{Tell Me} Why do you shop?

April 17, 2012

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In an effort to make this blog less focused on me and more about my readers and the community of bloggers and blog readers, I wanted to take a break from all of the pretty things I normally post on the blog, have a little chat, and hear your thoughts.

Post-no shop Lent, I was left wanting to ravenously approach the mall and purchase things I have been lusting over.  While I didn’t go completely overboard, I did make a few purchases that weren’t completely necessary.  Over the last week, I bought 2 shirts (1 gingham and 1 peplum), 1 sweater (basic navy v-neck), 1 pair of jeans (white toothpick), a necklace (simple gold barrel chain) and 2 pairs of seriously marked-down shoes (nude flats and basic black pointed-toe pumps).

In total, I spent about $250, which may not seem like much to some (and really wasn’t out of my budget), but to me it felt a bit like I gave in to the materialistic beast and the adrenaline rush I feel when I get something new.

For me, it goes a little something like this:  See something fabulous in store or on blog.  Check price.  Debate, debate, debate.  Most of the time, do not purchase.  Some of the time, do purchase, feel pang of guilt.  Wear new item, feel happy…. until I see the next fabulous thing.  Cycle repeats.

So it left me wondering, what provokes us to shop, and how are others left feeling after they make their purchases?  Do we all feel a bit of materialism or regret when we shop, or am I the only one that  thinks about the opportunity costs of shopping and likes to see the savings account continue to grow?

Will I ever be satisfied?  Will I ever think, “Yes.  My wardrobe is finally THERE.  I don’t need anything else!”  At this rate, the answer is, “Probably not.”

But I think I’d like to make a conscious effort to change that.  To be happier with less, to be content with what I have.  To make more intentional purchases when they’re really in the budget.  While I know it is important to allow your wardrobe to evolve as your life evolves, I think I could make an effort to shop smarter, and then maybe I won’t feel guilt pangs when I do make a purchase, because I know it was planned, intentional, and not emotional.  I spend about 6% of my take home pay (after taxes and 401k contributions) on clothing, and while I don’t think that is an unreasonable amount, maybe I can spend that 6% in a smarter manner.

So now I’d like to hear from you – feel free to comment anonymously today if you’d like.  How much of your budget goes to clothing shopping?  If you are young, do you feel like you can spend now and deal with repercussions later?  What spurs you to shop, and how to do you feel when you do?  I’d love to know!

  • http://www.pennypincherfashion.com Penny Pincher Fashion

    I spend less than $250 a month on clothes, but it definitely varies. I fell myself in the exact same cycle you described, but I find the guilt is stronger, because I’m a stay-at-home mom…it’s my husband’s money (not “mine”) that I am spending, because I don’t work (other than the money I make from my blog). Sometimes I feel like I have to be able to justify my purchases to him and that isn’t always easy – because he looks and sees my closet full of clothes…and because he’s a guy, he doesn’t understand the need for 4 different pairs of jeans. :)

  • http://www.coffee-and-heels.com Sascha – Coffee and Heels

    Great post. I wish I could shop more. I don’t earn nearly enough money to dress like the woman I am in my head – and I’m not talking Gucci, I’m talking a tiny Zara spree of, say, five purchases. That never happens in my life. I’m happy when I can afford a t-shirt or a €24 H&M dress. Plus, I’m a fashion-schizo Gemini, so my style changes every five minutes and I regularly wake up finding my entire wardrobe hideous. I’m often inspired to shop by a desire to change my look, to give my wardrobe a makeover, or for occasions – like next week I’m going to London and I have no idea what shoes to bring to a place where a) you walk a lot and b) it rains all the time!

  • http://thevaultfiles.com Gaby [The Vault Files]

    As much as I love fashion I’m lucky (or I guess my husband is the lucky one, wink) to be kind of conscious about my purchases. I’ve always believed that if “A” has the same as “B” but cheaper, then why go to “B”? I do splurge from time to time, but for the most part, I buy stuff on sale, or at factory stores. And when I don’t get something on sale it’s because I really really love it, I know that I’ll wear it a lot, and the price falls within my budget. I think that as you get better at knowing your style, what you like and what you need, you get better at spending, meaning you know when a splurge is worth it and when it’s not. Of course sometimes there are some emotional purchases, but as long as the fit in what I just said, I feel fine. I have passed on very good deals on very good products just because I really didn’t needed them, and I guess sometimes we really need to ask ourselves that question.
    Funny because I just placed two orders, one on J.Crew and another one on Anthro, both for great deals 😉

