Review: You’re So Money

Each Friday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book of interest.

you're so moneyA few weeks ago, I piqued the interest of many readers by mentioning offhand that I’d recently read a personal finance book that “ticked me off almost as much as Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” Well, this is it. Let me start off by quoting from the back cover:

Finally, a savvy, realistic finance book for thos of us who love our Starbuck mocha lattes and Razr cell phones but don’t want our Jimmy Choo shoes or Bose headphones buried under a pile of burgeoning debt.

In other words, this book pitches personal finance advice for consumerism addicts.

Looking at the cover of You’re So Money, reading the blurb on the back, and browsing through it, I found myself almost in disbelief as to the idea behind this book. From beginning to end, it glorifies a consumerist lifestyle and judging others based on the possessions they have. Jimmy Choo? A hand bag that costs more than $3,000? Whenever I see someone holding a $3,000 handbag, I freely admit to drawing a conclusion about that person – but it’s not the flattering conclusion they’d like. If you have $3,000 to blow on a handbag, why do you not have $3,000 to give to a food pantry?

Let me make this clear right off of the bat. I think Farnoosh Torabi wrote an excellent book here. It made me think. It made me fume in places. It made me alternately want to recommend it to some people and to throw it in the trash. But I finished it, and I thought about the contents a lot. I’m going to criticize pieces of this book very harshly below, but as with my review of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I think it’s a book very much worth reviewing and discussing, even if I don’t necessarily like the book or agree with the conclusions.

Ready to dig in? This is going to be fun.

When Someone Says You’re So Money, Are They Merely Talking About Your Stuff?

One aspect of this book frustrated me quite a bit: the constant product name dropping. I don’t need to hear about your Gucci handbag or the iPhone that someone has. All that does is reaffirm that these items are somehow essential. They’re not.

1. Life. Is. Good.
Given the rampant flood of consumerism encouragement I expected, the book opened with some surprisingly strong advice. Basically, Torabi encourages the readers to take care of the needs first, and breaks them down into several groups: taxes, benefits, retirement, an emergency fund, housing, and food (stressing a healthy diet), in that order. She argues that these are the essentials and need to be covered before anything else.

This, of course, leaves some portion as a leftover, and that portion can be used in whatever way you wish. If you keep your spending within that portion of the pie, you’ll be fine.

2. No More Debt Drama
You’re So Money basically splits debt into good debts and bad debts. Good debts are ones that buy things that are essential to your life: a prime mortgage, student loans, and automobile loans. Bad debts are basically credit card debts and consumer loans – those with high interest rates. In a nutshell, people should eliminate their bad debts but then not sweat their good debts too much.

Her advice for recent graduates struggling with credit card debt is interesting: basically, make minimum payments on the card, then roll every single “bonus” you get into that card. If a relative gives you money for Christmas, use it on the card. If you get a bonus at work, use it on the card. That’s solid and sensible advice if you’re committed to not throwing more balance on the card and your overall income is pretty low – a situation that should be familiar to recent graduates.

3. Banking in Bed and Scoring
Here, Farnoosh recommends switching to an online bank because their overheads are lower and thus offer many more perks for customers in the form of very convenient online banking services, strong interest rates, and the ubiquity of ATMs for most teller-related needs.

I thoroughly agree with her here – online banking is one of the best things that has happened to my own finances. It makes almost every regular banking task more convenient, the use of online bill pay saves me substantially on stamps and envelopes, and

4. Rich People Dress Good
After three chapters of “good,” here’s where I start to disagree a bit with Torabi. In the first chapter, she admitted that clothing was something she considered very important to her – a part of her definition of “the good life.” Here, the idea that expensive clothing is essential comes in front and center. She argues that you must dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have, which is good advice in some situations but terrible advice in others. If I dressed for the job I wanted at my previous job (in office conditions), I would have basically been ridiculed by my coworkers for massively overdressing.

The real point here – once you tease away all of the fluff about “must-have” $300 jeans and other nonsense – is a principle I actually agree with. If you know what you want, you’re far better off buying a quality version of the item rather than a cheap and disposable version. She uses an example of sunglasses. I like my own example of kitchen knives – I’d rather get a Global 8″ chef’s knife and keep it in a magnetic rack than getting a cheap chef’s knife for $10 as part of a set and discard it after a few years because the blade is so beat up that it’s almost unusable and doesn’t hold a sharpening. On that principle, I agree wholly with the author – I just feel that she overvalues clothes when she acts as though a $300 pair of jeans is the norm.

5. Accessorize Right
This is almost a Consumer Reports-lite section tossed into the middle of the book. For the most part, it’s a sensible buying guide for many items – cell phones, other gadgets, and gym memberships take center stage. Basically, keep the plans reasonable and make sure you really are going to use the plan before you sign up for the long haul.

One big quibble here: she suggests using your student ID if you’re no longer a student in order to get a student discount on equipment at the Apple Store, which seems fairly dishonest. The Apple store is pretty clear that they want a valid, current student ID.

6. Lucky Money
I’ll transcribe the entire chapter for you.

Find money. Keep money.

7. Adults Only!
This is a chapter on investing basics, with half of it written by Jim Cramer. The tone is friendly and the advice is solid, but if you’re serious about digging into investing, I would take this chapter as a springboard and move onto other resources on the topic.

The suggestions are spot on: start saving early, invest in index funds unless you’re going to invest a lot of time to doing the homework, and so on. The key message to take is that investing is important, and the earlier you invest, the better.

8. Homeward Bound
Here, Torabi focuses on the various paths available towards owning the place where you live, whether it be an apartment or a home of your own. She’s pretty adamant on the idea that owning the place where you live is important, but it’s not exactly easy for a young professional to come up with the cash to buy – renting is usually the situation that people find themselves in (I know we did).

She presents example cases of various people who moved towards owning their own residence after graduation, including herself, and she offers up some interesting advice on how to get there, including asking relatives for money. While I understand the logic there (and I’d probably help out my nieces and nephews if they needed help), I think that moving down that path can be rather dangerous. Financial relationships with family members – especially a lender/borrower relationship – can create uncomfortable situations very easily.

9. Cruise Control
Torabi offers a tutorial on car buying here, offering pretty standard car buying tips with the usual advice on maintenance (an oil change every 3,000 miles, etc.). She also invites a look at costs that many car owners may not think about: can you afford to park the car, for instance, when you have to pay hundreds a month for a slot?

One aspect of this coverage that I did enjoy was the discussion about whether you need a car at all. There are many people that do not – people living in urban areas, people who work close to their home and have access to basic services, and so on. Asking that question honestly can often convince people not to buy a car – and that can save them a lot of cash.

10. Social Cents
The focus here is on social and hobby spending – how to go out for cheap and so on. Most of the focus is on actually going out on the town socially, offering some pretty solid advice: don’t go out every night, hit happy hour and feast on the free snacks, and so on.

Most interesting was the suggestions regarding dining out. The best idea was pretty bright, actually: instead of eating out with a big group and blowing a lot on a meal, instead just go somewhere by yourself and eat cheaply, then stop by their table just as the meals are finishing and maybe enjoy a drink. You get a tiny bill and also get to enjoy the wonderful after-dinner conversation – and any later socializing that might go on.

