Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Secret Science of Shopping

A million years ago I flatted in London with two economists. One of them, Miguel, was from Madrid and he had learned most of his English while studying at London Business School. Thus he would talk about his "portfolio of shirts." I teased him at the time (very kindly) but I later realised how wise was his view of the world and how it could er, justify one's shopping habits.

The definitive economic principles of shopping. First off: the Sunk Cost Bubblegum Frock!

Me at the NY Stock Echange in my Sunk Cost Frock: "Buy, buy?" Photoshop by Harley
Sunk cost: This is a fancy way of my Aunt Edna saying: "Don't throw good money after bad." You made a bad choice, otherwise known as the "airport purchase." At Heathrow Airport in a moment of dehydration you give in to that cheeky glass of wine with your Ye Olde Fishe and Chipse and then buy that pleated bubblegum-pink Mutton-lamb dress. Put it in your costume box. Don't spend more money on trying to make it suitable for a dinner in the City with a new jacket or wrap or boots. I just saw this dress on someone's 18-year-daughter who looked fantastic in it. Fate sealed: in your go, pink frock - costume box.

Tax on Innovation: You will come in for some criticism (verbal tax) for for trying out new things (pink airport dress) but you can give yourself credit for forging innovation, or being an "early adopter".

Marginal Utility: It's always worth spending more on something you use more. Means that you should feel no guilt about spending on things you wear a lot: like jeans, swimsuits and trench coats.

My trusty trench

Backwardation: When an asset is valued more in today's market than in the futures' market. Will that peplum dress really be wearable next year. How about those gold crackle leather pants? If you hesitate at all, don’t buy it.

Instant Appreciation: When you put on something as soon as you buy it - as I did with this necklace - it's a keeper.



False arbitrage: Arbitrage works by buying assets and selling others. Doing your usual "One-in-One-out": that is, purchasing a new jacket and and then giving away another jacket to a friend does not qualify.

Occam's Razor: the simplest workable theories are also the most useful and the best. White t-shirt and jeans, a classic, why fight it?

Jen's version of the white t and jeans
And Olivia Palermo's take

Update on my economist flatmates: Miguel is back in Madrid and had twins with his girlfriend. And the other one called Kevin? Reader, I married him...

Spill the beans...what shopping principles do you live by?


50 comments:

  1. I had no idea there was so much technological precision involved in the acquisition of haberdashery. Fancy that.

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  2. Seriously, you should write a book about all of the flatmates you have had. You always have the best stories.

    I guess my main shopping principle is to spend money on classic pieces and go cheap on trend.

    Also to wear the stuff that is in my closet and not save it for a rainy day. I have a bad habit of waiting to wear things for no good reason.

    *Erin

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    1. Popcorn: I still that thing of "keeping things for good" then the "good" never rolls around...

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  3. I like Miguel's thinking. A lot.

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  4. I have stopped (nearly) buying special outfits, dresses, anything "special". It only takes one or two of those items to have plenty.

    It is finding a twist on the classic white tee with blue jeans like a colored tee with white jeans or like Olivia did above with the jacket and "special" necklace plus the basics.

    So this season, maybe a pair of great statement shoes and a new bag. My goal is to wear out some of the pieces I already have and pare down so I may start new, and limited in number.

    Your favorite economist former flatmate must have been very pleased with this post!

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  5. As I buy all my stuff from Charity shops (thrift stores) I just go mad and buy what I want when I want....although I do have to agree with buying (new) classic pieces. My mum always taught me to have a good bed and good shoes as 'if you're not in one you're in the other'.
    p.s. your 3 things you wear a lot made me smile...I get the trench and the jeans...but swimsuit? me? here in blighty?? ha ha ha.

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  6. This was a great entry. Also, like the jeans and white t-shirt picture.... and i liked your halloween entry below too. It's so great when people go all out and enjoy the halloween to the fullest.

