Debt Free Slow Fashion

everlane silk blouse hanging from door

It’s time for this blog to pivot. Over the past year, I’ve talked a lot about trimming down my wardrobe and defining my personal style, but it feels to me like that part of my wardrobe journey is over. I’m comfortable with my style and I know how to keep my wardrobe minimal and mindful. Sure, there are some areas that I’d still like to work on and talk about, but for the most part I’m ready to move on to other topics.

One big topic I plan to cover?


Specifically, my goal to dig my family out of debt.

Money is so rarely talked about in the slow fashion space, especially among influencers. We buy clothes from brands that charge upwards of $100 for a shirt, $300 for a cardigan, etc., but where is that money coming from? (I’m not saying these prices aren’t justifiable, I’m just saying they’re objectively expensive). What kinds of jobs do people have that give them the sort of disposable income that allows them to have wardrobes full of these kinds of luxury garments? How are they ranking their financial priorities? I literally have no idea, but I’d like to find out.

I grew up without money, which means, of course, that I am always thinking about money – if I have enough, how to get more, counting other people’s, etc. It’s a bad, anxiety-inducing habit. Money should not be the thing that rules my emotional life, and yet it is and always has been. I always laugh when I hear someone say that money can’t buy happiness – there’s no easier way to spot someone who has always had a financial safety net.

So what does all this mean for Goblin Shark? First, it means sharing with you some of the more intimate details of my financial life – hard numbers on my income and expenses and debt. Second, it means talking about how I plan to move forward on my debt-free journey, and hopefully, celebrating the achievement of some financial goals. I want to be open with you about how I shop and acquire my clothing. I hope that by pulling back the curtain on money and debt, we can all feel a little more free in our discussions about what it means to be able to access slow fashion.

So, here are some numbers for you.

Income: ~$2900 a month. That’s what I take home after everything that’s deducted from my paycheck before it hits my bank account. My husband and I keep all of our money together, but because he is a full-time student at the moment, I am the only one with an income.

I do make money from this blog, but it’s not a significant contribution to our household. I mostly work in exchange for clothes, which I’m pretty satisfied with under most circumstances, and I’ve made just under $400 in commission from affiliate links. The catch there, though, is that if you’re using an affiliate management platform like rewardStyle (which I do), it takes F O R E V E R for that commission to close. That $400 I earned is still hypothetical. It probably won’t hit my bank account for months.

Expenses: We’re lucky that my in-laws invited us to live with them, rent-free, after my husband quit his job to finish up school last year. Prior to that, we were paying $1800/month in rent for our crappy 1-bedroom apartment in DC.

Our primary expenses now include things like food, our pets (supplies, veterinary care, dog-walking), transportation (car payment, gas, metro & bus fare for me), student debt (our biggest expense), credit card payments, gym memberships, cell phone bills, and entertainment like music and video streaming services. We’re also paying for my husband’s school fees, textbooks, and health insurance. We paid for tuition for his first year, but thankfully it’s covered this semester by his TA position. There is not a lot of wiggle room for things like travel, clothing, or saving for a down payment on a house.

Debt: At this moment, I will admit to you that I don’t know the exact number. Between student debt, credit card debt, and our car loan, it’s somewhere in the ballpark of $90,000-$100,000. That’s a hard figure for me to write down. This whole thing is hard to write.

We didn’t get into this mess because we live extravagant lives full of irresponsible decisions – we got here because we had no option besides debt if we wanted to be able to attend our undergraduate colleges of choice, and when you’re eighteen years old and you have the loan papers in front of you, you have no idea what the consequences of that kind of debt will be on your adult life. It snowballs. It doesn’t leave you with any breathing room. You’re paycheck-to-paycheck from day one, just trying to keep your head above water. You accrue more debt, despite living frugally and trying to be responsible.

Clothing Budget: Needless to say, my clothing budget is small. Like, $50 a month or less. Usually less. I do most of my shopping on Poshmark and I’m lucky enough that the brands that I work with as an influencer are very generous with gifted items. I rarely put clothes on the credit card – if I can’t afford to pay cash outright for a big-ticket item, I can’t afford it. Period.

The Plan: You’ll have to stick around for future posts on this one because the plan right now is mostly just to formulate a plan. I will say that we are devotees of You Need A Budget (YNAB), which is an excellent budgeting tool, philosophy, and educational platform that we learned about when we were planning our wedding. We fell off the YNAB wagon quite a while ago, but we’re determined to get back on.

One Last Note: I know that when reading things like this, it’s tempting to give the author advice – but please don’t. It’s disheartening when people feel qualified to give me advice on my life when I didn’t ask for it, however well intentioned that advice may be. I share this post with you not as a plea for help, but as an invitation to observe. I promise, if I’m looking for something specific, I’ll ask.

That’s all I’ve got for you on the debt-free journey today (and frankly, that was pretty emotionally exhausting to get down…), but expect to see more of the nitty-gritty of it all in future posts.