11. Because Life Happens
Don’t be Bridezilla. That’s basically Forabi’s advice – which does make sense. Given the philosophy of the book, I think she’d amend that a bit by saying that if you’re willing to devote all of your “extra” money towards your wedding, have what you dream about, but if you’re not willing to do that, don’t have an over-the-top wedding. The chapter largely offers advice on life’s milestones, including sensible advice like not buying $250 blankets for your baby.

The best part was the advice on gift-giving. Basically, you should spend more if the person is close to you or the person has a great deal of power over your future. If they don’t fall into either group, don’t spend much at all – just give a small gift or a nice card. This is largely true for any event – weddings, baby showers, graduations, bar mitzvahs, and so on.

12. Getting Covered
This is all about insurance, from health insurance (get it, no matter what, even if you have to write to your state’s insurance commissioner’s office) to long term care insurance (get it, period) and life insurance (get it if you have dependents). Solid advice all around.

By far, I was most impressed by the suggestions about what to do if you don’t have health insurance. Find and call your state’s insurance commissioner’s office, for starters, and ask for help. Another good idea is to try to get defined as your own “group” for health care purposes and then try to get group coverage through a large health care insurance provider (not much detail, but it’s an interesting topic for future research). This is a serious issue for those without insurance and Torabi handles it very strongly.

13. Just Say No!
Torabi’s advice here basically boils down to my ol’ ten second rule: if you aren’t absolutely sure you need something, just say no. You can always get it later if you need to get it.

This extends beyond just mere purchases. Say no to extended warranties. Say no to credit card offers that you haven’t researched. Heck, say no to any offer that you haven’t researched. Say no to temptations, wherever they spring up.

14. Money Is Everywhere
You’re So Money concludes by looking at the other half of that “spend less than you earn” mantra: earning more. She suggests getting a side job that can fill your spare hours, suggesting all kinds of things (starting a blog, writing a paid blog post for someone else, tutoring, and so on).

The point of this topic is to realize that if you’re trying to stuff too much spending into your actual income, then you may need to expand your income, and there are opportunities for doing this if you’ll look. Just look into what you’re passionate about and seek opportunities there.

Some Thoughts About You’re So Money

After reading the book, I was left with several thoughts floating around in my head that were worth discussing. Here are a few.

Do products really define people? Almost incessantly throughout this book, Torabi dropped name brands, particularly clothing and fashion-oriented brands, as though these brands were important by themselves and spoke to the “eliteness” or “individuality” of Torabi and her friends. I find it somewhat sad that the idea of eliteness and individuality is intrinsically tied to the label a corporation decides to place on a product.

Is the cost investment in clothes and appearance genuinely worth it? I think there is value in personal appearance, but does that require you to spend $300 on a pair of pants or $3,000 on a handbag? You can dress quite well for much less than that – is that extra little bit of theoretical “oomph” in your appearance worth that much? Likely, what you’re actually buying here is ego fuel – perhaps some people genuinely feel better about themselves when holding a $3,000 handbag. I’d argue that if that were true, then your self-worth is being defined by things and not by who you are, and that’s a psychological problem.

Are some debts acceptable, regardless of interest rate? For example, if you can’t get a good home loan, should you just keep renting? My thought is yes, for the most part, which means that the “good” and “bad” dichotomy isn’t always true. I think that the idea of “good” and “bad” debt is misleading and not that cut and dried, as there can be debts that help you get transportation to go to work (good) but have a very high interest rate (bad). My philosophy for debt repayment doesn’t really care whether a debt is generically “good” or “bad” – I only care if the interest rate is high.

The dollar store conundrum: is it better to buy ten disposable versions of an item or one top-quality one? I find myself agreeing with Torabi on this one – for many items that you use frequently, you’re better off getting a top-quality version that you’ll use forever than a cheap one that will have to be regularly replaced. Yet, I often hear the counterargument: “spending hundreds on a single knife is stupid” is one comment I fondly remember. I wonder where others stand on this idea.

Is You’re So Money Worth Reading?

For the most part, this book seems to be a pretty solid personal finance book with some wonky bits of life advice wrapped in a sugar-coated pill of youth culture consumerism. In other words, the overconsumerist attitude represented by the blurbs in this book (and the heavy product references early on) were intended to attract a specific demographic, the older edge of that 16-25 crowd that has spent the last decade of their lives being heavily marketed to, living through the “generic college experience” of studying hard and playing hard, and now dipping their feet into the reality of the modern workplace.

If you know someone that’s well-described by the above paragraph and you can’t conceive that they’d suddenly get a big “voluntary simplicity” streak and swear their financial future on a well-worn cover of The Complete Tightwad Gazette, then You’re So Money is a book well worth reading.

For me, at least, I found the incessant consumerism and materialistic references offputting, but I’m 29. I’m now on the outside of the “materialism marketing” demographic and I have two young children at home. I have different concerns at this stage in my life.

In short, You’re So Money is potentially a great gift, but there are aspects of it that made it a very frustrating and annoying read for me. Obviously, I’m not in the target audience, but that should have been obvious when I saw the section about Jimmy Choo on the back and didn’t think, “Hey! Jimmy Choo! That’s awesome! I want to read her advice!” If you know someone that might feel that way, this is probably a great book.

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  1. Frugal Dad says:

    I’m with you…if you want to simply blow $3k on something, make it meaningful. If know a couple that can afford similar luxuries. They recently spent $10k on an imported rug. If I had $10k to spend it surely wouldn’t be on a rug! Imagine the good $10k could do simple spread around your local community.

  2. I can understand why you were so disgusted with the consumerism in the book, Trent. I probably would be, too.

    However, I have to applaud Torabi for being willing to acknowledge that some people genuinely do care about clothes, handbags and electronics. It’s a lot easier to meet those people where they’re at and educate them, than it is to convince them to change their values completely.

    As you learned, that type of transformation is usually a gradual change.

  3. April says:

    I’m all for helping out a family member in need, but if someone comes to me in $300 jeans and a Jimmy Choo purse and asks for money for a downpayment on a home, I think I might have to punch them in the face.

    Also, a car is “good debt”? That’s a slippery slope, especially if you’re all about expensive brands.

  4. Joe says:

    I think one thing that goes unmentioned in all of this is that if you have the money to spend on such things, and spending money on such things makes you happy, there is no reason in the world not to go out on a consumerism binge…

  5. April says:

    Also, it seems like once people get real and write down their essential expenses, savings, and retirement amounts that many might see that they can’t afford the Manolos they’ve been buying on credit. So then what? I’d venture to say a lot of 20-somethings shouldn’t really be buying it on their income (myself included). But if she’s constantanty product name dropping, where does that leave them?

  6. Tracy says:

    Trent, this seemed a lot more like you just don’t like the thought of someone spending 3K on a handbag or wanting name brand things than actually not liking the book. You seemed to almost enjoy it on the whole (though I would NEVER just straight up ask relatives for money for a house down payment! Tacky alert!)

