I wrote a post earlier this week about how we value our projects–and suggested an equation that takes into account what I always think of as the entertainment value. Seriously, if something takes you 12 hours to make–it meant you didn’t have to spend money doing other things like buying a book, going to the movies, out to dinner, or whatever you like to do. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but it is a good factor to add into that eternal question of the value of our knitting projects.
Cost Per Wear
You can take this a step further and apply it to the clothes you buy. There is the “it made me feel so good” or “it was just perfect for the occasion” or “I got so many compliments” or “I was so comfortable in it” aspect, which could use a one-to-five scale similar to this.
1 = did not work out, 2 = it was fine for that one time, 3 = I don’t love it, but I’ll keep it, 4 = Oh yeah, it was good, 5 = I am so glad I bought this
But I like to think about real cost per wear. I do this in my classes sometimes to help students, who understandably don’t have a lot of money to spend, see why that inexpensive piece may not be the low-cost purchase they think. The caveat is that you have to be committed to wearing things more than two or three times, which they often aren’t.
But we’re adults, right? So regardless of your style, you can think about how much you are spending, and what the life of that garment is going to be. If you are buying things for single-time wearing, then it completely makes sense to pay less, except for what the resource costs are: pollution, low wages, what happens to all the things we are discarding.
Cost Per Wear Example
I buy these cashmere tanks from TSE Cashmere Outlet stores. I love them because they are perfect for layering, I can wash them (yes, delicate cycle in the machine; quick steam when dry), they add color to my wardrobe, and at the outlet store I think I pay about $120 for them. I couldn’t find them online, but this is about what they look like. I own about six of them, and the oldest is probably 12 years old. I haven’t seen them or loved the colors in the past couple years so haven’t acquired a new one recently.
Here’s what I could get from Forever 21. The name of it is Boxy Tank, and it does seem to be that. It is made from rayon in Vietnam. So if I went in and bought a bunch of these–there are only four colors, so four–I would spend $31.60, plus tax of about $2.77 for a total of $34.37. I am pretty sure that these would not stand up to my machine washing–or not for very long. But I’ll give them each 4 wears for a total of 16 wears. $34.37 / 16 = $2.15 per wear.
So it cost me $480 + tax of $42 or $522 to get four of mine. I wear mine for about 8 months of the year and probably wear at least one of them once or twice a week. But let’s be fair, and say that I wear each of them once a month. I have owned these four tanks (if I take my most recent purchases) for about 3 years. 1 tank = 8 wears a year times 3 years = 24 wears x 4 (number of tanks) = 96 wears. $522 / 96 = $5.44 per wear.
So this isn’t as inexpensive as the Boxy tank, but I have been pretty generous and–this is important–I will wear these for additional years, all the while the cost is going down. This suits my life in other ways too. I don’t like disposable things, fit is important to me, I am able to shell out money to get better quality, and I look for wardrobe-building pieces. I would rather wash and steam than to ever have to set foot in Forever 21. I buy my tanks on twice-yearly shopping expeditions so the time investment is minimal.