10 Ways To Stop Shopping



Shopping is competition. The whole point of having an Instagram account (and a blog) is to show the world how much- or how little- you own. These object-driven narratives inform everyone: "My lifestyle surpasses yours." Possessions are status symbols affirming self-worth, apparent stepping stones to social advancement.

When I was younger, I wanted Hollister, Ugg boots, and Coach bags, to be like the girls that went tanning, drank Starbucks, and stole low-calorie margarita mixes from their stepmothers' bathrooms. They had hair straighteners, Juicy Couture purses, eating disorders. A frisson of candy-coated adolescent glamour surrounded them. Later, I interned at ELLE, which championed mixing designer samples, cheap basics, and thrift store finds. I developed thinly veiled contempt for suburban life, with all its exigencies. My style emerged a few years ago; clothes progressively became more conservative as life got more exciting (moving to Paris, meeting Kanye, studying the role of enzymatic post-translational modifications in Alzheimer's). I hope I'm less impressionable now, but I still struggle with my competitive streak.

To this day, I don't want clothes because they cover me up, permit self-expression, and protect me from the elements. I want the thrill that comes from taking my coat off and exposing a Louis Vuitton monogram lining. It's like the environmental justification for thrift shopping isn't enough- I need the additional excuse, "Oh, I bought this used, but it's Prada." I stopped reading fashion magazines and stayed away from street-style blogs, which were detrimental to my impulses and wants. Now I feel the material and check the fabrication- not the designer- label. As requested by reader Jo, here are ten ways I limit shopping:
  1. Resist sales. Bargains aren't about saving money. They're about the rush of finding designer merchandise at rock-bottom prices. Sometimes I get the idea in my head, "This deal is too good to pass up. I have to buy this, now!" and end up with something I didn't really need or want. Think realistically about the long-term consequences of buying, owning, and maintaining an item. That irresistible bargain may turn out to be an expensive waste.
  2. Avoid retail "therapy." Shopping can brighten your mood- temporarily. When emotional, go for a walk or bike ride instead. Engaging in physical activity relieves stress that drives you to buy what you wouldn't otherwise.
  3. Don't shop for recreation. Shopping isn't sport. Avoid browsing the web or visiting the mall when bored. Shop when you need something. Set a specific purchase in mind, and stick to it.
  4. Stop storing billing information online. In a brick and mortar store, there are physical barriers to purchasing. You put something in the cart, carry it to the cashier, and hand them a card, allowing plenty of time to think about the purchase and put it back if necessary. These barriers don't exist online- three clicks, and it's yours. Avoid express checkouts, instant log-ins, or saving address and credit information. When you have to think about your password, get your card, and enter your details over again, it kills the incentive to purchase unnecessary items.   
  5. Get new friends. At the very least, stop shopping with them. The lifestyle and conversation of your friends can shape your desires. If you're overspending to keep up with friends, choose different ones that place less emphasis on money and stuff. I avoid watching Gossip Girl-type TV shows, which are endless advertisements for certain brands, for much the same reason.
  6. I don't have a credit card. Sorry, this is a personal statement, not a suggestion. I became "credit card age" after the bubble burst in the US, so I've paid everything outright my whole life. I can't be sure, but I think credit cards make it easy to buy while ignoring the consequences, while cash makes purchases concrete (you can still develop a good credit score by paying bills on time). Instead of purchasing on credit, save for larger purchases and pay cash.
  7. Don't be enticed by loyalty programs or time limits. I almost bought espadrilles I didn't need because The Real Real sent me a $50 credit expiring the next day. Beware of sites offering free shipping, installment payments, and timed carts, which pressure buys. I can't tell you how many times I filled a punch card for a discount and wasted money I meant to save.
  8. Stop buying items just to return them. You'll forget to return them and end up with a pile of useless clothing. Or you'll spend so much in return shipping, you could buy a whole new outfit with the fees. Thrift shopping prevents this by default.
  9. Think of all the things you won't be able to do if you purchase an item. Let's forget the skirt I spent several months rent on, delaying travel for a year. Once I walked from Bonne Nouvelle to Rue de Rivoli with my friend Tori, and I couldn't climb the Jeanne d'Arc statue like she could, because I was wearing stupid heels I just bought. A perfect Instagram moment, lost forever thanks to unchecked consumption.
  10. Above all else, ask yourself, "Is this worth it?" You don't have to sit in store calculating cost per wear. Just think, "Am I comfortable spending this amount, considering the use I'll get from it?" Remember, as your stuff increases, your quality of life decreases. Look at Suge Knight.
Paris to Go

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. This is such a great post with useful reminders.

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    1. Thank you Liesi! You've been so encouraging :)

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  2. Great tips - thanks for the post! #2-#3 (finding other hobbies/forms of "therapy") and and #9 (thinking about the trips I'm missing out on) have been most helpful for me in my journey away from shopping and toward a more minimalist lifestyle.

