I’ve struggled with compulsive shopping for over thirty years. Ever since I started having disposable income, I’ve wanted to spend it on clothes, shoes, and accessories. Some of you have questioned whether I am in serious debt. While I do not carry any ongoing debt at present, I’ve battled financial insolvency on numerous occasions in the past. I had to be bailed out of credit card debt three times and I used a debt consolidation service once. For all of the other times when I was in debt up to my eyeballs, I stopped shopping “cold turkey” and “white-knuckled” it for as long as possible until I was able to claw my way back to solvency.
The Evolution of Shopping
That was then, back in the days before a shopaholic could indulge her addiction with a few mere mouse clicks at any time of the day or night. These days, it’s not enough to stay away from the mall while you try to pay down your credit card debt or build up a nest-egg. Temptation is virtually everywhere and it’s no longer possible to simply hole up in your house or apartment and not shop.
Today I’d like to talk about online shopping: how it’s been a “game-changer” for compulsive shoppers, how I’ve fallen prey to it myself, and how we can limit its impact on our bank accounts and psyches. I don’t have all of the answers, but hopefully I’ll be able to offer some valuable insights to those of you who struggle with buying things online.
I Didn’t Follow My Own Holiday Shopping Tips!
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the holidays and shopping converge to create a not-so-perfect storm for overshoppers. I shared a few tips for dealing with the “Grand Poohbahs” of sales that are Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Of course, with all tips, they need to be followed in order to be of use to anyone. I hope some of you followed my tips because – confession time here… – I did not!
No, I didn’t venture into the stores on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or the holiday weekend. I didn’t have to… I was able to do a fair amount of damage in the same exact spot where I’m typing this blog post, at my desk in front of my computer!
I’m Not Even That into Online Shopping…
I’ve never been that big of an online shopper. Since I’m difficult to fit, I usually opt to shop in the brick and mortar stores instead. Truth be told, probably 75% of the items I order online end up going back to the stores. Sizes are just too inconsistent, colors and fabrics look different in person than on our monitors, and clothing is often pinned back on models to showcase inaccurate silhouettes. While some of you may hit a lot of home runs when ordering online, I strike out more often than not.
Yet sometimes the temptation is just too great and I succumb. Where did this temptation come from, you ask? After all, haven’t I recommended that we unsubscribe from store email lists in order to have the “deals” be out of sight and out of mind? Yes, that was me and I no longer receive any emails from retailers about their “amazing sales.” However, I still subscribe to a handful of style blogs and visit Facebook a few times each day, so I may as well have been receiving emails from all of the major stores. Bloggers and Facebook “friends” alike were all excitedly sharing the special Black Friday offers that, by the way, applied to online shopping as well as shopping in the stores.
It Wasn’t All Bad – The Silver Lining
Not all of the buying I did this past weekend was ill-advised. In fact, most of what I purchased was on my shopping priorities list. I bought two pairs of pants that were supposed to be the same style as one of my few existing pairs that I enjoy wearing (sadly, the style must have changed because the pants already arrived and are going back). I also ordered a few items in tall sizes that can only be obtained online (one top is here and I’m keeping it, while the others are on their way). But I just bought too much overall and a few things should have remained in a faraway warehouse instead of en route to me here in (not-so) sunny San Diego.
I haven’t overspent my budget for the year, and after all of the returns are said and done, I’ll likely still be ahead of the game (as always, I’ll share my numbers here – my November update will appear on Monday). But that’s not the point, or at least not the whole point. The point is that it’s all too easy to buy things online, and I succumbed to temptation. I let the allure of the sale compel me to buy more than I should, and I regret that my emotions were running the show instead of my brain.
The Pros and Cons of Online Shopping
Now that I’ve done my mea culpa, I need to forgive myself and forge a plan to do better moving forward. I realize that online shopping is a problem for me, as I’m sure it is for many of you. Even those who do not consider themselves “shopaholics” fall prey to all-too-easy internet buys on occasion.
Few of us are completely immune to the clever ploys that marketers use to lure us in. It used to be that shipping and return costs would deter me from clicking “buy now,” but then many stores started offering free shipping and returns at least some of the time. That shift was definitely a “game-changer” for me, as it removed my primary objection to online buying.
