To see all of my picks, check out my “How to Spend Your Holiday Bonus” pinboard.
Once upon a time, I worked for a giant international company.
Every year, even during the worst of the recession, I was lucky enough to receive a nice bonus at the end of the year. Using that bonus – which was still pretty decent after taxes – I would build out my wardrobe.
The problem was that I didn’t know how to use strategy while shopping. Instead, I would wander into the mall (my least favorite place to shop) and proceed to buy a random collection of J. Crew clearance items, bland basics and everything else that was right for an unrealistic and idealized version of myself.
Money wasted, every year.
For many women, investing to build a wardrobe comes with enough pressure. When a 4-figure bonus is involved, the anxiety can be overwhelming – and that is the perfect storm for bad decisions. Do that every year, and you end up with a wardrobe (ergo, an image) which you don’t love.
To help you spend your bonus money wisely, I created a strategic list to help guide you toward the right purchases. And, if you are self-employed or otherwise not collecting a bonus from an employer, give yourself one!! At minimum, allocate $100 to spiff up your wardrobe.
Bonus: $100 – $250
With a bonus under $250, your safest bet is to buy one, very good quality item which will be a workhorse in your wardrobe. My recommendation would be a neutral pair of pumps. Find a style which can be worn both casually or to business environments.
Bonus: $250 – $500
With a little more cash to play with, you can open up your selection to shoes plus a jacket, and maybe a silk blouse. Perhaps you find a great pair of shoes on sale for under $100 (DSW is my choice). For the jacket and blouse, choose timeless styles with good details that will remain relevant through at least two seasons.
Bonus: $500 – $1,000
With up to $1,000, you can begin to add some substantial pieces to your wardrobe. One option would be to stick with the shoes-jacket-blouse menu, only up the quality and cost of each item. Another choice is to buy all of the above and add two pair of skirts and/or pants.
Again, choose quality pieces with longevity – but with details that appeal to you. Building a wardrobe isn’t just about checking off the boxes of what’s missing, it’s about curating a collection you love.
Bonus: $1,000 – $2,000
Now we’re talking. For a bonus up to $2,000, your best bet is to continue to focus on key pieces like shoes, jackets, blouses, pants and skirts – just add more. Since you’ve got some cash to spread around, my advice would be to make a plan that looks something like this:
- 2 pair of shoes, (DSW or Zappos) – $300
- 3 blouses (J. Crew & Ann Taylor LOFT) – $300
- 2 jackets (Bloomingdales, J. Crew) – $600
- 2 skirts, 1 pair of pants (Nordstrom) – $450
- new handbag (Cole Haan, on sale) – $300
- Total – $1,950
Bonus: $2,000 and up
Hi-five, sister! Congratulations on a prosperous year (or a lucky Christmas/Hanukkah)! Use the above plan, but add some great accessories like jewelry, belts and scarves. Just make sure you write down all the items you want to acquire and use that list to strategize your purchases.
When you have a plan, utilizing your bonus funds to build your wardrobe is so much more rewarding!
PS – (A riskier option would be to try your hand at shopping secondhand – either at a thrift or consignment store. Depending on where you live, you may have some fashionistas donating their barely-worn hand-me-downs. If thrift doesn’t work, try the best consignment store you can find.
The secret to buying secondhand is to buy the best quality, most classic pieces you can find. Note: avoid places like TJ Maxx or Ross for spending bonus funds. More on that in a future post … )
P.P.S. – Registration for my virtual coaching program is officially open! It’s called Becoming You: Personal Style Camp and it’s a truly amazing and transformative program that will literally re-program how you think about shopping, clothing and personal style – specifically, yours. Click the image below for more info: