Challenges, finance, Health, Living, Uncategorized

Recovering from a Shopping Bender

In many of my past writings I’ve talked about how I’m pretty good at resisting temptation in order to keep my wallet happy and my closet at a reasonable size. And to be fair to myself, for about 90% of the year I am able to hold to that. The remaining 10%, however, is a different matter. There seems to be a switch in my brain that tells me to CONSUME and SHOP and FUCK THE COST!

Well shit.

I’m lucky that a) I can afford to spend a little bit of money on myself and b) I have zero interest in luxury goods, so on average when I go on a shopping bender I’m really only spending a couple hundred bucks. But it’s not even necessarily spending the money that is the most damaging to me; it is the mentality that got me there in the first place. Going from being entirely sensible about my clothes (I truly only wear about 8 main things in the my closets, and then the rest is just window dressing) to a complete shopaholic is exhausting and takes an emotional and mental toll.

When I feel the urge to shop suddenly come over me, I give it a lot of unnecessary emotional power. I attach a lot of self-worth to what I buy, hoping that all my friends will notice how much better I’ve become because I bought something new. I envisage myself becoming happier and more fulfilled because of a new shirt. It’s silly, but I’m willing to be a lot of people feel the same emotions – in fact, untold numbers of blogs are about that very thing. And yes, I do usually get asked if what I’m wearing is new, or complimented on it, but that small little reward is offset by a sadness that comes over me when I realize I lost control of my own brain in order to try and get external validation for something stupid. Even worse, I spent my hard-earned money to get it, and looking at the credit card statement afterwards is upsetting, to say the least.

This all may seem a tad melodramatic, but it’s amazing what can go through your mind when you aren’t feeling at your best about yourself. My shopping spurts aren’t even necessarily kicked off by feeling bad about myself, but they inevitably all end the same way: with me wishing it hadn’t happened. Thankfully these only happen once or twice a year, but it’s enough to make me wish I had better self-control.

Now, in recent months I have lost a substantial amount of weight. I have done nothing dramatic, simply cleaned up my eating and continued weight lifting heavy objects. This has necessitated buying some new clothes (it was quite exciting going down a pants size, more on that in a different post later), and I’ve started to put some bowling bumpers in place to help me stay clear-headed about my purchasing choices. These have also helped me recover from shopping benders in the past.

  • Stick with cash. If I do go shopping now I tend to scope it out online first (though I hesitate to buy online – if I don’t like it I’m genuinely too lazy to return it by mail. I have no idea why, just a mental block, I guess) and check the price. If it seems reasonable I go try it on in store, and pay for it in cash. My credit cards stay home, and I’m stuck with a set budget.
  • Read books/blogs about personal finance. This helps me reset my priorities and also clears my head and think about the purpose behind buying items. I never thought much about buying with purpose, but I’m starting to and it’s really helping.
  • Allow myself to enjoy shopping with a strict budget. If I feel the need to go shopping, I check out my finances first. If I’ve paid my bills and put some aside for savings, I’ll allow for a small shopping budget (in cash, as said above).
  • Read/watch pieces about cheap clothing. This one cuts me deep. Being fairly frugal I try to find the best bargains. However, having recently read “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Clothing” by Elizabeth Cline, I have really thought hard about what I buy. I do not wish to support anything that has caused harm to so many people. Now I try to do a little bit of research and allow for a higher spend on something that has been made ethically. It’s difficult since the sweatshop seems entrenched in so much of what we buy, but I’m hoping in time to find brands that I can trust to spend my money on.
  • Buy higher quality pieces. Dovetailing nicely with the point above, buying higher quality items means I don’t need to replace them so often. A win for me, my wallet, and the environment.
  • Stay away from the mall/embrace Thrift Shops, baby! I hate the mall. In my opinion the only good thing to come from it is the tradition of older people in my area to go mall walking in the winter (seriously enjoyable watching groups power walk in their leisure wear). I’ve tried my best to give it a wide berth and instead check out the thrift stores before looking anywhere else. The ones near me aren’t great, but a gem can be found on occasion. Plus, the hunt is pretty fun.
  • Unsubscribe. As someone who rarely shops online, it was shocking the see the amount of ads that came into my inbox every single day. I would wake up to twenty new e-mails from three stores telling me about their new promotions. I just deleted them without opening, but began to realize that even without reading them a seed was planted. So no more for me! I have an empty inbox, and I like it!
I’m not entirely sure how this stock photo person will pay for an online purchase in cash, but I’m intrigued. Plus, unsubscribe, for the love of everything holy!

I think a lot of people relate shopping benders to weakness, or to greed. I don’t. I think that we are designed to want more and more, and shops are truly preying on us. I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed or bad about themselves for buying things, but I do think it is our responsibility to do the best we can to avoid harming ourselves, our financial prospects, and the world we live in to the best of our abilities. Food for thought.

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