In some respects, I love the ease and convenience of online shopping. It’s one of the great benefits of the technological advances of the past few decades. I certainly don’t want to roll back the clock to the days when I had to schlep to the stores every time I needed to buy something. Yet I also don’t want to give myself complete carte blanche to buy new things whenever the urge strikes. So how can I/we find a healthy balance between never buying online and always buying online?
Tips for Smarter Shopping Online
Here are a few suggestions to dial back your online purchasing a few notches. Some of these suggestions also apply to brick and mortar shopping, but I’ll begin with those tips that are specific to e-commerce.
Most online stores allow you to create an account and save all of your pertinent information for future purchases. The good news and bad news for this practice are the same: it makes it easier for us to buy. If you struggle with impulse buys, make it harder for yourself to take the plunge by not creating accounts at your favorite online stores. Browse as a “guest” and enter your shipping and billing information every single time you buy something. This will allow you a bit more time to consider whether or not you really want to make that purchase.
Leave Your Cart Unattended
You can still use the “power pause” when you shop online. Before you click the “checkout” button, step away from your computer for at least a few minutes and preferably for two hours or more. Take a walk, call a friend, run an errand, or do something else that doesn’t involve being on your computer. Before you go back to your cart, take some time to consider your best next step.
Ask Powerful Questions
While you’re on that “power pause,” ask yourself some powerful questions that will help you make the right decision. Start with the 6 key questions from Dr. April Benson (author of “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop”):
- Why am I here? (In this case, why did I visit that e-commerce store?)
- How do I feel? (Tune in to your emotional state and what else is going on in your life.)
- Do I need this? (Are the items you’re considering buying on your shopping priorities list? Will you wear them right away or are they things you’re buying for next year or “just in case”?)
- What if I wait? (Sure, this is a “great deal” right now, but there will always be other sales and deals and the timing may be better for you and your life later.)
- How will I pay for it? (This isn’t just about which credit card you’ll use! Do you have the money to buy the item without accruing unnecessary interest or taking away from real life needs?)
- Where will I put it? (Many of us complain about our overloaded closets, yet we keep buying more things to fill them up! It’s worthwhile considering whether or not we truly have space for our prospective purchases.)
In addition to Dr. Benson’s wonderful questions, here are a few others to consider:
- Would I buy this item at full price? (Many impulse buys are for things on sale. It’s worth considering whether it’s the item we truly want – or the deal.)
- Do I already have something very similar in my closet? (Often we’re drawn to things we already have, so it’s worth looking at whether we already possess a viable alternative.)
- Do I want to wear this item right away? Do I have an actual life occasion in which I can wear it? (Don’t buy for next year or “just in case”! Buy for the current season and your actual lifestyle!)
- Why wouldn’t I buy this item? (This great question was suggested by one of my readers and I love it! We usually consider the reasons why buying something is a good idea, but looking at the flip side can offer a valuable perspective as well).
Use a List and a Budget
I often tout the value of maintaining a shopping priorities list and creating a monthly, seasonal, or yearly clothing budget. While many of us carry our shopping lists in our handbags or on our cell phones, we often don’t have these lists nearby when we shop online. I recommend creating a shortcut icon to easily access your list while on your computer.
Better yet, have a plan for what you’re looking to buy before you ever visit an e-commerce store. Going in with a plan can help you avoid unnecessary temptation. Similar to making a beeline to the appropriate section of a brick and mortar store, you can click on the pertinent section of the online store to find what you need on a given day. Don’t look around at other areas of the store, as you may be tempted to make unplanned purchases. Stick to the business at hand and you’ll have a better chance of shopping wisely.
In terms of budgets, it can also be helpful to set a budget for a given shopping “trip” in addition to setting monthly or seasonal limits. It’s so easy to click “buy now” that we forget we’re spending real money! Having a guideline – or a hard fast limit – for what you’ll spend can help to bring things down to earth and keep you on track.
The Bottom Line
It’s time for me to start following my own advice, not just when it’s easy but all the time. I’ve made such excellent progress this year that I don’t want to see it unravel just because there are abundant holiday “deals” on the horizon. Acceptance is a powerful first step toward change, and I acknowledge that I have a tendency to overshop online, particularly during certain times of the year (holidays and seasonal sales in particular).
