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conquer excess shopping

14 January 2013
London 2011

  • I determined why I needed to conquer it. To stop wasting money, to prove it to my husband and myself, less physical and mental clutter, less rubbish and to find my true self and honour it.
  • I asked for help. I asked my husband to set me a spending limit – an amount that was small enough to make me question each purchase.
  • I made a promise. Accountability to someone else is a great motivator in those moments of weakness. I promised to spend only that amount each month.
  • Set ground rules. We agreed that I couldn’t accumulate the money over several months into one big lump sum. If I didn’t spend all of the allocated monthly allowance, it didn’t carry over.
  • I learnt to prioritise and negotiate with myself. With a constraint I had to really be honest with myself. Did I want it badly enough to lose the chance to buy something better later in the month?
  • I stopped buying fashion magazines. This was necessary for my self-esteem as well. For my wardrobe, it meant that I wasn’t studying the pages figuring out what I, ahem, needed.
  • I used lists productively. If I think of something I’d like, I add it to a list. Then it’s out of my mind. If I return to that list over the coming weeks or months and feel the same, then I can start to believe it’s true necessity or value in my wardrobe.
  • I became increasingly critical and resilient to advertising. I started to laugh at the product placements and earnest declarations that a costly one-season-trend wonder was an investment for your wardrobe. I looked at ads for how they were trying to affect us psychologically.
  • I celebrated the time gained. I no longer spent hours wandering the shops – I used that time for more positive habits – photography, decluttering, looking at photos of myself and the awful fashion choices of the past (!), writing notes about what was truly important to me, walking and going to events.
  • Set new challenges. The urge to buy drastically reduced. I set harder challenges like “no shopping at all for 3 months”. They became easy.
  • I worked on my inner self. With help from my incredibly supportive husband I learned to believe I’m beautiful on the inside too. That people love me for my acts and words, not for my clothes. That it’s important to take pride in your appearance but not to let it control you. And I worked on my identity through clothes that suits my true image, desires and practical pursuits.
  • Minimalism kicked in. The inherent minimalist in me surfaced. I purged and I questioned. I discovered more than just increased space in my closet. Then I discovered blogs on minimalism and found my core ideals being shared by others.

Now I don’t need any rules and have been completely free of the unhealthy habit for years. I buy maybe one fashion/lifestyle magazine a year, can enjoy them at a hairdresser without feeling inadequate, ignore or avoid most advertising, and check myself on too much fashion blog reading. I like my smaller wardrobe more and buy better quality, less often. It feels good.

I hope this has helped anyone with an addictive consumerist habit they wish to kick. Does anyone else have ideas/stories to help others going through it now?

10 Responses
  1. January 14, 2013

    All GREAT points — they reflect a lot on tips for the self albeit with the aid of a partner, i.e. your supportive husband, too. I wonder if conquering shopping is something that can be a shared common goal among friends? I would love to be able to roll my eyes and critique advertisements and consumerism with a girlfriend, some day.

  2. January 14, 2013

    Today I read ‘Life is short and to spend time buying things is to waste it.’ Jose Mujica, president of Uruguay, who gives away most of his salary…

  3. January 14, 2013

    Very interesting read. I’ve met others who have a similar problem area with shopping (though without the same self-awareness and motivation as you!) I think it’s telling that what helped you overcome the shopping is similar to what would help others, including me, overcome different problem areas. I guess it goes to show that the ‘real’ issue might be the same by the symptoms are different. I hope this makes sense!

  4. January 14, 2013

    “Did I want it badly enough to lose the chance to buy something better later in the month?”

    That idea hadn’t occurred to me…will keep that in mind!!

    This past year I did two of the things you mention above about magazines and advertising. It occurred to me one day while watching TV that advertisers don’t know me. They don’t know MY story – if I just won a million dollars – or lost my job – or have thousands in debt or one hundred dollars in savings. I know my story and what I need to buy.

    It also occurred to me that they want to make money. Obvious, I know, but it had slipped my mind.

    Now I see shopping as a way to get resources I need and things I want.

  5. January 15, 2013

    The most effective method of curbing buying new clothes was forcing myself to remove an item from my wardrobe if I bought a new one. It makes me think more about what I need and whether the item is better than I already have.
    I have almost become more aware of Marketing and the subtle ways that they encourage us to buy more, although I think some of this is due to my son having a degree in Marketing!
    Sarah x

  6. Megan permalink
    January 15, 2013

    These are all excellent ways to resist the siren call of shopping and to really focus on what you need rather than what you might want but not really need. Like you I have given up buying fashion magazines and when I read them at the hairdressers am very conscious of the amount of advertising they contain. One of the September issues contained 30 double pages of advertising before reaching the contents page!

  7. January 16, 2013

    Hi, I think I’ve slowly developed the habits you’ve so well listed and no longer shop for the sake of it. I think developing your self esteem and a signature look (with key favourite pieces) will also help. Buying new clothes is often an attempt to make ourselves feel better but having a cluttered wardrobe often leads to negative emotions. Finding alternative ways to raise your self esteem is the key.

  8. January 17, 2013

    My problem is food shopping. Very VERY bad. I go into the supermarket for a pint of milk and left with 3 shopping bags and £20 poorer. I’m far more controlled with clothes shopping as I tend to recycle my clothes and think things through before buying.

    I know what you mean, I now only subscribe to one fashion magazine. I still yawn when I flick through it. I can’t relate to most of the editorial shots. I know they’re creating a fantasy but I like reality better, particularly outfits that I can identify with. Mind you, online shopping is dangerous. I decided to take a peek at the new shoes collection. Oh boy. I’m in trouble.

  9. January 20, 2013

    As i’ve gotten older I’m more about the quality rather than the quantity – and spending more money on things like shoes and handbags that i know will last the test of time (as well as the fact that i’m pregnant and don’t want to waste money on maternity wear, except the basics). Pregnancy has been a fantastic way to stop my shopping addiction!

    P xo

  10. February 13, 2013

    For me it has been a long process. I didn’t become a minimalist intentionally. It’s been a combination of not having any money to buy anything, which is still (again) my situation, and most of all getting to know my true values. As I started to think about life more and who I wanted to be, I also started thinking about consumerism. Around that time I discovered Etsy and the handmade movement and reading about it really opened my eyes. When I got an understanding of the impact of consumerism on our lives and on the environment, it wasn’t hard at all to stop buying. I’m sure this won’t change when I do have money to spend; I look forward to buying high quality handmade things, but only when I need them.

    Great thoughts once again! I’m really enjoying your blog.

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