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The Simple Dollar

Would you spend $120 on a t-shirt?

Hamm says he wouldn't. Are there goods that you shell out money for unnecessarily?

By Contributor / July 30, 2013

A rack of clothing is displayed at the Vermont Trading Company in Montpelier, Vt. earlier this year. A plain white t-shirt from French retailer A.P.C. costs $120, while a similar version of the t-shirt could cost just $8. Hamm says the t-shirt is a good reminder to make sure you are not overspending on items you could easily get for less.

Toby Talbot/AP/File


A reader pointed me towards this listing for a $120 t-shirt sold by Kanye West and French clothing seller A.P.C. This is just one item among several from them, including such items as a $250 hoodie.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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My first reaction was to laugh a bit. A $120 plain white t-shirt? Seriously? I can get a low-cost version of that same thing for a buck or an extremely comfortable and breathable one for about $8. Why would I pay $120 for the same thing just to have the name “KANYE” emblazoned on the neck?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I began to see this for what it really is: a very easy way for this man to make some cash. If he can take a white t-shirt, print his name on the neck, and sell it for somewhere around a 10,000% markup, why shouldn’t he?

Put yourself in his shoes. If you could buy some plain white t-shirts for, say, $1.20 each, put your name on the collar, and sell them for $120, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you be a fool not to?

In my eyes, Kanye West is making the sensible choice here. The person who’s making the strange choice here is the person spending $120 on the t-shirt.

This is an extreme example, of course, but the same thing can be said for virtually everything that’s sold out there.

A store, usually in collaboration with the manufacturer, sets a price for a particular product. You can choose whether or not to pay that price. By paying that price, you’re telling the manufacturer and the store that the price they set is justified. Whenever anyone pays that price, they’re telling the manufacturer and the store that the price is justified.

When I see a $120 t-shirt, it doesn’t make me think that someone is ripping someone off – both sides are agreeing to a price. If people refused to pay that much, the price would drop.

Instead, when I see a $120 t-shirt, it reminds me that I should think more carefully about how I spend my own money.

What things do I buy that I pay too much for? I know that I do this sometimes, but the $120 t-shirt reminds me that I should be on the watch for it.

Am I spending too much if I buy a book or a game that’s a new release instead of waiting for the paperback or the discounted version?

Am I spending too much if I crave a dish that has vegetables out of season and I buy high-priced out-of-season produce to make it?

What is my $120 t-shirt? Who’s making a killing thanks to my impulsiveness and my desire to have something that I don’t really need, whatever it is?

A fool and his money are soon parted. I don’t want to be the fool.

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