I’m definitely not perfect and I’m still a recovering shopaholic. I was recently interviewed by a journalism student, who asked me if I had recovered from shopping addiction or if I believed I would ever fully recover. I told her that I am not yet recovered and I believe I will likely always have to be careful of my tendency to overshop.
Recovery Occurs Along a Continuum
It’s probably similar to what I went through with eating disorders. I was told, “once an anorexic, always an anorexic.” For years, I didn’t want to believe such an assertion, as I wanted to put my disordered eating past behind me completely. However, I’ve come to view recovery as more of a continuum than a path with an end point.
At this point, I am 90-95% recovered from anorexia. My eating is mostly normal, but I still struggle with lingering body image issues. While I’d love to be 100% recovered, the reality is that my life is mostly free of the burden of eating disorder struggles, whereas it used to completely overshadow all aspects of my existence. I actually have a life now and I’m extremely grateful that the shroud of anorexia no longer colors my reality.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever completely put compulsive shopping behind me, but if I can get to the point where it’s just a very small part of my world, I’ll be happy with that. I’m doing my best to enjoy the journey, learn what I can along the way, and share my insights with all of you. I’m grateful that I have this platform and that my recovery process and learnings are resonating with others.
What Are Your Suggestions Regarding Online Shopping?
If you have any suggestions for other ways of dealing with online shopping temptations, I invite you to share them. I don’t know the statistics, but I do know that online shopping is a big problem for many people. But like virtually all problems, there are solutions and there is hope.
I welcome your insights and suggestions for how we can step away from the computer, honor our needs and limits, and put shopping (both online and in person) into its rightful place in our lives.
You have a great blog and thank you so much for it. I don’t like the retail experience much and wouldn’t be in a mall more than once a year or every other year. I don’t go out and make a day of shopping. I did used to go to a favorite thrift store for about an hour a week – and edit and purge a lot. But I came to the point that it was very clear that too many good to excellent choices just created more decision-making confusion. Plus there aren’t enough days in the year to wear everything. I stopped shopping for a while while it was not yet wintery and I found it very peaceful. Then I resumed for a while and decided that I had enough winter stuff, too. So I had stopped for about a month. I continually do a lot of questionnaires about my style and this helps me to see what I myself am wanting and liking vs what looks nice on other people and what they want (some of which I could duplicate in spirit from thrifting but that makes thrifting a sport and reinforces the idea of scarcity of resources).
I don’t shop much online ever.
The blog CheapJap once pointed out the fallacy of falling in love with a jpeg. I use this idea a lot. What can I really know about the product?
I tend to shop by color first. And how something feels to my hand. And then the way the garment behaves is important. Not any of this can be determined from a jpeg or even really from customer reviews. The color is amazing to them. They can walk 4 miles in those shoes in their feet. Many times there are complaints that something runs too big and then some find it too small. You have to be a detective to figure out that some of the sizes up to a point run too big and then start running too small. Sheesh.
Sometimes I am struck by how something is interesting to me, a new idea to me, a new color to try, etc. I recently fell in love with a creamy baby yellow chenille sweater a friend passed along to me from her other friend. Then I saw that picture of Kim Kardashian wearing a mustard yellow teddy bear coat from Max Mara. I only pay cash and so I would never have that coat. But I began thinking that I would very much like to have a kind of open swingy vintage plush creamy yellow coat. So I looked online at eBay and etsy to get an idea of what kind of things might be on offer. Suddenly something that seems unique or difficult to find is represented in all kinds of ways. A $150 vintage coat seemed like a promising example.
But see #1 and #2. And then there’s always #4 – I’m way too cheap to experiment that way.
Thanks for your insightful (and funny, too) comments, Vildy. You made some very good points, particularly about what looks good on other people vs. what will work for us, “falling in love with a jpg,” and the downside of customer reviews. I always read the review online and find them helpful, but they are not at all foolproof. I’ve learned that a lot of things look great in photos, but not so great when they arrive at my house!
I’m going to admit (this is hard) that I really overdid it this time. I feel awful about it. I ordered a bunch of stuff because I’d never seen a discount/sale this good from the these two retailers I like before. I ordered, browsed, saw more things ‘to try’, and ordered more. 4 orders, 2 from each store. The order total is the worst- a few hundred here, a few there, and I’m out 1k. I was PLANNING on getting a couple things and wanted to try others, and knew I was going to return at least half of it. The end total will be much lower because I am definitely returning everything that is not perfect or practical, but throwing things in ‘to try’ was the WORST mindset I have ever had.
