Overcoming Debt and Improving Family Life in a Few Short Months

The following was posted in the comments section of my “August Grab Bag of Useful Links” post by a reader named Gabby, who shared her recent success with shopping less, overcoming debt, and reclaiming family life.   Although some of you may have read her comment, I thought it merited higher visibility as part of my “Stories of Recovery” series, especially since we haven’t had an installment in that series for a while.  I have done some light editing of Gabby’s words and moved things around a bit for impact, but the essence of her inspiring tale remains the same.

Summer family picnic

Gabby focused on summer fun with her family instead of shopping.

If you would like to be profiled in the “Stories of Recovery” series (you can be anonymous if desired), or if you have an idea for another type of guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic,” please connect with me to share your thoughts.  Since I’m taking a modified blogging break during September, I’m especially interested in any content you’d like to contribute here this month.

“Shopping My Closet” Instead of the Stores

The best thing about getting control of my shopping is watching my finances improve. In just a short time, I have seen my debt going down, down, down, and it feels so good!  Now I can make carefully considered purchases without guilt, buy better quality, and have the blessing and enthusiasm of my spouse. He sees that our “bottom line” is healthy and improving… so no more sneaking around and deception on my part. He’s now happy when I buy something that pleases me instead of fretting about what he previously saw as a lack of consideration on my part.

How did I do this? It was easy! I decided to buy nothing new for as long as it took to see and feel a difference in the pressure my constant shopping put on our finances. I would say I felt results around the 8-week mark.  During this time, I “shopped my closet” and had fun doing it. It was a way of helping me to see what I already had. I actually put into practice many of the things I had read about, such as determining my core colors and making sure most things worked well together.

Redirecting My Focus

After that, the most important thing was to direct my thoughts in other directions for a bit, not thinking about shopping for clothes. It was summer, so it was easier to focus on family fun and taking it easy. That isn’t to say I couldn’t shop at all, because I did!  Only during recent weeks, it was for picnic supplies and water toys instead of clothing and related items.

“Regular life” was never the issue for me; my clothes obsession was. The weeks flew by, and it was easy for me, because I had put up a mental wall that I wasn’t going to cross. Inside, I wanted to see how strong I could be. It felt really good to stick to the commitment I had made!

During these summer weeks, I still had fun. I got a pedicure every couple of weeks (I took my daughter with me and it was fun!) and I take the time to do some “little things,” like getting Starbucks here and there and reading books on my Kindle. Because I tried to stay active with my kids, I also managed to lose twelve pounds, which was part of my summer plan. Whew! Not browsing the clothing stores was actually the easy part. The weight loss… not so much.

A Different Perspective on Money and Shopping

The very best part of my recent shift was that the money I would usually spend on clothes instead went toward credit card balances in addition to the payments we would usually make. Now I look at the credit cards in a different way. They are assurances that if my family has a need, like new shoes or a coat – or if I have to buy an unexpected gift, I can handle those things without worries.

I want to close by saying that after this time passed, I visited everyone’s favorite store, the big “N.” It was if a spell had been broken…  I looked at everything so differently. I saw bad fabric and poor sewing in the departments I usually shopped in and I knew I could and should do better for myself. That is where my planning comes in now.  I plan to buy better quality and make better decisions when shopping.  In the end, I know that I will look and feel better.

I feel that anyone can reduce compulsive shopping if they really want to, even if by just a little bit at a time.  Every little bit can help…. Most importantly, it feels so good to be in control. It’s such a good thing and everyone benefits. Thanks for reading my story.

A big thanks to Gabby for sharing her story.   I tried to contact her to let her know I would be sharing what she wrote, but unfortunately the email bounced.   So I’m not sure if she will see this and respond to comments.  But if you have a question for Gabby – or for your fellow readers with similar stories, feel free to ask.  You’re also welcome to share your experiences in the comments section or as an upcoming “Stories of Recovery” post.  

8 thoughts on “Overcoming Debt and Improving Family Life in a Few Short Months

  1. This is very inspiring and I am thankful to have read it this morning. I love how she doesn’t draw a hard line, but talks about making small steps and focusing her energy in other areas while not denying herself certain fun luxuries during the process. It sounds reasonable and like something I could actually tackle as opposed to an overwhelming cease and stop plan. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you liked this post, Chelsea. I wholeheartedly believe that small, doable steps are the way to go. That’s a more sustainable way to make progress and those little actions really do add up!

  2. Seconded on the terrible quality at polyester palace, or the “N” store. I found ONE thing that I would term decent (made of natural fibers, and had decent sewing). Even Wallyworld has some 100% cotton options. Why is is so difficult to find sweaters that are not acrylic and anything without that dreaded rayon?

    Maybe others who go to the Nordstrom sales are much luckier than I am, ‘cos even at 60% off, there’s nothing there in clothing that appeals to me. They can make men’s clothes with decent fabrics, so do they hate women or something?

    • I agree that there is FAR too much polyester at Nordstrom these days, Nutrivore. I can still find some good cotton or blend knits there, but it’s not nearly as easy as it used to be. I often lament that the quality of men’s clothes is far superior to that of women’s clothes, at Nordstrom and virtually all retailers. I read somewhere (maybe a comment on this blog?) that it’s because men generally expect to keep their clothes for a lot longer. That makes sense, I guess, but I don’t like it…

  3. This was great to read. I have not had to struggle with debt concerning my shopping, but the point about redirecting focus to being present with your loved ones hits home. I can while away the hours window shopping online (not even buying) and by so doing, tune out my partner. Or I can close up the computer, disconnect from viewing all the ‘maybes’ and connect with the person next to me on the couch each evening.

    • Yes, this is a very important message, Mo. I used to spend SO many hours on online browsing, too. I still need to do better at disconnecting from the internet in general, though, as there are so many ways to distract ourselves online. It’s far more fulfilling to connect with our loved ones than to do online shopping and other virtual pursuits.

  4. “It was as if a spell had been broken….” Very profound words. I believe if a person becomes mindful about the process of shopping and acquiring clothes and other goodies, that person will be more “awake” to the whole process — and to the increasing level of poor quality in what’s on offer at most stores. I am so glad I don’t need a lot of clothes but I worry about being able to replace what I have with anything of quality. Sigh! Good work, Gabby, in shopping your closet and knocking down your debt and finding other fun things to do with your time and money — 2 precious commodities.

    • I’m glad you liked this story, Dottie. I have often thought about how you have so many clothes that have stood the test of time and wondered if you will be able to continue that great track record with today’s offerings. It’s sad that things just aren’t made as well as they use to be, but I hope that through being mindful and “awake” during the shopping process, we can still find quality garments that will last far longer than most of the “fast fashion” in stores today.

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