On Wednesday evening, I led a teleseminar with Dr. April Benson, author of “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop.” This call focused on the most common mistakes shoppers make this time of year and how to best avoid these pitfalls.
A big thank you to all of those who attended the call! I hope you received a lot of value from the information that Dr. Benson and I provided. Since I know that many of you weren’t able to attend the teleseminar due to prior commitments and time zone issues, today’s post is a recap of the most important points discussed. Feel free to ask questions or add your feedback and tips in the comments section below.
What are the 3 Most Common Mistakes?
There is a lot of pressure to shop during the month of August. End-of-season sales, back-to-school deals, and the fall fashion push all come together to create a “perfect storm” for overshopping. While many people feel compelled to shop this time of year, we are all prone to these three very common shopping mistakes:
1. “Stocking up” for next year at end-of-season sales
When people buy clothing at end-of-season sales, they reason that they’re getting “great deals” and will be “set” when summer rolls around next year. While this line of reasoning seems logical at the time, it rarely holds water over the long-term. End-of-season shoppers fail to consider that the following things may occur before next year’s warm weather arrives:
- They may gain or lose weight or their body proportions may change due to exercise, hormonal changes, or aging.
- Their lifestyle may change (new job, moving, retirement, new activities, etc.), leading to alternative wardrobe needs.
- Their style preferences may evolve such that they no longer love the sale items they purchased.
Many “shopaholics” enjoy fashion and like to dress in the latest trends. Consequently, their “great buys” from the previous year may feel “stale” and outdated. Thus, instead of wearing the things they stocked up on, they rush out to the stores to buy the newest styles.
2. Buying for an imagined, wished for, or past lifestyle
Each fall, the fashion magazine produce thick, glossy “September issues” filled with abundant ads and beautiful style pictorials. Case in point… the other day, I received my September edition of InStyle Magazine. It’s 716 pages long and my husband called it a “telephone book”!
All of the glorious images present fantasy lifestyles that may be 180 degrees removed from the real lives we lead. We may even realize this, but that doesn’t always stop us from wanting to buy the clothing, shoes, and accessories presented (or at least reasonable facsimiles thereof).
Even if we don’t read fashion magazines, we may receive catalogs or view store mannequins which evoke a more exciting and glamorous life. Those sights may also lead us to recall our past lifestyles, when perhaps we used to go out on the town more often and needed to buy “little black dresses” and loads of beautiful heels. We may now buy clothing and accessories “just in case” we resume our previous lifestyle or in the event the life we dream of comes to pass.
3. Shopping out of habit instead of for real life needs
We were all kids once upon a time and many of us have children now. Most of us can recall the “back-to-school” shopping that took place each August. For some, there are fond memories associated with buying new school clothes and supplies. For others, the memories are instead of scarcity and having to wear “hand-me-downs” or simply go without.
We may wish to recapture positive memories or make up for negative past experiences. In either case, we may feel driven to shop when the ads and commercials touting “back-to-school deals” come out. Even if we don’t have children of our own or our children are grown, we may still find ourselves buying new clothing and supplies just because that’s what we’ve always done.
Key Tips and Strategies for Resisting the August Pull
While this time of year can definitely be challenging for those of us who overshop, there are some strategies we can use to combat the all too compelling pull to buy more than we need. Many of the tips I gave on the call have been discussed previously on this blog, so you may recognize one or two. While I went into more detail on the teleseminar, for the sake of space, I’ll do a brief recap here. Feel free to ask questions if any of these points are unclear.
- Do some “prep work” in your closet: Get a better sense of what you have and what wardrobe gaps you have. Make a list to take with you if/when you hit the shops or e-commerce sites!
- Shop with your list: Prioritize your list (must have, secondary priorities, nice to have) and only buy the items you have listed.
- Use the “power pause”: This term originated from Jill Chivers of shopyourwardrobe.com. She recommends that you wait two hours to two days before buying something. If this long of a pause is not feasible for you, at least take half an hour to get a cup of coffee or a snack and allow yourself to re-group.