Thanks for reading, and if you’re on your own debt-free slow fashion journey, good luck to you.





21 thoughts on “Debt Free Slow Fashion

  1. I’ve often wondered myself how all these young
    Bloggers manage to spend so much money on their wardrobes also. Good on you for such an honest post
    Now, that’s very Ethical!! I’ve always had a problem with money but didn’t acknowledge it for years.
    You are wise beyond your years !


  2. I’m sure that was hard to write and put out there but I’m already so inspired by your story! I can’t wait to learn more!


  3. So impressed by your choice to share this part of your life. Can’t wait to see future posts. I’d love to hear more about YNAB. I have a cushy financial situation due to my career path (unintentionally) but my boyfriend does not and we’ve been exploring different budgeting options for him. $85 is a pretty big cost for someone with minimal disposable income, but if it makes a big difference, maybe it’s worth it.


  4. THANK YOU for being open and honest about something nearly everyone is going through in some form or another, but nobody is talking about (which makes it feel isolating as hell). Hopefully with more voices opening up about this topic it will help erase some stigma about discussing money. I’m rooting for you!


  5. This is so great! Thank you for opening up about your financial situation and you’ve inspired me to consider doing the same (or at least taking a harder look at the numbers in my account-baby steps lol). Money is definitely a topic we don’t talk enough about in the ethical fashion space!


  6. Thanks so much for your candid sharing friend! I definitely appreciate it- also loved your firm anti-unasked-for-advice policy haha.


  7. I wish I had read this post 8 years ago or so. I wonder why money has this mysterious aura and no one actually is transparent about the costs of things. 2018 was a very important year for me in this matter and I’m super glad to read your testimony. You’ve got this! P.S. The non-asking for advice thing was great.


  8. Thank you for sharing! Being in debt is so hard and soul-crushing. But you’re actively working towards a goal which and you will absolutely reach it! A really good place to find like-minded financially aware women is r/FIREyFemmes/ if you haven’t already checked them out. It’s a very supportive group of female-identifying folks. You got this!


  9. Thank you for your courage in putting this out there! My husband and I are in roughly the same place as you and your husband, with myself being the one in school. Sometime between now and January we are going to be digging in and budgeting as well, using the Dave Ramsey program. I look forward to going through our process and following your journey at the same time!


  10. Hi Renee! Thank you for sharing this post! I certainly feel your pain as we spent a lot of our 20s recklessly spending on stuff and had to find a way out of that mess. Good luck in your journey! I look forward to reading your future posts!


  11. You’ve got this! I think there is definitely a lacking conversation about personal finance, especially among women. Happy to read through comments mentioning forums and groups.I don’t know why, but I love reading these candid posts. Also other people’s out of debt journeys and budgets, even if their lifestyle and income and situation is galaxies away from mine.


  12. Money hold so much power over us, and, ironically, I find people would rather talk about literally anything. I mean anything…like let’s talk about racial reconciliation, climate change, and the Middle East, all of which might just hinge on MONEY, but please don’t make me talk about actual money! I’ve never understood it, probably for the same reason you describe. I grew up with next to none, among people who had a ton, thanks to the nearly free rental of a home my grandfather owned in what has become a very wealthy neighborhood in Orange County, California. And I went on to a private college in Montecito…yes, you’re right, that it where Oprah and Ellen live 🙄! All that to say, you are INCREDIBLE, and I will never try to advise you and if you ever want to chat privately, I’m here for it.


  13. I appreciate this, but it also stings. I make about 1/3 of your income as take-home pay and have never made a livable wage in my life. It makes me realize that in so many ways I got into blog monetization not because I had some fantasy about where it would lead, but because I literally had to to make ends meet. I’m desperately trying to get out of this feeling of obligation, and I wonder how many others in this space have become influencers out of necessity rather than freedom. It really changes the tone of the niche.


    1. Leah, I so appreciate this transparency about your own income. It certainly puts into perspective for me that I am more privileged than I know – my salary isn’t enough to cover much outside of necessities, but it definitely covers at least that. I think that your commitment to your blog as an important source of income really shows in the quality of your work – it should make money because it’s dang professional (and you know I’m a big fan!).


  14. Just wanted to say that I loved this post! I think a lot of us struggle with balancing envy with reality. It’s hard to not want to buy pretty things that we see – especially if it seems like the people around us or on our Instagram feeds are always buying. It’s something I’ve struggled with and have tried to be very conscious about, particularly in the last year.


  15. I really appreciate your transparency; I think people need to hear more about this stuff… this stuff that no one talks about and pretends that they’re not struggling even though most people are. I think if more people could see how many of us are in the same boat, we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.


  16. Hi Renee! Found your blog via the Minimalist Wardrobe account and am excited to start following you. Going debt free is hard but rewarding. I’m not trying to get out of debt, but I recently (voluntarily) took a huge income reduction and I’m kind of wondering what that’s going to mean for my ethical clothing choices. Even though we have different circumstances, I am excited to learn from what you will be sharing. Best wishes to you!


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