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Q&A with The Luxe Strategist

When I first came across The Luxe Strategist blog, my initial thought was just a simple finally. Finally, a blogger who looks at money as something to prioritize, not to limit.

Luxe, who likes to remain anonymous, isn’t here to make you feel bad about the way you spend money or convince you to overspend on the latest trends. Luxe tells her story. And it makes for an incredibly refreshing take on both fashion and finance.

She shares all the little details of how and why she spends the way she does so we can learn how to live luxuriously without messing up our financial lives. Yes, she gets those $400 shoes - but she also saves half of her income.

Luxe took some time to answer my questions about her style, personal finance, blogging, and being super awkward (but not about money):

Describe your personal style in 3 words.

Comfortable, quietly luxurious.

How has living in New York affected your outlook on fashion?

I was just musing the other day how if I lived in a small town, I wouldn't buy half the stuff I do! Living in New York is both a blessing and a curse - being seen every day by so many people inspires me to be more creative in how I dress myself.

Trends are made here, and it makes me happy to see people express their individuality. For example, I saw a guy wearing platform shoes a few weeks ago. No one bats an eye at that stuff. But at the same time, living elsewhere, where I'd drive everywhere and spend more time at home, would most likely mean I'd spend less on clothes...

And on the other hand, how has living in New York affected your outlook on finance?

My outlook on finances from a city perspective is generally positive - there's nowhere else with as many job opportunities as there are here. If you have aspirations to work in creative industries, like fashion, publishing, public relations, etc., you can really make that happen here.

But living in NYC also makes me acutely aware that there is always someone who has more money than you do. For example, my neighbor and I live in the same neighborhood, but he has two nannies, a car and owns two homes, and I have none of those things. That, plus, it's becoming increasingly hard to make it here without parental help. Even my former intern lived in a nicer apartment than me. At some point, it seems like everyone who moves here can only do so because they have a financial safety net. That lack of diversity gets to me sometimes.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Perfectly worn-in A.P.C jeans. Doesn't matter what I've got on top or on my feet. As long as I have a pair of unique-to-me 100% cotton jeans, I'm good.

What budgeting tools do you use to keep your finances straight?

Mint and Personal Capital.

Have you ever been criticized for the way you handle money? If so, by whom?

People on the Internet seem to get upset when I spend my money in ways they wouldn't themselves. Even though my spending doesn't affect them personally. For example, I got several negative comments about a post I wrote about spending $60 on a T-shirt that I really liked. They said that 'nobody needed a T-shirt that expensive.' Or spending $600 on a one-time fancy dinner. The thing is, I don't spend my money on just my needs, and I never will. It's never just function for me. My ideal life includes room for flourishes and beauty!

For someone like me, a middle-class-raised young woman floating somewhere between Millennial and Gen Z, I’ve always felt there was no middle ground between frugal financial habits and luxury goods. That’s why I started my own blog about finance and fashion, Style to Spare. What inspired you to start The Luxe Strategist, a blog about “personal finance for people who like nice things?”

I wanted to make the kind of blog that I'd read myself. I always read personal finance blogs, but I didn't feel like there was one addressing people who live in expensive cities, or who like things that happen to be expensive. I felt like there was a gap in the blogging space for people like me and my friends who were responsible with money, but also were strategic enough about it to buy most things we want. Money for me has never been about deprivation, but about going all in on the things you value and spending nothing on the things you don't. If you approach spending like that, I think people would be surprised how much they can afford.

"If you think outside of the box, you CAN have it all."

You talk about your background in a low-income, immigrant household. Do you think you would feel differently about finance and luxury if you came from a more privileged background? How so?

I would absolutely feel much differently about money if I didn't grow up in a modest household. Our lives were really simple, and yet I didn't feel deprived, and it taught me that I don't need much to be happy. This affected my entire mindset about what is "enough," which helped me always live below my means.

I'm also conscious about taking things for granted. My mom works in factories and I grew up seeing how physically hard she worked to support us. Right now I get to sit on my butt all day and get paid well to do it. I don't want to waste my good fortune by being careless with money.

And even now, I get really, really upset about wasted food. Food was a gift growing up, and I can't ever remember there being leftovers or throwing any away. As for luxury, I hate obvious logos, so I'm not flaunting luxury because I've got a chip on my shoulder due to growing up poor, or because I felt deprived. Sometimes that's how it works, but that's not how it is with me.

I love your article about expensive clothes being much more than status symbols. You really seem to view clothing as an art and expression, each piece meant to be cherished. Design, fit, material, and craftsmanship are all much more important to you than a name. Where do you think your high standards for quality came from?

I think for me it's part of my personality. Even when I was little I would take my time to carefully choose things, even if it was a free Christmas card. My dad would take me to the mall for school clothes and I'd come out empty handed. For me, buying no clothes was better than buying clothes that express my personality.

Anyway, that article is my attempt to explain that there's this whole other world that many people don't know about. That some people don't buy things for status at all, but because they want to own the equivalent of an artistic project. Or because they want their outside to reflect how they feel on the inside. That's their world and their hobby.

Multiple posts on your blog mention negotiating your salary. As a fellow INFP, my automatic thought was, “I’m so awkward, I can’t ask that!” How do you hype yourself up before asking for a raise?

I'm the queen of awkward, and asking for money has never felt awkward for me! I think about negotiation from a positive standpoint, and not a negative one. For one, if you're talking about money with a potential employer it means they already like you. They've invested time in you. This increases my confidence to make the ask. And if you ask for more money, it makes you look good - you'll probably also negotiate deals on the business' behalf and not just accept the first deal that comes your way.

If a reader came away from your blog having only learned one thing, what would you want it to be?

If you think outside of the box, you CAN have it all.

Read Luxe's work on TheLuxeStrategist.com.

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