    And mostly, if someone saves properly and has the money to spend and buying designer clothes or trendy electronics, I think they should go ahead and get them. I think there’s nothing wrong with specifically liking certain “name brand” things that a lot of people decry as “shameless consumerism” or whatever. I love my iPod. Coach bags last forever. Etc., etc.

    It’s a slippery slope when we start making value judgments on other people’s decisions with their disposable income – the same argument could be mad that…well, if you have $X of dollars to spend on an expensive knife set you really like or other kitchen appliance or “insert personal hobby here”, why don’t you give that amount to a foodbank or do good in your community instead?

  7. margo says:

    Ugh, I wouldn’t touch that book with a 10-foot pole just based on the cover.

    However, its super easy to be judgy about consumerism. We can always point to someone next to us and say, You spend too much on X, Y, or Z!

    Just to play the devil’s advocate, if the author spends exactly the same amout of money on designer clothing and shoes over the course of her lifetime that Trent saves (and later spends) on his and his wife’s dream home, and both are happy with their choice, is there any reason to say Trent’s choice is somehow better?

    We all spend money on what makes us happy. I do think that buying the hip, trendy designer clothing and accessories tends to be a symptom of living too much in the now, too much chasing after immediate gratification, rather than delayed gratification.

    But, the book– which I would likely never read– seems to be primarily concerned with helping people become more “delayed gratification” types without giving up their hobby. Not really useful for this crowd, surely, but I know of a few people that would be attracted to this kind of message, and I think for them, it could be really useful.

  8. Tracy says:

    “And mostly, if someone saves properly and has the money to spend and buying designer clothes or trendy electronics is something they enjoy I think they should go ahead and get them.”

    Oh, how I wish you could edit comments here! :0)

  9. Russ says:

    Trent, it sounds like you dislike this book purely because the author and target audience like different things to you. The actual advice appears to be pretty sound.

    Sure, someone could buy a $10 handbag rather than a $3000 one, in exactly the same way as you could live in a one-bedroom apartment rather than build a house in the country. But if you aspire to have a house in the country, who are you to tell people they can’t aspire to and enjoy an expensive handbag, just because you don’t see any value in it? If someone is saving money for the future and avoiding excessive debt, they can spend the remainder on whatever they want and shouldn’t have to put up with preachy condemnation.

    And I’m sorry, but the statement “if you have $3,000 to blow on a handbag, why do you not have $3,000 to give to a food pantry?” is a cheap shot and should be beneath you.

  10. margo says:

    Oh yeah, and I kept waiting for your harsh criticism and it never materialized.

  11. Jon says:

    We all have things that we consider worth buying quality rather than disposable or early obsolescence types. As a former chef, I think a good set of knives ranks right up there, but I tend to go for the middle ground, i.e., good quality but not status symbol name recognition. Shoes and boots are another area where I splurge a bit, Florsheim and Red Wing are incredibly comfortable and wear forever, but nobody stops me on the street to exclaim, “oh my God, those are fabulous shoes!”

  12. nazilam says:

    She’s Iranian. Americans wouldn’t even consider needing to buy a $3000 purse for any reason, for most Iranians, what you wear and how you present yourself is how you end up making connections and money. Trust me.

    Its a completely different mindset.

  13. My.cold.dead.hands says:

    I agree with Tracy (comment #6). It sounds more like you took issue with the clothes thing than anything else.

    You actually agree with her more than not, the clothes just struck a nerve for you.

  14. Johanna says:

    To be fair, that $3000 handbag looks like it’s one of the most expensive ones they sell. Most of the other bags on their site cost much less than that. Not that I understand the mindset that would make someone want to spend even $500 on a handbag (I’m the type who carries around the same totebag I got for free five years ago, even after I spilled bleach on it), but there’s a big difference between $500 and $3000.

    As for the argument that they should give the money to charity instead: We all have the obligation to give money to charity. The philosopher Peter Singer argues that if you’re not giving at least 1% of your income to help the world’s poorest people, you’re doing something seriously wrong, akin to watching a child drown right in front of you because you don’t want to get your clothes wet – and that’s regardless of what you’re doing with the money instead, even if it’s paying to get your children a top-quality education.

  15. Amy says:

    Look, you’ve talked before about how you had to overcome your perceptions of frugality as something that was boring and would kill your fun before you could embrace it and overcome your debts. I think you can see how, for instance, label snobs who mock people who shop at Old Navy, or barflies who call others lame for choosing an early evening contribute to that barrier to living a simpler, more balanced life.

    What I don’t think you see, however, is that when you deride the sort of people who’d buy a $3000 handbag (and why do you assume they haven’t given $3000 to a food pantry as well?) you also contribute to that barrier. You’re reinforcing the idea that frugality and (a certain idea of) coolness don’t go together. You’re perhaps strengthening the solidarity of those already in the group, but at the expense of making those outside it feel unwelcome and excluded.

  16. Shanel Yang says:

    I’m not sure the “materialism marketing” demographic ends at age 25. I was a shopaholic till about a year ago, and I’m 42! In fact, I still avoid malls for any length of time because I don’t want to needlessly tempt myself (I only do it to catch a bargain matinee about once a month), and I am definitely staying away from watching “Sex in the City” on the big screen because apparently it’s a 2 1/2 hour product placement haute couture and other glam products–and those world-famous, supposedly independent, intelligent female characters range in age from their 40s to 50! The beloved main character Carrie Bradshaw was always a designer clothes and shoe horse, even when she couldn’t afford it. I remember an old episode where she had to borrow money from her rich friend to finally buy her first apartment even though she acknowledged she must have tens of thousands of dollars worth of shoes in her closet! Nothing made those four friends so gleeful as a new pair of designer shoes. So, I think this book is useful to women of all ages. But, I also don’t think it has much of a chance of swaying anyone who is in the throes of rank consumerism. It’s like any addiction: You almost have to hit rock bottom before you can even admit you have a problem. Thanks for a great review!

  17. Trent Trent says:

    “Oh yeah, and I kept waiting for your harsh criticism and it never materialized.”

    My harshness was mostly at the cover and the image presented by the book. Once I read what she had to say, I mellowed quite a bit and even saw quite a bit of value in the book. If you read my conclusion above, that’s pretty obvious.

    I don’t even necessarily object to a $3,000 handbag. What I object to is the idea that a handbag is suddenly worth $3,000 because it has the name Jimmy Choo on it. That’s not a judgment of an item based on quality, that’s a judgment based on the label that appears on it.

  18. K says:

    When I see expensive purses, I have to admit I don’t even notice. I, like Trent, was put off by the brand-name dropping. But we all know someone who is so swept up by consumerism that giving them a book like “Total money makeover” or “Your money or your life” would get a blank stare, and telling them to buy used things would get a disgusted look. This book tells them there is nothing wrong with spending your extra money on whatever you want. The problem comes when it isn’t “extra,” and you are putting your future at risk. From the summary, the book seems to have solid financial principles which are packaged in a way that will get the message across to those people who need to hear it most.

