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Frugal Find: Pack For Every Occasion

   Posted On: October 31, 2014  |    Posted In: Saving  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®


In my younger years (yeah, yeah I’m only 25 so what “younger years”?) I used to be something of a chronic overpacker. Friends used to joke that I was prepared for any event short of prom. Frankly, not much has changed. I’ve just developed black-belt level skills for maximizing space in a suitcase to avoid paying for a checked bag.

Last night, my little sister demonstrated the reason being an overpacker pays off – in a rather literal sense.

MeiMei* came into town this week for a documentary she’s working on. Peach and I took her out for dinner and drinks last night before she needed to go to a jazz club around 10.

At 8:15 she received a text telling the crew everyone needed to “suit up” (she’s the only woman on the crew).

“Uh, I guess I need to go buy a dress,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, the men have to wear a suit and tie. I don’t have anything with me fancy enough to go to a place that requires a suit and tie,” she explained.

A quick look at the club’s website and a Yelp review confirmed she needed to be in a fancy dress and heels.

“I’d let you go through my closet and borrow something,” I told her. “But, we don’t really have enough time to get to my apartment and then back to your hotel before for you need to leave.”

“I guess I’ll have to go buy something,” she said while rolling her eyes.

Fortunately, Nordstrom Rack was around the corner and open until 10:00. In the most efficient shopping trip of my life, we took 20 minutes to pull five dress options, have her try them one and find a matching pair of heels. She’d only packed boots and sneakers.

Unfortunately, she was forIMG_0572ced to spend money on an outfit she didn’t exactly need. While both the shoes and dress will be worn again, she didn’t need to buy them if she’d simply had access to her wardrobe (or packed a nice dress and heels).

And this is why I always overpack.

MeiMei didn’t know she’d be expected to go to an upscale jazz club when she packed for her trip. She packed to be a producer on a documentary aka to stand on her feet all day and maybe go to one nice dinner.

In this way we differ in our packing strategies. I always am ready for an unexpected occasion. There will be a pair of heels and a nice (to fancy) dress in my bag, just in case! Even if I were the camping kind of gal, I still might bring one.

Another option is to get a credit card that offers the option to check a bag for free or just fly an airline that gives you a free checked bag – but those airlines are quite limited these days. Granted, credit cards with perks like free checked bags typically have an annual fee. Personally, I find the annual fee pays for itself if you just check a bag one time (unless you’re a high roller paying crazy $500 annual fees for club perks).

I realize I may be misrepresenting myself (and making my gender look bad) at this point. When I say overpack – I’m not carrying a mountain of luggage for a weekend get away. I just tend to bring about six outfits for a two or three day trip.

I would roll my eyes at the sight of four pieces of luggage for a weekend getaway (or really more than one + a personal item if it isn’t a wedding).

To those packers: come on now. Find a pair of shoes that matches more than one of your outfits.

Unless you’re Lady Gaga, I guess.

*Not her real name. It’s Chinese for little sister.

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36 responses to “Frugal Find: Pack For Every Occasion

  1. I have had a Delta card for years because with family in Atlanta, it made sense to get the free checked bags on a carrier that went where I traveled most. I even have the $150/yr fee card because with my husband and I, we always qualify for the 10,000 bonus miles with our annual spending each year so the extra $50 bucks is more than worth it for 10,000 bonus miles AND a free buddy pass on a lower 48 flight. Delta has had mileage inflation on their frequent flyer program, but the free buddy flight and the free checked bags more than makes it worth it!

    1. I use the Delta Amex too. Mine is $99 a year, but that pays for one checked bag. If I fly Delta more regularly the $150 would probably be worth it for me.

  2. This is the reason why I always pack one pair of heels that can work with an evening dress and jeans alike. It’s such a peeve to have to end up buying something on a trip that you already have sitting in your closet at home.

  3. It’s unfortunate she was given such late notice because otherwise this scenario would be perfect for Rent the Runway. Especially since they have a brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan now.

    1. WHAT?! I’ll need to check that brick-and-mortar store out. Sounds like a solution to multiple weddings in a season.

  4. Every time I come back from FinCon I have at least 3 shirts that I didn’t end up wearing. I’m always worried about over/underdressing there. Easier to just overpack and have some options.

  5. That’s actually a really good way to think. I’ve been trying to minimize how much I bring, but being prepared and not having to buy something (like a sweater if the weather report was wrong) would be worth it.

    1. That and rain apparel. I usually pack an umbrella and/or rain coat to be prepared. Rain boots I’ll skip unless they’re warranted for an activity on the trip.

  6. I use to severely over-pack (like one whole suitcase for one night) but now I’m the complete opposite. I like to pack less and if I end up needing something there, I’ll buy it. I only brought a carry-on for my 2 week trip to Asia last month. Luckily I didn’t need any heels!

    1. The last time I checked a bag was my best friend’s wedding. I was the MoH, so I had to bring a ton of stuff. I usually bring an empty bag at Christmas to check on my return so I can carry my gifts! 🙂

  7. I used to be the WORST over-packer. I was terrible. But, airline baggage fees seriously whipped me into shape. Mr. FW and I have actually traveled abroad on multiple occasions in just one carry-one bag. We hate lugging bags all over a foreign city (since we never pay for a cab), so, we figured out a system for packing both of our clothes in one small bag. It’s a little extreme, but, totally works.

    1. If it works, I’d do it too. I try to stay carry-on only when I can, but some trips just warrant that extra luggage for me.

  8. You girls have it tough. Guys can get away with packing almost nothing: I spent a couple of weeks in the UK this summer and all I needed was a spare shirt and a change of socks (wear one, one in the wash).

  9. It sucks when one has to buy and pack things that one doesn’t need to use. I usually pack just few items that can work fine for several occasions. I am sorry for her but I think its a lesson learnt.

    1. I love basic outfits that can be spruced up with a few additions — ie: the simple, black dress. Add heals and a pearl necklace and there’s a formal outfit.

    1. Hard to pack lightweight clothes for winter destinations – especially ski trips! During the summers I have the same strategy though.

    1. Hahaha thanks! My mom is actually the savviest packer ever. The woman could fit a ton of luggage into a clown car trunk.

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