Women Should Save More, Spend Less on Designer Shoes

by Vered DeLeeuw · 29 comments

Please welcome Vered, who will be posting here regularly on financial matters with a mom’s perspective. Let her know what you think of her first article by leaving a comment below!

With the movie ‘Sex and The City 2’ playing in theaters now, I can’t help but remember the episode where Carrie has to vacate her rented apartment. She figures it’s time to buy her own apartment, but realizes that she’s too broke. Essentially, over the years she has spent an entire down payment, or about $40,000, on her collection of shoes. Carrie worries that she might “literally be the woman who lived in her shoe,” which is supposed to be funny, only it’s not.

Carrie Bradshaw ends up being saved by her friend Charlotte, who gives her her engagement ring to use as down payment. Later, she marries a rich guy who gives her a huge closet. Good for her! But most young women can’t rely on getting financial help from a wealthy friend or on marrying a wealthy man as a way to avoid financial ruin.

A Sad Reality for Women

The reason I’m so upset with a fictitious character and her irresponsible financial behavior is that I suspect it is representative of a very real and disturbing reality, a reality where young women are pressured into spending their entire paycheck, month after month, on designer shoes, clothes and accessories. And it doesn’t end with that. Whenever I read about recent trends where women in their twenties are getting Botox injections to prevent wrinkles from ever forming, I have to wonder, how exactly do they afford these expensive treatments?

There’s huge pressure these days on young professional women to spend a lot of money on “looking the part,” and looking the part includes designer everything. But most women can’t afford this lifestyle. Many are still paying off college loans. They have just started their careers and are not making enough money to justify living a lifestyle that would be appropriate for a wealthy socialite.

A Lifestyle Financed By Credit

So how do they do it? They finance this extravagant lifestyle with credit, or at least that’s how they did it until the recession hit and credit dried up. There was this funny commercial a while back that showed a man with a big house and a new, luxury car. When asked about it, the man cheerfully said, “How do I do it? I’m in debt up to my eyeballs!”  It was funny and sad at the same time and made me grateful that I am not in debt.

Since the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle is obviously financed with credit – borrowing as much as you need to indulge your expensive habits, then paying the minimum payment on each credit card and carrying the (growing) balance from month to month, it is an unsustainable lifestyle that eventually leads to financial ruin. >Credit card debt is the worst type of debt. It’s extremely expensive, and once you get tangled in it, it’s very difficult to free yourself.

Did the Recession Help?

Interestingly, for women who have previously fallen into the trap of leading a lifestyle that they can’t really afford, the recession might have been a good thing. With credit drying up, people were suddenly forced to go back to consuming what they could actually pay for. However, as much as I would love to think that the recession has taught us all an important lesson, I’m afraid that human nature dictates otherwise, and the conspicuous consumption in ‘Sex and the City 2’ is proof.

If you’re a young woman who is just starting out her career, my advice would be to avoid succumbing to the insane pressure to spend your entire paycheck on designer items. Owning 100 pairs of $400 shoes, a la Carrie Bradshaw, is a waste in every possible way. I know better than to advise you to make do with just two pairs of sensible shoes, but how about owning 10 pairs of $200 shoes and saving the rest towards a future down payment, or towards your retirement?

Editor’s Question: So, do you think that a woman’s desire to spend is mostly pressured by men and their unrelenting gaze, or do you think that it’s actually caused by the woman’s competitiveness? Do you think this spending behavior is women specific, or do you think that men are just the same, but just spend their money in different ways? Share your thoughts!

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Its a mad worlk says:

    Sorry, you’re wrong!

    So, do you think that a woman’s desire to spend is mostly pressured by men and their unrelenting gaze, – Men wouldnt know a good cheap shoe from an expensive one. Mens gaze is attracted to sexy shoes.

    or do you think that it’s actually caused by the woman’s competitiveness? – In some cases, yes. dont mistake peer pressure for competitiveness. And then theres me – I just buy because I like designer shoes. I have been tempted by copies but in the end, if you can afford it, the quality is superior.

    do you think that men are just the same, but just spend their money in different ways? – men compete to have the best car, best audio system, whatever. So, same same but different commodities purchased.

