giphy (22)(Via Giphy)

Ugh, I did it again! I was being so good and smart and financially responsible this month and not buying anything I don’t need–except for a daily Pistachio Rose Mocha at Starbucks, because coffee is a “need,” not a “want”–but then the Presidents’ Day sales hit and I caved and bought some new dresses because they were beautiful and massively, insanely, unconscionably on sale. A $600 dress marked down to $80? It would have been financially irresponsible not to buy it. But I’ve been trying to build up a healthy “Fuck Off Fund,” because every woman should have one, but it turns out that’s harder than I expected, because I am an optimist and I keep buying clothes for a fancy version of myself who doesn’t actually exist yet and maybe never will.

(Related: The Mistakes Everyone Has Made While Shopping The Sales)

The dresses I bought are gorgeous. One is long and slinky and has an arty but cool print and would be perfect to wear to a black-tie summer benefit for a botanical garden. The other is short and sexy and so low-cut I’m going to have to find and buy a fancy bra to wear underneath it, because it’s designed to show off either massive amounts of cleavage or a beautiful push-up bra, and I possess neither. 

OK, these are the dresses I bought. There was an extra 50-percent off sale and I am not made of stone.


(Via Tatyana Boutique


(Via Tatyana Boutique)

I mean, they’re obviously fabulous. But the problem is not that I bought some beautiful and extremely on sale dresses, it’s that I bought dresses I might never actually wear. I don’t live in a place that has a botanical garden, let alone summer fundraising galas to benefit one. 

And I keep doing that! Last spring I bought a 70s-style maroon leisure suit at H&M after seeing it on fashion girl Instagrams for months, and it’s still hanging in my closet with the tags on. A month after buying that, I bought a gorgeous, vintage-style Norma Kamali swimsuit on The Outnet. It was a steal, but I hate the sun and have not been on a beach or at a pool in nearly 10 years, and I had three perfectly serviceable vintage-style swimsuits already.

Basically, I am outfitting a wardrobe for someone who is leading a completely different life. If I were an urban socialite who went to a lot of fancy parties and walked through a lot of pool areas on her way to bars, I would be set for life. But I live in a mountain town and do a lot of walking and really all I need are cool jeans, comfortable shoes that won’t make me face-plant on the cobblestones, and some shirts that look good and feel comfortable and can still go in the washing machine, because dry-clean only clothes are for suckers.

Really, I need to stop buying clothes for the fantasy version of myself who is jetting around to fancy events. If I ever become that person, I can buy myself clothes then. I do not need to spend all of Mountain Girl’s money on a fake fancy life that might never happen.

Shopping like that is fun, though. It’s a pretty entertaining diversion to shop for fancy clothes and think, “Oh yeah, I’ll totally wear this to my next destination wedding.” But it’s also important to be realistic. Are you actually going to a destination wedding, or will this go in your closet and turn into expensive clutter? If that destination wedding does come up, will you wear the thing in your closet you impulse bought five years ago, or will you go out and pick up a new impulse buy then?  Spending $300 on $900 worth of dresses is pretty great, unless you never wear them and then you just spent $300 on closet ballast. That closet ballast adds up, too. One year, many years ago, I did the math and had spent more than $4,000 on clothes that I never actually wore, because I had started working from home and all I really wore were jeans. A lot of the time, it’s more fun to think about buying something than it is to actually own it, anyway.

As tempting as it is to shop for your fantasy version of your future self, your real future self would probably rather have the money. Your future self wants the financial freedom to buy whatever she wants then, not to have an empty bank account and a closet full of whatever clothes her past self wanted 10 years ago. My current self does not want the 40 Rampage tops my 2003 self bought because she thought those layered tank tops and embellished boot-cut jeans constituted a “style upgrade” that would last her forever, and my 2026 self probably doesn’t want that super low-cut dress I just bought on sale.

By all means, shop for the best version of the life you actually lead, but keep your future self’s finances and your current lifestyle in mind and remember that maybe you don’t need more than one vintage fur coat or ski suit if you live on an organic farm in California. It might seem boring to live that way now, but the more we stick to it, the happier we’ll be in the long run with our big fat “Fuck Off” funds.