What's a handbag worth?

Just days after drowning her already-tattered shoulder bag, Sandra wonders whether a "grown-up" handbag is worth the money

“ARE YOU BUYING A MICHAEL KORS HANDBAG?!?” sputtered Alicia, our art director, noticing the image on my computer screen.

After commenting that I liked Elana’s bag (she’s the general manager of todaysparent.com), and learning that she paid about $100 for it at a Coach outlet store in the US, I showed her the Michael Kors bag I’d been fantasizing about.

Let me interrupt my own story here to say that I’m not, generally speaking, a handbag- or shoe-hoarding kind of girl. Usually, I have one pair of casual shoes and one nice pair per season that I wear and wear and wear until they’re dead. And my current handbag? I did invest in good quality at Roots, but I’ve been carrying the same Lauren handbag for six years now. (I know it’s six years, because I recall breaking my OLD, old handbag during a March break outing with Bronwyn, who was not quite four at the time, while I was pregnant with Isobel, who’s now five).

So, I was already due for one before I accidentally doused my old bag at the airport. Rushing to the gate for a work-related trip to Ottawa on Sunday night, I’d neglected to cap the lid of my water bottle properly. I felt something cool spreading on the side of my leg as I sat reading my book. Then I realized: The cool feeling was liquid seeping from the inside of my handbag. Water …everywhere. My hat and mitts, which I’d stowed inside my handbag (it’s soooo large and practical, but not too large to carry comfortably or find stuff in), were soaked. And thank goodness — I don’t even want to contemplate what would have happened to my passport and the papers in my wallet if the woolens hadn’t been there to take the watery hit.

I wrung most of the water out of my hat and mitts at the airport, then used the hotel hair dryer on the other side of my journey to get the rest, and dry out my handbag. If it looked tired before the Water Bottle Incident, it was absolutely, embarrassingly ragged after.

But I’ve got to say that the idea of spending $300 or more on a handbag makes me a little queasy now that I have two kids and two daycare bills and a bigger mortgage than I did six years ago.

“But you’ll use it for years,” came the advice from both Elana and Alicia. And it’s true — $300 divided by six years is a reasonable sounding $50 worth of handbag per year.

I’ve been looking around for cheaper options, visiting Winners while Bronwyn was at ballet last night. I saw a cute potential replacement, not too different in shape from my Michael Kors fantasy bag. And the price was nice, too: $89. But after close examination (’cause you have to examine anything thoroughly before you buy it from Winners, or any clearance-type store), I discovered that the bag wasn’t even leather. So I put it back on the rack.

What’s your opinion: Is a handbag a worthwhile investment? Or should I cheap out and get something that’s merely functional for now?