Wednesday, January 6, 2021

2020 Year-End Shopping Reflections

Unlike in past years, I don't really have all that much to say when it comes to my 2020 fashion-related shopping, particularly when it comes to the analysis of individual purchases. I shopped a fair bit less than normal because it was a strange year, purchasing 20 total items in 2020 compared to 28 total items in 2019. I spent $3,528.14, significantly less than 2019's personal all-time high of $4,409.33 and also less than 2018's $4,016.51

I've already laid out most of the relevant personal finance context for 2020's fashion-related shopping in my recent and very belated 2019 year-end shopping roundup. My personal finance situation has changed dramatically since 2018: I first hit "net worth zero" in April 2019; paid down my student loan balance to five figures in late December 2019; and I've been steadily making substantial student loan payments since, most recently at $5,100/month. Assuming all goes well, I should finish paying off my current ~$38,900 balance - down from over $190,000 when I graduated law school in 2015 - by mid-August 2021. The end of my student loan repayment journey is finally in sight! 

Now that my student loan balance is solidly in the lower five figures and the possibility of being debt-free seems far more concrete and easier to imagine than before, I feel more acutely that every dollar spent now to indulge my fondness for clothes, shoes, and accessories - or to enjoy any other luxury - is a dollar not put into eradicating my remaining student loan balance even more quickly. To have full repayment be so tantalizingly close is to develop a more acute sense of opportunity costs with all my discretionary spending, I suppose. Would I rather buy this fun or pretty thing? Or are those dollars better spent on leaving my student loans behind for good? 

That's an indirect way of saying that I think - fingers crossed! - the first half of 2021 should be a fairly low shopping time for me when it comes to my closet, mainly because I'm just so eager to put more cash into my student loans. In any case, I expect to still be working almost fully from home until the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to the general public here in NYC (vaccine distribution has been logistically challenging and slow in NYC so far, so this may not occur until summer). Between that and all the nice, colorful loungewear I already bought in 2020, I really shouldn't have any wardrobe "needs" coming up before August this year. 

I can't guarantee I won't still pick up something for my closet here and there when I see something pretty, particularly if there's a good sale available. But I also feel like I've gotten all the pandemic-induced stress-shopping urges out of my system by now - I pretty much went through two separate rounds of that in the first six or seven months of social distancing - so I also don't think I'll indulge too much. 

Some other personal financial context when it comes to my 2020 shopping: 2020 was also the first year I made regular monthly charitable contributions, though my numbers in that area are extremely modest, at $350/month from March through July and then at $200/month from August through the end of the year. I primarily donate to the Food Bank for New York City and World Central Kitchen, but at times a portion of my donations also go to Black Lives Matter-related causes, various political campaigns and causes including Fair Fight, or GoFundMe-type fundraising for individuals in need. 

For 2021, I intend to continue making regular charitable contributions, though my pace of giving might slow down a bit more in the first quarter of 2021 to accommodate paying my taxes. (Last year, I owed the IRS ~$3,000 when filing. That was somewhat offset by my New York state tax refund of ~$1,000, but the state refund typically comes more than a month after the payment to the IRS is made!) 

An additional bit of non-financial context for my 2020 shopping: I made a personal commitment from around March through October of 2020 to not trouble anyone with returns from my online shopping, back when much of the US was at least partially shut down. (In many states, at least some warehouses or offices processing shipments from online orders weren't really allowed to open or bring in their employees for at least some of that time.) In other words, if I made an order during those months, I felt pretty serious about keeping the item, or at least about reselling the item if it ended up not being that great for me.  

I eased up on that personal commitment against returns for orders I made in November and later, and ultimately returned only one item in all of 2020, that polo sweater from The Reset. And actually, even though it was a simple return that only required me to drop the package in the mail with a printed return label from the company, I still found the return to be a relatively big hassle while K and I are trying to stay home and socially distance as much as possible to try and keep our community safe. So in 2021, I'm still going to try shopping very carefully to avoid needing to mail in returns as much as possible.

I actually don't have anything to say at all when it comes to a more nitty-gritty analysis of my individual 2020 purchases. It wouldn't really be meaningful to use the red, yellow, green dots when I haven't been able to road-test any of my new, non-loungewear clothes outside the home! With any of the items intended primarily to be worn outside, I can't really say I've made a final decision about whether to keep or resell them until the world starts getting closer to the pre-COVID normal and I can move about in the world more freely and safely again. Though on the off chance that anyone happens to be curious about any of the loungewear I purchased, I'm happy to give detailed feedback about that, just let me know. 

What were your favorite purchases of 2020? Do you have any particular criteria in mind when shopping for loungewear? One small thing I noticed with all my loungewear shopping in 2020 was that it's really difficult to find an all cotton or cotton-spandex lounge set these days! It's mostly all some kind of cotton-synthetic blend. 

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