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Ask Belle: Christmas Bonus Handbag

Hi Belle,

Rumor has it we’re getting a nice Christmas bonus this year, and I’d like to spend some of it on a quality structured tote in a neutral color. I’m looking for something in the $200-400 range that is classic enough to last a few years.

Thanks for all the fashion advice this year. Hope you have a wonderful holiday! Rachel

Ah, the end-of-the-year bonus purchase.  Before we talk about bags, can we talk about my rule for holiday bonuses?

Bonuses are awesome symbols of monetary gratitude, and you should spend, but spend wisely.  If you put it all in your savings account/IRA, you’ll likely feel deprived.  If you blow it all on clothes and shoes, what do you have to show for your unexpected windfall?

I subscribe to something I call the 40-30-20-10 Rule.  This is not scientific, and it isn’t endorsed by a financial planner.  It’s just how I make the most of unexpected cash.

40-percent goes into my savings account.  30-percent goes toward debts.  20-percent is spent on something for me (a trip, a pair of shoes, a nice dinner, etc.).  And 10-percent goes to charity.

Now, let’s talk about handbags…

The first thing you need to decide is what neutral color you will wear most.  Is it black? Brown? Navy? Grey?  If you’re looking for a bag that can be carried in any season with any color, may I suggest grey.


Foley + Corinna Cassis Satchel ($252)

I love the shape of the handles on this bag.  The color is also nice because it’s a bit darker than usual.  The size is good, and the cross body strap is always a nice addition.


Rebecca Minkoff Amorous Satchel ($325)

This bag comes in many colors from neutrals to brights.  It has a separator to give you one internal pocket and two inner compartments.  The grey is $325, but some of the other colors are on sale for $227.


Ralph Lauren Morrison Satchel ($348)

Ralph Lauren makes several chic satchels in this price range.  This Morrison satchel is a chic option with several internal pockets.  I own the Selma satchel ($251), and I love it.  Their Sutton satchel ($328) has two zipper pockets and internal compartments for all your storage needs.  Want something with a little more va-va-voom? Their Selma satchel in snakeskin is a versatile animal print.



  1. RTK says:

    PSA: The Ralph Lauren Morrison Satchel is on sale on the RL website for ~$190

    December 16, 2014/Reply
  2. Kelly says:

    Great advice, Belle! I’ve been in the work force 15 years now and have blown countless bonuses on junk including clothes and handbags. I like that your choices are chic but sensibly priced without sacrificing quality.

    Just my 2 cents, but exercise caution when considering spending your bonus on an expensive high end designer bag. I’ve made that mistake twice and regretted it both times…

    December 16, 2014/Reply
  3. Allison says:

    LOVE the 40-30-20-10 rule–I’ve never thought about breaking it down that way, but I will from now on!!

    December 16, 2014/Reply
  4. Crystal says:

    Belle–Excellent advice. Around the holidays it’s so easy to spend as much on ourselves as on several friends and family members combined (when really, we should be investing or saving the bulk of that money).

    Rachel–If you’re looking for a neutral work tote, may I recommend The Tote by Dagne Dover? $265. It’s water- and rain-resistant, zips, structured enough to stand on its own, and has dedicated pockets for everything (laptop, tablet, phone, Kindle, keys, sunglasses/water bottle/umbrella…) *and* space for it all. The strap lengths and size are perfect. I bought one recently, and I’m in love–one nice-looking work bag that passes as a purse, and no more carting two bags (purse and laptop) to and from work or emptying and re-coordinating purses every day. One bag = done. (Three of my friends have since purchased their own, and they seem in love, too.) (use this link and I’ll get credit!)

    December 16, 2014/Reply
    • MRitz says:

      Love this bag and tried to use the link but black is sold out. I’m on the waitlist now.

      January 14, 2015/Reply
  5. Lynn says:

    Love your money advice! Refreshing for a fashion blogger not to advocate spend, spend, spend while calling it an “investment.”

    December 16, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Some readers turned me around on the “investment” angle. I still believe in buying good basics for how long they last, but they’re right, it’s not really an investment.

      December 16, 2014/Reply
  6. anon says:

    I paid off my student loans last month, my reward for months of putting as much as possible toward it? Blowing my bonus. Haven’t decided on what yet…
    After reading this, I will give 10% to charity though.

    December 16, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      You deserve a reward! Good for you!

      December 16, 2014/Reply
  7. MM says:

    In some circles, it’s also nice (expected?) to use a bit of your bonus to “bonus” those who helped you to get there. It’s been a good, morale-boosting practice to share a percentage with my assistant (1/3 of my quarterly bonus is based on work that we do together, so I give her 1/6 and round up). I also give my nanny a bonus bc if she doesn’t work, I can’t work!

    December 16, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Question: Would you still give your assistant a bonus if she got one of her own from the company? Would it depend on how much larger yours is than hers?

      December 17, 2014/Reply
      • MM says:

        Very interesting question! In my case, she did not get her own. But hypothetically for me, I would probably still give her something, since a happy, motivated assistant is worth her / his weight in gold. And since many times there is a real disparity in salary between the two positions, I think it would really be appreciated. But just my two cents. Would love to hear other opinions.

        PS–love the blog!

        December 18, 2014/Reply
        • Belle says:

          A lawyer of 20yrs told a group of students at a speech I attended that a good assistant is 10x more valuable than a new lawyer. They were aghast, I was like, try 20x more valuable.

          December 18, 2014/Reply
  8. save. spend. splurge. says:

    Thank you for mentioning saving the bonus, Belle. I’m a huge fan of saving (obvious by my blog and name), but I also like spending and enjoying my money as well.

    December 24, 2014/Reply
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