- Ask the 6 key questions from Dr. Benson: Why am I here? How do I feel? Do I need this? What if I wait? How will I pay for it? Where will I put it?
- Remove yourself from mailing lists: Unsubscribe from email newsletters, catalog lists, style blogs, and fashion magazines. Limit the number of tempting messages you receive.
- Avoid your most tempting situations: If there’s a particular store or sale when you always overshop, consider not putting yourself in that situation (part of the reason why I skipped the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale).
- Buy for now!: Only buy things you will wear within the next few weeks. Don’t “stock up” for next year!
- Adopt a personal return policy: In addition to heeding store’s return policies, it can help to adopt a return policy of your own. One example (what I try to do but don’t always succeed!) is to return anything you haven’t worn in a month.
I had more tips than I could cover on the teleseminar. If only I could heed them all myself! Eventually I will get there, and so can you! I will share more of my tips for avoiding overshopping in a future post.
Tips for De-cluttering Your Closet & Managing Your Wardrobe
I’ve definitely written a lot about this in the past, so I won’t delve into too much detail here. Here are the key wardrobe management tips I presented on the call with April Benson.
- Do a “closet audit” before you shop: Take a few hours or a full day to go through your closet before shopping for new fall/winter clothes (or at the beginning of any new season). Try everything on and evaluate how each piece fits your body, lifestyle, and personality.
- Use the “first impression test”: I credit longtime reader Deby with this term. When we meet new people, it generally takes 30 seconds to create a first impression. Deby does the same thing with her clothes! She tries them on, looks in a full length mirror, and decides within 30 seconds if they should stay or go. Rating on a scale of 1-10 and aiming for “8”s or higher helps, too.
- Create a shopping list: Pay special attention to your wardrobe for the coming season. List the items that need to be replaced, as well as new items you need or want to add to your wardrobe. List by priority: must have, need but not urgent, and nice to have.
- Use the “hanger trick”: Turn all of your hangers so that the hook faces out instead of in. As you wear your clothes, replace them on the hanger so that the hook faces inward (the “normal” way). This will give you a birds-eye view of what you are and aren’t wearing so you know what to buy more of and what to stop buying! See more tracking suggestions here.
- Look at needs and cost-per-wear: Consider how much you really need. Look at how often you want to wear your clothes and consider “cost-per-wear.” Most people think they wear their clothes more often than they actually do and don’t think about how often clothes should be worn (not that there is a right or wrong answer, but it’s worth some personal consideration to come up with the best answer for you).
Meeting the Longing for Fall Clothes without Spending Money
As a recovering shopaholic, I frequently use shopping to meet my emotional needs, even though I intellectually know this doesn’t really work! A wonderful quote from Dr. Benson is:
We can never get enough of what we don’t really need.”
The last portion of our teleseminar was especially meaningful for me, as Dr. Benson spoke about the needs which are frequently behind our desire for new clothes. These include the need for:
- Love and affection
- The esteem of others
An important part of our recovery from compulsive shopping involves finding new and more productive ways of meeting our needs. Psychological research has shown that when use our disposable income for experiences and ideas rather than for goods and services, we are often much happier as a result. Two posts on Dr. Benson’s blog elaborate on this concept:
- “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Probably Aren’t Spending it Right”: Part 1
- “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Probably Aren’t Spending it Right”: Part 2
Dr. Benson wasn’t able to go into too much detail on our short teleseminar, but her wonderful book includes a number of helpful tips and exercises. I will be doing these exercises in the coming weeks and months and writing about them here, so stay tuned!
I hope you enjoyed this recap of my teleseminar with Dr. April Benson! If you have additional thoughts or tips related to the concepts discussed in this post, please share them.
Not only do I learn a lot from experts like Dr. Benson, I learn a great deal from all of you, and I know other readers also benefit greatly from the comments as well as the posts. Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate each and every one of you!
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