I probably return half of the clothes, shoes, and accessories that I buy. In some ways, this isn’t a bad thing. When one tends toward impulse buying, some of the purchase decisions made are not good ones. Thus, it can be good to realize buying mistakes and remedy them through the return process. Better to make returns than to have clothes hanging in your closet with their tags still attached.
Returning to Shop More
However, I have to admit that a large portion of my returns are done with an alternate aim. I often return unworn items to shop more or to do damage control for over-shopping. When I’ve exceeded my shopping budget, returns can certainly mitigate the financial damage done, but wouldn’t it be better to stick to my budget in the first place?
This past weekend, I returned close to $800 worth of items bought in recent months. I had reviewed my budget on Friday to learn the cold, hard truth of my overspending. By mid-March, I’d already exceeded my 2013 budget by close to $600 and I needed to right this wrong.
Convoluted Budgets & Stealth Returns
My returns consisted of two pairs of shoes and two purses. One of the purses had been purely an impulse buy. I knew it didn’t fit within my budget, but I rationalized that I’d simply spend less in the coming months to make up for it. Yet I knew it really doesn’t work this way. My budget exists to control spending on a month to month basis and spending money from future months is strictly not allowed. I knew when I bought the purse that I shouldn’t have done it, but I heard the words “I’ll take it” coming out of my mouth and felt myself handing my credit card to the sales associate.
I felt a mixture of excitement and shame as I carried the new purse to my car that evening. Once home, I left the purse in its box while I mulled my feelings and options. It took me two weeks to do the right thing and return the purse. Still, my embarrassment around facing the purse salesperson sent me to another mall for the return. I’d rather drive an extra fifteen miles than show up with my tail between my legs at the original store. Why do I care so much about what a salesperson thinks of me? Something to ponder…
Visions of Jackets and Shoes…
Once I did the math for my weekend returns, a familiar feeling came over me. My returns would put me close to $200 under my budget, so that meant I could buy more! I stayed up late Friday night reviewing online shopping sites and planning potential buys. After I turned the lights off to go to sleep, visions of jackets and shoes danced in my head. I knew my shopping rules dictate that I can only buy as many items as I return, but how cool to buy even one or two new things!
Few things excite me as much as shopping, and this fuels my buy, return, buy cycle. When I return things, I get to buy more and once again experience the exhilarating high that shopping gives me. Some people drink, some do drugs, others gamble. I shop. That is my “addiction,” the thing I most look forward to doing, the thing I can’t seem to quit.
I have come to understand that it isn’t really the things I buy which matter. It’s the shopping process itself that’s so compelling. The four items I returned on Saturday were things I had to have when I bought them, yet they languished in my closet, unworn and unloved. Over time, I came to view them as opportunities to shop again instead of pieces for me to love and wear. So out they went to make way for the new, and the cycle continued.
How to Decrease Returns
Some returns are merited and should be done. Shopping with a list and pausing to consider the pros and cons of proposed buys can help us in making better decisions before reaching the cash register (or the online shopping cart).
Shopping less often is also a good idea, as we then have time to better consider what we already own and determine which new pieces will fill in the gaps and play nicely with our current closet residents. If we shop all the time, we are looking outward instead of within and don’t have time to appreciate the things we already have. In such cases, we generally feel inadequate and lacking instead of satisfied and “enough.”
Alternate “Highs” Beyond Shopping
I don’t wish to beat myself up for returning things so often, yet I feel it’s good to be aware of my behavior and examine the motives for doing it. It is my hope that as my “recovering shopaholic” project progresses, my serial returner activities will decrease. I hope to learn to dress with less and buy less often and more strategically. I also hope to discover other hobbies which I can enjoy as much or more than shopping. Perhaps I can experience the high I get from shopping through alternate activities, things which feed my soul and uplift my spirit.
While I’ve only had a brief glimpse into what a world without compulsive shopping looks like, I have faith that it’s out there for me and for all of my fellow shopaholics. I want to return to myself and to the joy of life, not merely to the mall with a bag full of buying mistakes and a heart full of shopping dreams.