Online shopping is what I usually end up doing because I can take time to look and don’t feel pressured, but these limited sales with items selling out so fast (I’d put something in my cart and it’d be gone!), it ended up putting the pressure back on. It’s like I went a round with a boxer and lost. I didn’t realize I ordered SO MUCH until I looked back at what I ordered.
I just got my 1st box yesterday (biggest order). I have kept 4 pairs of pants/leggings, am exchanging a jacket for a smaller size, and am returning 2 jackets, a clutch, 5 pairs of pants/leggings, and a top. I still am waiting for 2 sweaters, 2 tops, 2 pairs of pants, 3 belts, 4 pairs of tights, 2 skirts, and 4 dresses. Very shameful and opposite direction I want to go in. But how do you get good quality items if you don’t try a large variety? That is what is best to do, and shopping in stores is best for that. But they are very far away from me and I don’t have the time- online shopping while cooking/nursing the baby/whatever is so easy.
I’m going to continue preferring online shopping I think, but I need to get out of the ‘just to try!’ mindset and really think about my NEEDS and BUDGET more before clicking ‘order’.
Thanks for being so honest with your online shopping story, Meli. I know I can relate and I’m sure many others can, too. As a mother of a small child, online shopping is definitely easier for you. Your point about buying things just to try is a good one. I was mentioning something similar to my husband the other day, as some of the things I ordered are not available in stores. Now I have “messy accounting” until I receive everything and figure out what stays and what goes back. I hope you are happy with a decent amount of your purchases. Try not to be too hard on yourself and try to learn from the experience instead of beating yourself up.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post of “step away from the computer”. Again there is so much truth to what you have written. While I have never been in financial trouble over shopping( as a child growing up in a single parent household where the parent had the problem and seeing all the stress, anger and upset that shopping debt wrought- couldn’t put food on the table, pay the rent, cloth the children and numerous other issues, I could never and still can’t bring myself to have any debt of any nature -saved up as a single parent to buy my home, cars, clothing,etc), when I discovered online shopping and the opportunity to buy much nicer things than I could find in my part of the world( and things items I never thought I could afford), I did go crazy and my post box was constantly filled with parcels while UPS, Loomis and other delivery companies knew my address by heart. The problem of all this shopping was I gave little thought to what I really needed for clothing-silk tops, show stopping high heels, gorgeous dresses and evening coats,etc. began to fill my closets in anticipation of that wonderful imaginary life that I hoped would be mine now that I had the clothes to live it( and somehow these items would erase the memories of an impoverished childhood and adolescence caused by a shopoholic mother-yes she always looked amazing while her children were being kicked out of school because she couldn’t pay their public school fees or going without lunch,etc because there was no food at home to make one) . Instead these beautiful items hung there with no place to go – I live in the wild west of Alberta -redneck country if you will- where jeans and cowboy boots reign along with pickup trucks while the women don blingy sweatshirts and jeans or in the summer, spandex leggings and wifebeater tanks and yes- that includes the over 50 women!!- and most certainly these items weren’t appropriate for the job I have in a major trauma hospital. I carried on like this for 4 or 5 years, shopping every free chance I had(including at work) and became more frustrated with every parcel I received as I started to realize that I would never be able to use these things and worst of all, while the closets were full I still didn’t have a damn thing to wear for my everyday life-it was the basics that were desperately missing. I finally woke up and smelled the coffee realizing that I was indulging my fantasy of having many beautiful clothing items that I only once ever dreamed of owning because “omline shopping” made them easy to get and often at incredible prices. When I really sat down and thought about it, I wouldn’t have bought the majority(if any) of these items had they been readily available where I lived. Thus it was then I decided no more, made a list of the clothing I really needed for all areas of my life and started my clothing capsules by color strategy. Now I rarely shop online although I will admit I like to occasionally look but know that unless the item is on my ongoing list of what I need( I have that 4 or 5 special items per year that I allow myself-nice belt or scarf,etc or a basic item replacement) then there is no “clicking” of the mouse and my wallet stays closed.