    What is really sad is that the last 10-15 years has seen womenwithout merit catapulted to strataspheric celebrity status ie Paris Hitlon, Kardashians etc etc. Young women have been initiated into this ‘cult’, in part driven by the manufacturers. What is really sad is that nearly all celebrities are given their wardrobes for FREE. So, while they get these for free, young women who see/model themselves in the light of these celebs spend several months salary on a bag or shoes. Now, heres another rub – although the Kardashians get their shoes, clothing + bags for free, they then sell them after wearing on Ebay. They say part proceeds go to their charity but Id like to know, how much? 5%, 10? likely. the noble 50 or 100% – unlikely

  • http://www.shoesbug.com says:

    I could not agree more. The pressure to buy designer labels makes no sense. Well known brand names are available with the same look at a lot less money. Life Stride or even Naturalizer come to mind.

  • Sherman Wolfe says:

    Here is a contrary opinion. There are indeed many women (and some men) who have careers that require them to keep up an image. This list includes actors, models, TV journalists, high executives, and certain sales people. You just can’t afford to look “average” or even “like everyone else” and you can’t do this with thrift store duds. Everyone else (those that do not have these type of jobs), likes to brag that they “personally”, don’t need to spend a lot on their appearance, and for the most part, they look like they don’t. Also, I would suspect that most of these dress-for-sucess people are probably too busy to be watching or care what the fictional “Carrie Bradshaw” character is currently wearing.

    • Edmund Wilberforce Tarquin Tremlling-Doherty says:

      My brother and sister-in-law both work at highly regarded companies. They work as a CFO and senior law partner respectively. They do need to keep up a good appearance (they regularly encounter millionaires and billionaires). And they are quite rich and they do not have any debt at all.

  • J says:

    Not every young woman that buys expensive shoes and clothes can’t afford it. Those things are a priority to some of us, but not at the expense of going into debt to get these things. Your article sounds is every young woman is foolish enough to take on massive amounts of debt to afford an unsustainable lifestyle. If anyone looks at Carrie and co. and actually think that’s even remotely realistic, they are nothing more than a fool. Designer shoes last longer and hold up better. If you properly maintain them, they last forever. And I paid cash for my Louboutins.

  • al says:

    Women are worse in spening because if you have 40k in shoes and clothes and you sell them, you will a lot less than what you paid. Now if you have 40k in tv’s, video game systems, cars, tools, computers. Well you can always get a lot more money for those.

    • tat says:

      That’s not true at all. The higher end the brand, the more resale value they have. Now spending 40k on walmart crap is dumb, but spending 40k on chanel, hermes, etc, could even be seen as an investment. Whereas the new iphone goes down in value every year, some of these luxury goods actually increase in price.

  • CreditShout says:

    There is so much more pressure coming from women. Men don’t know Jimmy Choo’s from Payless brands.

  • Kevin Cimring says:

    Congrats to Vered on her first article on MoneyNing, and what a great article at that.

    My personal opinion is that designer brands don’t make a difference – women can and do look beautiful without having to spend gazillions on designer clothes. Now is the time to be frugal – if a man needs to be impressed by flashy labels especially in these difficult times, then perhaps he ain’t the right guy.

  • Squirrelers says:

    I will do my best to make sure my young daughter doesn’t go down that route. I do have to admit that as a Dad, it makes me smile when I see her looking in her closet trying to match up clothes…even before her 7th birthday. Probably because I didn’t care until about my 17th birthday:)

    Back to the question – what drives this phenomenon? Well, as a guy, I don’t think most men care or notice designer things on women, at least not right away. Frankly, even when younger, if I saw someone wearing high-end brands and highly accessorized, it would be a turn off – this wouldn’t appeal to my frugal side:)

  • Erica says:

    Women wear the clothing they do and splurge on shoes to impress other women, not men. Men wouldn’t know the difference in D&G or Chanel, but women sure do.

  • Bindu says:

    Women are mostly pressured by their own inner critic to spend on themselves. They want to look like million dollars some times. They fell in love with shoes and hand bags. The designers are making them to sell and we are getting in their trap to feel good.
    My remedy is when going for window shopping, keep all your credit cards and bank cards at home. You will not buy anything unnecessarily then.

  • basicmoneytips.com says:

    My wife has a love for shoes and is on the DSW preferred list. I would prefer she not buy shoes as frequently as she does, but she is not over the top. Plus, it could be worse, buying something a lot more expensive than shoes.

    While I agree with the article, I know there is a thing about shoes to some women and probably men. Just try and control it…

  • Michelle says:

    I know of many many men who have run up huge credit card balances because of buying huge TV’s, multiple gaming systems, and other gadgets. I think the only difference between women and men is what they choose to spend their money on. In both sexes there are people who spend too much and others who live within their means.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Exactly. I think toys that men buy are just more expensive, so they buy less often. They are just as much in debt though, because the dollars add up to be about the same.

