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Aunty Pearl’s Pearls of Wisdom

Glamour’s resident agony aunt offers you her pearls of wisdom on anything and everything ranging from fashion to wealth, sex, romance, lifestyle, career and personal empowerment. Send her your questions and she’ll spill the pearls

Today’s question comes from our online audience:

I’m a young woman who loves fashion. I’m struggling with debt and often find myself purchasing fashion, even when I can’t really afford it. I often feel pressured to buy clothing to make sure I stay on trend because in my career and in my social circles, perception is very important and I worry that I won’t be taken seriously if I don’t have the latest fashion. Please, I need help or advice on how to balance my shopping habits. How do I stay on trend without running into debt? Also, any advice on how to recover from debt?”

Aunty Pearl: Child, you are not alone. We’ve all been there. You are very normal, I assure you. And thank you for your bravery in coming forward and asking this very important question. I’m sure it was not easy admitting you have a problem, but I can guarantee you that there are other women out there going through the same turmoil as you, so rest assured knowing that your question will also help other women going through the same challenge.

Have you heard the term ‘delayed gratification’? It’s a very important concept that I apply to my life every day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things and there’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with the occasional splurge. You just have to be very methodical about how and when you do this.

First off, are you buying cash or credit? Or are you buying on store credit? My advice to you is to stop buying on store credit. It’s a dangerous habit. You end up paying way more for an item long term than what it’s being sold for in store. This also affects your credit rating negatively if you run into issues paying off your store debt. You also don’t want to run into issues with your bank for not being able to repay your credit debt or overdraft facility. These are all things that will impact negatively on you in the future when it comes to making bigger or more important life choices for yourself.

The truth is that nothing in fashion is worth putting your financial freedom at risk. Your life and your future are important, so don’t become a victim to debt. Stop now so you can regain control of the situation. And that’s very important. You are being controlled by a situation that has resulted from making bad financial decisions. You always want to be the one in control.

So how do you regain control?

Start by having a conversation with yourself. You’re allowed to have nice things. You’re allowed to have new things. There’s nothing wrong with that. You just can’t allow your impulses to control you. That’s the reality of the situation. You can have them, but just not whenever you want.

Think of your life as business. Every month you get an income of x amount. That amount needs to be used to pay all your employees and running costs. Anything above that is profit. All your debit orders, savings, retirement funds, emergency funds and monthly overheads are like your employees and/or basic running costs. Start your month by planning your finances and making sure your basics are covered, first. Don’t spend all your money when you get paid and then start thinking about how to pay your bills later. When you plan, also make sure you pay yourself first. That means setting aside x amount for your monthly running costs and then x amount for savings. You need savings. Savings are not profit. That’s just what you need to build a successful financial future. Don’t spend your savings on the ‘nice to have’ things in your life. Rather make sure you are only ever spending profit. This is VERY important.

So how do I make profit?

Well, there are a number of ways. Cut back on living costs, take on extra work, start investing or putting a set amount aside every month in an investment savings account. In any case, all of this requires planning and making sure you know exactly how much money you have every month and what it’s being spent on. Take the time to do this every month. It’s important. It’s worth it. And it will make a difference to your life.

Of course, if you are in debt, you need to make sure you pay off your debt, first, before anything else. It might seem like your life is a mess and that it’s impossible to dig yourself out of this hole, but it’s never too late. It’s all about planning and regaining control of the situation. If you need to cut back on certain lifestyle choices to achieve this, then by all means - it’s now or never. Start today. You have no choice. You have to do this. And you can do it. It’s important.

Then, when you start regaining control of your finances, change the way you shop. Change your habits. This is where delayed gratification comes in again. Plan your month upfront. Write down a list of all the things you are thinking of buying. Rank them according to priority: 1-10. 1 being ‘Can’t live without’, 10 being ‘nice, but could probably do without. Then ignore everything else on that list except for option one. Make option one your priority or goal for the next while. You can start adding more things from that list as your life becomes more profitable, but to start just be more discerning. If it’s a pair of boots you want, then make that your only goal for that month. The other things, if they haven’t already gone out of fashion next month, can become your next priority if you still really want them.

The thing to remind yourself is that you may want something badly, now, but if you’re honest with yourself how many times did you get something and only wear it once or twice before leaving it in your cupboard for months. You never really need something as badly as you think you do. That’s the truth. Don’t let your desires or impulses dictate your choices. Rise above them and ask, ‘do I really need this?’

My next bit of advice is to actually unpack your wardrobe and go through everything you have to see exactly what you already have. You might be horrified by how much stuff you’ve accumulated. I like to do this every so often to remind myself that I actually don’t need more things. I also forget that I actually have some really nice things from years ago that I can wear today, as fashion has a way of repeating itself. I also like to alter and repurpose things.

Dying a top is a lot cheaper than buying a new one. Taking the sleeves off of one garment and adding them to another is a lot cheaper than buying a new one. Just because a dress has a hole in it doesn’t mean you need to buy a new dress. You can make another one out of parts of old dresses you stopped wearing. Be resourceful with what you have. It’s also better for the environment.

And my last bit of advice is, be realistic. Can you honestly afford the brands you are buying? Are you shopping beyond your means to appear a certain way. I’ll tell you this for free: the perception of wealth being attached to brands, new things and lavish lifestyle is very much an invention of the luxury industry, which is only perpetuated by social media, by sports players, local celebs and musicians. Remember, those people get a lot of things for free. They can’t actually afford them, personally. And even if they can, if they have any sense they aren’t actually spending their own hard earned money on luxuries like fashion. They’re investing and building assets.

The celebrities or influencers that make you feel like you need all these things are just doing personal or sponsored marketing. They’re using your interest to make money for themselves. And they’re letting you know that they are successful by showing you that they have access to these luxuries, even when they don’t. It’s all a big smoke screen, but it works because we have all bought into the same lie. Your success is not measured by the things you have. How many of those people living the luxury life have we seen go broke? Real wealth is not attainable by spending frivolously on luxuries. Some of the wealthiest people in the world drive 2nd hand cars. So stop living a dream. Regain perspective and regain control of your life. Be a boss, not a victim of perception or influence.

Words by Aunty Pearl

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