Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
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 email@example.com.
This week we spoke with Wendy, 27, who works at a mid-sized architecture firm in San Francisco. She lived at home with her parents in the Bay Area in order to save money before moving into a place of her own in the city.
Rent: $1,250 a month in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment that she shares with two roommates.
Most she’d spend on jeans: $150
A T-shirt: $20 for basics, more for band tees and stuff like the Man Repeller x Monogram collab.
A bag: $350, although she mostly carries canvas totes.
A fancy outfit: $300
Tell me about your decision to live at home after school.
I graduated in 2013, and I lived at home in Alameda for about two-and-a-half years. It was really easy for me to live at home and then just commute to work and head back. Almost too easy, which is why I didn’t leave for awhile.
I ended up saving up roughly a year’s salary before I moved out, and now I have a very nice cushion. But at the same time, I’m glad that I moved out when I did, because you kind of pay with your independence when you live at home. Like, I would go on dates or whatever, and I’d have to tell people, “Oh, I live with my parents,” that sort of thing. So it definitely had its drawbacks.
But it really wasn’t too bad. I’m a child of immigrants, so it was expected that I was going to live at home for awhile before moving out, and I could have stayed longer if I wanted to, because my parents are of the mindset that renting is basically throwing away money.
Where are your parents from?
My mom’s from China and my dad’s from Vietnam, and they came here in the mid-’80s. They were lucky enough to kind of be the typical American dream, where they started their own business [a company that manufactured restaurant equipment] and then got really successful. Now they own a lot of property, they’re happily retired in their 60s, and they’re very financially secure. Which, in turn, has made me financially secure. Just through savings, and also teaching me skills.
I honestly love talking about money and how people spend it. My parents were always very upfront about it; they just did not follow any kind of American thought process of money. Like, they never took out loans, they never bought anything they couldn’t afford, and they always talked about money. I love talking about money; I could talk about it all day.
How do you manage your money when it comes to shopping?
I’ve been told that I actually shop like a guy. I’m really into fashion and I put a lot of effort into thinking about what I wear and everything, but I don’t browse endlessly until I find something; I am very much like, “Okay, I need a pair of dark-wash, high-rise blue jeans.” And then I go and I look for that specific thing, and then I buy it, and then I leave the store. I have a very exact list of things that I want at any given time, so I don’t really do any impulse shopping.
And because I live in SF and we don’t really have seasons, I wear the same thing in January as I do in June. There’s a lot of things that I just wear all year. So I don’t really have to set aside a specific budget for a winter coat or whatever.
Because I don’t really like to shop aimlessly, I feel I’m more justified in buying more expensive pieces; I can wait until I want a specific thing, and then spend more money on that thing. I don’t buy fast fashion, so I don’t remember the last time I shopped at Forever 21 or H&M or Zara. I do have kind of high-end accessories. Like, I don’t have any designer clothing, but I’ll have a Comme des Garçons wallet or something like that.
I’m definitely of the mindset of waiting for something to go on sale. Say I want to buy a jean jacket from Gap; jean jackets from Gap have been around for years now, so instead of buying it full price, what I do is I’ll just go on Poshmark or ThredUp. More often than not, I can find it second-hand. I’m kind of a freak about being environmentally friendly, so it’s a good way to feed my consumer while still feeling like I’m being environmentally friendly.
How does your relationship to shopping and money compare to that of your friends and family?
I kind of don’t really like spending money in general, and that definitely comes from my parents. They grew up with the very deep philosophy of just not wanting anything, or not feeling like you need anything unnecessary. And I think to a not-as-extreme extent, it’s kind of carried on to me as well.
So I think compared to my friends and other people my age, there are a lot of things that I don’t like spending money on because I don’t feel like it’s necessary, like coffee, Uber rides, eating out all the time. I don’t even like paying for parking or shipping. I’ll do whatever I can to avoid paying for both of those. So that’s how I differ from friends, but I still love to travel. I went to a couple music festivals this year, and that’s definitely an experience I like spending money on.
I’ve realized that whenever I hang out with my friends, I used to get expensive cocktails or whatever, and then I realized I don’t really care that much about the actual drink; I care about spending time with my friends, so I’m still spending time with my friends whether I buy a $2 beer or a $14 cocktail.
I guess [my philosophy] is to be more present with your money, or just more aware of what you’re spending it on, so you can truly use it for things that you love instead of passively using it for whatever.
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.