  19. Kate says:

    April said: “if someone comes to me in $300 jeans and a Jimmy Choo purse and asks for money for a downpayment on a home, I think I might have to punch them in the face.”

    I’d have to agree. $300 sunglasses, but it’s okay to exploit discounts (on non-essential services) for which you’re no longer eligible? You have $3000 for a purse, but no downpayment for a modest starter home? Boo-freakin’-hoo. The author sounds like such a class act. But she’d probably have no qualms about dressing up “poor” before going to the rellies with a sob story about how poor she is and how desperately she needs to find a “decent” place to live.

    Can you say “shallow”? I knew you could.

  20. Carrie says:

    Ok, I have to pipe up here because I’m tired of the judgmental, sanctimonious tone when the subject of pricey hobbies come up. If someone can afford a $3000 handbag or whatever and they love it, why judge them? I see people who blow much more than that in little dribs and drabs on junk (which explains garage sales). I have a designer handbag that I adore and bought as a special treat with CASH. I use it every day and plan to carry it until I die. The quality is that good and it will outlive me. Yet I’m will be on-track to retiring when I’m 42. I live in a modest home, drive a modest car, cook most of my own meals, don’t care for gadgets and have a small wardrobe (I’m not a fashionista by any means. I actually hate shopping). So who is ANYONE to judge me by my purse? Hello, that’s as silly as judging others for what they do or don’t have. If you love it and it has value TO YOU and you can afford it without derailing your future pans, buy it. Being judgmental is not a good thing, regardless of what criteria the judgment is based on.

  21. mike says:

    The dollar store conundrum: is it better to buy ten disposable versions of an item or one top-quality one?
    It is not only about durability, but about quality. I once bought a cheap tool set from Target with a few screwdrivers and a hammer. The hammer bent trying to take a nail out of a piece of wood. The screwdrivers were uncomfortable to hold, and when you used them hard the edges would get destroyed. That whole tool set was a complete waste of money: not only eventually I had to buy another set (on which I spent the money to buy a quality one), but every time I tried to use it I ended up with some other problem created by the tools.

    At the same time you should not buy more quality than you need, or would appreciate. Don’t buy the super-powerful cordless high-tech drill if you just plan on hanging a painting from time to time…

  22. Tracy says:

    @Joanna – why is there a difference between a $500 and a $3000 handbag? Other than in someone’s value system? I dunno if I’d ever do it, but why does buying a 3K bag worse than a $500 one if that’s the one you want and you can afford to buy? A Hermes Kelly bag costs thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t buy one if money suddenly became no object to me to do so (i.e. I had a ton of it), because they are beautiful bags, and what’s wrong with that choice?

    I find it interesting that so many people get swept up in the opposite direction regarding brands and clothes, etc. – they become so into “rejecting consumerism” that it becomes extremely offputting and arrogant when people insist that their lives are better than others because they live a certain way or don’t buy certain things or would never spend X on X and therefore those that do are shallow and slaves to the consumerist mindset. I thought the point of frugality was to give you choices in all areas of your life and the power to focus your spending power on the things you *really* want.

    Amy (comment 15) is spot-on – that attitude is just the opposite of people who like to spend money’s assumptions that people who live frugal/save money in any/all areas of their lives are cheap/poor/uncool/undesirable and it’s annoying no matter which group is doing it.

  23. Carrie says:

    @Tracy: funny you mention the Hermes Kelly bag, because that’s the one I have. I bought it used, it’s now ten years old, and still looks beautiful. I’ve seen pictures of Kelly bags that were FIFTY years old and even more stunning than new ones because of the patina they develop with age. Give me one of those bags instead of a pile of disposable junk any day.

  24. Kate says:

    “So who is ANYONE to judge me by my purse? Hello, that’s as silly as judging others for what they do or don’t have. If you love it and it has value TO YOU and you can afford it without derailing your future pans, buy it.”

    Carrie, I think what many of the readers are judging the author by is not the bare fact that she buys, or advocates buying, a $3000 purse. You have one, and you also have your financial ducks in a row. Fine. Great. More power to you. But to spend that much money on a purse and then turn around and hit up people for money to buy a much more durable, much more essential item is a little beyond the pale to a lot of folks. I think it’s the hypocrisy and self-servingness, not the brand-name consumption, that galls people the most. At least it does me.

    To my mind, it seems particularly crazy to invest so much in a highly portable item that is so frequently the target of theft. Homes cost more, and can be badly damaged. But they can also be soundly insured and are rarely stolen outright. JMHO.

  25. Carrie says:

    By the way, I have no qualms wearing my designer bag with my clothes from Target or Old Navy. Like I said, I don’t care what fashionistas think.

  26. anonymous says:

    Sorry trent but I have to finally say it: you use “basically” a lot in your articles, particularly reviews. In this article you wrote it nine times ;)

  27. Trent Trent says:

    Carrie: you’re discussing an extremely well-made item that you can afford with your fun money. Good for you. But that’s not what this book is about. Recommending that people buy “Jimmy Choo” when they’re drowning in student debt isn’t good advice for anyone. I think such references are sugar to make the pill of good financial advice go down.

    Look, if you have your financial ducks in a row and want a well-made handbag that costs a lot of money, go for it. But don’t couple that with “woe is me, I’m broke.” That’s a line that this book comes dangerously close to crossing.

  28. Whatever we want to say about the advice, she’s smart. Think of how many people can’t conform to basic, responsible personal-finance rules but know they should. Now they have a book to read.

  29. Mister E says:

    Well I could care less what anyone spends their money on really, it is after all THEIR money. And the comment about the food bank was a low blow, I’m pretty sure every single one of us reading (and writing) this spends money on something that we could get by without and give that money to charity instead if we really wanted to.

    For me, it IS hard to take someone seriously that places value on a handbag or shoes or designer anything though. And for that matter gadgets like Ithings or cell phones.

    Generally speaking I buy only what I need. Any hobbies that I have are useful hobbies such as vegetable gardening or cycling, I really don’t “invest” in useless toys of any kind. When I buy things I buy them based on how useful they will be, how long they will last and if I can repair them myself and I buy the cheapest version that meets all of my benchmarks. I give virtually zero thought to appearance and ABSOLUTELY zero to the name printed on it. Does that make me a better person than the Sex and the City or gadget nerd types? No, but it does make it awefully hard to relate to the mindset.

  30. Johanna says:

    Tracy: The difference between a $3000 purse and a $500 purse is that one costs $3000 and the other costs $500. Surely there are things that you’d spend $500 on but not $3000. So it is for everyone.

    Carrie: Clever rhetorical trick there, equating judging people by what they have to judging people by what they don’t have. The difference is that when you can afford a $3000 purse, you can choose to buy it or not to buy it, but when you can’t afford it, you have no choice. So when you judge someone for having an expensive purse, you’re judging them for a choice that they made, but when you judge someone for the things they don’t have, you’re judging them for their whole economic situation, which is likely not to be entirely of their choosing.

    If your designer purse is the one fancy, expensive thing that you own, and it makes you happy, then fine. Everyone deserves a treat. But I suspect that among owners of designer purses, you’re the exception rather than the rule, don’t you think?

