When I moved to New York right after college, I wanted to take in everything the city had to offer — especially the world-class shopping. But while the sensible strategy might have been to gradually acquire quality basics and the occasional investment piece, I wound up in an unhealthy financial spiral, spending far too much money on clothes I never even wore. As someone who, at one point, had two large closets full of expensive purchases with the tags still on, I can confidently say it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
It began when I was an entry-level fashion assistant. I’d RSVP “yes” to every big-name sample sale and feel obligated to purchase something for the sake of the deal — I once dropped almost a month’s rent at one such event, where I splashed out on a $400 cocktail dress that’s never even seen the light of day (don’t worry, Mom and Dad — I still made rent!). Between those “but it was discounted!” buys and the rampant online orders, my spending was getting out of hand.
Sure, having a lot of great clothes seems fun and fabulous, but in my situation? It was immature. Instead of putting my extra money in, I don’t know, a savings account, my younger self would use that spare cash to buy something pretty. Instead of having an emergency fund to draw from, I would count down the days between paychecks, charge everything to my credit cards, or, in the most desperate of times, borrow money from my parents to pay for necessities like groceries, which I was fortunate enough to be able to do.
However, when I took a leap of faith to become a full-time freelancer, I knew I had to change my relationship with money, because I was no longer guaranteed regular wages. I needed to build savings. I needed to grow up and use my own money. And, yes, I needed to cut down on my irresponsible shopping habits.
I once dropped almost a month’s rent at a sample sale, where I splashed out on a $400 cocktail dress that’s never even seen the light of day.
Like many people, Rent The Runway was the first site I visited to find something to wear for a string of weddings and formal events. But what I quickly learned is that RTR Unlimited, the brand’s monthly subscription service — gives you enough bang for your buck to suggest that being fiscally responsible and having lots of nice clothes don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
While one-time rental rates vary by designer and style, many Rent The Runway rental dresses cost about $100 to rent for one event. With the Unlimited membership, for an additional $60 a month, you can have four items at any given time, keep them for as long as you’d like, and swap them for new pieces once you’re done. (You can also add a few more rental spots for an extra fee.) When you factor in how many pieces you can try within a one-month period, the price per wear is far less than renting one dress for $100.
Admittedly, when I first signed up for RTR Unlimited, I thought I would end my membership as soon as the busy wedding season was over. However, it’s been over a year since I joined — and it’s become a core part of my new and improved wardrobe, which functions infinitely better than it did when it was full of expensive, neglected pieces.
Instead of spending a troubling amount of money on clothes that never leave my closet, I now pay a monthly fee to wear exactly what I want. Some favorites? A frilly marigold dress I wore to my best friend’s bridal shower. And a sweet sweater — complete with ruffled sleeves and floral embroidery — that received a lot of compliments at my co-working space.
Instead of spending a troubling amount of money on clothes that never leave my closet, I pay a monthly fee to wear exactly what I want.
Not only do I have access to thousands of items, I’ve also learned how to put the money I would normally spend on buying clothes to better use. Since going freelance — and starting my Rent The Runway subscription — I’ve become more financially independent. I’ve bolstered my savings. I’m paying off my credit cards. And every grocery delivery, dinner bill, or vacation is coming out of my pocket.
In my financially naive years, I would talk myself into buying trendy designer items I thought I liked. Now, I reframe the conversation and ask myself if I need this or would I be just as content renting something similar. More often than not, the answer is the latter.
But on the rare occasion I find something that deserves a more permanent place in my closet — for example, a printed maxi-dress I just purchased from RTR for 50% off the recommended retail price, thanks to my membership discount — I don’t feel guilty about it. Because instead of having too much of a good thing, I have everything I really want — and nothing more.
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