Ask Belle: Big Purchases, Are They Worth It?

Nov 8, 2016

Dear Belle,

Like you, I love, love, love Burberry.  I’ve wanted one of their trench coats for years but I don’t know if it’s worth it.  $2,000 for a coat is SOOOO much money.  Do you think it’s worth it?  How did you justify it?

Love the blog.  Kaylee

Having the resources to make a large fashion purchase–like a Burberry trench–is the ultimate luxury.  I searched for several years in outlets, on discount sites, eBay, etc. for a discounted trench, but never found one.  When I graduated from law school, I decided to buy myself a graduation gift, and what better choice than a Burberry trench?

I went into the store at City Center DC, and ended up trying on every coat in the store.  I tried on dozens of colors, styles, and sizes.  Finally, a coat from the sale rack this Leather Cotton Gabardine Trench in navy (not the basic stone Kensington trench I thought I wanted) spoke to me.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve spent over $1,000 on trench coats from J.Crew, Banana Republic, and London Fog.  They’re not as well-made as the Burberry trenches, and so the elbows, liners, and hems wore out.  And unlike those coats, I loved the Burberry trench.  I felt great, almost empowered, wearing it.

Now, I’m not a particularly indulgent shopper.  But as I was standing in front of the mirror, I thought back to sitting on the Metro as a 22-year-old intern watching this incredibly stylish woman in her Burberry coat, typing away on her Blackberry, and thinking #lifegoals.  I saved up for my trench coat for months, and I knew I would regret not taking advantage of the $600 savings on a piece that I could still be wearing when I’m 50.  So how did I decide to make this purchase?

If you’re contemplating a big purchase–whether you like bags, shoes, jewelry, or coats–for me, the test  is five questions.

1) Can I afford it?  Not can I put it on my credit card, but can I buy it today and not steal money from my future self or from other obligations?

2) Do I love it?  Not like it, love it.  When I wear it, do I feel amazing?  Does it have that X-factor?  Will it make my day a little brighter to be wearing it?  (I still get a little tingle in my spine every time I put on my trench.)

3) Would I still love it if it weren’t Burberry/Jimmy Choo/Chanel?  Am I buying the logo, or am I buying the item itself?

4) Does this piece fit into my lifestyle, and will I wear it today, tomorrow, and for years to come?  Even the savviest shopper buys things that collect dust in their closet.  If you wear sneakers every day, I wouldn’t splurge on those 4″ Louboutins.  So ask yourself if this is a smart choice for you.

5) One more time, ask yourself if you can afford it?. Don’t impulse buy a splurge purchase.  Put it on hold overnight.  Go get an ice cream and think about it for a minute.  Make sure you’re sure before commit.

Have you ever splurged on a purchase?  Did you regret it, or are you glad you did it?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.


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  1. jo says:

    This is a great convo starter. I go through many of those questions when I buy an investment piece. I usually think about it for a while. Like you, I only splurge on classics that I will use often. It may be something that I always wanted that I finally pulled the trigger on, like a Burberry trench coat. one day I would like one too. Where yours well 🙂

  2. Rachel says:

    At the time (undergrad) I considered it a splurge- a pair of tall heeled Frye boots that I was in love with. I wanted them for months and thought long and hard about paying upwards of $350 for boots…. I finally got them and still consider it one of my best life decisions! Seven years later and I wear them constantly thru the fall, winter, and spring and have since bought 2 other pairs of Frye boots that I love and wear all the time as well (wearing a pair as I type this). I think a woman knows in her gut if it is a must have piece and if you will really use it all the time… so listen to your gut even if your gut is telling you it’s a no (or not right now)!

  3. Cait says:

    I’ve never splurged on a big fashion purchase, but I was wondering if you or anyone else could comment on what types of things are as “splurge-worthy,” as the Burberry trench. I’m hesitant to splurge on things I think I’ll “ruin” by heavy use (shoes, bags), but I don’t want to splurge on something that’s so “special occasion” I’ll never use it.

    • Belle says:

      My lifetime splurges are: two David Yurman rings (one fancy, one for every day), and a Burberry trench. I think you look at the pieces you wear every day (or regularly) and you ask yourself, “IF I replaced this with a higher quality version would it be worth it?” I don’t buy expensive shoes because I walk and stand so much. But I would consider a bag if it was something really special.

  4. Anon says:

    I’ve got the Burberry Kensignton also.
    On a cost per wear basis its warned its $$ back completely.

  5. ABVV says:

    When I was about 25 I purchased a mahogany brown Cole Haan leather jacket on a discount site (Rue La La or similar). It is the most money I have ever spent on a single piece of clothing, and it became my husband’s Christmas gift to me because that was the only way to fit it into the budget. I never regret it. Seven years later it still fits beautifully and looks great, and it is a little more supple from wear in the best way possible. The style is classic, and I still love putting it on. As long as I keep conditioning it regularly, it could end up in a vintage store in 30 years – if I’m not still wearing it.

  6. MM says:

    I splurged on a pair of black Louboutin “Simple” pumps and don’t regret for a second. I thought about them for months and when on a particularly stressful business trip I decided to carve out time to try them on (and actually went with a slightly higher heel than originally intended). They can and do serve as a wardrobe basic BUT I do wear them strategically if I need to feel particularly confident (big meeting or presentation or stressful work on the horizon). They have resulted in a somewhat unexpected external/social validation (mostly from women) which has been interesting since my “splurges” tend to be in non-obvious expressions.

