Ever buy something that you never wear? Or maybe you wear it once only to hate it on? Perhaps you wear it every once in a while only because you feel sorry for it? Answer yes to any of these and you’ve got yourself a bad buy.

A bad buy happens for a variety of reasons – all of which are, well, not good. So whether you’ve purchased something because it looked great on the mannequin, the sales staff talked you into it or it was on sale and too good to pass up, you still end up with an item that doesn’t benefit you in any way.

How do you keep from making these bad purchases time and time again? You shop smart. You only choose pieces that looking amazing on and that can be described by your 3, very own, very specific, self chosen, Style Words.

A Style Word is a word you choose to describe what an item of clothing, accessory or shoe (etc.), has to be, in order for it to even be considered worthy of your attention. It’s a word that describes you, your style, or your style aspiration, to a “T”.

For example, my Style Words are Sexy, Stylish and Edgy. If I’m considering purchasing an item, it has to either be sexy (but not slutty), have some sort of stylish quality about it (cut, detail, etc.), or it has to have an edge to it (i.e. leather, buckles, studs, black). If it doesn’t fall into one of these 3 categories, it doesn’t get purchased.

There is however an exception to the rule – basics. Sometimes you just need to purchase some basics, like T’s or tanks, to round out your wardrobe. These don’t necessarily have to follow the 3 word rule, however they still need to look really great on. (No point in deviating from what works or looks good.)

So why 3 words? Over the years I’ve found that we’re never really just one style, but a blend of many different styles expressed in different ways at different times. One word just isn’t enough.

Could you use 4 words? Absolutely. 5 words? Still ok. 6? If that’s what expresses who you are and it’s what you need, then do it. However, I caution you from choosing too many words. You might end up with a closet full of clothes that leaves you feeling a bit scattered or having a hard time mixing and matching when getting dressed. For myself and my clients, I find that 3 seems to be the perfect number – enough to include your many moods, but not enough to overwhelm or cause chaos.

You can even apply this principle when decorating your home. I often ask my interior design clients to choose 3 words when I start working with them. That way we stay on track and avoid making any choices that aren’t completely, 100% true to them or their style.

In fact, anytime you need to purchase something, consider your goal or your desired result and make sure to check in with yourself throughout the process – especially before you hand over any funds.

Stay focused, stay on track and you’ll never end up with another bad buy again.