    -liv
    http://chocolivlovelaugh.blogspot.kr

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  7. As my old flatmate at university said when I asked her what shoe size she was, 'Somewhere between 4 and 7 depending on how much I want the shoes.' Well said. We both studied economics too. And I have twins (not with Miguel though).

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  8. Dear God, if only I had principles - of any kind! I no longer impulse buy, unless I find myself impulse buying. I have the self-discipline and resolve of a stunned goldfish.

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  9. As I've gotten older I don't shop willy nilly anymore. I make sure every piece in my closet with go with something else and buy things in every colour if I find a winner!

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  10. I haven't work out a business plan or strategy for my shopping, but I sure do enjoy learning about yours. LOL

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  11. Quietly genius :)
    Just got caught up on your posts - always have so much fun reading about your quirky and exciting life. Loved your Halloween costumes!
    I think my shopping nowadays, that the skinny me has been swallowed up by the...NOT skinny me, is more about comfort.

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  12. If you favour a company, buy shares in it.

    I have done this recently after discovering a pair of jeans by a brand called Dranella. The jeans fit so well I have bought two other pairs of trousers from the same make.

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  13. Impulse shopping is the worst for me..

    These are great Jody and I agree that paying more for the classic pieces is the way to go. Basics are essential and those trendy items.. that's where ya gotta be careful!

    xx
    leslie

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  14. I love jeans in white tshirt but am that lone wolf who looks hideous in trench, I look like I'm en route to my job at the bank rather than buttoned up saucy mare.

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    Replies
    1. I respectfully disagree, Tabitha. You must have sold a zillion of the Encore trench when you posted that picture. You certainly sold me one.

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    2. Yes! i was just going to say that - that is one of the first posts I read of hers', the back view of her in the trench in the street, very Bacall.

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  15. Over the last few years, I have become very picky about buying clothes and shoes - the items have to be good quality, wash & dry well, goes with other items in my wardrobe and I try to think of the cost-per-wear when I'm paying more money for something. I'm also becoming more comfortable and aware of what my actual style is. (Classic, simple, uncomplicated). Why should putting together outfits be so frustrating? No thanks.

    My Mom was somewhat amused but mostly scandalized when I bought a Dooney & Bourke handbag a year ago in NYC, spent a bit of $$$ for it. But, it still looks brand new a year later and has been used almost every single day.....while all the other elcheapo purses would have been worn out and trashed by now. I had scouted out the purse months before online and saved up for it. I'm aiming for at least 10 years wear with that handbag (even more would be great!)

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    1. More than ten wears and you're actually quids in ...and making money! That's an economic theory for another day though....

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  16. Your post is perfectly timed for me. I am rarely an impulsive shopper-pondering purchases for days. I invest in quality bags and shoes and don't spend tons on tees and jeans-which I live in. I have a lot of jackets, cardigans and coats that can make the outfit even if paired with simple basics. I get caught up in party dressing and always want pretty dresses or outfits for events-but are rarely worn. I know this is crazy, but it is the emotional part of shopping that gets me. I'm currently having an internal battle over wearing a dress in my closet or buying something new for an event next year. There is no firm solution yet.

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    1. I have had to cut myself off from stalking frocks which I never have any place to wear, as though I'm one of the cast in High Society and saying: "My, she was so yar" (see I don't even know how to spell it..)

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  17. I subscribe to all those principles with the exception of Instant appreciaton - I don't like wearing new things straight away. I have been known to put things away and wear them the following year which is a bit weird. But at least when it comes out and if the hubs asks me, I can at least say "I got this last year - it's not new!"

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  18. As with most things, my shopping tendencies have improved with age. Or is it that I can just now afford what I really wanted all along? Not sure, but I splurge on staples (like the trench) but don't feel I need something new for every night out with friends. I have plenty of clothes from which to pull and can add only a few new pieces each season. And by "a few" I mean 10 - 30. ; )

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  19. Oh I'm definitely the marginal utilitarian!! But truthfully I hate shopping for clothes, hate it! I like having nice clothes but the whole trying on thing on after the other, I'd rather do the dishes!! Love Di ♥

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  20. This is oh so complicated it's hurting my head ;) My worst habit is shopping for wardrobe fantasies. And my worst ROI for saving money is when I hunt for lower prices for something already purchased. More often than not I end up with other items not on the shopping list that are such a deal I cannot pass them up. Terrible economics on my part.

