How this 27-year-old makes her bag love work on $75,000 per year

Although most people who regularly buy designers bags are affluent to some extent, not everyone has hundreds of thousands of dollars in their annual budgets. (But among our readership, that’s definitely the case for plenty of people.) So this week, for our fourth edition of Closet Confessionals, we’re spotlighting someone we think will be relatable: a 20-something living in a very expensive city, making five figures, and planning her purchases very carefully.

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The Basics

Age: 27
Gender Identity: Female
Location: San Francisco
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Industry: Varied
Income: $75,000/year

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? Yes

How many bags do you own? 30+. I collected a lot of vintage Gucci and used to work retail—the great enabler.

How much is your collection worth? Oh man, I’m a poor estimator of value but maybe in the $10,000 range? I might be lowballing myself here.

What is your most expensive bag? I just got my Louis Vuitton World Tour Speedy 30, which stung a bit, but I do have a vintage (late 80s/early 90s) Chanel lambskin mini flap bag with gold hardware. I know that is a bag that has increased in value, and what I paid for it and a wallet was an absolute steal. My mother’s friend needed the money and, in her words, hadn’t carried it much since she brought it home from the Beverly Hills I.Magnin. She wanted to give me first crack because she knew I would care for it and really love it.

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? I will always be very fond of the vintage Gucci. A lot of it came from my grandfather’s friend, who gave it to my mom. There are some really wonderful shapes and styles that I just love. And lots of that blue pattern that started to come back! The two Vuittons I bought myself (Mon Mono Neverfull and My LV World Tour Speedy) were things that I really, really saved hard for and felt so rewarded when they came. And the Chanel Mini, because I knew that the woman who sold it to me loved it but couldn’t use it and it meant a lot to me that she asked me first. She could have gotten far more if she had sold it via another route, but sometimes the headache isn’t worth it.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I had a nice leather Coach shoulder bag my cousin bought me when I was 14 and I was always welcome to borrow from my mom’s vintage Gucci collection, but my -first- was a Chanel WOC. Black Caviar. Silver hardware. I was 17. I was absolutely gobsmacked. I think in the Christmas pictures my mouth is wide open, my short pink hair is spiked everywhere, and I can still hear the blood rushing through my ears.

The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? Not very. I feel like since I got my Mon Mono Neverfull I’ve been…satisfied? And kind of disappointed by a lot of what was out there. Maybe one really big purchase every few years, it seems.

Which stores do you frequent the most? Bloomingdale’s! What a great selection and great merchandising. I feel like their rewards for cardholders are very good.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Yes!
Where do you buy used? Mostly stores like Crossroads Trading and Thrift Town. I’m much more of a shoe girl. I love browsing on The Real Real because they have such great photos of their items.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Yes. I had a white Marc by Marc Preppy Hillier Hobo from my retail days, and while I really loved the shape, I didn’t carry it. Sometimes things you thought you love just don’t end up working out. I’m pretty happy with most of my bags and have what I have for a reason. I sold mostly to Crossroads Trading, so the proceeds might not fun a new bag, but maybe a new outfit or something else.

Who influences your buying decisions? Sometimes I get that FEELING. When something is just so very YOU. Most recently I did this with the Bloomingdale’s Super Brown Bag. It’s one of their little reusable bags but it has Super Mario World graphics on it. I grew up playing that game and it was just perfect. Sure, I need another reusable bag like I need a hole in my head but I LOVE it. I also went ga-ga for the Keith Haring x Coach line. I made out with the heart bag charm and the Boom Box camera bag. I’ve always loved Keith Haring and was lucky enough to get one of the last Boom Box camera bags.

So I guess I’d say me. Sometimes a bag is so love-at-first-sight.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Yes. I am not an online shopper by any means. That always feels like more of a last-ditch thing to get something. My SAs like me because I really try to avoid buying something I’ll return. I love talking with them and hearing what other customers go for. When I put together my World Tour Speedy, I loved talking with my SA about what other clients go for. I chose the natural trim for mine versus the black leather, and she mentioned that a lot of clients get the black leather. It interests me, partially because I have a background in marketing and love that kind of thing. One of my SAs (shoe-wise) is a friend from my retail days and he’s very helpful. I took my mom to go buy work shoes, and he found a perfect pair that fit the bill from a brand I wasn’t very familiar with.

