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Welcome to Racked’s How Do You Shop? series, in which we ask a variety of people some deeply personal questions about how they earn, save, and especially spend their money. If you know or are someone with an interesting relationship to $$$, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we spoke to Maryam, 33, who works as a program manager at a development firm and runs a blog on Pakistani food on the side. She lives in Juarez, Mexico.
Salary: $70,000 a year from her day job, plus $200-$300 a month from various side hustles.
Rent: Her husband’s job covers housing in Mexico; in the US, they’d been spending $1,900 on a one-bedroom apartment.
Biggest monthly expense: Previously student loans ($600-$800 a month) until they moved and stopped paying rent, at which point she upped her payments to about $2,000 a month and finally paid them all off in September.
Clothing expenses per month: About $200.
What’s the average amount of money you typically spend on jeans?
A fancy outfit?
I got two formal dresses from COS, and I think they were priced at $120-$150 but I was waiting on it because of my budget — they incidentally went on sale, so I ended up getting them for half the price.
What are the most expensive items of clothing or accessories you own? I don’t own anything that’s ridiculously expensive. The one splurge I made last year was that I bought a popinjay bag. It was an evening bag [around $240].
Tell us about your approach to style.
I know this has fallen out of fashion, but I do this capsule thing — I don't follow it religiously, but there's this blog called un-fancy, and she has this capsule tool where she limits the number of seasonal clothes to 37 pieces a month, including shoes. I’ve been doing it for about two years, and I’m a strong believer in it. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been trying to build a very solid seasonal capsule that I really love. Over time, I’ve just been trying to see the gaps. And once a while I try to put in some kind of trendy piece, but one that I can tolerate for the next two to three years.
Has that changed since you’ve moved to Mexico?
Now that I work from home, the game has changed. I still wear a lot of trousers, but thank god I no longer have to wear pencil skirts, which I’m very grateful for! I have a few dresses that were kind of work dresses that I still like enough that I could wear them out here. I had to definitely go a lot more casual. The weather in Juarez is consistent, and it’s the desert — so I needed lighter outerwear, cooler shirts, and blouses. Over the last summer, I invested in linen pants and cottony-linen shirts.
What do you invest in for the blog?
I had a little more discretionary income that helped me make some investments — I’ve bought Loom, a photo-editing software, and I pay for my website on Squarespace. And any other income that I get, it’ll go to big-ticket items. I finally got a new Fujifilm camera — that was my biggest splurge of the year.
What about cooking equipment?
I know everyone’s been talking about the Instant Pot, so I just bought that. I like to buy vintage kitchenware, but that’s very sporadic and usually when I travel. I try to update my kitchen equipment now that I have more disposable income. I also need to invest in more dishware because I need to do a lot more food styling — that’ll probably happen in the next couple of months.
How often do you pay full price for an item, rather than buying it on sale?
I mostly pay full price. I don’t shop a lot — on average I buy two to three pieces a month while retiring a lot of things. I normally have a specific idea of what I want, and then if the price is right, and the fit, then I’ll just go ahead and buy it rather than wait for a sale. But I’ve started shopping from COS a lot recently, and they have amazing sales — and their stuff doesn’t go out of stock as easily as Madewell. So for COS items, I normally wait for a sale.
Has shopping ever gotten you into debt?
Not really. Even when I was starting out and barely making any money, it never got me into debt. What’s gotten me into debt is mostly travel.
How does your approach to shopping compare to your family’s approach to shopping?
I definitely spend a lot more than my mom did. Growing up she didn’t have a generous allowance, and when she got married, she didn’t have a discretionary income to spend a lot on clothes. She’s definitely a big bargain shopper. We are similar in that we don’t really go after trends so much.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.