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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 talked with Erik, 36, who lives in Portland, Oregon, and recently made a career change after eight years of teaching pre-K.
What’s your job?
I work at a niche car part warehouse where I do a lot of shipping, receiving, time on the phone, talking to customers. A friend of mine had a job over here and he said, “This is the starting pay, and it’s kind of crazy but it’s not too bad of a job.”
It was kind of a sad thing, in a way, but I realized that I was either going to keep going on this path where I’m a pre-K teacher working for a private pre-school, or I’m going to make the jump to getting legitimate teacher credentials and moving into at least elementary school — just so I can get to a stable place employment-wise, maybe even have my own kids one day. It was really just strictly a money thing.
What’s your annual salary now?
It’s not very much. I want a raise in January. I’d say around $27,000 to $30,000.
How much do you spend each month on rent?
My share of the rent is $497.50. Me and my girlfriend split it, so it’s like $1,000 total.
What is your biggest monthly expense besides rent or housing?
I’d probably say food — around $400 a month. One of my problems is that I am kind of a takeout king, so it’s mostly buying food from restaurants to eat at home, supplemented with a little bit of cooking and some simple food at the house. I usually get stuff like a burrito or maybe a crazy sandwich. I often go to this one Thai cart that’s behind the strip club right near my house, and they are so nice. They’ll give me free stuff and everything.
What’s your biggest discretionary spending category?
I’d probably, honestly, say weed, at about $100 a month.
How much do you put toward your savings each month?
It’s not very regular. I have a few old 401(k)-type things that exist — and I know that’s not a savings account at all — so I guess the short answer is, I am saving very little right now.
How much would you say that you spend on clothing per month?
Maybe, like, 20 bucks — but that would be just because maybe I’ll buy something at some point in the year, and then that would kind of distribute evenly throughout the rest of the year. I kind of have an interesting relationship with clothes, I’d say.
I just have this fascination with entropy related to clothes, and the whole idea of just wearing something until you can’t wear it anymore. When I think of Americans, I think of the whole idea of “this season, next season.” There’s a big emphasis for some people on things looking clean, things looking new, that goes against what I’m saying.
I have this Columbia fleece that I’m still wearing from the ’90s — that’s probably the crown jewel of my collection as far as this ethos goes — that my mom got me. People ask, “Is it supposed to look like that, or is it old?”
What are the most expensive items of clothing or accessories that you own?
I bought a Supreme jacket back in the spring, and I didn’t wear it because it was getting warm out. Then come fall, I was like, “I’m just going to sell this thing. I don’t care about having it, I want a tattoo.” That jacket was around $100.
How often do you shop for clothing in general?
Not very often. I bought a few articles of clothing back in the spring just because this job paid a little bit more than the last. I’d probably say maybe two or three times a year.
I’m Mr. Tops. Jackets, shirts, all that stuff I dig, but then when it comes to shorts, pants, and all the stuff like that, I really don’t care, and a lot of stuff ends up being really, really worn out. The jeans I’m wearing right now have... it’s not a hole in the crotch exactly, but it pretty much is. My girlfriend kind of scolded me about that. If I still worked with kids, obviously I wouldn’t be wearing them to work.
Do you shop online or in person, or a mix of both?
I’m in love with online shopping. I’m a huge eBay guy. Most of the clothes I have are probably from eBay.
The fleece I’m wearing right now is from eBay, and the boots I’m wearing right now are from eBay. My main thing is that I want to mostly have clothes that I’m never going to see anybody else wearing ever. Even if it’s something where it’s, like, a T-shirt that I bought from a sandwich shop here in town. I want stuff where somebody looks at it and they’re like, “Where the hell did this guy even get that? What even is that?”
How long does it typically take you to make a decision to buy something?
eBay puts that pressure on you, especially the “Buy it now” feature. Generally, I’ll try to just put something on watch on eBay. It depends on many variables, but unless it’s cheap and something I’ve been really wanting or whatever, then I’ll end up watching it and seeing what happens.
You mentioned that you couldn’t wear your crotchless jeans when you were a teacher. How else has your day-to-day uniform changed with your career change?
I really just dress like I dress going anywhere else any other day, which is great. At my other job I had to wear their shirt, which came in a few different colors. But there, I couldn’t give off an Erik vibe because I’m wearing this baby-blue preschool teacher shirt.
I do have a few shirts that I don’t wear here. I drew the cover of Bauhaus mask on a shirt; it’s a little bit scary, and there’s the owner’s kids around.
How does your approach to shopping compare to your parents’ or your family’s approach to shopping? Do you think you spend more or less than family members?
I guess I’d say more, but my brother definitely has a streak of wearing stuff out way more than me — ‘til it’s just falling apart. He’d get a pair of shorts from my dad that were my dad’s, and I guess he gets kind of attached to them that way. But he’s not like me, where there’s certain clothing and things that I’m excited about. He mostly just wears plaid button-ups.
I guess I don’t think of any of my immediate family as being people that are into finding unique items per se, or really collecting anything, or any kind of proclivities like that.
What about your girlfriend?
She’s not as much of a find-weird-old-stuff [type]. She’s more just, “There’s this jacket on the Madewell website, I want that jacket,” and then she buys that jacket.