1. Take stock of what you already have. If you're anything like me (read: handbag-ob-sessed), chances are you probably already have some variation (or variations) of whatever bag you're eyeing now. Just peek in your closet, you might be surprised..
2. Try vintage. The most coveted names in handbags don't always have to come with such a hefty price tag. You may want to explore vintage (which has now become super easy thanks to online vintage destinations like The Real Real, Portero, Threadflip, even Shopbop!)
3. Remember, beware of the sale. Unless it's a bag you've had your eye on for a while, if the super-discounted price is the only thing that caught your attention, you may want to go with the "wait 24 hours" approach.
4. The "it bag" dilemma. It's pretty easy to spot an it bag (take the wildly-popular Céline luggage tote, for example). I'm leaving this one up to you - whether you choose to splurge on the original, or ride out the trend with a more budget-friendly version (i.e., one of the omnipresent "bag with wings" offsprings), just be mindful. And if you do splurge on that Céline, pick one up for me too?! k thanks.
5. Onto color. You can almost never go wrong with black or camel, but if it strays from the neutrals, quickly think of two or three colors you wear most often. Does the bag match those? If not, that doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't buy it, but you may want to skip it for now if it's a bigger-ticket item.
6. Next, it's texture time. Certain textures (I'm lookin' at you, suede) may be a bit difficult to pull off year-round, and less practical in terms of every day wearability. If it's an "everyday" bag, a pebbled/Saffiano leather will serve you well in the long run, as they're more scratch-resistent and forgiving.
7. Remember your wallet. And I'm not just saying where price is concerned, I mean will your wallet physically fit in the bag? It will make your life easier in the long run, I promise.
8. ..and other essentials. iPad? Makeup case? An extra pair of flats? Whatever you find yourself toting around on a daily basis, make sure it'll fit, too.
9. To zip or not to zip. Take it from a notorious spaz - a zipper-top bag can save you from those embarrassing moments when the entire contents of your bag (and life, really) spill out of your bag and dramatically crash to the floor. To the tote lovers, you are far more daring than I..
See? Crisis averted..
10. Compartments. Speaking of the contents of your bag, zipper compartments/pouches will free up an infinite amount of time in your life, time that would otherwise be spent frantically rummaging through the deepest depths of the black hole that is your purse to locate your iPhone/gum/lipstick/MetroCard/anything else you will (undoubtedly) need at-that-exact-moment.
11. Crossbody. As a self-proclaimed advocate of the crossbody bag, I couldn't conclude this list without praising them and all of their convenient, hands-free goodness. If you get the chance to go crossbody, do it.