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    1. Simple really...It's all about the Justification 101. A fashion editor once told me: never buy something on sale that you wouldn't pay full price for. Of course somehow that advice always goes out the window when I see a label...

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  21. I so agree my shopping habits have improved over the years. This post is so cute!

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  22. I invite my personal shopper over twice a year, she comes with bags of second-hand stuff. I try everything on, so does me mate Cath, and then I buy what I like at silly prices. I don't go to the shops much - far too pricey for me. :(

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  23. My worst habit is shopping for wardrobe fantasies.

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  24. This is actually fantastic advice- and I say actually, not because I doubt your savviness, but because I recognize your cheekiness!

    I am a BIG believer in the sunk cost, marginal utility and the backwardation principles!

    Man, that guy Kevin got lucky :)

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  25. Great post! I'm a great believer in the instant appreciation theory! If I want to wear it immediately I know I love it. If I think it may linger in the wardrobe then it's better to return it for a refund.
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

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  26. Love your post Jody. I am the worst shopper--I usually wait way too long and then it's gone, but due to the bad economy I got lucky this year and actually ended up with a couple of things I wanted. But because of many many many backwardation and marginal utility purchases of the past, I have been burned and barely shop at all unless I really have to.

    xo Mary Jo

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  27. as always, this is sound advice! some I'm already doing and some.. dunno-why-I-didn't-think-of-them before! love ur pic at the NYSE...obviously working hard for the money in a hot pink top.
    Jody...mu URL has changed, come & visit me please :)http://www.maureenstevens.com

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  28. I'd have to go with Marginal Utility. Totally.

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  29. 'reader, i married him'... LOOOOOVE.

    (read tales of desperaux to hailey, and every time the author wrote directly to the "reader" i changed my voice... made her giggle :))

    i really thing you need to be a "professional shopping coach". (kevin can assist as needed)

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  30. When I buy something questionable, I always have an argument with myself on whether or not that item is really "me" or if that matters because I am experimenting. Shoot, half the time I'm not sure what dressing like "me" is!

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  31. I am so guilty of Sunk Cost. What is it about those crazy outfits that look so good in the moment but never again?! I recently heard that you will never love an outfit more than you do in the dressing room so I try to remember that and not pretend I can fix the whole thing at home.

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  32. Excellent advice. I would pay good money to have you come shopping with me.
    I don't remember ever being without a trench coat - yours looks uber chic.
    What a good idea to marry a flat mate - no nasty suprises. Now you have a beautiful family. May you have many happy years together:)

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  33. No principles of any kind ... ever ! But this is a great post, very funny !

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  34. Oh man, I had tears running down my cheeks. This is absolutely hilarious! Jody, you're a comedian in every sense. A very chic one at that. Brilliant. Totally brilliant post.

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  35. Such a funny post; I don't know how to clothes shop, I'm hopeless - maybe if I'd known there were rules.....

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  36. Jody,
    This was a keeper. Just need to file it away it in my head. After a few of what I thought were good purchases, but now regret I almost feel like giving up on shopping. SO right you are about money being spent well on things you always use- coats, shoes, bags and jeans.

    My fluorescent top I loved a month a go now is in the same state as the bubblegum dress! However, I think you looked darling in yours.
    xo
    Kim

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    1. Kim that's sweet but my dress is so so unflattering, the pic doesn't show how pouffy and the bubble part of the gum. Maybe for a Austin Powers party? (need to see your fluro top, sounds great still with jeans? I have a MJ part fluro top that I did get loads of wear from...)

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  37. I can understand that Instant Appreciation. My does it as soon as she reaches home from shopping.

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