  31. partgypsy says:

    I can see how the book would annoy you Trent, but you may not see the psychology underlining the author’s advice. My sister lusts after those kind of items, and spends all her disposable (and some non-disposable) income on clothes. She seeing eventually owning a home, or retirement as being out of her reach, but she can still buy some designer item which to her=success. There is almost this feeling of scarcity, well, I better buy this, because I might not have the money for it later, and besides this makes me happy and I might never be able to retire besides I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. The items are tied to happiness, fun, glamour, while life as seen in your money or your life is seen as a gulag-like abhorrent existence. It is too far to jump from there to here.
    Like what others say, the author is giving the implicit suggestion that you can be responsible money-wise AND not have to give up all the fun stuff. At the very least it will get people inching towards a better accounting of their money. Each individual will have to come to their own conclusion whether they truly can afford those products and their long term goals and more importantly when they look at their life in totality, whether those things are still important to them.

  32. Trent Trent says:

    partgypsy: you bring up an interesting train of thought that I want to follow up in an future post. There’s a ~lot~ of meat for discussion there.

  33. partgypsy says:

    Basically what I’m trying to say, if I gave my sister your money or your life (actually I tried) she would not read it. But it’s possible she may read this book.

  34. celticbuffy says:

    I actually looked at this book at B&N but put it down after reading the info. It’s blurb left me feeling like it was definitely not written with me in mind, based on the Jimmy Choo reference. It was interesting to read someone else’s perspective on it. I still don’t think I’ll read it though. There are so many other PF books out there that are more geared to where I am at in life right now.

  35. Shanel Yang says:

    I totally agree with partgypsy. Inner city schools are full of kids with brand new expensive tennis shoes and sportswear. Why? Because that’s what makes them feel good about themselves in a world where they don’t believe they can ever attain the current middle-class American dream of a nice house in the burbs, SUV, and an exotic vacation every year for the whole family. It’s also why people who can’t afford it gamble their hard earned money away — just to feel like big spenders for a day. Maybe it’s not something to judge or mock, but to try to understand a little better. Especially since the corporations are paying psychologists to figure out increasingly better ways to try to make us buy these things.

    Trent – I’m curious if you’ve read “Why We Buy: The Science of Buying.” It’s a frightening account of how much the retailers do to influence us to buy more and more stuff we don’t need and would not have bought if they didn’t design stores and displays just so. Now entire malls are being designed like Disneyland (the Grove and Americana) to try to make us associate them with that same “magical happy” feeling of amusement parks.

  36. Shanel Yang says:

    Oops! That book title is “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.”

  37. Carrie says:

    Second the recommendation on “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” I believe the author’s name is Paco Underhill. He’s also written “Call of the Mall,” which delves into why stores in malls are arranged the way they are (among other things). Fascinating reading.

  38. bill says:

    You get points for using ‘piqued’ correctly. Its not all that common….

  39. gwen says:

    The dollar store conundrum: is it better to buy ten disposable versions of an item or one top-quality one?

    I think it all depends. I’m a huge advocate of quality for things that will last and last, but really for sunglasses and the like? I go cheap every time. You need to figure out what’s worth quality at your stage in life. Right now my two little boys almost destroyed my new pair of sunglasses within two days. I accidentally sat on the the next day, and they’ve fallen off my head a couple of times since. It’s not worth it right now to invest in a good pair.

    Our washer and dryer that we bought when we bought our house, though, we bought the best we could afford, since we hope to have these as long as my parents used their washer and dryer (20+ years).

  40. margo says:

    @partygypsy- Excellent point, and you make it well.

    I think it boils down to this: there really is no moral difference between a $3,000 handbag and the pile of videogame consoles and games Trent owns. This book is meant for people who are already in the habit of buying expensive, designer items and need a gentle introduction to responsible personal finance, without having to make the choice between having what they know and love ripped from their arms OR getting ahead financially.

    For that reason, there is value in the book and its message for some people, and the only thing that I find objectionable in Trent’s review is his condescending assumption that one person’s shopping choices are somehow morally more valid than another’s.

    Trent can buy all the videogames he wants without feeling guilty for not donating the money to a foodbank instead, but feels he can chide the female author for choosing to spend her disposable income on things he doesn’t value.

    Lastly (leaving aside the question of branding), and maybe only the daughter of a painter could see this angle, but at the very bleeding edge, fashion is an art form. I don’t mean that in the cheesy marketing way; I mean that form and aesthetics are respected and given precendence in the clothing and accessories produced by high-end designers. There is no question that some fashion is produced as art, and that there are people for whom the artistic aspect makes the designer items desirable.

    The clothing “designers” for Old Navy merely ape the clothing designs that originated with the high-end designers to maximize profit. Some– not all– designer clothing and accessory enthusiasts yearn to own objects that are beautiful, and have cultivated a degree of knowledgeability on the subject. So when they look at two nearly identical items, one a “designer” item and one a “consumer” item, they can see which is the more aesthetically pleasing one, and which isn’t, and naturally prefer the more beautiful one.

    Some people value that difference. Some people would rather own a $3,000 handbag because everyday they are carrying an object that is beautiful, and gives them pleasure to own and look at. Some would argue such an object is a piece of art, or at least, an object far closer to “art” on the scale than a Target pleather cheapy. Some people would rather own a beautiful home with a well-kept and well-designed lawn, because looking at those objects every day gives them pleasure.

    What function does a lawn provide? Surely there are people who can tally up what they have spent on lawn care and gardening items and get close to $3,000. I mean, you could rip all the grass up and cement it over and never spend another dime on it. At least a $3,000 handbag can help you carry stuff around.

  41. Frugal Dad says:

    @margo: It’s difficult to make value judgements about the various things different people enjoy spending their resources on. However, I will say that the most frugal of us have to find some utility in our purchases as justification for the expense.

    Take your own example of lawn care, for example. I spend money and energy on maintaining my lawn and surrounding landscaping because it adds value to my home. The grass absorbs heat better than cement or barren ground, which reduces my utilities, as do the trees and surrounding shrubbery. The lawn also provides a play area for me and my kids, which brings us hours of jor. A purse, in its most utilitarian form, is a device to carry money and personal products. From that standpoint one from Target is just as good as one from a Coach outlet, but there are several hundred dollars separating the two options. The question becomes, is the Coach (insert favorite brand) purse really worth that premium? Probably not.

  42. Dave says:

    Trent,

    How do you know the person with the $3,000 handbag didn’t give $150,000 to charity last year?

    How is this better than your neighbors assuming you would be poor if you dried your laundry on a clothesline?

    – Dave

  43. chris says:

    interesting, so the cute girl from thestreet.com has a book, and it sound slike a decent read. I have to agree that I kept waiting for the harshness to come out and past the beginning (which wasn’t too harsh) it never really did.

    overall a great review trent, I do feel that often when you’re not in full agreement with something it gives your reviews a much better feel.

  44. Dave says:

    “Financial relationships with family members – especially a lender/borrower relationship – can create uncomfortable situations very easily.”

