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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 to Ashley, 28, a TV reporter in Kansas City, Missouri, making $50,500 a year. Ashley says she’s not a huge shopper — her biggest discretionary purchases are usually food and alcohol — but her on-camera job dictates most of her clothing purchases. “Even though our dress code isn’t necessarily strict, I wonder if people notice me wearing the same tops or something like that since I am on air,” she says.
The pressure to keep up appearances has contributed to Ashley’s credit card debt, and she’s still working to pay down a payday loan she took out a year ago to fund her move from Wichita, Kansas, to Kansas City for her job.
Rent per month: $525, with two roommates (one of whom owns the house).
Average money put toward savings: $400-$500 a month.
Average money put toward clothing: Less than $100 a month.
Most she’d spend on jeans: $65. “I can’t rationalize spending a large amount of money on clothes. Also, I hate shopping... in person, at least.”
Most she’d spend on T-shirts: $40
Most she’d spend on a bag: $55
Most she’d spend on a fancy outfit, like a dress for a wedding: $75, but usually less than that. “Also, I may just rent a dress.”
Most expensive items of clothing she owns: “Probably coats. I recently got a heated jacket. I didn’t buy these things. I would consider it, but big purchases are not usually in my wheelhouse.”
Has shopping ever gotten you into debt?
I have three credit cards that I’ve had in some capacity since around 2012. Almost all of them are maxed out — $3,700, $3,500, and $2,100, plus a payday loan that I’m still trying to pay down to afford my move to KC.
Do you have a plan or a timeline for paying these down?
Not really, unfortunately. Ideally, my goal is to pay off the $2,100 card this year and hopefully pay off the payday loan. I think once I can knock one down, it’ll be easier to get the others.
How much was the payday loan?
It wasn’t much, actually — less than $1,000. I didn’t have any work for about a month for the move, and it was right around Christmas. I also was a maid of honor, so I had some bride duties ahead of the wedding. A lot of unwise choices on my part, but it’s, like, 350 percent interest, so even paying $150 every two weeks is essentially paying, like, $25. It’s insane.
How does your job affect your wardrobe choices?
Unfortunately, in my business, I started out making so little. I was living in income-based housing but I was still on TV, so there are expectations for how I dress and look. Adding to that, the station isn’t paying for any of those things directly. I was living outside my means. Most of the clothes I have are business casual-y — flow-y tops and whatnot. I avoid slacks because I’m usually in the elements. So most of it is stuff that, while I may not have bought them before, I make work outside of work. I like ASOS and Amazon’s surprisingly affordable dresses.
This is a pretty interesting time to be in journalism. Has the “fake news” moment changed the way you report?
Not at all. I mean, I understand some people won’t trust me, but as a black person who’s worked in a lot of white areas, I’m not used to being super trusted anyway. Now in the era of fake news, there’s a bit more resistance from poor whites in some ways because they don’t believe the mainstream media, nor do they want anything to do with minorities.
Do you ever make fashion choices with that in mind?
It’s the main reason my hair is straight. But that’s also conditioned from old jobs and old bosses giving me the impression that I need to have straight hair to be taken seriously.
Is that a high-maintenance or expensive process for your hair?
I take good care of it. When I had a weave, the hair was $300 and the install was another $150-$200. That would need to be touched up. Without a weave, a good press can be $55 to $70. That all depends on the humidity and how clean I can keep it.
Do you think attitudes about broadcasters’ appearance are changing these days?
Yes, I think they’re getting more relaxed, but many stations are still kind of stuck.
Have you ever considered changing industries to make more money?
I have! I do pretty regularly. I just don’t know what I would do. News is intoxicating. Everything else would be more reliable, better paid, better benefits, holidays... but I also would probably be brutally bored out of my mind and resent myself for the decision.