    I will admit that I am currently looking for a “next level” watch (I have worn the same Citizen Eco Drive every day since 2005…) and would like to take a portion of my next bonus check to purchase it (with the rest going straight to savings). However, the hunt is still on. I tried on what I thought was “it” and was underwhelmed…and of course fell in love with a $25,000 style from the same designer. Been on my mind for literally 2 YEARS but NO…just….NO. So…the hunt continues…

  7. Addie says:

    I’ve never made a fashion purchase quite that big. But I did just spend $200 on a cashmere blend winter coat and then spent another $75 on alterations (broad shoulders, small waist, short arms). I have two other winter coats in red and black with slightly different styles, but a camel walker coat is what I wear most of the winter when I’m dressed for work And thanks to the alterations it makes me feel like a million bucks. I don’t regret it in the least.

  8. Kelly says:

    I too coveted a Burberry trench for years and finally succumbed to the siren call of their short Kensington trench in leopard. It is a subtle print that often acts as a neutral. I wear it constantly and absolutely LOVE it! It was ridiculously expensive, but like the previous commenter I’m looking at it on a cost per wear basis. Now if I could just stop thinking about the longer Kensington trench in stone…

  9. Barbara says:

    In Florence in 2004, I, too, tried on every black lambskin blazer in the store before purchasing the original one the salesman picked out for me. It was $1000. I’d never paid that much for a piece of clothing before (or since). Wearing it to work one day after I returned, I was told, “I don’t know what you paid for it, but it was worth every penny.” It still looks like a million bucks (and so do I when I’m wearing it).

  10. Nicole says:

    I remember purchasing a Dooney & Bourke purse many years ago when I had just graduated from college. It cost me more money than my monthly rent. I didn’t use the purse for very long and eventually it felt really silly. I remember looking at the purse and thinking about what other more practical things I could have purchased with that money. So I think your guidelines are useful and I would use this as an example of how not to splurge. I bought the purse for the status, not for any practical value. I definitely regret that purchase, even many (many!) years later.

  11. jill says:

    I once bought brown leather boots at a cool shop in New York. I was with friends and decided not to take a lot of time deciding on the boots. Big mistake, as they were beautiful but too tight in the ankle and stretching didn’t help. Now, lesson learned, I take my time in deliberating over such purchases.

  12. CaliGalinDC says:

    Aquatalia suede ankle boots. Most expensive shoes I’ve ever purchased, and worth every cent. I’m nearly 6 ft tall, with long, skinny feet. Italian shoes fit like a dream, and these are suede *rainboots*! Zero regrets.

  13. SJ says:

    For me it was an Omega watch – dressy enough for the office, goes with both silver and gold (it’s sort of in between), and something I could wear every day. I don’t regret that $1500 ever, I’ve worn it constantly for a decade now!

  14. Shannon T says:

    I wanted a pair of black Valentino rock stud pumps like I’ve never wanted anything before. This desire to have was overwhelming. I waited, convinced it would blow over. It didn’t. I still waited…for a YEAR. When finally I bought them on sale and had them home, I only tried them on briefly, on carpet to see if I *still really* wanted them.

    Funny thing was, after having them a week just in their box and trying them on in front of the mirror, I didn’t have the aching, burning need for them anymore. I still really, really liked them and could have used them for years but realized I could buy so many other things instead (a flight to Hawaii or Europe, a new washer, a pair of designer curtains) with that money.

    I returned them for a pair of Sole Society Studded heels. Which I’ve worn a ton and are still great.

    I still would have loved to own those Valentinos but I’m happy with their surrogates and am not disappointed I don’t have them. I’m more happy with the other items I got in their place.

  15. Saramel says:

    I was gifted a Burberry trench when I turned 20 and I wore it for many years. First the belt started to show wear where I tied it, then the cuffs, and so on. My own personal investment in pieces like this from now on will be reserved for things that are more durable and that can be more easily preserved like shoes and purses. I loved that coat but it did not last any longer than any other that cost significantly less.

  16. Annie says:

    My Burberry trench and my Cartier watch are my two splurges. I was gifted a LV Delightful PM for a milestone birthday, but I’m not sure it gets enough use to warrant a place on my Splurge list.

  17. kittycatbob says:

    About 5 or 6 years ago I splurged on a pair of tall boots. I have extremely slim legs and they fit my calves perfectly, which never happened. The catch was that they were $500+ and I had never in my life spent that much money on one item that wasn’t a mortgage payment or a new computer. I was with an older woman who patiently waited 30 mins for me to decide if I should buy them. She then told me the story about her first splurge which was a pair of cream suede boots in the 70’s. She said that she still had them and wore them occasionally. I purchased the boots and still break them out every winter. They are great and I feel like $1M when I wear them.

  18. Nadine Tribue says:

    I too purchased a Burberry trench…I always loved how a trench coat would somehow make you look so pulled together and chic. I tried on many brands over the years because I just couldn’t bring myself to pay that price for a coat. From London Fog to JCrew, I purchased and returned each one. The look I had in my head was of the crisp lines, stiff collar, narrow cut arms. Each to me fell short in the fit department. I even tried on a Saint Laurent but still didn’t fall in love until eventually I just gave in and marched into the Burberry store. I found my true love. It took me a year to save for it but I have not regretted it since. I love my coat and I know I’ll have it for decades to come.

  19. MCW says:

    Not as luxurious as a Burberry coat (someday…) but I treated myself to a Barbour waxed cotton jacket after finishing my 2L summer associate gig. I had wanted one since 1L, it was $150 off at the anniversary sale and I just couldn’t resist. I love wearing it, but the weather is getting too cold for it and I was starting to feel discouraged about having purchased it. Good thing I started watching The Crown and watched The Queen. They reminded me why I wanted the coat so badly. Great advice. Time to start saving for my Burberry trench..

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