Yes, it can be done, and she’ll tell you how

Stories of high-end handbag shopping are, by their very nature, usually those of wealth and indulgence. Not many people who make normal, five-figure livings are buying four- or five-figure bags at any notable clip, and saving up for things can be tough to do. Today, on our latest edition of Closet Confessionals, we’re talking to someone who beat the odds: a 29-year-old who bought a Birkin after several years of diligent saving, in addition to other designer bags that she’s bought, usually at the rate of one per year. She’ll tell you all her secrets below.

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The Basics

Age: 29
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Toronto
Occupation: Financial Analyst and CPA student
Industry: Healthcare
Income: $57,700 (household)

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? Yes

How many bags do you own? 16

How much is your collection worth? $30,000

What is your most expensive bag? My Hermès Birkin 30cm

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection?
– my very first designer bag, which was a Gucci tote
– my Hermès Birkin, because I have never worked so hard to save up for and chase a bag
– my Chanel Classic Flap Bag in black, because it was purchased on a very special family trip in Paris
– my bags all have a story behind the purchase and remind me of very specific moments in my life, which is why I love designer handbags and also why I love hearing about other people’s bag stories

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I was 17 years old when I got my first designer handbag, and it was a Gucci tote with light gold hardware. My family was going on a trip overseas and planning on stopping over in Milan along the way. When I found out we would be stopping in Milan, I started planning out a designer bag purchase because some of my friends had gone on a trip to Italy the year before and purchased Gucci because since they were cheaper there. I started saving up my weekly allowance every week about five months before the trip. Also, each time we travelled as kids, my dad would give us a $100 to use as spending money on whatever we wanted. I religiously saved my allowance money and banked on getting $100 for the trip to cover the tote bag. I still have the bag today and have always kept it for special occasions because at the time, I didn’t know when I would purchase my next designer bag, so I kept it in pristine condition.

The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? I buy a new bag once a year; I tend to save up all year and then treat myself to a new bag at my birthday. There have been a couple of years where I bought a couple because I managed to score great deals on bags I was eyeing and had enough to do two as a result, because of the money I had set aside.

Which stores do you frequent the most? I love browsing around Chanel, their bags are so girly and beautiful. I also love browsing Fashionphile because you can sometimes find bags that have been on your wishlist forever, or a great deal on a bag or accessory you have been eyeing. In Canada, we also have a department store called Holt Renfrew that has a bunch of designer collections under one roof.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Yes, definitely. I’m all about finding the best price for a handbag in great condition. I have bought from Fashionphile, eBay, and local consignment shops in Toronto and Montreal, such as Haute Classics and Own The Couture. Both of which have websites and ship worldwide!

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I have done this, but rarely because I put a lot of thought into the bags I buy, so I rarely feel like I’m not getting a ton of use out of a bag. When I wanted to buy an Hermès Birkin, though, I knew I would have to let go of a bag—since a Birkin is so expensive, I couldn’t justify not letting go of at least one of my less-used bags. I like selling my bags on eBay because I can control the selling price and which offers I’m willing to accept. I have also sold items on Fashionphile when I don’t want the hassle of managing a sale myself.

Who influences your buying decisions? I get I influenced a lot by my favourite bloggers and Instagrammers. I first started falling in love with designer bags during the pre-blog times, and I got influenced a lot by what I saw other people wearing about town. For the longest time, I have had this running list of designer bags that I have deemed as classics that every girl should have, so my buying decisions were largely based on this at first, and now I’m more influenced by bags that fit a certain purpose or activity type.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? At most brands, no, because I don’t feel I have the personal income to support buying a bag every few months or so. Where I live, I feel like sales associates are not interested in maintaining a good relationship unless you plan on shopping with them often. However, at Hermès, having a good relationship with a sales associate is key to getting your dream bag and I love my sales associate there, I could chat with her for hours about anything and she genuinely enjoys helping all customers!

Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I enjoy shopping because I love being able to walk around and see how stores display merchandise and style different looks. I love watching what people get drawn to and how others style their purchases. I love hitting the malls at the start of new seasons, especially fall, because every store gets reset and it’s such a great chance to scope out what the trends of the season will be.

The Money

Who pays for your bags? At the start of my collection, I got a couple of bags as gifts from my parents, such as my Louis Vuitton Neverfull and my Chanel Classic Flap, which was a gift for graduation. However, every bag since then, including the Birkin, I have paid for myself!

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? Yes I do, I tend to figure out the price of my next bag, including the tax, if I were to purchase brand new, and then will divide that up by 52 to save up for it over the course of a year and treat myself at my birthday! My Birkin was the exception, I saved up for about 2.5 years since it comes with a hefty price tag, but it goes to show that you don’t have to buy your dream bag right away, it’s totally possible if you plan it out and are patient to wait for the results.

The Taboo Topics

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? Yes, when I was much younger, I purchased a bag when I was visiting New York. Now, looking back, I would not purchase a counterfeit because I understand that there are so many negative aspects to buying a counterfeit. Not to mention, the good ones are still pretty expansive, and you can never sell them to recoup your cost. It’s better off to save a little more and buy the real thing.

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? Not really, I tend to talk about bags I want to acquire to my friends or family and my husband, so he usually knows about an impending purchase. Sometimes when I buy something but don’t plan on wearing it right away, then I might. For some reason, I always like keeping things new until I can debut them for a special occasion, so I usually I reveal to him at that time as well, if I haven’t already told him.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? When I was saving up to buy my Birkin, I cut out buying almost everything I didn’t necessarily need to divert all my disposable income to my Birkin fund. I also set up a separate savings account and titled it “Birkin Fund.” I pretty much cut out all frivolous purchases; previously I would go to the mall monthly and buy a couple of high-end makeup products or some new clothes, but didn’t really need any of these items, they were bought more for fun and want. This would typically amount to a few hundred a month, and once I cut this out, I was able to save for a bigger goal much more easily and it added up pretty quickly.

I also cut out eating out as frequently and started packing my own lunches. I would still go out for dinner/treats a couple times a week, but packing lunch in advance helped also save about $200 a month.

All these little changes allowed me to save up for a Birkin and also helped me not buy things that I would toss after a couple of seasons. As I have grown, I have realized I would rather have a few good quality investment items than stuff that will only last me a few months.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? When I first got my first full-time big girl gig, I thought, “Wow, look at all this money,” and bought a lot of stuff, and then I quickly smartened up and realized I was an adult with responsibilities and couldn’t afford to continue doing that if I wanted to hit other goals in life. I then started becoming a lot more serious about my shopping and spending habits.

The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? At the moment, no. I’m currently studying to get my CPA (accounting designation) in addition to working, so don’t have a lot of time to devote to other hobbies or passions. Unless you count being a foodie. I love trying out new restaurants and food places, but wouldn’t say it is an expensive hobby because I enjoy eating at any place regardless of price, as long as the food is good, and generally consider a meal that is over $40 to be expensive.

Anything else?

My advice to young women dreaming of buying a designer handbag would be to just start saving, even if it is just $10-$20 a week—that is anywhere between $500 to $1,000 a year, and you’ll be able to purchase your handbag sooner than you think! Another perspective is thinking of it like this: a couple coffees a week, or an item you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come? This also works for any other savings goals, such as a retirement fund or emergency fund. Once you get comfortable with the idea of saving, it gets so much easier to do more!

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