Ramen Noodle Budget: Pitfalls & Mistakes

The benefit of the Ramen Noodle Budget plan is that it enables you to buy things cheaply. But you should be warned the mentality of budget shopping can often lead to overbuying and compulsive shopping. 

While you might be drawn toward final sales and coupon codes like a moth to the flame, just remember that sales are designed to have a psychological effect on your mind to get you to buy more than you normally would. If you have weak self-discipline, then you could easily end up spending money that would be better saved for something nicer or more essential to you instead. 

Just like how many people compulsively shop at fast-fashion houses because they have the cheapest prices (eg H&M, Zara, Topman), many bargain hunters can wind up compulsively shopping for things on eBay or sales racks because they think the prices are “inconsequential” or the bargain is “too good to pass up”. If you find yourself rationalizing your purchases as such, you’re probably straying into dangerous territory. 

Same goes for shopping at thrift stores, where you might find a great item, but it’s just a bit too big or needs a lot of tailoring work. Put it down, walk away. I’ve done this before and ended up just re-donating the item back a few months later. 

In these cases, it would be best to refer back to your “to buy” list. Make sure what you’re buying is something you’ve wanted for a long time and is part of a bigger project of building a coherent wardrobe. Keep that list tightly edited and don’t stray. 

Saying “Buy Less, Buy Better” has almost become a point of parody in the menswear blogger community, but it still remains a great philosophy and something you should work hard at. Our consumer culture is one of instant gratification, but if you fall into that trap, then you often end up with either expensive or less-than-satisfactory results. 

The Ramen Noodle Budget can help two types of people: 

  1. Those who aren’t necessarily interested in men’s clothing or style, but want to look great. They want to build a wardrobe they can afford, nail the fit, and never have to think about clothes again. 
  2. Those who are starting to become interested in men’s clothing and style, and see themselves as lifelong consumers. However, they may be starting off in ironic graphic t-shirts and cargo shorts, so they need to transition quickly into something more wearable. After that, they can begin thinking about bigger purchases they can plan over the period of years. 

What the Ramen Noodle Budget should not be is a strategy that puts you in the habit of endlessly buying things because they’re cheap. If you do so, you’ll wind up with an needlessly large wardrobe of clothes you got as a “deal,” but you’ll have spent the same amount of money as you could have if you saved your funds and put them toward higher quality purchases — purchases that you might have dismissed as being out your budget. 

Remember the advantage of these kinds of clothes is they often last a lifetime (or at least many, many years), so treat this as a lifetime project. 

(This post is the final part in a series of five. Read all other Ramen Noodle Budget posts here. Previously: Online Retail Deals.)

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Just want to say “thanks” for reading the Ramen Noodle Budget series and another “thank you” to Jesse for inviting me to publish this at Put This On and Derek for his editing. That’s it for now, however, you can follow me over at The Silentist. — Kiyoshi

Ramen Noodle Budget: Online Retail Deals

My general rule is to never buy anything at full retail price if I can help it. Most things make it to sale, but to be take advantage of this, you’ll need to invest a little effort up front. 

E-mail newsletters: Sign up for retailers’ newsletters so that you’re notified when there are new sales or coupon codes. You can filter through these on Gmail by creating a filter for each retailer’s email address and have Gmail tag them with a label (ie: “Clothes”). This way you can just click the “Clothes” label and see all the messages you received from retailers. 

Daily deals & flash sales: There are a bunch of sites buying overstock and samples, and selling them to consumers for discounted prices. Here are a few you can start with:

  • Gilt Man: This is one of the more popular ones, so things sell out quickly. 
  • Rue La La: Mostly women’s stuff, but they do have menswear items almost daily now. In the past they’ve had Rugby and Brooks Brothers.  
  • JackThreads: This is from Thrillist. They have a real mixture of styles. 
  • PLNDR: If you’re into streetwear, then this is going to be of interest to you. They also carry good casual footwear brands such as Sebago. 
  • Belle & Clive: A newcomer that’s just started out, focusing mostly on high-end brands such as Brunello Cucinelli. 
  • MyHabit: Amazon’s fashion flash-sale site. Relatively new, not a whole lot of amazing inventory just yet.