The Money

Who pays for your bags? I do. My mom was a compulsive shopper who had a taste for Louis Vuitton and so many other things. I have definitely received nice bags as gifts (hello, Chanel WOC for Christmas and Speedy 30 in Damier Azur for graduating from college), and I have seen the stress that compulsive shopping and debt bring on a marriage and I have been determined to never repeat that in my own life. Sometimes the purchases were planned and other times they fell into my lap.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? I don’t, unless there’s a really big purchase I have in mind. My last spur-of-the-moment buy was a Keith Haring x Coach camera bag.

The Taboo Topics

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? Once I bought a furberry (fake Burberry) plaid scarf. It would fool no one and was really cheap. I must have been 14 and thought, “Well, no way I’ll ever own the real thing.” Well, a couple months later I ended up in Burberry and bought myself my very own tissue weight brick red cashmere muffler, on sale. It was the most I’d ever spent on myself, outside of a game console—something like $221. But it was the absolute softest, warmest, dreamiest thing I had ever wrapped around myself. Part of me couldn’t believe that I found it that easy to part with all that money for a scarf, but there I was, skipping down 5th Avenue with the bag in my hand, and I couldn’t wait to put it on. I was so much more satisfied.

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? No, but I have hidden them from my dad. With a compulsive shopper (almost) ex-wife, he used to complain to my mom about all the shopping bags I used to bring home from work when I was in college. She reminded him that I had a very generous employee discount and had been actively upgrading my professional wardrobe, as well as it being Christmas. He certainly did not complain about the mountain of gold-toe socks (his favorite), nor that I paid for our small family Christmas dinner!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? That’s a toss-up between setting myself up with a one-year saving plan to deposit money into a savings account for my Mon Mono Neverfull, and the unexpected expense of buying the Chanel Mini/wallet. Again, a steal for those pieces at $800, but really not any money I was planning to casually drop at the time! I ended up stretching boxes of VALU TIME (“we took off the E to pass the savings on to you!”) mac-and-cheese, hot sauce, and a hot dog into lunches and dinners, and soon I’d recouped my purchase. I usually bring lunch to work, but I was determined. I employed the same strategy when I fell asleep driving my car and paid my dad back for getting it repaired, AND saving for vacation at the same time. It worked, but man, I could not look another box of macaroni in the face for a while!

I find that when I ask myself if I want that lunch out at work (easily $10, unless I grab a McChicken!) or what I’m saving for, I hit my savings goal that much sooner. Maybe I’m very good at convincing myself because it seems to work, even as I’ve progressed in my career.

Do you ever think your shopping is a problem? There was a time when it was. I had very serious health issues after I graduated from college, as well as my grandmother passing away after a long illness. It did trigger a breakdown in me, and I am still digging myself out of that debt to the tune of less than $7,000, as a combination of shopping, specialists, and unemployment. I recovered, and all it takes is to remember that pinch of inputting the bill collectors into my contacts as “sharks” and setting their ring to silent. I am lucky, as I still have a place to live, did not have to declare bankruptcy, or anything else. It really hurts watching someone go through a shopping addiction, and it is difficult living IN it as well. I never want to be at a level where it drives me into deep debt, ruins relationships, etc.

The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? I used to collect video games. There are some pretty pricey things in that collection, and one that would easily fetch a nice sum. And as I said earlier, my weakness is shoes. For years I dreamed of these 2008 Chanel bicolor Mary Janes. It took until 2014 that I found them at a local consignment shop. I had put them out of my mind for years because I thought I’d never find them. I love scarves as well.

I love exhibition catalogs, and I’m always disappointed when it’s not as well put together as I’d hoped. I tracked one down from an exhibit I saw in 2007 in Austria, as I couldn’t afford it at the time, nor did I relish dragging it around Eastern Europe for a few weeks either. And novels in French, graphic or otherwise. Oh, painful trying to read the rest of XIII in French while trying to track down the series at a decent price to ship to the US!

Anything else?

In my early days of trying to fund myself after I lost my first job in high school, I resold a lot of things from Thrift Town. I learned to catch good construction of garments and accessories at a moment’s notice. I had a childhood of growing up with nice things and marveling at gorgeous things at Neiman Marcus, so I like to imagine I had a head start. Early on, I told myself (and then my parents) that I wouldn’t let them buy my graduation dress for high school. I distinctly remember my mom telling me that I’d better not show up in some awful 80s wedding dress, and my dad was sure I’d never find anything. I ended up finding a beautiful Versace shift dress from about the late 80s, and I paid $21.65 for it. I took the money I’d been saving and got some treats and hair color.

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