Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Justifying the Cost with Five Questions

If you're a Goth who prefers the fancier sides of things, then you are probably no stranger to the sticker shock of some clothes and items. Specialty garments, especially ones aimed at subcultures, can come with rather impressive price tags. But at what point should you just bite the bullet and buy whatever super shiny thing has caught your eye? Here are of five questions that I ask myself when I come across something I want to buy with a price tag that I'd rather avoid:

1. Do I like it?

This might sound obvious to some people, but it's not always as simple as it may seem at first. Do I like the idea of, say, a new 160GB iPod, more than I like the actual product? Reading the fine print, customer reviews or looking at the stock photos can usually answer this question more than looking at the description and first picture. Taking the example of the iPod again, which uses a mini hard drive and has a longer response time than the iPod nano. Is the extra space worth that split-second delay? With a more gothy appropriate example, do I like the idea of the corset covered in skulls and roses more than I like the execution of one in particular? (There is one fabric that some corset sellers insist on using that has a very western, tattoo-ish feel to it, though it does contain skulls and roses, and boy do I dislike that fabric.)

2. How often would I wear/use it?

My general rule of thumb is to take the price of the item and divide it by the number of times that I will wear it. So, if the item is a $200 winter coat which I will use for sixty days a year for, say, four years (hopefully more, but it's best to be conservative) then I would be wearing it for a total of 240 days. Now, divide the $200 winter coat by 240 wears and it comes out that the coat costs about 84 cents per use, that feels a lot more justifiable. Especially since the longer you keep it (and the better condition you keep it in) the more justifiable it becomes. Take that in comparison to a candy bar which costs you 1 per use and you only use it once.

3. Could I DIY this myself?

I know quite a few people who swear by the idea that "if I can't DIY it, I don't really need it." This is actually true to a small extent and it makes for an excellent check point for whether or not you plan to buy an item. If, for example, a pair of plain black pillow cases is $20, but I know that I can buy the same amount of fabric and make them myself for less, why bother to buy the pillow cases? While there are some items that are clearly beyond my ability to make, like a pair of Doc Martens or an umbrella, there are a surprising amount of tutorials online for making other items. Typing in keywords like "renaissance fair costume pattern" or "perfume recipe" into your search engine will help you to realize that maybe you don't need to spend so much money on certain things, but may also help you to decide that "no, I can't do this myself, I do need to buy it somewhere."

4. Who am I supporting with this purchase?

I'm not a political activist who hates "the man" and never wants to support the establishment, trust me, but sometimes it does help to put into perspective how much you are spending on certain items and who it goes to. If I want a chair, and I have the option of paying less at a polluting chain retailer who donates to causes that I do not support or more at a small business who is environmentally friendly and politically sound, I'm more likely to want to spend my money with the small business. Of course, this is a give and take, since you might not be getting the quality you expect from certain garments (for better or for worse) so make sure that these smaller businesses are reputable. This isn't an option for everyone, I realize, since money is tight in these economic times, but it is something to consider.

5. How likely is a sale on this item?

Of course, the final question deals with getting around some of the higher prices. It's pretty simple: if you can pay $100 for a dress year round or $80 at a sale during a certain time of the year, why not wait until that time of the year and save the $20? You will lose time, but if you don't need the garment or object for a special occasion, why not? This also applies to sales that aren't really sales. A lot of retailers will charge more for seasonal items (promoting them as a "summer sale" or something similar) and then discount them in the off season. If you can, for example, buy your winter coat during the off season, you will probably be less. This really applies as Halloween creeps up on us, because while tableware with skulls are expensive now (as the retailer tries to cash in on the current seasonal mood,) they'll be dirt cheap as the retailers push toward the next event and want to get rid of their leftover stock.

That certainly helped me justify the new iPod that I bought. However, I didn't get a 160GB, I got a 30GB from eBay. I plan to buy a case and do a gothy deco on it, with cameos and black crystals, but we'll see what happens.


  1. I love this list! I especially love the idea of dividing the cost of the item by the amount of times you use it .. so true. There has always been something I really really want, and I FINALLY get it, but .. meh ..

    Whenever I travel, this is also why I prefer buying a little keepsake over the candy bar. Candy bars don't last forever.

    And yes, you also have to be careful about who you're buying this from. Not only a scam, but you don't always research who is getting the money ..

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm glad you liked the list, and you're very welcome! :)

  3. Thanks for this list! I often just buy accessories instead especially since I'm not as outwardly-gothy as some, and do have some colors and other tastes/styles in my wardrobe too. I recently pledged myself to only buy from reputable, small businesses as much as I can, but the price tag makes it a hard thing to live up to.

  4. I know the feeling of buying useless stuff as i am addicted to eBay!Thank you for your post!