What I Learned in 2012: Buy Good Things

by Stefan Zajic

We’re taking Monday and Tuesday off for the Christmas holiday next week, and are kicking off our year-end series about things we learned about ourselves and money in 2012, mistakes we made, advice given and received, our favorite things we bought (or regretted), and more. These pieces will be running until the New Year. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and supporting our site in our first year. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate it. — Mike & Logan.

Here’s Stefan.

If you buy good things and use them for a long time, it can help you save money for more nice things in the future.

It’s a lesson that one learns again and again in life, but this year I really noticed it with clothes. I got married, and so I went shopping for a suit, a pair of shoes, and a couple of other things. At some point during that process, I realized, terrifyingly, that none of my current dress clothes fit, and that I’d bought most of my clothes on sale, so many of them were a little weird or gimmicky, and not particularly flattering. So I started looking around and doing a little research.

Now when I say “buy good things,” please don’t think I mean “buy expensive things.” I still want, like most people, to get a good deal. For jeans, I’m still not convinced you can really find better value than a pair of Levi 501s for $40. But I was surprised to find that there are wonderful, high quality oxford cloth button down shirts made in Philadelphia, where I live. Regular price is $88, but they go on sale constantly, and I’ve paid $40–60 for mine. I can tell already that they’ll hold up for years and soften pleasantly with age. I was also surprised to learn that you can get beautiful, classically made men’s dress shoes for around $150. Nice stitching, leather soles and all. They’re from India and China, but the quality is pretty good. They cost more than the rubber-soled equivalents at the mall, but they’ll not only last a long time, they’ll actually get better with age.

I used to only shop for clothes in the clearance sections of stores. It’s still worth keeping an eye out for great deals, but a lot of the stuff that’s on sale is marked down for a reason: it’s trendy, ill-fitting or otherwise just not very good. Saving up for clothes that cost a little more, but will look and feel great for years — that’s something I learned this year.

Stefan Zajic lives in Philadelphia and thinks about science all day. Photo: Hello Turkey Toe