Before I joined the brigade of the real world, somewhere in between graduating (and crying) and starting a full-time job (and also crying) I spotted a Michael Kors Jet Set patent leather gold tote. On sale for $110 at Century 21 when normally priced around $250, for any normal person, this tote would be a no-brainer, especially for a soon-to-be working woman who needed something to get her to and from the office. However, when you’re poor (and cheap) as I am, you gotta know how to make your purchases investments instead of buying a bright pink purse and throwing it in the closet for the rest of the eternity. Not really sure what’s a bust and what’s a bargain when you get stars in your eyes at the mall? Keep these tips in mind for your next shopping center excursion.
1. Choose a bag in a basic or neutral color and design. That means don’t buy the giant leopard print and bedazzled and bowed leopard print bag, the studded black motorcycle bag, or the colorful flowered bag, because chances are, as cute as these prints are, they aren’t to match every ensemble you can come up with. Obviously, what is “neutral” and “basic” depends on what your wardrobe is, but generally, blacks, whites, and nudes with small gold or silver accents work well. For me, my gold bag matched my typical neutral (and boring) wardrobe.
2. Don’t scrimp on quality… today. I’m all for a bargain. I don’t need my shoes to last forever (because they won’t anyway), my earrings to take me to my wedding, or my socks to even make it to next week. However, if I’m going to be lugging all my crap to the office every single day, I need that bag to make it. In that case, get something with a designer brand. Buy something with a name behind it that costs you a little extra, because sometimes, it’s worth it.
3. Bigger is better. Don’t buy a tiny work tote because you just looooove it and figure you will make the size work. Everyday, I pack in my lunch, makeup, heels (for driving, duh), GPS, phone and charger, binder, pens, and water bottle, and it still barely fits. Don’t be that person falling into the front door with your belongings in your arms. Get a bag that’s appropriate for the amount of junk you lug around.
4. Don’t forget about functionality. How does the bag close? Is it zipper or button? Does it seem secure? Does the zipper look cheap, like it’s going to get stuck and break next week? Will the button fall off? Is it strong enough to stay shut when there is stuff about to fall out of it? These are all things to examine before dropping a pretty penny on a work tote.
5. Check out the inside, too. I had one defining moment about six months about I bought my Michael Kors Jet Set. It wasn’t a well-worded compliment from my boss or a happy eyebrow raise from the gay guy in the cubicle next to me. Instead, it was the day I accidentally spilled teriyaki sauce all over my bag on an unhappy Thursday (don’t ask). When I saw what had happened, I pretty much saw my life flash before my eyes, however, after further investigation with some baby wipes and air freshener, I realized my bag was going to make it. Inside, it was lined with a material that didn’t absorb the sauce, but instead was easily freed of it and didn’t even hold a smell. My bag didn’t have one stain on it. And that in itself was worth every dollar of my 100.