A word of caution: Sometimes, you may see a package deal from a local tailor on one of these sites (or sites such as Groupon and its clones). A suitmaker, for example, might offer a suit, two shirts, and a tie as a package for 50% off. I would recommend you not use these unless you’ve had previous experience with the company (or at least very reliable information about them). These custom garments aren’t returnable after you’ve purchased them, so you want to be sure you know what you’re getting. You also don’t want to rush into large purchases like that.

Facebook & Twitter: Follow retailers and brands on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll get notices about their sales and exclusive coupon codes (often ones that they don’t send out via e-mail). 

Sales intelligence: This is probably the hardest to obtain, as the information doesn’t come from any one source. The best information often pops up on StyleForum, usually on this thread

Over time, you’ll also get a sense of when things go on sale. Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren have their biggest sales around the same time every season, and Lands’ End has a 30-40% off any one item at least once a month. Sales often follow holidays, as well, such as Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. 

The key here is to have a bit of patience and know when to shop. If you think a sale might start soon, figure out which items you want to buy so that you don’t waste time during the actual sale. In the days coming up to the sale, you can also ask a sales associate to put something on hold for you until a sale starts; they’re often glad to. This way, you won’t risk having your size and preferred style sell out.

(This post is part four in a series of five. Read other Ramen Noodle Budget posts here. Our next post will be on Wednesday, on the topic of common pitfalls and mistakes. Previously: Where to Shop.)

Ramen Noodle Budget: Where to Shop

The absolute best deals you’ll find anywhere will probably come from thrift stores, eBay, Etsy and StyleForum’s Buy & Sell. The downside to these is that you have very little control over the selection, quality, and opportunity. You also need a lot of patience. 

Thrifting: This is the most hit-or-miss, but it’s got a lot of distinct advantages. The prices are often very cheap and you can try things on first before you buy them. You may also find very nice things from a period when garments were better made. Jesse here at Put This On wrote a great series of articles on thrifting. So has Alex at A Fistful of Style and Trent at Survival of the Fittest. Be sure to give them a read. 

Not sure what brands are worth buying? Read Put This On’s Loosey-Goosey Brand Guide for Thrifting Suits & Sportcoats.

eBay: This is a more expensive and risky than thrifting, but there are some great advantages. Obviously, the selection is spotty and random, but you can at least zero in on things quickly. Unfortunately, you can’t try things on before you buy, and you’re vulnerable to losing your bid to someone hungrier (or wealthier) than you. My advice is to set up a few saved searches, hone in on better items using the option bar on the left-hand side, and always ask sellers for measurements. And be sure to ask the seller if the piece smells of smoke or body odor. 

Here’s some guides to get you started:

Etsy: This is one of the most under-used areas for online shopping, but it can be a pain in the ass as well. The search functions are pretty rudimentary and there aren’t many filters available. Still, you can search for key terms, filter by gender (i.e. men’s clothing), and sort by “most recent.” If you find a good seller, bookmark the store. 

StyleForum B&S: This is where most of the good stuff is, but you need to watch it like a hawk and not hesitate when you see something you want. The downside to this forum is that you’ll probably pay higher prices than thrift stores or online resellers, as people know what things are worth. The seller’s feedback system is also very new, though I’ve never had any issues. The upside is that there aren’t any bidding games. 

Again, I just tend to sort by recently updated items to see the latest stuff and then go backward in time. You can filter by item type, but I find that sometimes it’ll miss listings (whether that’s the fault of the poster or the new system, who knows). 

The one real upside to SF/B&S is that you get a lot of high-quality items at below retail prices on there with great frequency. I just got in the mail a Drake’s of London navy pindot tie for $45. Good luck trying to find that anywhere else. If you have a moderate amount of money but limited time, I’d invest your attention here.

(This post is part three in a series of five. Read other Ramen Noodle Budget posts here. Our next post will be on Monday, on the topic of online retail deals for new clothing. Previously: Getting Started.) 

Ramen Noodle Budget: Getting Started

Before you head out in search of bargains, you have to do some personal research about where things stand in your wardrobe. If you’re on a budget, then you have to make every purchase count. Remember: the most expensive item you own is the one you never wear. 

Step One: Know what actually fits you

Start by buying a tailor’s measuring tape. They’re only $2. 

Next, get measurements of your body. You can use these PDFs and these videos for suits and shirts as a guide. Try to get a few measurements, ideally from a few different people, so that you can hone down on the right numbers. Discard the anomalies and figure out the averages. 

