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How Cost Per Wear Changed My Life

Would you pay $0.52 to be comfortable today?

I come from a long line of bargain-hunters. A grandma with a Depression-era mindset (her cabinets were filled with sugar packets she’d taken from restaurants), and a father with a zeal for markdowns (he once came home with a bag full of microwave dinners he’d gotten on sale—never mind that we didn’t have a microwave), were role models for what became my lifelong but ill-conceived frugality. If something seemed like a good deal, that metric was the gold standard. Whether I’d actually use it, or if I even liked it, was often secondary.

But if there’s an antidote to problematic consumption habits, it’s moving apartments. In my 20s, faced with schlepping a tiny closet’s worth of clothes that I never wore to an entirely new (equally tiny) closet where they would remain unworn seemed insanely foolish. Why did I have all these things that didn’t quite fit or that I didn’t quite like? To save money? How exactly does a closet full of junk save money? Enter a new magic formula that would change my perspective on the things I bought: Cost Per Wear.

What is Cost Per Wear?

The idea of cost per wear is simple: take the full cost of a garment and divide it by the number of times you’ll actually wear it. Remember to consider things like durability and seasonality: a flimsy one-season sun dress you got for $18 that falls apart after two wearings has a higher cost per wear ($9) than a $65 three-season shirt dress you’ve worn at least 10 times ($6.50 per wear, and possibly less if you keep wearing it).

How to Calculate the Cost Per Wear of Your Bras

Bras are a great measure of cost per wear because many women wear a bra all day, every day. Although you certainly could wear your ThirdLove bra every single day, let’s say you wear it every day to work. Assuming you work 5 days a week, and you update your bra every six months, your cost per wear over those six months is a measly $0.52!

I ask you: what can you buy for $0.52 these days? Maybe 20 minutes of parking. Or about half of an extra shot at Starbucks. Or about 2 gigabytes of extra data, according to my cell phone plan (I will admit that I do not really understand what 2 GB of data actually means). Not much.

My point here is that even this frugal-minded gal can see the value in spending a few cents a day for something that I actually use and love. Without my ThirdLove bra ($68), I probably would have bought at least two lousy bras that cost $39 each—the kind that inevitably itch and poke and then deteriorates after a few wears—so I’m already ahead of the game.

It took a lot of un-learning, but I’ve realized that what can seem like a bargain at checkout quickly becomes a burden as it sits in a drawer, unused and unloved. Cost per wear is more than a formula, really, it’s a state of mind: buy fewer, but better things. You’re likely to spend less in the long run. And that’s before you count the value of being supremely comfortable and confident, a benefit that’s simply priceless.

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