  • Emily

    This is a good post. I’ve never commented before, but felt I should on this! For my own Lent “sacrifice” I decided that I would not buy ANY new (as in, freshly minted from a store) clothing items, shoes, accessories, etc and would only buy preowned or organic/recycled wear. Then I decided, what is 40 days… why don’t I just extend it for all of 2012? My decision to do this comes from an environmental standpoint, not really a $ one, but clearly the $ argument is there. When I started researching how horrible clothing manufacturing was on the environment (pesticides, water usage, toxic materials, social justice issues) I felt awful about my previous purchasing habits (nothing like good ole Catholic guilt!). It made it pretty clear to me (since it was my own priority, not saying everyone else should do this!) that I needed to change my ways. Now, here is why I’m writing this! For me, the cycle you describe, which I felt 100% as well, has completely dissipated. Now, when I look at clothes at consignment stores, eBay, etc, it has brought back all the fun and no guilt whatsoever. Sure, I don’t have the cobalt blue toothpick jeans that are just SOOO hot right now, like the 8 other women in my office do, and the 15 other women I passed on the subway on the way to work do, but ya know what, I can spend that $75 on an excellent dinner w/a loved one or save it towards a downpayment on a house! It has actually brought the cycle completely around for me; I now feel excellent about my priorities and do not miss fighting crowds at the mall to return my guilty purchases. When I’m out shopping consignment, I focus on classic, basic pieces that will last me longer than a season and when I’m done, I will donate. Now that is a good cycle!! :)

  • http://confessionsofaturkishgirl.blogspot.com/ nagehan

    When I was in an unhappy marriage, I used to shop a lot. I used to work a part-time teaching job and my ex-husband used to bring in majority of our income. I used to go through the same cycle you go through. The guilt of buying something quickly used to turn to happiness then the happiness faded away pretty quickly.

    Now that I live in NYC, one of the biggest fashion meccas, I don’t do as much shopping as I used to do. I’m in a new relationship and I’m incredibly happy. Of course I treat myself from time to time but not the way I used to splurge. So, I feel like sometimes, shopping fills the void of something else. It’s always different from person to person what that void might be. As long as one is brave enough to admit what the void they’re trying to fill, they’re more at peace with buying what they need as opposed to consistently buying what they want.

  • Celishia

    I think this is a great post, and has really wonderful comments! In our cultural we are really raised as consumers. From the time we are conceived there is advertising aimed at our parents for things we NEED (seriously ladies, anyone actually use a wipe warmer??), and by the time we are toddlers it is aimed directly at us. Food that is non-nutritious food is made to be addictive by chemically causing brain reactions and toys are easily broken so that they can be replaced. Everyone I know who has a 5 year old or above has been asked by that 5 year old for an ipad. We are raised to WANT! I really, really don’t want to raise my kids that way. We buy used for environmental reasons too (although, the $savings don’t hurt either:) and we try not to encourage avarice in our kids. Yet, when I shop for me I can’t shake the high. I love buying new clothes…it doesn’t happen very often, which makes it more exciting. My fashion is limited by the need to be able to whip out a boob for a screaming child and won’t suffer too much from puke, lol, but I recently caved to shopping and pretty much replaced my entire summer shirt wardrobe. Once I started I couldn’t stop, thankfully, there was a sale. And even though I am a little abashed at my spree, I actually have felt better in the month since it happened. It brings me pleasure to get dressed again, which is nice. I won’t be walking any runways, but fashionable clothing that fits well helps me feel better which certainly makes me a better mother. It is important to take care of ourselves, even a little indulgently as long as we keep perspective and are aware how many people are rooting for us to accrue credit card debt!

  • http://beautyandbeard.blogspot.com Laura @ Beauty & the Beard

    Great post. I have to be honest and say I couldn’t give a % of my budget I spend on clothes- which I’ll definitely have to look into now. I don’t shop much, in fact if I do spend money in that realm it’s usually on accessories (necklaces) to enhance the clothes I already have. Overall I don’t spend too much on clothing- especially right now since I need to wear specific clothing to work, which is probably a good thing! Thanks for the reality check that I need to look into the percent of my budget I do spend- thank you!

