The Luxury Bag vs. the Unemployed Reporter

Financially, things have not been going well for me since July 17, 2014, when I was laid off by the newspaper where I worked for eighteen months. That’s 10 months without full-time work, folks. Recently my unemployment ran out. In January my father died. I’ve had two sprained ankles for I don’t know how long. It’s kind of been a mess.

My mother was in town recently, and she significantly unburdened me for the next two months, giving me some cash for my rent (which, in Greenpoint, is to be paid in cash), COBRA, new glasses, etc. I wouldn’t still be living in a tiny, cheap apartment in Brooklyn, plus roommate, if it weren’t for her generosity.

We had fun during her stay: sleeping at the Waldorf, eating in great, expensive restaurants ($250 at Carbone, including two $15 Irish whiskeys for me and no wine for mom), going to plays, wandering around Saks. She bought me a cute, sporty dress by the Kooples that, after a 40% discount, cost $186.

Perhaps all this luxurious living on what felt like a vacation made me lustful. Like most broke people, I do not (cannot!) spend more than the bare minimum on the essentials, plus food or whatever. Any luxury I had when I had a job has long been cut down to the bone. It’s fine; I’m not whining.

But I have my weaknesses. But I used to write about fashion, and I still write about fashion week, and nothing gets my blood going like shoes, dresses, beautiful leather bags, department store sales, online flash sales, sample sales. I sold some of my designer clothes immediately after I got the axe, but kept most of them. I deleted shopping email notifications to get rid of the temptation. But maybe all those hours with my mom at Sephora and Saks contributed to the impendig mini-disaster. Maybe a little taste of heaven wasn’t an inoculation but a taste of a familiar drug. Maybe my little spree around the city made me think that I deserved something else if my life—screw this “being broke” song and dance. This is, of course extremely dangerous, greedy thinking, often brought to you by the media. “You deserve it! You’re worth it!”


The other night, I couldn’t sleep. I was looking for jobs online, and setting aside the ones I’d apply for the next day in separate tabs. I took a sedative to relax, and then another when the first one didn’t seem to work. I felt better, but still found myself wide awake. I had one more thing to try; a different sedative. (My whole life has been spent trying to get to sleep, btw.) I took two, and while I was waiting for them to kick in—actually, maybe they already had!—I played around on the internet, first going to a designer-resale site where everything was cheap, and then going to the Alexander Wang website.

Wang had some beautiful mini-bags for sale. My favorite was rose gold leather, the outside bottom of the bag lined with heavy gold studs. Awesome! Beautiful and sturdy! Perfect for the subway! And it was only … $595, which we all know is not anywhere at all close to $600. Now I was feeling woozy. I should’ve gone to bed. Instead I clicked “Add to cart.” The total, including tax and shipping, came to $658.65.

I went to bed. When I woke up to an ORDER CONFIRMATION, I realized what I’d done. I talked to the Wang people immediately, and they were very nice about it. They said I could just return it anyway. I said I’d stop by the store sometime.

I guess what I learned is this. I (and probably you) do not inherently deserve luxury goods. Some of us are more susceptible to this line of thinking than others. But when you are broke and managing your money down to the last dollar, hit the “stop” button before you think, “Hey, you know what? I deserve this.” You don’t. I didn’t. Thank goodness for generous return policies.


Sheila McClear has been a staff reporter at the New York Daily News, the New York Post, and She has also been published in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and the New York Observer. Her book, The Last of the Live Nude Girls, was published in 2011.

Photo via Alexander Wang



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