You know I can relate to buying for an imagined lifestyle, Abgurl, as I’ve written about that phenomenon on multiple occasions. Like you, I live in a casual lifestyle and don’t have much use for the flashier pieces. I’m glad you have been able to turn things around and build a wardrobe that really works for you. I remember when you shared your wardrobe capsule philosophy – brilliant! I hope to get there, too, before too long. Thanks for sharing more of your story today.
Oh something I wanted to address in my comment but did not and so will do so here.
Re the comment you made Debbie of”Browse as a “guest” and enter your shipping and billing information every single time you buy something” – in the interest of security and comprised personal info that is so prevalent today- most people do not realize that all it takes is registering an account and making one single purchase using your credit card of choice, that many sites WILL retain this credit card info without you realizing it. This is NOT stated anywhere on the site-in order to know if a site is doing this, you need to login to your account at EVERY single site you have ever ordered something from online and check under your billing/shipping information. I discovered this a few years ago when I re-used a site that I ordered from only once a couple of years earlier and was shocked to find that it had kept my credit card info even though I entered it only when I made the original purchase that led to setting up the account- retail culprits that do this include Old Navy, Amazon, QVC , etc SO be smart and check every site you have an online account with and ensure it is not keeping your credit card info as part of your account. Retail sites being hacked are happening everyday although the account customers are not informed when it does occur until months later or most of the cases never. ( Thank heavens most sites now take Paypal but lets hope Paypal doesn’t succumb to constant hacking that the retail sites endure)
Good point here, Abgurl. I have noticed that many online stores (if not all) save my credit card for “ease of purchase” for future buys. I never really worried much about the sites being hacked because I assumed they were relatively secure, but I know that hackers have become more and more ruthless and determined. Not retaining credit card or other user information on the e-commerce sites will help with security as well as give us some time to consider our purchases. Anytime one can buy something with a few simple clicks, it’s potential disaster for overshoppers!
I work in this industry actually. Pretty much any big site that does their own credit card processing will keep your card details in some format (usually encrypted) and the only values persisted, if any, are span or last 4. Most of the big sites will have to go through PCI compliance and we cannot store credit cards in the same systems as other parts of the site so if it is hacked, you will only get into one set of servers – not necessarily where the card information is stored.
In any case, I am very guilty of doing too much internet shopping too. My UPS driver used to thank me for keeping her job secure. I just found your site this week but I have enjoyed reading your posts.
Thanks for sharing your insider knowledge, Anon. It’s good to know that most of the larger retailers have safeguards in place to protect their customers’ credit card security. I think I’ve helped to keep UPS and FedEx drivers’ jobs secure, too! At least there’s some silver lining to our internet shopping, huh? I’m glad you like my blog and are enjoying my posts!
You raise some great points, Debbie. Reconsidering whether we want the item or the deal is a really good thing to remember, because that deal is only relevant at the moment of purchase, and then we are left with the item. So if we don’t really like, need or fit it, it’s a pretty bad deal!
What concerns me is the ability many websites have to trace your activities through cookies etc. and then recommend subsequent things that you “might be interested in”. Even if you go in with a list and a defined idea of what you need, it can be difficult to resist the recommendations that online retailers tailor to your preferences. I have difficulty with this and have a relatively normal relationship with shopping, so I can see that this would be devastating for people who struggle with it.
This is another great point, Emma. Those cookies CAN really make things harder for us and they are everywhere! I’m not really sure how to get around this issue, as the back-end of most sites are very sophisticated these days. Shopping as a “guest” will likely help, but in the end, some willpower and resolve will be needed to avoid those “helpful suggestions” that arise as a result of the cookies.
Love this post and the reader comments (you have very smart readers, I think — I always learn something)!
Anyway, I love to shop online. I don’t have a need to feel fabrics or see colors — I am entranced by the copy writing! I can easily be seduced into buying far more than I need w/ a clever twist of a phrase or the use of a fabulous word like “cashmere” or “unique” or “drapey.” LOL!
Yes, my readers are very smart, Bette (you included!). I always learn a great deal from the comments, too, and I look forward to them. Your point about the copy writing is spot on. I get entranced by it, too, probably because I’m a writer. Those copy writers are masterful at painting beautiful pictures with words. Too bad the garments they’re describing often don’t live up to those flowery descriptions!
I know I tend to shop online more than in stores because there just isn’t very much available in my town. My parents spent Thanksgiving with us, so I did go shopping with them. I waited until Monday though so I didn’t have to deal with the craziness. I bought more than I needed since that is nothing, but I didn’t go over budget and I think I will wear everything that I got. I also kept in mind the last time I went shopping with my mom it broke the no shopping seal. I kept buying and buying. This time I was aware and after they left I made sure that I did other things so that didn’t happen again.
The things that have helped me not overspend when shopping online are to walk away and think about it. 9 times out of 10 I decide I don’t want it. The other things I do to resist the allure of the sale is to put the items that I want into my cart when they are full price and wait for a sale. That way I know it isn’t the price that is most attractive thing and I am forced to be patient. Wanting things NOW was a part of my shopping problem.
I find the same things in myself- I get busy and shopping doesnt cross my mind and I find I’m on an unintended hiatus. Then I buy one jacket (this october for example) and suddenly go crazy- nothing is enough, i want to replace everything I don’t love, and I don’t want to wait. Shopping bipolarity.
Sounds like you did really well in resisting the holiday shopping craziness, Tonya. Your point about breaking the “no shopping seal” is a very good one. I know that I tend to shop in bursts and sometimes find it hard to stop once I get started. Meli’s term, “shopping bipolarity,” describes it quite well.
It seems you’re using the “power pause” to great advantage, even with online shopping. It’s been helping me a lot, too, but I didn’t use it last weekend! By the way, most of what I ordered has arrived and the majority of it has already gone back (and took far too much of my Saturday to do!).
I don’t buy on-line anymore. Where I live I have to pay tax so the cheap deal can add up with shipping costs and import duties. I did it a couple of times and it wasn’t worth it. The garments weren’t what I was expecting. Even though I receive the emails, I’m just not tempted by them. I prefer to see the fabrics and colors anyway. Good luck..
Shipping costs used to always deter me from online shopping because so much of what I order doesn’t work out. It was only when stores started offering free shipping that I really started to struggle with online shopping. Like you, though, I really do prefer to see the fabrics and colors in person. I probably won’t do much online shopping for quite some time now that I did a bit of a “binge” and learned (again!) that this type of shopping is far from ideal for me.
For once a problem I don’t share. Over the last ten years or so, I ordered precisely two things: a handbag (no sizing issues!) and a dress I had tried on in the store but was damaged in my size. I have to say that online shopping doesn’t provide me with the same kick and stimulation as “real” shopping. I can’t try things on, I can’t feel them, overall I don’t get the same stimulation as from a live retail experience. Worst of all, I can’t have my purchases RIGHT NOW! I agree that in essence it’s a terrible idea to shop from a jpeg and I think we all know it! How many things do we have to try till one fits and how unreliable is sizing? I remember as a child my mother used to shop from catalogues and mostly the stuff arrived and was of disappointing quality and terrible fit. We sometimes ended up keeping stuff because we were too lazy to organise the return, and rarely wore these items. I have to say I do enjoy browsing store webpages for new arrivals – but I then tend to go to the store to try anything I found online before buying it. And more often than not, I end up not buying anything because quality or fit aren’t good enough.
It’s great that you don’t struggle with online shopping, K. I usually don’t, either, but I have my moments (when there are big sales and free shipping offers). I have mostly had bad luck when shopping online and agree with you that this type of shopping doesn’t offer the same “rush.” I think a lot of people keep things that aren’t that great because returns are such a hassle. I push myself to do the returns, but it does waste a lot of time. I spent a big part of my Saturday (yesterday) doing returns and it was not much fun at all!
I very rarely shop online myself (I need to try things on, plus I work 9-5 so I always miss the post and have to trek down to the depot to collect things).
But for reducing my “real life” shopping I have found it really helpful just to avoid going to clothes shops completely if I can. I speak from experience, having gone to do my Christmas shopping on Tuesday and come back with (as well as gifts for other people) two clothing items for myself which I now have to return because they don’t fit. *sigh*
Online I think it is harder to just stop visiting certain websites, it’s much less effort to click than to physically visit a shop! The few times I have bought online I have found the follow-up emails about sales and special offers really persistent and invasive – I always try to unsubscribe from these. Good luck to you Debbie, I’ve been enjoying your blog all year 🙂
You’re right that it’s much easier to avoid going to clothes shops, Rachel. I go far less often than I used to and that’s been a big factor in my sticking to my budget this year. But since it’s so hard to avoid visiting online shops for many people, online shopping has become a big problem for many, many people. I always recommend that people unsubscribe from store emails, but now I’m thinking we should unsubscribe from style-related blogs, too! Far too much temptation!