    How does this jive with your controversial post about accepting money from a rich uncle?

  45. Let’s not forget that there are millions of people out there that can afford to spend $3000 on a bag and still have their finances in order, their retirement accounts funded, and an emergency fund in place.

    It’s not me, but they’re out there.

  46. margo says:

    “The question becomes, is the Coach (insert favorite brand) purse really worth that premium? Probably not.”

    Probably not to you, but it is to some people, because they do sell. The value of any item is extremely subjective, and I’m just suggesting that this particular group is not the kind that would normally be able to recognize that there are more reasons to value a Coach purse than simply its functions as item-carrier and status-symbol.

    For example, someone without kids, pets, and with a grass allergy would likely never think to value a lawn as a place to play. Someone who is not into games would likely never place any value on the entertainment that can be derived from a multi-thousand dollar stock of gaming equipment.

    I carry el cheapo Target bags, always have, always will, probably. I’m a videogamer (obsessed with my new Wii Fit!) and, unlike most of our friends, we have a house with a yard because we have a dog and love the trees, the grass and the ability to grow herbs.

    But that doesn’t mean I think I am morally superior to my friends that choose to live in apartments and carry designer bags because they don’t value dogs, trees, grass, and fresh basil. I think I really might, in fact, be less frugal than my friend who really does have a designer bag collection.

  47. Joe T says:

    @Frugal Dad: I’ll spend about $50 this year on my lawn, tops. $15 for gasoline for the mower, another $15 for turfbuilder for a couple bare spots, and another $20 for a few simple flowers for a flowerbed.

    My cheap lawn is just as good as any more expensive and fussed over lawn at the practical things you mention, and it doesn’t detract from my property values. It might not look as good as yours, but the savings in money and time are worth more to me than any further aesthetic gains.

    And that’s what it’s all about. There’s a price point for almost anything you can spend money on, beyond which everything extra you spend goes toward aesthetics or cachet, rather than practical utility. Your lawn is someone else’s handbag.

    Tracy said it best above: “the point of frugality [is] to give you choices in all areas of your life and the power to focus your spending power on the things you *really* want”.

  48. E says:

    I agree with some of the other posters that it’s hard to make value judments on people without taking a very critical look at your own life. Why does one “deserve” cable TV, a computer, two cars, eating more than once a day when so many in our world don’t and could use the extra money. Why are these not wastes but $300 jeans are? What is normal in the US is not normal for the world. Compared to developing world we are all very very wealthy.

  49. Joe T says:

    Also, I think women frequently get the worst of it in comparisons like these. A woman with a $500 purse she uses every day will be looked down on more than a man who buys a $500 “professional grade” tool that he uses maybe once a year.

  50. Carrie says:

    @Joe T: I agree. A guy I worked with made fun of my designer purse (I think his wife pointed it out to him). He had a $60K vintage Porsche that he drives only 3 months out of the year. And I’M the spendthrift?

  51. Jules says:

    A word on high fashion: they are limited edition, one-of-a-kind pieces. Like really rare baseball cards. If you can understand collecting baseball cards (and I know you do) the same kind of philosophy applies to buying expensive designer clothing.

    And BTW: just because she advocates owing $300 jeans doesn’t mean you have to spend $300 to get those same jeans. There are things called sales, you know–and $50 for a pair of jeans that make your legs look longer and your butt tighter and are comfortable, is a fairly good deal if they were triple-digits to begin with. My clothes, if you look at the full retail price, would be pretty darn costly, but I buy most of them during clearance sales when they have to make room for the new stuff–and as such, I pay at MOST 50% of the full retail price for them. And that’s not even counting the awesome deals I find in consignment stores–a great way to satisfy any designer jones without breaking the bank.

  52. I comment here semi-regularly, but prefer to remain anonymous for this post.

    “Rich People Dress Good”

    Rich people in the US don’t buy the sorts of designer items this book talks about. People who want to LOOK rich aspire to these items; real wealth does not require it.

    My partner and I are independently wealthy and retired young. This sort of status-signaling outward appearance stuff becomes totally meaningless when you are truly rich. Similarly wealthy people that we run into are often quite frugal, dress in jeans and t-shirts, and drive used cars.

    The book “The Millionaire Next Door” is spot on. You can’t identify rich people by looking at their clothes, cars or houses. “Rich-looking” almost always means “deeply in debt.” If you are impressed by that sort of glitter and you aspire to it, then you are at risk for emulating people who are walking the path to increasing debt.

    (And please do not confuse celebrities with real rich people. The spotlight is their world, they are encouraged to display the consumer trappings, and it is not how America’s “real” wealthy live. Many of us have much, much more actual cash than movie stars, too. :-)

    When I see someone with an expensive handbag or the latest cutting edge piece of consumer electronics, I do not see one of my peers. I know many won’t believe me, and some will discount my post because it is anonymous. Oh, well. One of the reasons we truly rich don’t flaunt it is because all sorts of new “friends” appear when they know our net worth…

  53. margo says:

    @Joel T: YES! I think my feathers are feeling ruffled at the inherent sexism in the moral judgment over the price of a purse.

  54. My.cold.dead.hands says:

    I don’t think that either gender has it “worse” on this.

    Unless the guy bought the $500 tool to go with a specific outfit because the other 15 versions of the tool just won’t do.

  55. April says:

    I don’t think this book is written for people who buy Jimmy Choo and are also financially sound.

    It’s for people with expensive tastes and a lot of debt, so I don’t know why people are arguing that spending $3000 on a purse is okay if your financial ducks are in a row…that’s not the sort of people this book is written for…their ducks are disorderly and running amuck.

    I used to spend waaay too much on brand name crap, so I get it. My solution was to let go of some of my high rolling mentality and start living within my means. I couldn’t possibly live within my means if I kept up my shopping habits.

  56. DB says:

    I think it’s pretty harsh to judge people solely on the price of their purchases or their consumer values.

    As for charity – we could ALL do with a LOT less and send the rest to save starving children…we certainly don’t NEED $50,000 in Vanguard index funds…let him who is without sin cast the first stone…anyone?

    Of course, it’s our money, we’ve earned it, and it is completely within our prerogative to do as we please with it.

  57. deb says:

    Slightly off topic of the review but related to the comments above:

    The power and language of branding and how it intersects with frugality is really interesting. Most people who practice frugality tend to be a group that defines themselves as people who do not define themselves by branding. But there’s this fascinating salon.com review of a book that discusses how people communicate and identify with branding and products (which may explain the mindset of why some feel that it’s important to buy what we buy for things like a $300 pair of jeans.)

    Excerpt of the review:
    “The book under review is Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker which aims to uncover the psychology and anthropology of social consumerism.

