In all honesty, I’m not a big spender. I definitely don’t splurge very often, either (not on clothes, anyway). I always see things I want and like, but I’ve conditioned myself for so long to hold off hold off HOLDOFF… until I’m certain it’s something I absolutely want.

See, when you splurge on an item, it’s more about desire than necessity.

No one NEEDS Tom Ford suits when there’s a Men’s Wearhouse (bleh) down the street. You don’t NEED a pair of $1600 John Lobb lace-ups to cover your feet, or a $7k Panerai just to figure out the time.

These items are about desire: for history, quality, a story, a brand name. We’re way past utility when there’s $7k on your wrist.

I’m not saying this desire is a bad thing, rather, how do we strike a balance between affordability and luxury?

The reason I ask this is because as we get older, our tastes evolve (and our incomes rise), and we start to desire other, better things. Why take your significant other to McDonald’s when you can afford dinner at Morton’s or BLT, right?

But, if we gave into our desires for the biggest, baddest, most awesome things all the time, well, we’d have lots of cool shit but no cash in our pockets.

How do we choose what’s worth the extra coin, and what we should pass on (or at least substitute for a more affordable alternative)?

Determining if your desired item is splurge-worthy

Let me preface all this by saying that if you’re in the minority of folks who can easily practice delayed gratification, I tip my hat to you.

Controlling spending is difficult, and if you ever find yourself on that slippery slope of buying things (usually on credit) before you make the money… be careful with that ish, my friends.

Concerns about style, looking good, and having cool things don’t matter when you’re drowning in debt. Get your finance game straight before buying anything that isn’t a necessity to live (like rent, or food).

Even better, pare down, buy quality, understand the principles of wardrobe minimalism and adopting a personal uniform, and your new habits will justify the splurges you give into every now and again.

So this is my rough three-point checklist when I’m considering a splurge-worthy purchase. Try asking yourself these things next time:

Have I been looking at it forever?

  • Do you visit the store all the time?
  • Have you tried it on more times than you can remember?
  • Are you always looking at the product page online, so much so that it’s the first result in your browser’s history when you type the first letter of the URL?
  • Can you recite the product description listed on the site by heart?
  • Do product shots make appearances in your dreams?

If you’re thinking of a particular item while answering “yes!” to these questions, perhaps this is something you really should buy.

Do I have the means to purchase it?

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not talking about credit cards. That’s cheating.

If you’re a smart man, you’ll save up the cash before buying it. There’s no true joy in buying something on credit… it may feel good at the time, but that’s just the deceptive high of instant gratification.

Put away $100-200 (or whatever you can set aside) every month until you can afford it, then go buy it with that cash. The feeling of finally having that item in your possession after saving for it is sweeeet. You know what’s even sweeter? A $0 balance on that credit card.

Plus, you also get a chance to practice delayed gratification by saving for something instead of taking the easy way out and using the credit card. Delayed gratification is monumentally important, especially considering the type of debt people find themselves in nowadays. SO not worth it for a new pair of shoes or a dope jacket.

Do I REALLY want it?

Be sure you really want it. This is probably a bigger, pricier purchase, or else you wouldn’t have been debating over it for so long. Make sure you really want this thing, and know your reasons why.

Quick test: When you find this potentially splurge-worthy item, simply walk away from it and go about your day (or X out of your browser window). The next day, are you still thinking about that item? Do you revisit the store just to take a gander one more time?

A few days later, are you still daydreaming about it, checking stock online, looking at product photos?

That’s when you know you really, really want something. If you can step away from it and give the chemicals in your brain a chance to simmer down, and you still find yourself wishing you had it, then you know it’s not a spur-of-the-moment impulse buy.

The Not Quick At All test: Do you still want said item after saving for it for weeks, potentially months? If you’ve saved the money and you still want the damn thing, it’s DEFINITELY meant to be yours.

If you could live without, since you’ve done so for this long… well, good thing you didn’t buy that item on credit, knawmeen?

Will this splurge-worthy item eventually become an heirloom you pass on? Is it something you can use every day? Do you get giddy with excitement every time you’re near it? You should be passionate about it if you’re gonna buy it, so know your reasons.

Never buy something because it’s what everyone else wants, or to be a show-off, or to put yourself on display like a damn peacock. Purchasing something of luxury shouldn’t be done for these purposes.

Luxury should be personal, intimate. Keep it to yourself and enjoy the outstanding quality quietly, otherwise you look like a douchebag showoff.

BOOM. There’s your quick three-question mini test. Hopefully this saves you from several regretful purchases you otherwise might have made in 2012.

Photo credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images, tomford.com

PUBLISHED January 25, 2012


Barron is the Founding Editor of Effortless Gent and the Cladright Association. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr.



  • brian

    Could not have expressed this better myself – great post!!

  • Richard

    Great post and its so needed for so many different reason

  • Internetfun4

    What’s wrong with Men’s Wearhouse?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      It’s kinda like asking, what’s wrong with Kohl’s? Or, what’s wrong with Applebee’s?

      Nothing really, but for the money, you have other, better options. You can buy a $500-$600 suit at MW, but after tailoring, that will total you around $675-$700. Why not just hit up one of the many online custom suit options for the same price, if not cheaper? Hell, go to H&M, pick up one of their suits, and get that tailored. I bet you’ll look great in it, and you’ll save $300.

      Another thing, Men’s Wearhouse caters to a different kind of guy. Most of their suits will probably be fuller-cut, and even if they have slim-cut suits, you’ll have a limited selection, if anything at all.

      Again, nothing wrong with them, but the EG reader doesn’t shop there simply because there are other, better, more interesting options.

      • Rcs_321

        I don’t know Barron…I tend to agree that MW is just fine if you find whats right. And I think the EG reader shops where he wants to shop, not just because he is told to shop at particular places by someone on the web. In fact as a EG reader myself I do what works, not what sites tell me!

  • http://renaissancema.wordpress.com/ Pags

    Great post. And the other thing about saving up the cash to buy something — it makes it MUCH harder to let that dinero go, so you end up saving more in the long run, valuing your purchases more, etc. Lots of studies are out there that show we feel worse when we spend cash than we do when we use a debit card, and even more so than using credit cards.

  • http://www.nicholascrawford.com Nicholas Crawford

    A topic on the top of my mind lately. Trying to spark a discussion with friends, it turned into a “well, I’m broke so I wouldn’t know what it feels like to buy nice things”. That was from a government employee who just has different priorities.

    You’re right. It’s post-college. Money is starting to roll in without having recalibrated new spending criteria. It’s not whether or not you have the money; now it’s whether this is the best use of the money with a house to fix and kids to care for. I could buy six new wardrobes a month, but we’d be homeless. Hmmm…maybe we could make that work.

    Just throttling back and focusing on the favorite items instead of jumping on whatever’s on sale.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yeah, seems we’re on the same page. It’s not really about spending ALL your money on clothing, or on drinks at the bar, or on new electronics. It’s about prioritizing, figuring out what’s most important to you, and allocating just a little of that money to getting a few good things that will last and are classic, so you won’t have to go shopping for new clothes all the time.

  • guest

    I’m also curious….what’s wrong with men’s wearhouse?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      replied below