My love affair with bags started early and it always revolved around buying them for myself.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a thing for bags.

It started in middle school, where a “statement” bag was the only way I could accessorize my uniform. So there I was, a 12-year-old with a financial plan, meticulously saving my $10 per week allowance to have just enough for a fabric Abercrombie tote bag, which at the time retailed for about $40. (We all start somewhere, right?) By the end of it, I had at least five different ones in all sorts of colors.

High school was dominated by Kate Spade and Michael Kors. They were somewhat affordable and much more reasonable for a teenager compared to anything from Prada or Gucci. Holiday gift cards, birthday cash, and babysitting money all went toward my bag fund. But everything changed around sophomore year of college: I was (un)fortunately bitten by the bag bug.

It happened during my first visit to Paris. My mom and I were in town for her 50th birthday, and I remember strolling Champs-Élysées with a beige Kate Spade top-handle. That was the first “grown up-looking” bag I had purchased on my own and I felt proud wearing it. At the time, my mom and I didn’t know much about designer wear. She was never into it and I was too young to understand.

Yet somehow we stumbled upon the flagship Hermès store. Once inside, there were quite a few SAs who looked at us like we were lost—and honestly, we were. Dazzled by all of the leather goods (and price tags), I remember telling my mom she should treat herself to something. Shoes! A scarf! What the hell—a purse! It was her birthday, after all. A small part of me thought if she bought something, maybe she’d gift me something too. (Come on, you would have thought the same thing.)

Looking back now, I’m glad she didn’t buy me my first Hermès. Since then, I’ve acquired lots of bags, from Prada to Fendi, all purchased on my own. Right now, I’ve got my eye on the Hermès Evelyne III 29 bag. I’m not sure when I’ll purchase it, but if and when I do, I’ll feel just as proud as I did touting that Kate Spade I bought for myself more than a decade prior—because I’ll know I did it on my own.

I know most people might think I’m ridiculous for spending all this money on bags in the first place. But for me, similar to maybe how you feel, bags hold a deeper meaning (don’t laugh!). They represent real accomplishments and provide a sense of comfort I can’t exactly explain. While I’m sure it would be nice to have someone waltz me into Bergdorf Goodman and let me go wild, I just don’t think bags would give me the same feeling anymore.

There is something unbelievably powerful about walking into a boutique, picking out a bag of my choice, and handing the SA my credit card. It’s even more fun when said SA thought from the moment you walked in that you couldn’t actually afford anything in the place. (Ahhh, when will they learn? That’s a story for another day, though.)

Do you get the same sensation when purchasing a bag on your own? Or would you take the free Chanel and run? (No judgement!) Maybe I would take it too, but I definitely don’t think I’d feel the same way about a Chanel gifted to me versus one I ultimately gift myself.

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