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.