    • AW says:

      It has never been about genders; it’s human flaws. Who doesn’t enjoy brand new beautiful things and comfortable feelings? Kids, who are not adults like you and I, will choose that as well.

  • Cd Phi says:

    But sometimes as a woman, we just can’t help it. I am kidding. Designer goods are a luxury and we really ought to spend wisely when it comes to these…maybe not spending at all is your best bet.

  • Mrs. Money says:

    I must be out of the norm, because I hate shopping, especially for shoes. I only have like 5 pairs of shoes that I wear. 😉

    • MoneyNing says:

      Wow you are special, but in a good way. I think most woman have at least 20 pairs, and that’s only counting the recently purchase ones.

      • AW says:

        I have less than five pairs of shoes, which also means I don’t shop much clothes to match my shoes either. It depends on how old I am; I tended to shop more when I was younger, but when I’m getting older (I’m 30), I know those products are useless to me.

        Peer pressure on not having enough shoes is not a problem to me, but when I see people in my age or younger able to get his/her own place to live in or to rent out, that makes me nervous about myself.

        There is 99.9% of the chance the value of shoes vanish in 2 years. How about in 20 years?

      • AW says:

        oh by the way, you think “most women” have at least 20 pairs of recently purchased shoes because they usually look good or try to look good on the outside, and catch your attention successfully. Those with less shoes, you usually don’t notice them. It’s like what kinda car you drive to draw attention.

  • Moneymonk says:

    You really got to be a clueless woman to live in that “SEX in the city” fantasy world

    It’s pure entertainment. Carrie is a walking billboard. Designers pay big bucks to get their clothes aired on the movie.

    I want to see the sequel. I trust myself, I don’t own a credit card to begin with. I’m safe 🙂

  • marci357 says:

    I think women who get sucked into this buying frenzy are suffering from low self-esteem… thinking they need to buy instant success or instant sexiness. …. thinking it will “make them” whatever they “think” they are not…

    I realize that some Have to dress nicely for work, but not designer.

    Women who are self-assured and comfortable with who they are internally do not have to bother with the artificial trappings outside. We are comfortable in our lower cost clothing, hairdos, less make up, etc.

    As a 50 something woman now, I have watched my fellow females over the years get caught up in this trap – and never have I seen one as happy nor as content as I am 🙂 And just think of all the money I have saved over the years. Maybe that’s why I am debt free – including the mortgage. To me, that is a LOT more sexy than designer clothes.

    It also helps that I do not watch TV nor subscribe to the glamour magazines, so I am NOT bombarded with the advertising messages. And I could pretty much care less what others think of my clothing .

    • MoneyNing says:

      I really would agree with you that being debt free is more sexy, but some may think I’m a “gold digger”. 😉

      Oh and I think my wife would be jealous too.

    • Edmund Wilberforce Tarquin Tremlling-Doherty says:

      My wife and I wear some designer clothes and we have never had any debt at all in our lives.

  • Wes says:

    Mens’ unrelenting gaze? Really? Men want to see women in LESS clothing, not MORE. If anything, we’re trying to help them save money. 😀

    • MoneyNing says:

      Unfortunately less cloth doesn’t mean a lesser price tag in the fashion industry.

      Personally, I think there’s more pressure from the same sex to look better. All the marketing, magazines that tailor to women are written by women, and same for men. When it comes to spending on beauty, I think peer pressure is a huge factor.

      • Lynn says:

        It’s definitely from the same sex. Women are the harshest critics of other women after one’s own self.

        I know my husband doesn’t care. He looks at me, completely baffled, when I remark that my thighs are too big or I really hate the pimples on my face. He doesn’t even notice the “negatives”. The women in my life, on the other hand, are constantly pointing out the tiniest pimples or that I’ve gained a little weight (or lost too much).

        It’s a good thing I don’t really care either, I suppose.

      • tat says:

        It’s totally not for men. Quite frankly most men can’t tell the difference between a 5 dollar dress from Papaya and a 5k dress from Chanel. In fact, they’d probably think the 5 dollar dress looks “hotter.”

        Fashion is purely for themselves or other women.

        As for the post, I think it’s ridiculous to spend money you don’t have, on ANYTHING.

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