went to my local LV store to start building a relationship with a new Client Advisor (CA). Even though I had purchased many LV bags from the same store where I used to live, I never built a relationship with any one CA and wanted to see how it would change my experience. I started seeing the PM coming up quite frequently on Instagram and have recently been attracted to smaller crossbody’s – and saw a lot of the PM.
What I didn’t know was how hard it would be to find! I had never had to wait for a bag before – every bag I purchased before – LV, YSL, Chanel, Dior, Fendi – all were in stock, with multiples to choose from. I’m so glad I built a relationship with the CA – we texted daily, and met in store frequently. It took about 1 month for her to find me a bag, which even she was shocked about! Unfortunately there was a defective flap inside the bag and I had to get a new one – but with the relationship I built with her – she fought for my replacement and allowed me to keep the original bag until a new one came in which only took another 2-3 weeks. But honestly, I cherish this bag the most – I love the color, the style and the versatility. I also have such a great story to tell and now I have a great relationship with my CA and always know when new merchandise is released and comes in the store so I can look at it.
Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Unfortunately, yes. When others notice brands of the bags you carry, they do treat you differently – not so much your average every day person you encounter, but when I go shopping – absolutely. If I’m in a big city and wandering through high end stores like Chanel, LV, Hermes, Neiman’s, etc, I tend to get better service and attention if I’m carrying a luxury handbag versus not. It’s unfortunate this happens, but I think sales people assume if I’m carrying a high end handbag, I can probably afford the merchandise I’m looking at too. To be honest, it’s the same thing with car dealerships. Early in my career, still a lower earner, I was in the market to buy a new Lexus, and I was driving a newer but low end Volvo at the time. NONE of the sales people paid me any attention! However today, I drive a BMW and when I show up at any car dealership, they swarm.
On the other hand – non-sales people wise – I get lots of compliments on my bags, especially the ones you just don’t see all the time – like my Dior, YSL or Reverse Monogram Pochette Metis. I have some people ask me the brand or where to get them and I tell them – I also have people ask me how they hold up and I love giving my real life reviews.
How often do you buy new bags? I would love to say I only buy 1 bag a year… but that’s not always the case. In 2018 alone, I purchased 3 bags and 2 wallets. In 2017 I purchased 4 handbags and 3-4 small leather goods. That being said – with the amount of money I have spent this year already (over $12K), I probably won’t be in the market to buy another handbag for minimum 12-18 months. My husband isn’t super thrilled with the obsession, especially since we could have bought a couple of Honda Civics with what I’ve spent in the last 7-8 years.
Which stores do you frequent the most? Louis Vuitton – it’s the only luxury handbag retailer that’s not 2+ hours away. When I used to live in CA, we would go to Chanel, YSL and Neiman Marcus on bi-monthly basis as well to “look.”
Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? I have never bought second hand bags – some of the websites I’ve seen don’t make it worth it! Some second hand are MORE expensive if not the same as buying NEW at the store – and I’d rather know what I’ve done to the bag rather than what someone else has (I feel the same way about cars). I have considered buying a used Teal/Turquoise LV Zippy Multicartes, but I haven’t seen one yet!
Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Absolutely. When I collected Coach and Kate Spade, my mantra was MORE is MORE. Plus with having the availability of those brands at outlet malls – you can buy 2-3 for the price of 1, and Coach and Kate Spade have regular 25-30% off sales IN STORE (non-outlet), so it made it easier to just keep buying. I got to the point where I just wasn’t using any purses enough and it really just became a collection to look at. I didn’t want that. I wanted handbags I would actually use, cherish and LOVE. And that’s about the time we got an LV store at my local mall and well – the rest is history!
Now I try to keep no more than 12-15 handbags (not including wallets or small leather goods) and really evaluate which bags to keep and which to sell. I’ve purchased canvas prints from LV at the suggestion of others and I’ve HATED it, I also have purchased a “meh” LV bag because I felt I had gone too long without buying a new handbag and also HATED it. Those I’ve sold. I’ve also sold bags that no longer make sense to me or I found a better replacement that works better for me. Of the luxury handbags, I’ve sold 5 or 6 LV bags to a variety of sources – Fashionphile and eBay have been most successful in terms of pricing. I sold one years ago to Bag Borrow or Steal but found that in recent years, their pricing has substantially diminished.
Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? Absolutely – to be honest Instagram is a CURSE and a gift! If it wasn’t for Instagram, I don’t think I’d be so well educated and well-versed on what’s out there in terms of luxury handbags – and what’s limited (which is what I try to get my hands on lol). But that being said, I DOUBT I would have spent so much money if it wasn’t for Instagram. You get the “Keeping up with the Jones” syndrome – I see some instagrammers who post new purchases EVERY WEEK – sometimes MULTIPLE times a week and I’m not talking about a $200 item here or there, I’m talking Chanel, Hermes, leather LV – so they are spending HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS and it’s just…. extreme.
It’s taken me a while to convince myself that there’s no need to keep up with the competition because honestly who cares, but it’s harder than it seems. I’m a very competitive person – in life, in my job, in school etc, so I feel like I have fallen behind by not having SO many handbags. That being said, I also wish that I started researching the luxury brands when I first got out of college (15 years ago), rather than buying Coach or Kate Spade. I say this because in the early 2000s – LV and Chanel were REASONABLY PRICED.
You could get a Chanel Flap bag for $1500, whereas the medium today is $5000. An LV Speedy when I purchased my FIRST (yes I have purchased multiple) in 2010 was only $600, now it’s well over $1000 (that did help me though because I sold it for $800 in 2015 to buy yet another Speedy). And it’s not like I didn’t spend that kind of money on Coach – my most expensive Coach bag I purchased was in 2006 I believe and I spent over $500. I ended up selling that bag for $50, but if I had bought LV or even Chanel for the same amount or slightly more, it could be worth at least double if not triple, quadruple today. Makes me also wish I got into Hermès YEARS ago too… alas always with the regrets.
Do you consider your bag purchases investments? Absolutely – I always look at the bag I am purchasing and if it’s a longstanding bag, like the LV Speedy or Neverfull, and how have prices adjusted over the years should I want to sell. I look to see how limited the bag is (Diorama especially various colors or materials) or how popular the bag is – those will always impact re-sale price. I always tell my husband – who LOVES Scotch – at least if we were hit hard financially, I could sell all my handbags and still pay the mortgage for several months… I can’t say that about his scotch.
Who influences your buying decisions? Instagram as well as my personal feelings about the bags. I’ll be honest, I do have 2-3 bags I’ve still never used even though I’ve owned them for a couple of years – they are the holy grail bags (like my Chanels and Fendi and even the Dior), I may have carried them a couple of times but nothing extended. What I’m trying to do is be more realistic about the bag – its functionality, its color, the potential wear, and materials – to make sure I WILL carry the bag. Nothing irks my husband more than just watching those expensive bags collect dust in the closet. So now rather than just buying the first thing I see on Instagram, I will use Instagram as a research tool – how do people wear those bags, how are they used, are they functional, do they hold up?
Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? ABSOLUTELY – If you have a good relationship with your Client Advisor or Sales Associate, they will go to the depths of the planet to find you what you want. If they can’t find it for you, you have to understand too, they can’t make miracles happen but they can pull a bag for you if you want it and they see it, or they can be diligent about ordering or keeping you informed. I WISH I had made relationships during my initial 15 or so LV bag purchases as it would have made the experiences more personal and more memorable, rather than just here’s my credit card and the money I just saved months for, thanks – bye. My Client Advisor has gotten to know me and she knows what I like, so she keeps an eye out for me and texts me when she sees things I might be interested in. If I had this relationship before, I probably would have gotten that Teal/Turquoise Zippy Multicartes I wanted, new!
Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I would say it’s to reward myself for the fruits of my labor. I work hard and long hours, and sometimes food just doesn’t cut it and so when I go big, I LOVE shopping – not just for luxury handbags, but for really anything. I am a bargain hunter outside of my handbags, so I do love a good sale. I never pay full price for anything unless I have to (and I have to for luxury handbags) – and so that’s also how I save to purchase my handbags. I get a rush from it!! I am a shopaholic. I tend to buy a lot of stuff and hoard it and not use it – don’t get me wrong – I’m not a packrat – I donate more new stuff than I should ever admit to goodwill, but sometimes it’s hard to pass up a bargain :).
Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? Absolutely – especially appearance. If I’m not dressed to the nines, I don’t get wonderful service – what has changed this though? Having a luxury handbag on my arm. Doesn’t make it right or okay but it is something I’ve observed unfortunately.
Who pays for your bags? Me, myself and I. Though, my husband and I completely combine our finances, so I guess you could say he supplements my bag purchases.
Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? I don’t set aside any more specifically for bag purchases. I’m unfortunately an instant gratification person, so usually I’ll see something, research it for 1-2 days exhaustively and then need to purchase. My first YSL purchase was that way – I saw it on a Monday, wanted it on a Tuesday, the closest store was 2 hours away and I would not be able to get there til Saturday… so I called the local store and ordered it without even seeing or touching it in person. I got it on Thursday 🙂
That being said – I never buy a handbag I can’t pay in cash for (or pay off the credit card that month for). My husband and I do set aside quite a bit of money each month in our savings – the account is for vacations, emergencies, etc… and I typically budget 12-24 months in advance so I will know if the money is available for me to buy a purse or not. I won’t even entertain the research if I don’t have the money readily available. *Of note, that’s why I’ve sold some of the handbags. If the money isn’t there but I NEED a new handbag, I’ll sell to raise the funds!
The Taboo Topics
Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? Before I knew really about luxury handbags and what bags really cost, yes. I took a trip to Asia while in college and I bought a fake LV handbag. I’m not proud of it today, but I did it. Again in college I remember eBay was pretty new and I saw a Dior saddle bag in pink. I did not know at all how much these cost in real life, but I won one for like $250… and believe you me, that was a LOT of money as a college student. When the bag arrived, it didn’t look right, I sent it back but I never got my money back. I learned right then and there, no more fakes for me. Now that I know what REAL looks like and how to spot a fake, I would never buy a fake. Plus – some of those fakes are EXPENSIVE, like HUNDREDS of dollars – no thanks, for a little more I can buy real. I’d rather have real – I have integrity.
Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? Nope. One thing I can say about our relationship is that we are completely transparent about finances. We have goals to pay off our mortgage in a year, and to retire early – and so I run EVERY purchase past him if it’s $5 or $5000. It keeps us honest and it keeps us BOTH in the know of how much money we have and how much wiggle room we have. Similarly to what I said earlier, if the cash isn’t there I won’t even research, so my steps are basically: 1) Find Bag 2) Check funds 3) Tell hubby I want a new bag 4) He NEVER SAYS NO – he’s too good to me 5) Research and 6) Purchase.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Nothing really crazy – but I’ve scoured the house looking for anything and everything I could sell to be able to raise the funds to buy a handbag :). It has helped us get rid of junk we don’t need . I guess I have also called utility companies and asked for reduced monthly rates – this only works once or twice though. I’ll tell hubby – I saved us $15 a month for 12 months and now I’m going to buy a handbag and he’s like… “So we didn’t save any money and you are going to spend it all before the discount even kicks in?. O-kay…”
Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? Luckily, no. I do have long term financial goals and I won’t let shopping impact those. If I know the purchase will put us in the hole, I won’t do it. I will however put it in my wishlist and as the financial situation improves or changes, I will re-evaluate and re-consider a purchase.
The Rest Of It
Any other expensive hobbies or passions? Cars… I love buying new cars. Since I graduated from college 15 years ago, I’ve purchased 6 cars for myself, all new – Acura, Volvo, Lexus, Acura, BMW and BMW. I married my husband 6 years ago and he’s no better – since then he’s had Lexus, Lexus and now BMW – all new too. For our cars, we always put a large (half) down payment and finance and have always paid the vehicles off well before the end of the finance period. With our aggressive mortgage pay down plan (we just moved across the country earlier this year – much cheaper cost of living in terms of home prices, and we closed on our house 4 months ago and plan to pay it off in full within the next 12-14 months), I have to hold off on any more handbag and car purchases until the mortgage is paid off.
The reason for the aggressive plan? We want some financial freedom – and the mortgage is the ONLY debt we have – we have no credit card, no car and no student loan debt. We don’t want to be SO tied to our jobs that if one of us lost one, we’d be done. Right now we save my husband’s paycheck 100% in full every month plus a little extra. Once we pay off our mortgage, we will be able to save EVEN more… 2020 and 2021 will be our years. We plan to pay cash for our new cars and take a vacation of a lifetime. It’s good goals to have and maybe he’ll finally say yes to the Hermès Constance I want then too! My husband’s expensive hobby is Scotch and of course I can’t say no since he says yes to all of the handbag purchases. Luckily his tastes rest around $150-$200 a bottle at max, so even with his large collection, it’s still probably cheaper than one Chanel.