    ‘This only makes sense if you argue, as Walker does, that commodities can have real significance. Some objects — trophies, wedding rings, souvenirs from trips — patently do stand for important aspects of our lives. (They have what Walker calls “authentic” meaning.) Most people, however, don’t want to admit that they believe meaning can also be bought, that Converse sneakers make you a cool outsider or that a MacBook demonstrates one’s creativity and unconventionality. Walker thinks we should acknowledge that the things we buy do carry meaning, as long as we also recognize that we’re the ones who gave it to them. A wedding ring, for example, only represents the relationship between two people because those two people (along with the society around them) agree that it does. We are the ones who invest these objects with symbolic power, and, furthermore, to do so is a universal human activity. Kidding ourselves that we relate to the objects and products in our lives in a purely rational way (something scientists have disproved over and over again) leaves us open to unconscious manipulation by advertisers.’ ”

    http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/06/03/buying_in/index.html
    blog where this was brought to my attention:
    http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/06/you_are_what_you_buy.html

  58. BookwormDragon says:

    An interesting review. I agree with many of the comments, that if you have the money to spend, and buying these trendy, expensive items makes you happy, than there is no reason why you should not. However, if you find that you are defining your life by these items, to the point that you are willing to go into debt to obtain them, you need to consider your priorities more carefully. Also, just because that item is expensive and trendy, it is not necessarily mean that it is a quality item. Expensive does not always equal quality. It can be hard to know when a item is quality and when it is not – in fact, experience is the best teacher for this. If you’re not sure, many of us have an excellent resource for these questions: our parents and grandparents, who have a lifetime of buying decisions, both good and bad, to base their advice on.

  59. Ari Herzog says:

    There are so many personal finance books on the market, it’s refreshing to see a concise and down-to-earth review now and then. That said, I’ll probably request it through the library (in lieu of buying it) and peruse through the chapters if it doesn’t have to be read, per se, from page to page.

  60. Karen says:

    Part of why the fashion spending seems so alien, I bet, is that it is so unnecessary in Iowa. As a fellow Iowan I can attest to how much a $3,000 handbag would stick out like a sore thumb. People are more into “appearances” on the East Coast, which may be why the author accepts those fashion expenditures as a given. All of the millionaires I knew growing up in Iowa, were people who radiated quiet confidence — not flashy bling. Flashy bling in Iowa would mean you don’t have it, and are trying to pretend you do.

  61. Lisa I. says:

    I really enjoyed this review. This sounds like it wants to show people how to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. Which probably means that it will sell very well. Too bad it’s not reality.

    As someone with an artist’s eye, I’m a bit of a fashionista myself. But if money were no object, I can not say I would run down right now and buy a $3,000 handbag. Common sense (I guess this post presupposes that most people have it…) dictates that it is not sound to pay above fair market value for something. So how do I accomplish being a fashionista on a budget when I’ve got an eye for high-end shoes (I prefer Christian Louboutin to Jimmy Choo)?

    1. I read Vogue. $12 a year if you catch a subscription sale. That’s $1 per month which is easily budgeted in and the ads are the best part. Am I going out to buy a $3,000 skirt now? No way. I tear out the pages with the things I like and save them in a folder for ideas. Often fashion is about a new change to an old design (Shakespeare was right and it applies to fashion too) or a redo of an old design in an innovative fabric. Then I:
    2. Visit my local fabric store. Sewing is making a comeback now that fabric prices seem to have stabilized. Sewing machines can be had for a very low price and many will do a great job for someone with limited sewing skills. For those who don’t know how to sew, many fabric stores have classes that cost very little (mine offers them 2 classes for $25) and with patterns that are designed for beginners, it is an easy skill to develop. As for the actual cost making garments, I look at fabric and wait for the sale. Patterns and fabric regularly go on sale so it’s worth it to get on your local fabric store’s email list. I just made copied a $5,000 Badgley Mischka for about $30 using sale fabric (half off that week) and a Vogue pattern ($3.99 the following week). I can’t buy a knockoff for that and it’s one of a kind. I got several complements when I wore it too. :)

    Where in my budget does this fit? Fun money. I give myself a small amount of fun money every week and if I want something that doesn’t fit in that, then I have to wait until it does. All of my fashionista urges have to fit in that budget–period. So if that means no lattes, etc for the week, then so be it.
    3. Shoes and handbags are just a matter of waiting. As I stated earlier, I think Christian Louboutin makes gorgeous shoes but I can not justify paying $1,000 for a pair of shoes–even if money weren’t an obstacle. Nor could I justify that as something to save for–no pair of shoes is worth that much, no matter how pretty they are (and I LOVE shoes). So what do I do? Well, it won’t be long before someone copies them for $100 or less. So when I spot something that I *really* want (I have a get-home rule instead of a ten-second rule, if I get home and I’m still thinking about that item the next day then I save for it). As for handbags, I get one really good one a year–after Christmas and always with a good discount.

    I think the key difference here is that I’m not tied to those things as a measure of self-worth. It’s not about the label, it’s about the pleasure I get from something beautiful and it is all the more precious if I made it myself. It sounds like what this book is advocating is an entirely different thing.

  62. Des says:

    Although I read this in my gmail, I just had to comment on it. I’ve never really been into Brand names and stuff, even though I’m still fairly young. I think I own a Levi denim top and maybe some South Pole jeans but that’s it. I used to own a Nokia with colours screen, etc that I got for a fraction of it’s retail price from a friend.

    Whenever I’ve spent some ridiculous sum of money on something I don’t really want or need, I get rid of it. I have always felt that guilt.

    As for the relatives thing, you are dead on, and not just because of the way money can define and ruin relationships. You will always have certain friends and relatives who will try to gain from you, or make you lose, or tell you what to do with your life, rather than giving advice, and nowadays a lot of them are very consumerist.

    It is a good idea to take some time off from socialising, and identify who are the quality people in your life, and who you REALLY don’t need.

  63. partgypsy says:

    Margo, it is very astute you saying how fashion is on the bleeding edge of art. My sister, though not the most financially savvy, is very artistic. She has sold paintings, has a small side business decorating and faux finish painting both business and residential interiors. She makes some of her own jewelry and sews some of her own outfits. I love her paintings and appreciate her design sense regarding house stuff, but I am definitely not a fashionista and so don’t understand or share her obsession there. However probably to her they are all part of the same thing and bring her pleasure.

  64. SusanMc says:

    Based solely on Trent’s, review the content of this book seems as shallow as consumerism mentality to which it might appeal. “Stuff” is value neutral; it’s how an individual imputes self-worth to stuff and prioritizes acquisition of stuff that matters.

    Why would anyone waste a minute of time reading this advice? Haven’t we all evolved from the Money magazine level of information?

  65. Michelle says:

    A friend of mine had the book, it piqued my interest so I borrowed it – and thank God I did! I tend balance out consumer habits and values. It’s about being sensible, not overindulgent – splurging OK, but this author speaks as if this is a daily thing – horrible to preach!
    I can’t help but hold her possible cultural nuances against her – being that she is middle eastern. Those cultural views on money don’t apply to millions of Americans rich or poor.
    I know several high networth individuals – they are not obvious with their wealth, in fact – they are quite the opposite.

    However, one can look at it this way…all those designer purses and clothes could hold some resell value – tangible assets? Maybe. Cash in one of those Jimmy Choo handbags, honey and direct it into a valuable experience like travel.

