Why that cheap piece of clothing is costing you more than it's worth.

With the post-Christmas sales well and truly in full swing, millions of Australians are snapping up the savings in store and online. But there’s something worth keeping in mind as you sift through the bargain bin:

Buying more for less isn’t always the best option in the long run.

As Elizabeth Cline, the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, argues, as a society we’re hooked on a cycle of buying and tossing clothes, of choosing items that either barely get worn or barely last.

This, she identifies as ‘the psychology of cheap’.

“We don’t value things we pay little for,” she told Kiplinger. “With clothing, that means we’re less likely to sew a button back on or try to get a stain out.”

Conversely, if you’ve parted with more of your hard-earned money to nab an item, you’re not only likely to wear it more, but also to take better care of it and own it for longer.

And this generally makes it cheaper over all.


There’s actually an equation (I know. Maths, eww. But stick with me). The formula goes: Price of garment + maintenance ÷ by the number of times you’re likely to wear it.

Apply this to staple purchases – like say, a pair of jeans – and you’ll note that a $100 item that fits you well and lasts several years is better value than a poor-quality $40 pair that wear out after one winter.

Yes, that might sound blindingly obvious, but it’s also very easy to forget when you spot that bargain price tag.

“I like my money right where I can see it: hanging in my closet.” – Carrie Bradshaw

Of course, all this doesn’t mean you need to be spending hundreds of dollars on a t-shirt or that you should sidle straight on past sale items or a second-hand store. It simply means selecting a handful of staples that will bring you long-term value for money.

That’s where ‘the comfort principle’ comes in.

As noted by Lifehacker‘s Patrick Allan, the key is about spending your money where you spend most of your time.

Much like how you might be prepared to fork out extra for a quality mattress or office chair, you should be thinking about where it makes sense to do the same for your wardrobe. For one person, that might mean decent gym gear; for another, a nice suit for work.

“Clothing isn’t an investment in the traditional sense (it never gains value, and you’ll never sell an item of clothing for more than it was purchased),” Allan writes, “but it’s good to think of it like a down payment on your daily comfort, your confidence in your appearance, and the utility of your wardrobe.”

So rather than buying those expensive high heels you’ll only squeeze into a few times, spend that money on a high-quality, well-fitting bra, for example.

Your wallet will thank you for it in the long run. And so will your boobs.

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