The following is a conversation that took place this afternoon (at American Consumer Credit Counseling – a nonprofit credit counseling agency that helps consumers get out of debt!) while I was temporarily displaced from my usual workspace.
Scene: Julie sits at Albie’s computer reading WiseBread, eating a snack, and listening to Roller Derby Queen by Jim Croce. (Julie’s headphones are packed away somewhere due to carpet being installed near her own cubicle). Albie arrives back at his cubicle and shakes his head.
Albie: You’re totally pulling off the hobo lifestyle today. You’re happily eating cold lentil soup right out of the can with a plastic spoon you got from the lunch room and, if I’ve learned anything about you over the last two years, I’m gonna guess that you didn’t buy anything you’re wearing right now. While you use my headphones.
Julie: Which for the record you offered for me to use while you took a late morning constitutional.
Julie: Other than that… yeah that’s pretty darn accurate! Well, I did buy these shoes. (Smiles proudly then looks over her clothing choice for the day) But everything else… Let’s see, hand-me-down sweater and jeans, and these rad heart-covered socks were a gift. I’m also using an actual elastic band for a hair tie.
Albie: Of course you are. I picture you sitting by a camp fire next to a railroad track watching the trains go by and playing your second hand ukulele (p.s. – buying second-hand things – that are in good condition can help you save money and stay on budget!).
Julie: That’s an idea I can get behind.
Albie: And when you get cold you can wear your America’s Badass leather jacket from Goodwill you were sporting yesterday.
Julie: Hell yeah I could!
Many people feel like they don’t have choices when it comes to how much they spend on vital life items (food, clothes, utensils, headphones, things that make them happy). But I have internalized what is important to me and that I can spend money on items equal to their importance.
Do I want decent clothes to wear? YES. Do I dress at an appropriately professional level for my job? You bet! (I’m out in the community all the time representing the company while teaching so there’s definitely a standard I attend to).Do I usually buy clothes at Nordstroms? No!
Did I pay monies for my shoes? Yes! Teaching so much I’m on my feet all the time (plus I dance a lot and my feet are incredibly important to me). I’m okay spending $70 on amazing Clarks because they keep my feet healthy and safe and they’ll last for years.
But here’s the secret to looking professional and establishing a mixture of authority and approachability while teaching (or doing anything). Confidence, a smile, and eye contact. A business partner is not going to remember what I wear, but how I make them feel about our partnership and my ability to deliver quality material. A class participant will remember that they felt comfortable asking questions and know they received a relevant answer. No price tag or pressed pants can compensate for that.
Dressing professionally is important. I didn’t come to work today wearing overalls and a red flannel (although I’m strongly considering that for next week. Pig tails included) But, I know where my power really comes from and I can make spending decisions that accurately reflect how I interpret the relevance of not looking like a hobo. (Plus I do love me some train travel).
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.