I think blogs (not yours!) are also becoming dangerous.
Agreed! I need to unsubscribe from more of them. I always like looking at the outfit photos, but sometimes they DO leave me feeling like my wardrobe is lacking. I feel far more satisfied with what I have when I don’t visit clothing stores or read style blogs and fashion magazines!
I only buy books on-line and a few other non-size specific items. Even with the convenience of “free” 2-way shipping, I quickly realized that if I had to take my time to box something up, use my tape to seal it shut, and drive my car to a UPS store, how “free” can the shipping be? After all my time, the cost of gasoline and tape, and wear and tear on my car are worth something to ME! I agree with CS about needing to see the clothing I buy — the feel of the fabric and the construction of the garment. Actually, I don’t buy very much any longer because I have a wardrobe which is very useful and satisfying. I realized today that I need to buy a heavy weight sweater, and I cringe at the thought of shopping for such an item. Like you, Debbie, 30 years ago this “need” would have inspired a shopping trip, perhaps an all-day adventure. But no more. I’d rather use my money for other things — experiences, like travel. “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”
You’re so right about the extra time and effort it takes to do the returns, Dottie! I just spent several hours doing that yesterday and I would have been far better off enjoying other types of Saturday experiences.
Shopping addiction is a hard one to beat, isn’t it? I was a big online shopper, and when I decided to quit that, I had a couple of shopping binges at b&m department stores in Aug and Oct (usually not my thing at all!!!). You wouldn’t usually shop online – but here we go 😦 The urges to overshop are really strong and many of us problem shoppers seem always to be able to find a new outlet – charity shops, online shops, shopping for others, shopping while traveling, shopping at holiday bazaars, even overdoing the grocery shop…
Nevertheless, it’s great that you can be honest and up-front about what is going on. Return the items that are not what you thought and consider stepping away from blogs, FB, etc for a bit. (It really worked for me.) If you can, turn off the computer, go outside and do something that is not shopping-related (another thing that really works for me). Or install browsing filters – they can be really effective.
I have been credit-card free for the entire month of November and still haven’t picked up a new one. If/when I do, I might keep it in the safe or give it to my husband for safekeeping. I buy much less impulsively when I have a very limited amount of cash in my purse (and need to save that for food etc).
We have continued to make little trips, spending last weekend in a lovely hilltop town several hours away. Because both of us have clocked a lot of work hours lately, my husband and I also took a day off today, visiting a world-famous art museum. We both enjoyed the day and decided to start doing things like this more frequently.
I’ve also had lunches with friends , gone to dinner with people from my children’s school, and have a few holiday parties lined up. I’m actually also planning on hosting at least two parties myself. I keep meeting very interesting people – not all contacts become permanent, but I love the variety. All this is keeping me so busy and filling me with anticipation and excitement that I’ve been completely clothes shopping-free for the past five weeks!
Sounds like you’re really enjoying yourself doing non-shopping-related activities, FrugalFashionista. What a great accomplishment to not clothes shop for five weeks, as I know you used to shop all the time! Your point about the shopping switching to new “outlets” is right on. I’ve even been known to get “in the zone” while grocery shopping and I definitely used to go WAY overboard on Christmas shopping. I think spending less time reading blogs (at least the style-related ones) and being on Facebook is a good idea. Not only will I be less tempted to shop, but I’ll also get more of what I want to get done!
