I've set myself a challenge this year - only buying secondhand clothes, for all of 2020.
Except for underwear. Because, come on.
There are two main reasons, the first being money.
I'm a big believer that budgeting needs two things from you; to be honest about what makes you happy in life, and to be honest about your big weaknesses.
My vanity is a weakness. I like looking nice, I like having a pretty frock or new heels.
This can lead to spending too much on something that is far from a necessity. But if I try to give it up completely, I'll just be miserable and end up breaking the budget.
This is what gives budgeting a bad rap.
The second important reason for the challenge is how wasteful clothes are. Fashion is the second biggest polluter after oil, so bad that if you hop on a plane the clothes in your suitcase are arguably worse for the planet than your share of the plane ride.
So how do you keep silly weaknesses in your life in a smart way, so that you can have the
indulgences that brighten your day without sacrificing your future goals?
You think outside the box. So I'm thinking outside the shoe box, and only wearing the things that other people have decided they don't want any more.
When I put up a brief Instagram post about starting this challenge, I didn't think much of it. I'm Cooking the Looks, I chortled, riffing off my personal finance podcast Cooking the Books. Then I put my phone down and went to make dinner.
But soon I was flooded with messages, and people sharing the post with their friends, saying they wanted to join.
Not long after that a few radio stations called, wanting to talk to me about it on air.
'Oh dear,' I thought. 'No going back now.'
So now that I have very publicly set myself a challenge, have I been tempted to cheat? Just the once, and not for the reasons you might think.
I'm heading to South America later this year, a bucket list trip that includes a five day trek to Machu Picchu.
Of course, I didn't think to get myself hiking gear while I still had time in 2019. So I stared down the barrel of a fairly specific set of clothing needs, wondering if I was going to fail in the first month of the challenge.
Whenever I've needed something specific before, the internet has been my friend.
So I jumped on TradeMe and put in some specific search criteria. "Zip hiking pants", "merino singlet", and "waterproof jacket" amongst them.
To my surprise and relief, there were multiple options in my size. For those who go hiking, they'll also know my double delight to see all of it was under $30.
I love you Kathmandu, but lord, I don't want to pay full retail price.
Everything else has proved easy so far. I already secondhand shop sometimes, so I had some good tips up my sleeve.
Charity shops like the Salvation Army or Red Cross are full of quality finds, especially if you can get out of the big cities like Auckland. A strappy pair of Country Road heels were my latest score; $20 for a pair that look like they were never worn.
Of course, I put this challenge out on the internet, so I've also copped criticism from some areas.
There are those that say secondhand clothes are for low income people, and the rest of us are taking something they need.
Which is a common myth that's actually not true.
Surprisingly, only one in five clothes in secondhand shops are sold. The rest hang around for ages, and are then eventually sent to landfill.
Plenty of people are happy to donate clothes, but few are heading out to buy them. So you're spoiled with options.
Some point out it's easier for me because I'm not plus size.
Now that's a fair point. Secondhand shops are often light on larger sizes, particularly because some people will buy a larger item so that they can sew something new from it.
But there are dedicated plus size resellers on TradeMe and Instagram, and if you know a few styles that always suit you, it's easier to buy over the internet.
Next up, the people that say for the price you pay for secondhand, you could get something that's fast fashion and easier to find.
Sure, but that fast fashion piece will fall apart after a couple of washes, if that.
The beautiful thing about secondhand is finding quality for bargain prices. Something that should be selling for $150 that's now going for $8.
Don't let it go to landfill, snap up that smart buy.
Designer recycle can also be a good option if you have a fancy event, or you just like your labels. I found a wrap dress that's perfect for work on the last chance rack for $18, and have been racking up the compliments on it ever since.
Hey, it's first world problems, but many budgeting issues are.
So if you want to join me, jump in on the #CookingTheLooks2020 hashtag. I'll cheer along your thrifty finds.