CPW: Re-evaluating the cost-cutting strategy

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CPW, we love you.

If this term is new to you, here’s the deal: CPW stands for cost-per-wear. The object of the game is for everything you buy to have the lowest CPW as possible. How do you achieve this? You wear an item in your wardrobe as much as possible, that way every time you wear a purchase you are paying less per wear. Here’s a quick example: You buy a pair of jeans for $120. You wear them once and you paid $120, or the full price, to wear them. Wear them three times and you pay $40. Six times, just $20 each time. Sounds good, right? Essentially, every time you wear something, the CPW dwindles.

But why is how much you pay for an item each time you wear it so important? It doesn’t change the price you paid for it originally, does it? Time to talk some simple economics, guys.

Why you should never use CPW to justify a purchase

This is the first rule. Our biggest qualm of CPW is that it leads you to using the price of something to justify adding it to your wardrobe, whether we’re talking about something that’s out of your price range or a major steal. So let’s say instead of paying $120 for a pair of high-end designer denim, you grab a pair from a big box store or get a pair heavily discounted and only end up paying $20 for them. Same math applies. Wear them once and your CPW is the full price you paid, $20. Wear them 20 times and it’s a measly $1 per wear! But come on, how often are you going to find a $20 pair of jeans that is durable enough to survive 20 wears and let’s say 5-10 washes?

Consider Price Last

Here’s the thing: when misused, the CPW theory puts too much emphasis on the price of something. Yes, you have to be able to actually afford it; we’re certainly not advocates for charging expensive shit on your credit card that you know you’re not going to be able to make (timely) payments on. But you should never use the price, whether it’s over your price range or way beneath it, to justify buying something because it rarely ends pretty. You make sacrifices in important areas that should never be sacrificed.

By the time you consider cost, you should have already weighed every other factor like the utility it will add to your current closet (versatility and cohesiveness), how well it will fit and flatter your body, the overall comfort level of the cut and fabric, how appropriate it will be for the daily activities of your life, and how aesthetically pleasing it is in terms of the style. Once all those things on your checklist are a go, then go ahead and see if you can afford it. If you can, perfect. If not, move on or wait for it to go on sale. It’s just clothes/shoes/a bag/whatever, not health insurance.

Why CPW is a valuable tool

Okay, so what’s really the difference between buying a pair of $120 jeans that you’ll wear 24 times and buying a pair of $20 that you wear 4 times? You end up with the same CPW, which is $5. Right, but there is one major difference: the function of your wardrobe

One will be beneficial to the utility of your wardrobe and one will be equally as harmful to the utility of your wardrobe. The prime benefit that the $120 jeans has over the $20 pair is that (with proper care, obviously) they don’t have to be replaced. So the CPW takes much longer to dwindle down to $5, but that’s one pair of jeans that have remained on constant rotation in your closet. They’re tried and true, they’re reliable, and they’re amazing quality, whereas the cheaper version only lasted four wears before you had to run out and get a replacement. So essentially, you have to start over every four wears.

Buying pieces that you’re constantly disposing of and replacing is stressful and time-consuming. How many times in the year that the $120 pair of jeans lasted will you have to replace your $20 jeans? Simple math. Don’t worry. No need to switch over to your phone’s calculator. It’s six pairs. Would you rather have to replace your jeans every two months or invest in a quality pair that will last you years?