  • http://www.theshortandthesweetofit.com Alexa

    Definitely love finding new things, I know what you mean about that “rush.” But honestly I just can’t afford it most of the time. If I do find a serious markdown on something I’ve wanted I sometimes go for it. But for instance…a serious markdown on Kate Spade still means it’s over $100, which is kind of ridiculous!

  • http://theurbanslant.com Julia

    Ugh. I suffer from the same cycle. I’m VERY good at rationalizing purchases for friends, etc, but I can’t do the same for me. Lately, I just tell myself “you don’t need this”. I always try to buy on sale, and I avoid going into stores that are dangerous for me.

  • http://cash25.tumblr.com/ Carly

    I too did chose not to shop during lent for the same reasons you did, and ended up purchasing in the same manner you did once the ban was up. On Friday, after I made my purchases, I felt that same guilt. I used to be very good about telling myself to walk away from the item that I wanted. I typically use a $30 spending limit on items, but somehow I still manage to end up with armfuls of clothing. I am not sure what the answer is. The best thing for me is to stay away from the mall. But I am finding that to be more difficult now that I seem to be following upwards of 20 fashion type blogs who post easily accessible links to clothing. I too would like to break this cycle of guilt and splurging, and just be happy for a while mixing up what i already have. One problem that I am finding right now (or more of an excuse, rather) is that most of my clothes are too big for me, so I am wanting to replenish with smaller clothes that fit better. That is going to be my biggest battle this spring/summer, trying to fit into clothes that are 2 sizes too big. Thanks for posting about this!

  • http://itsthelittlethingsblog.blogspot.com/ Taylor

    That’s exactly how my inner-shopping-mind cycle goes too…. I feel like blogging has made me more clothing obsessed than ever as well. I think I need to make more of an effort to pick pieces that I really will wear, A LOT, and can be versatile. A lot of the time it’s like an instant rush of happiness… and then I’m on to the next. I feel pathetic even writing that last statement :) I really do like the idea of putting a set % of what I would allow myself to spend each month though! Great way to do it.


  • http://starcrossedsmile.com Nnenna

    Definitely food for thought here! There are a variety of reasons why I shop: as retail therapy when I’ve had a sucky day, for a special occasion, when I’m tired of my wardrobe, etc. When I was younger (high school/college) I definitely thought I could shop now and worry about it later! My parents kept telling me about the value of saving, and I would save for a little bit, but then I would go and spend all of those savings. I was more interested in getting what I wanted right away!

    However, now that I’m living on my own and supporting myself in New York City, I’ve had to cut WAY back on my spending. Dealing with things like rent and utility bills on a very tight fixed income means I have to be way more careful with how I spend my money. I could definitely still spend smarter- that’s something I’m still working on. Every once in a while, I still treat myself to a little something nice, but I have to weigh it against other things and consider what I’m willing to give up to get that new item. Numbers are really not my forte, so I’ve been putting off actually creating a budget for ages, but that’s probably where I should start!

  • Darlene

    Why do we shop? This is one of those million dollar questions. And worth countless billions to the clothing industry. Like many of the others, I also suffer from this ailment – buying what I like and feeling guilty about it later. I have started carrying a list with me. If an item that catches my eye is not on the list, I am much better at passing it by. We are inundated with mass marketing in various media, so it is hard not to be seduced.

  • Rebecca

    I struggle with this a lot. Our jobs don’t pull in a lot of money and we are making our house renovation a priority right now, so the guilt always crops up when I want to shop. For me, I find the day to day wear doesn’t push me to shop as much, but it’s the events (dinners for my husbands work, vacations, a friends wedding) that makes me hate my entire wardrobe and feel the need to buy new clothes, new jewelry, new shoes. I’m trying to be more creative and daring with what I have in my closet, but still don’t feel like I have as many mix and match staples as I would like.