  66. michele says:

    I love my Henckels (double twin) knives!! (bought with combined Christmas/Birthday money gifts) I also love my sassy up to date stylish clothes I get from yardsales and thrift stores.(Linen, silk, high quality cotton!) I love my 3/4 karat *diamond*(CZ!!) stud earrings.You just have to know what is stylish (not trendy) and only buy basic pieces. It can be done without a lot of money.

  67. Caroline says:

    So if I buy a used purse at a garage sale does that make me a better person than the other chick who just bought a 3K Gucci?

  68. lily says:

    “Whenever I see someone holding a $3,000 handbag, I freely admit to drawing a conclusion about that person – but it’s not the flattering conclusion they’d like. If you have $3,000 to blow on a handbag, why do you not have $3,000 to give to a food pantry?”

    I stopped reading this blog a while ago, and just wandered back today. It’s comments like the one above that made me quit in the first place. Judgmental much?

  69. nuveena says:

    The problem isn’t $3000 designer handbags. The problem is people who haven’t outgrown the notion that having brand name items automatically makes you prettier, richer, popular, and more successful. People’s own insecurities about themselves fuel this notion, marketers play on this, and people who feel they need to buy brand name items will buy things that they can’t afford and go into debt to try and feel better about themselves and use them as shields against the rest of the world. And yet, their insecurity doesn’t go away. Flaunting brand names to show that you’re better than other people just shows how insecure that person is. I have yet to meet the person who acquired self esteem from their material possessions.

    I could never personally drop $3000 on a purse because the guilt would eat at me so much, I’d end up getting rid of it. It’s not guilt over people in the world starving and how much food that $3000 would buy, but rather my own guilt in knowing that I could have gotten one that looked just like it for a fraction of the cost. This is not impugning someone who can afford to spend $3000 on a purse. If you have the money to do it, then do it if that’s what you want. I’m just way too practical to spend that much on a purse.

    Fashion does not mean going broke for designer labels or shopping at a certain store. Fashion is about looking good and wearing things that make *you* look good. It’s about the cut and the style that looks good on you and works for your body type and build. A designer outfit doesn’t automatically mean that it will be flattering on you, nor does it mean that a cheaper knockoff will automatically look bad on you. Style does not equal trendy.

  70. jana says:

    i just believe that in the world where the marketing activity is so omnipresent, even this kind of book might be of some value. it is not for everyone, and probably is not for most people who read this blog and make their own detergents – but i can think of several people who are very much in debt, wear the latest fashions, and might benefit from reading it.

  71. Sarah says:

    How does one reconcile this judgement with other posts that advocate splurging on the things you’re passionate about?

    You often justify your purchase of expensive meals out, gourmet cheese, etc. You say that this is because food is your passion. You also splurge on video games, at the very least you bought the Wii at the peak of its hype. Would a $10 car racing game be an adequate replacement?

    I splurge on very little. I eat simple, healthy foods, and I admit that the idea of spending so much money on food seems like a waste. You admit to struggling with trying to lose weight, so how is that spurge any less healthy than a fondness for brand names?

    My only splurge is clothes. I don’t spend $3000 on a purse, but after having used so many H&M and Target purses that fall apart after a few months, I’m willing to spend several hundred on a high-quality leather bag with better construction so that I can use it for a long time. Truly high-end designer handbags are constructed by masters of their craft. The workmanship and raw materials (soft, buttery leather) account for most of the cost. More expensive heels are more comfortable. I have had Payless shoes that left me with blisters and bleeding cuts. I have Ann Taylor sandals that I can wear for hours, with no pain or blisters from the straps. I spent more on the latter, but I consider it money well spent.

    You may not place importance on appearance beyond general hygeine and cleanliness, but certainly you’re not naive enough to think that others do not judge on this basis. Even if they aren’t judging on the basis of brand names, they judge on fit and structure. It might be a better world if we were judged on our merits, but it’s unrealistic to expect that we will be.

  72. Anne Marie says:

    Trent, I recently purchased this book as a graduation present for my cousin. She is the urban, trendsetting recent grad that this book targets. I often read about wanting to offer advice to your family to help them on their way so they dont have to dig out from their mistakes down the road, like many of us have.

    I got her this book as a way to reach her in a way she can relate to. Will it work? Who knows. But it was my piece of advice to her, so she doesn’t have to be in my world of “digging out” later.

    What is right for one is never always right for another, and that is why books like these can be powerful. That is, of course, until they are ready to fully commit and read things like The Simple Dollar everyday! :)

    Thanks for the review and great advice.

  73. Lola says:

    “Whenever I see someone holding a $3,000 handbag, I freely admit to drawing a conclusion about that person – but it’s not the flattering conclusion they’d like. If you have $3,000 to blow on a handbag, why do you not have $3,000 to give to a food pantry?”

    I stopped reading this blog a while ago, and just wandered back today. It’s comments like the one above that made me quit in the first place. Judgmental much?

  74. JB says:

    I’m going to get this from the library and read it. It sounds like a fun book. I wouldn’t prioritize my spending to include a $3000 purse at all. But last year I took a vacation that cost me $2500. People want different things with their disposable income.

    Lately, I noticed I’ve been feeling stressed telling myself “I can’t afford this or that”, when I really can, I just don’t want to prioritize it. I think spending on wants however ‘silly’ is totally okay, as long as you are building a secure financial future for yourself by saving too.

  75. Megan says:

    I wonder if you’ve read or reviewed “On Your Own Two Feet” by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar. I found the book on Amazon.com when I was looking into “You’re So Money”. I’d be curious to know what you thought of it, especially as compared to this book.

  76. Robin says:

    I think this book will be a great help to my sister who places a great deal of value on name brands etc. From your review it sounds like the author has done an excellent job of speaking to an entire group of people for whom true frugalism/thriftiness would sound like hell on Earth. This sounds like a great example of the author trying to help people start where THEY are, instead of starting where WE are. I suspect that it might be easier for someone who is really into designer bags, etc to become more frugal, less concerned with labels, after a few months or years of living the life that this author encourages. Perhaps over time, after living life like this, the “value” of a $3000 purse for a person who is not wealthy will reveal itself. To ask them to go straight from $3000 for a purse to a stylish-but-affordable purse from Macy’s is unrealistic, even though to most of us who read this blog that action would be a no brainer.

    Thanks for always being open minded and honest about these reviews, they are very helpful.

  77. Victoria says:

    A lot of people buy Jimmy Choo because of the label, but a lot of people buy Jimmy Choo because Jimmy Choo makes beautiful shoes. It’s not as though the brand became popular because people just woke up one day and decided they liked the logo – it became popular because they make good quality beautiful shoes. And a lot of those cheaper bags are direct rip-offs of designer bags that are someone else’s intellectual property – how do you feel about that? The same people that decry piracy don’t seem to notice their $50 leather warehouse bag being the result of stealing someone else’s design. It would be nice if designers didn’t tack on such a big price tag, but they are their designs and they have the right to ask whatever they want for them. The food pantry argument is also ridiculous – you spend money on video games which arguably do not have more aesthetic value than clothing. Why don’t you donate that money to charity instead? Is playing video games more important than feeding a starving family?

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