Last week’s post, “A New Twist on an Old Shopping Rule,” generated a lot of excellent feedback from readers. Many agreed with the revised version of my sales shopping rule and shared their stories of how price has both positively and negatively impacted their buying success. Some readers also shared additional suggestions related to sales shopping, including the use of the “power pause” when online shopping and utilizing sales watch sites to track when desired items are discounted. I encourage you to check out the comments area of last week’s post if you’d like to learn more about such strategies.
While I loved all of the comments, two in particular stood out in my mind. Both of those readers shared a variation on a theme so important that I decided to base today’s post on it. Read on for the philosophy expressed by readers Mo and Carolyn, which Carolyn succinctly labeled as, “Buy once.”
Carolyn’s and Mo’s Stories
A number of years ago, Carolyn decided to purchase some new shoes for an upcoming event. While she was shopping, she found a pair of shoes she absolutely loved. She wanted to buy the shoes, but they were expensive and outside her usual price range. So she left those shoes in the store and instead bought an alternate pair she termed “acceptable” for about half the price.
About a month later, Carolyn again saw the loved but pricey shoes in the store and opted to purchase them that time. She still loves and wears those shoes ten years later! The lesser-priced, “acceptable” shoes she originally bought are long gone and were rarely worn.
Mo’s story is more recent but quite similar. She wanted to buy a white tank top to wear this summer. Her first purchase was a $7 bargain basement top that was a knit, rather than the woven top she really wanted. Not long after buying that top, she purchased a $19 double-layer chiffon version from a discount retailer’s e-commerce store. That tank was better but still not quite what she was looking for.
A little while later, Mo happened upon her dream white tank, but it was way out of her price range at $138 plus shipping. She held off on buying the dream top at first, but later bit the bullet and bought it for $100 on sale. She loves this new top as much as she hoped she would and is confident this one $100 tank will bring her more joy than five $20 tops ever could. She’s happy she decided to broaden her price horizons and spend more for the ideal version of an item on her shopping list.
Settling for Less and Closet “Multiples”
I have settled for a lesser version of what I truly wanted more times than I can count. One reason why I had so many multiples in my wardrobe is because I kept shopping for an item after I had already bought it. I settled for a sub-standard version and thus was not satisfied with my purchase. That led me to keep shopping and trying to find “upgrades” for pieces that I already owned.
One example of this phenomenon relates to black skirts. When I started my recovering shopaholic project in January 2013, I owned nine black skirts! Of course, no woman actually needs nine black skirts and I definitely wasn’t wearing all of them. What happened was that I kept buying black skirts on sale or at consignment stores because “the price was right” and I hoped I could make them work for me. But none of the skirts I bought really met my needs. Some ended up being alterations failures, while others gathered dust in my closet because the fabric was cheap, scratchy, or garnered too much static.
The bottom line is that I should have waited for the right black skirt, the one that ticked all of the boxes on my list of requirements. I should have practiced being patient, picky, and practical like Angie of “You Look Fab” advocates. Instead, I went for instant gratification and ended up with an overabundance of mediocre black skirts in my closet, most of which are now long gone. The only one I kept is the one I’ve had the longest, the inexpensive but beloved skirt I wrote about for Emma’s “Connecting with Our Clothes” series.
My Shoe Example
Another example of where I should have bought once but didn’t pertains to black ballet flats. Several years ago, a close friend of mine purchased a pair of AGL ballet flats that she absolutely loved. I tried them on and shared her enthusiasm for the classic styling, polished look, and impeccable fit of those amazing shoes.
My shoe story is a bit different from Carolyn’s version above. I did end buying the AGL flats, twice in fact. But both times I returned the shoes, not because I didn’t love them but because they were out of my price range. I couldn’t justify spending that much money for a pair of shoes, especially since I was shopping virtually all the time and constantly exceeding my clothing budget. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford the shoes; I didn’t want to sacrifice additional shopping in order to make the price work for my budget.
After I returned the AGL flats the second time, I bought a similar pair of shoes for about a third of the price. Like the shoes Carolyn initially purchased, my shoes were “acceptable” and were worn a decent number of times. However, I never loved them and didn’t feel fabulous when I wore them. Every time I put them on, I was reminded that I had settled for less than what I truly wanted.
This past January, I finally bought – and kept – a pair of black AGL flats. In truth, they were a belated Christmas present from my husband, who encouraged me to own the shoes I’ve coveted at long last. Since then, I’ve worn them countless times and have always felt great while wearing them. I no longer feel the need to continue to shop for black ballet flats, as I finally have a pair that ticks all the boxes.
Just think of how much trouble I could have saved myself had I just bought and kept the AGL flats the first time around. Not only would I have had a pair of shoes I loved for several years now, I also would have saved the $100 I spent on the lesser version. Yes, I might have had to postpone gratification until the shoes fit into my shopping budget and buy fewer items overall. But I would have stopped shopping for black flats and saved myself both time and money in the long run.
Settling – A Common but Troubling Shopping Trend
I know that Carolyn, Mo, and I are not alone in terms of buying twice, three times, or more when we should have just bought once. Back when I used to do wardrobe consulting, I saw lots of “multiples” in women’s closets. When I’d ask them why they had so many similar items, their answers often reflected the common tendency of settling for lesser versions and continuing to shop for something better. This shopping trend leads many women to have jam-packed closets full of lots of mediocre duplicate pieces. It also contributes to the phenomenon of staring into a full wardrobe and feeling like one has nothing to wear.
What if we all were to follow Carolyn’s wise advice and “Buy once”? What type of closets would we have then? I think many of us would have the smaller, more workable wardrobes we deeply desire if only we could hold out for what we truly want instead of settling for less.
If my AGL flats are any indication, I know I’d be well-served by aiming for higher quality and being willing to spend a bit more for it. Sure, we can sometimes find the items that meet our needs at low prices or on sale, but we shouldn’t buy things just because they are low priced or offered at a discount. Price should never be the sole or even the primary consideration of whether we buy something or not. Yes, it matters, but it isn’t all that matters.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that we need to love what we buy and not feel like we’re settling. When we settle, we aren’t satisfied and don’t end up feeling fabulous in what we’re wearing. We may continue to shop for pieces we already have in our closets. We may end up with multiples, none of which we’re all that excited about. That’s not what any of us want.
Buy once, buy what you truly want, and buy the best you can afford. If you need to delay gratification in order to purchase the best, it’s worth it. Every time I wear my AGL flats, I’m reminded of that, and I hope to have many more examples of this moving forward. I’m worth it, and so are you!