If you already have well-fitting clothing, then take some basic measurements of those as well. You can use this as a guide for jackets, for example, to learn how to do this properly. Compare these numbers to those that you find on eBay and StyleForum’s Buying and Selling section. These numbers will also be helpful if you decide to use online made-to-measure programs. 

Not sure what properly-fitting clothing looks like? Here are some resources to brush up:

Put This On:

Esquire: 

Step Two: Take inventory

Figure out what you have and organize it into a list of categories. Decide what can be salvaged with a little tailoring and what can be either sold or donated. If you haven’t worn it in a few years (or shouldn’t be wearing it at all), then get rid of it. You need to pare things down to what you regularly wear and what’s actually nice and fits you. This will then help you with your next enormous task - figuring out where the holes are in your wardrobe. 

Step Three: Create a “buy” list

First and foremost, don’t look at this list as a wishlist and put every cool piece of men’s clothing that you’ve ever seen on here. You need to take a look at your life and what, exactly, clothing you need to suit your lifestyle. 

Think about the basics you need for the entire week and develop a list based upon that. Identify what items you’d wear a lot and don’t currently own (or need replacing because yours don’t fit properly). 

It also helps to keep in mind that the simpler you go, the more easily you can mix and match items. Garments in solid colors, neutral tones, and classic designs will be best for this purpose. It may be tempting to buy some crazy sport coats you’ve seen, but these shouldn’t be your first acquisitions. You want to build a wardrobe, not a collection of outfits, and that means starting with a foundation of basic and versatile staples. 

Not sure what this list should include? Perhaps consider taking a look at Put This On’s suggested essential men’s wardrobe list. If you want some other perspectives, check out Alioty’s tagged “essentials” posts at This Fits. Ideally, you should create your own list.

(This post is part two in a series of five. Read other Ramen Noodle Budget posts here. Our next post will be on Thursday, on the topic of where to shop for the absolute best deals on used and new clothing. Previously: An introductionCloset image via 16520man on StyleForum)

The Ramen Noodle Budget: an Introduction

You want to start dressing nicely. That’s great! But as you read up on quality clothing and proper fit, you may get sticker shock when you find out how much many of these better garments cost.   

Don’t fret. If you’re on a Ramen Noodle Budget, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to resign yourself to dressing poorly. We’re here to help! 

Now, you have to remember the trilemma of when it comes to dressing well: You want high-quality items, at an affordable price, and you want it now: 

The Ramen Noodle Budget Plan is based upon the idea that you’ll have to give up on the last desire: wanting an item quickly. The truth is that you’ll have to exercise a lot of patience and a lot of time to make this work for you. If you’re looking for an overnight solution, then you’ll have to go elsewhere. Sorry, them’s the breaks, amigo.

Still, I wrote this with the intention of giving you a series of initial steps you can take to make your dollar stretch further and lay the groundwork for hunting down deals. If you’re a patient person, then you can definitely build your wardrobe up from modest means. 

This series of posts will detail several steps for you to take to not only get started on building a better wardrobe, but also how to do it on the cheap. 

(This post is part one in a series of five. Read other Ramen Noodle Budget posts here. Our next post will be on Wednesday, on the topic of how to get started before you even buy anything. Image via camknows)

A Big Welcome to Kiyoshi
We have a new guest writer here at Put This On. Kiyoshi, the man behind The Silentist, will be doing a special series for us titled “The Ramen Noodle Budget.” It will cover how you can put together a sharp wardrobe on a minimal budget. 
I couldn’t be happier to have Kiyoshi on board. He’s a sharp guy who knows his stuff, and on more than a few occasions, led me to some great deals through our frequent email exchanges. 
The first installment will be posted later today and the series will run through till the end of next week. 
* Photo: Kiyoshi (left) and Suits+Boots (right) at the RedEye in Chicago. 

A Big Welcome to Kiyoshi

We have a new guest writer here at Put This On. Kiyoshi, the man behind The Silentist, will be doing a special series for us titled “The Ramen Noodle Budget.” It will cover how you can put together a sharp wardrobe on a minimal budget. 

I couldn’t be happier to have Kiyoshi on board. He’s a sharp guy who knows his stuff, and on more than a few occasions, led me to some great deals through our frequent email exchanges. 

The first installment will be posted later today and the series will run through till the end of next week. 

* Photo: Kiyoshi (left) and Suits+Boots (right) at the RedEye in Chicago.