One of my suggestions is to develop an engaging hobby or real passions in life outside shopping! While I have never been a compulsive shopper, the last few years I have come to resent shopping most of the time, even for groceries, which I used to enjoy-because it is inefficient and I am usually time strapped. The inefficiency is particularly true of clothes shopping. I have always had a lot of interests, but I recently developed a new hobby-flying-which is highly engaging-aviation has no end- and which has enriched my life in too many ways to count. Yes, it is not cheap-but the flying club I am a member of is a great deal. However when I list what I get from it, shopping, EVEN AS A SPORT (which it never was for me) pales into irrelevance. Through my club I am learning to fly a plane, which women rarely do, though IMHO I think many more women should try it-as it is a club I meet interesting people of all ages (98% men, so women student pilots get LOTS of attention and kudos) and we fly places for brunch, dinner, air shows etc, something few get to do. I can treat friends and family to flying tours for birthdays and gifts which gives me great pleasure. I love to dress up like the aviatrixes of the 30s-they had such style!- but that doesnt cost me much as I already have the jeans scarves and leather jacket…..no need to dress like a slob to fly. It has boosted my self confidence and provided so much fun and sheer amazingness-I have no time to waste on things like shopping as I still need to do chores on the weekend. Now-I admit flying is a specialty hobby that not everyone can aspire to-though in fact it is more in your reach than you might think–my point is that while I spend money on it, it is good for my soul, builds a skill set that keeps my brain sharp (Im 59 in February)-allows me to de-stress because when flying I HAVE TO SWITCH OFF MY PHONE-, and brings adventure into my life. I love nice clothes, but am not really consumed with the desire to shop. I read a couple of fashion blogs and work with what I have, buy accessories carefully, maintain my things (mending/cleaning/reheeling/repairs) and get a few things made. I am so grateful I had this opportunity, but I also wonder whether for many people shopping fills a hole that should be filled with a real passion for something.
How exciting that you’re a pilot, Maharani! My husband is also a pilot (and has been since long before I met him) and he would wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote about your new passion. A female friend of ours also got her pilot’s license recently and is loving it. I agree with you that many overshoppers are trying to fill a hole in their lives that could better be filled through more meaningful pursuits. Some of us aren’t sure what those are just yet, but there is something for everyone. I’m glad you found something you truly love to do. Happy travels!
Thank you! On a slightly different note, yesterday I mended a cashmere cardigan I have-the shawl collar became separated from the neckline for about 2cms-an easy fix which extends the life of the garment, yet I wonder how many people bother mending anything any more, but just buy new. Mending is a useful skill that lengthens the life of quality clothing. Shoes in particular, can last for years if taken care of correctly: heel tips, soles, regular polishing, etc.
I personally know 2 people who lost their homes from serious over-shopping — one even owned her home outright yet still got into serious debt from shopping (and despite having a well-paid job with terrific benefits). I don’t believe that any designer handbag or latest tech toy is worth putting the family’s safety and well-being in danger (in extreme cases, of course). Some people see what celebrities are wearing without truly understanding that these are people who make gazillions of dollars (and who get a lot of stuff free because they are celebrities). Trying to emulate a celeb who makes $5M per movie on one’s $50K gross annual salary is not going to work very well. Unfortunately, there is a whole industry (fashion mags, TV shows, etc.) that fan this flame of celebrity and conspicuous consumption.
I don’t doubt that people could lose their homes from overshopping, as it can be a really big problem for many people. You’re right that comparing ourselves to celebrities is a losing battle. We also have no idea what their lives are like other than the tiny bit we see of them. Many celebrities have later written autobiographies that clearly illustrate that there was little to envy about their lives. The happiest people I know are those who are grateful for what they have, and many of them live quite simple lives. That’s who I wish to emulate now, not the so-called “glitterati.”
It is far too easy to loose track of spending with online shopping. I keep my online shopping for items I’ve already seen in person but could not get in my size (I’m petite and that is always hard to find the petite sizes in stores). Also I try to stick with brands I know (again for fit as well as materials). In doing so, my online purchases are very strategic and targeted shopping, instead of casual shopping. When I want to try something ‘new’ I stick with in person purchases. Too often in the past, I would end up returning items ordered online.
I’ve fallen prey to overspending with online shopping, too. I often order more than what I need, as I know that much of it won’t work, but keeping up with the spending is tricky when buying online. I prefer to shop in person, too, but since I’m tall, I have to order online often. I make an effort to try on the regular sizes in a store if at all possible, but sometimes I need to take my chances. I would estimate that 25% or less of my online purchases actually work out. As I’m getting more and more specific about what I want to buy, I find myself needing to turn to e-commerce more often. I spend hours looking around the mall for what I want, to no avail. Very frustrating!