It’s not easy being a woman. Everyone is out for our hard-earned dollars. Wherever we glance, we are bombarded with advertisements of impeccably airbrushed models selling us something we’re told we absolutely need. You know, the one thing that’s everywhere on Instagram. The one thing that you must have in order to feel good about yourself.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of devilish marketing (like those strategically placed ads on our phone and laptop screens) and the ease of ordering online. And that’s fine if you have a healthy supply of extra money coming in. But really, for anyone, blowing too much money on not-so-smart splurges can end up being detrimental to your finances if you don’t have a plan.
Spending on a budget can be a challenge, but it can also be a blessing. Some probing questions and criteria can teach any of us how to spend our “fun” money in the smartest way possible. Here are five ways you can tame your spending-money splurges.
1. Ask yourself: Do I really need that “must-have”?
Yes, of course, I need this new office bag! Yes, of course, I need (yet) another foundation! Yes, of course, I need a new pair of shoes (my current favorites are more than a year old)! We are so used to buying things without thinking much about whether we really need them that this first step might feel almost torturous. And you may not always like the answer to this question.
When money is in short supply, be brutally honest with yourself about whether you need something or not before buying it. There’s no dearth of fantastic and “life-changing” products on the market. Fortunately, we can do just fine without the vast majority of them.
2. Choose quality over quantity…
Once you are clear about what you need versus what you only kinda, sorta want, you will have more dollars to spend on high-quality items. These things stick around. Long-lasting products obviously provide more value, but they also provide a reminder that you bought something for fun (so you might not need to do it again right now!). Seeing a full closet or a full jewelry box because you chose items that last will cut down on that nagging feeling you need to buy more.
Also, when on a limited budget, it’s often tempting to pick more for less. You want to buy as many items as you can for as little as possible. This is a bad idea or, at the very least, short-term thinking. Those things add up, and quickly. And you might not even realize how much you’re spending when you buy products for $5 at a time. There’s no use buying junk.
Yes, it is junk if it is low-quality. It won’t last long. It won’t wear well. It won’t give your outfits and your looks the oomph you crave. It will be lying discarded and forgotten just a few months from now. That is not what you want.
3. … but also know where to scrimp
Having unequivocally stated that it is always advisable to choose quality over quantity, there are items on which spending top dollar makes no real sense. What this essentially means is that there are clearly crazily overpriced items out there that one needs to steer clear of. Sometimes, an exorbitant price tag does indicate high quality, but other times, it’s just a greedy sales ploy (and you should be able to tell one from the other).
Take lipsticks, for instance. You will find excellent picks under $5, great dupes of the MACs and the Charlotte Tilburys of the world. How does one justify spending $100 on a foundation? Are you sure it contains that extra something that makes it worth that much?
On the other hand, there are items you should never scrimp on. Jewelry, for instance. Fake jewelry may look very attractive and trendy in the store, but it’s going to lose its luster soon after which it will look plain tacky and maybe even embarrassing. I’d go so far as to say don’t buy gold-plated jewelry at all; buy a minimalistic (real) gold bangle instead. Wear those pearl earrings your mom gifted you on your 25th birthday. Cherish the diamond ring you bought ages ago. These are timeless items that will help you create classy looks every single time.
4. If you’re buying clothes, only buy versatile pieces
Like buying long-lasting products leaves you feeling good for a long time after, versatile pieces will add the value you crave to your closet. Pieces you can mix and match and layer up or down depending on the season are always clever purchases you will use over and over, giving you no excuse to run to Zara because you have “nothing to wear.”
Shopping versatile pieces requires a deep understanding of your personal style. If blazers and boots are a must for you, pick the outer layers in universally flattering colors, such as gray, navy or brown. Avoid buying standout items, like yellow anything or magenta jackets. They might win you over in the store, but once you have worn them a couple of times, you will find there isn’t much you can do with them.
As cliché as might this sound, invest in high-quality basics. And choose colors and fabrics that are versatile in nature. The same goes for accessories. Forget Forever 21 or fast fashion in general. Spend more on classic pieces and less on trending ones.
5. Remember why you need a plan
Devising a spending-money budget can be a creative and fun exercise. But you’ll need a plan for it and a keen understanding of what suits you. You will have to slay your impulses and rise above facile trends.
Introspect, research and budget: That’s my mantra to smart, fun spending that doesn’t burn a hole in my leather pocket. What’s yours?
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.