  • http://www.puttingmetogether.com Audrey @ Putting Me Together

    Oh gosh! I thought I was following you on Bloglovin’ this whole time but I just discovered that I haven’t been. Must remedy that. I know the feeling of buying something new and wearing it only to have that thrill gone in a second, and over the last 8 months I’ve been trying to be aware of that ugly beast and tame it. I actually only spend 1.3% of our budget (after taxes and 401k etc) on clothes, but the sense of guilt of buying something simply to satisfy the “beast” is the same. It’s especially hard to combat that when you read style blogs and even harder to have your own style blog because those definitely amplify the feeling of “needing” something new. I try not to let myself say that I “need” something new, because the reality is that I’m clothed, and I have food, and therefore I don’t actually need anything. Anything extra is a gift and a blessing. The fashion industry is fantastic at creating a need where there is no actual need, and when I feel that ugly ungrateful little beast inside of me start to tell me I need something that I don’t really need, I just have to step back and take a breather and actually not let myself shop for days. And instead, I stand in front of my closet, look at it and remind myself to be grateful for this closet full of fun clothes that I get to play with. It’s not easy, especially as a style blogger. Kudos to you for wanting to break out of that cycle!

    On a practical level, I shop with a list and try as hard as I can to only buy stuff on that list. Easier said than done, but it curbs a lot of my impulsive desires!

    • http://www.shehathdonewhatshecould.blogspot.com Peggy

      Great response Audrey! So true that the industry tells us what we need and what we need to like! Marketing at its finest!

  • http://www.shehathdonewhatshecould.blogspot.com Peggy

    great post! It’s all so true! I am not sure the total % I spend but I have a budget for clothing for the entire family of $300 per month. Sometimes the kids or hubby don’t need anything, so I feel like I can spend it on what I want, but that’s really a stupid thing to do – if I don’t NEED anything, I could be saving it for something else like you mentioned. Months come up where hubby will need a new suit or shoes and guys clothes are not cheap! So, then it is good if I saved up a few months of the clothing budget for his clothing needs (which aren’t very often really.) I hate the whole continuous shopping, the never feeling content or satisfied – I keep telling myself I will just buy what I LOVE, quality over quantity, then I see a good deal and snatch it up! I really, really think less is more – and having good basics will go much further than lots of little cheaper things. I am really working on this. And truthfully, reading blogs has only made it worse- I see something someone has that is so cute and I go looking for it too! Crazy. For me shopping is just a hobby, but I am growing tired of managing my closet! haha. Great to read everyone’s thoughtful responses.

  • Annie

    I struggle with this all the time (obviously – have you SEEN my blog, haha). I shop way too much, and I’m always waiting for that feeling of “ahh, OK, it’s there, my wardrobe is there and I don’t need anything else.” But it never happens – mostly because there is always some new fabulous thing I want/think I need. Sometimes I think about all the vacations I could take instead of spending money on clothes…and it’s kind of depressing. ANyway I’m rambling – but I agree, I would LOVE to change the way I spend my money, I’m just not sure how, or what will motivate me to do so.

    The Other Side of Gray

  • http://www.smallshopstudio.com Erika [small shop]

    As I get older, I find i would rather invest in fewer items of higher quality that I’ll get use out of beyond that season. But I’lll throw in a few cheaper fun pieces too. Although no poly for me, only silk. And good cotton. And real leather always! The fit must be really flattering too otherwise I find I won’t wear it (no matter how good a deal it was).

    I usually spend too much when I have an event or a trip to shop for — definitely a new outfit does wonders for boosting confidence, which ultimately helps me market myself. So in a weird way, it’s good for business. Heh heh.

    I’m addicted to bargains tho! Gilt and Rue La La and Hautelook are dangerous!

  • http://www.highstyling.com Sarah {HIgh Styling}

    I feel like I should be going to therapy to talk about this. I usually shop out of necessity…because I have NOTHING to wear. Sometimes I’ll stumble across a sale and dive in. Rare occasions I will pay full price for investment pieces that I love. I’m getting better about impulse purchases…except when I travel. You never know if you’ll see it again! I actually have about a third the amount of clothes as my husband. but I can accessorize with the best of them. The french girl in me trying to get out I guess. Great post.

  • http://www.carlyhaslee.com Carly | a simple affair

    How did I miss this post earlier? Don’t even know where to begin. I agree with so much of what you said. I am truly trying to be better, but the whole trip to NYC didn’t help. I do typically, more like almost always, buy on sale when shopping though. Even my investment pieces were bought when there was a F&F sale or my DY was bought when Bloomingdales has the one day sale. For my bigger purchases, I contemplate them for awhile so that I know when I actually buy them, I will be happy with the decision. I used to just buy when I saw something really pretty, but after majorly organizing my closet, I know what I definitely do not need more of and what basics I could invest in. It’s tough though because you want to feel great in what you’re wearing. I am now trying to go through my closet and wear old pieces in new ways which has been really fun!

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