HTSMC: Sorry, You Have To Shop At Kohl’s

This is one in a sporadic series of tips/ideas to how to stay in the middle-class (or HTSMC).  Whether you consider yourself on the lower- or higher-end of the spectrum, you can probably find some useful tips to help you stay there and find save more for retirement even as wages stay stagnant.

Dear Average Middle-class person:

I’m sorry to tell you this but your preference for the finer things in life is in conflict with your actual income, if you hope to retire comfortably or buy a house someday.

I know, I know. You went to a good college and got a decent-paying job.  If not for stagnant wages/being passed over for the promotion/salary freeze/etc.., you could own all the latest gadgets, buy organic all the time, and do at least one big trip a year.

You don’t even know how you got such expensive tastes. In the old days — 10, 20 years ago — the Middle-Class did not own tons of tech toys, ate happily at middle-brow restaurants, rarely traveled abroad, and did not have as much access to luxury goods in general.  Now we’re exposed to the “good things” in life all the time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Why shouldn’t we enjoy well-made food or immerse ourselves in other cultures?  Why shouldn’t we appreciate the fine design of an iPhone or Birkin handbag?

The problem is: your wages have most likely NOT kept up with your tastes. ‘

Luckily for you, you can still look richer than you are.  At places like Target and Kohl’s, you can buy lower-priced versions of designer brands from Peter Som, Narciso Rodriguez, Missoni, Elie Tahari, Rock & Republic, and many more.  You can also score second-hand versions of luxury goods via Craigslist, Ebay, or local Facebook groups.  You can buy iPhones and other $500+ phones on an installment plan.  You can lease a car (although I wouldn’t recommend that).

The hard part is Acceptance. Before you can save money, you have to admit that your budget is more Kohl’s than Nordstrom.  Yes, you have to shop at Kohl’s (or the equivalent retailer in your area).

Once you have accepted this fact, you can get better at saving and spending wisely. More to come…

Olivia Palermo wearing Peter Som for Kohl's

Olivia Palermo wearing Peter Som for Kohl’s


4 thoughts on “HTSMC: Sorry, You Have To Shop At Kohl’s

  1. Or you can just have less stuff (or, as you note, get nice things second hand). You can have anything, but not everything.

    Back in the day stuff was so much more expensive because we had to buy it at little boutiques in downtown or drive to get to a mall or a Sears (or later, K-Mart). Now we have Walmart and Target and strip malls and Amazon and it’s so easy to get so much stuff for so little money.


  2. Hi, I found your page through financialsamurai.
    Even as frugal as I am, over the years, I’ve accumulated enough clothes that would last me for 2 weeks to a month without lapsing. Last year, I don’t think I shopped for anything other than undergarments. The newer washer and dryer works so well and protect the clothes so well that I found my clothes last for more than a decade sometimes. If the seams come off, I just simply use needle and threads. Good skill to learn in middle school. 🙂

    I think you are absolutely right about lifestyle inflation. With the help of media, one would think having the latest of the tech toys, and travel abroad is a normal thing, and should do every often. Although many people can do it cheap with hostels, but you would prefer hotels because it “safer” and many other excuses later, saving is gone.

    People at my work think it’s rediculous to retire at 35 years old. They have no idea that’s even possible and they’d think I eat ramen everyday if I retire, where I pack salmon for lunch and they eat chic-fil-a or Wendy’s. Until they want to cut the cable cord or expensive movies programming, or learn to be happy with the cheaper, healthier outdoor activities, it’s not going to happen. I guess it’s their choice to work until 65 years old. The new retirement age is 67.


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