    One other thing I find helpful is to shop only 2-3 times per year unless I really need something. For me, a long time fashion addict, that means early fall and early spring. Before I shop, I go through my current wardrobe and make a list of needs that I base my shopping on. I also stopped buying fashion mags regularly (which helps minimize my desire to shop), but instead check out a few from our local library for inspiration before I do my shopping. I don't necessarily only shop on 1 day, but might spread things out over a couple of weeks depending on how much time I have and so I can see different options and decide what will really work for me. I find that the longer I do this, the more I appreciate the anticipation of shopping only a couple of times per year, rather than whenever I feel like it.

    Love your blog in general - I have become a regular reader! :)

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    1. Those are great suggestions !! It keeps your wardrobe fresh seasonally and you still get to indulge fashion interests, but in a more balanced way. I think Bea Johnson wrote once that she does something similar, reading fashion magazines at the library. And thank you so much Jill :)

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  3. This is so so good. We fall for so many lies when it comes to shopping-- how it will improve our lives, make us feel better, help us become the person we want to be-- and we keep doing it! I've stopped shopping, for the most part unless I really need something, and it's been so freeing. Thanks for sharing this Ariana. I'm a new blog reader! :)

    Simplicity Relished

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    1. Thank you Daisy! I just love your blog and your capsule wardrobe :)

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  4. Thank you so much for posting these tips. I recently decided I was shopping WAY too much and have been working really hard to curtail my spending. I love these tips - they will definitely help me continue on my path of acquiring less material things!

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    1. Hi Sian! (sorry for my incredibly late reply) Thank you for reading. Way to go on living with less... I'd love to hear if these work for you!

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  5. great tips! money has always 'burnt a hole in my pocket' and I am absolutely rubbish at saving, as paradoxical as it may be impulse purchases became a routine! Since having found your blog and other minimalist wardrobers, I have been greatly inspired, I've already cut way down on spending and needless shopping for economic, environmental and ethical reasons, and I'm very excited to start thoughtfully choosing a wardrobe for spring!

    Also your blog makes me miss Paris so much, I studied there for 3 years and I'm itching to get back, I want a coffee from le loustic and to stroll along rue de bretagne on a sunday morning! I too also tried to dress like the Parisians at first which is ridiculous as I am not and never will be one, much happier for having realised it too ha!

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    1. Ahhh Rue de Bretagne! (I stayed there for awhile, not knowing my husband lived across the street, funny how that works) You put it so well- I should never try to dress like a French woman, but it was just so hard to resist the urge to copy at first. I hope you get back to Paris soon!

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  6. How do you keep from buying multiples, for backups, since you thrift and can't be sure a replacement will be available? I've gotten a slimmed down wardrobe that works. My only "vice" is to have just in case backups for essentials.

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    1. Actually thrifting keeps me from buying multiples because there's only one of each item, at least in the stores I go to. By sheer chance I found a duplicate of my t-shirt in pink, and that's the only backup I really have. As of yet, I've never found replicate replacement pieces, only different items that fill the same need (for instance, years ago I thrifted the perfect pencil jeans, now they don't fit... hence the flare bottom pair I wear now).

      Backups don't sound like a vice to me actually. I don't mean to attach a moral imperative to having less clothes...as long as you like them and wear them, why not? Fifty pairs of the same t-shirt, maybe that's excessive. But a few items seem like they'd save you time and money searching for a replacement in the future.

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  7. I learned to use cash when I lived in Japan. Best experience ever. It turned my life around, using cash for everything and having to budget budget budget. I was/am a long-time thrifter. The problem I have is nothing ever fits "just right" at the thrift store. I'm short, short-waisted, tiny waist, large thighs, it just is a struggle. I shop, I bring home, I wear two times, it doesn't work. I am now paying the money to buy quality fabric and have a local seamstress make my work pants, skirt etc. I am getting three pants, three skirts in matching fabrics/tones. Tops are a bit easier for me to fit. I am also getting two business dresses, one is actually the seamstress adjusting a very nice wool tweed suitdress for my short waist. I would totally recommend finding a quality seamstress if you have fitting problems. I found mine by asking local bridal shops who they used for alterations - anyone who works with silk/bridal gowns and a fussy bridge will be able to do quality work I figure. While that means that my really cheap thrift dress of "brand name X" was only 12 dollars at the thrift store and it costs me another 20 to get it fitted. Well, that means I look and feel good in it and will get all of my money's worth from it. Any my pants/skirts - she is figuring with fabric costs for what she will use plus buttons, zipper etc. I am looking at an average cost of around 45 dollars per pants/skirts for stretch wool and linen pants and skirts tailored to my needs. That is worth gold to me.

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    1. Hi C! Thank you for this great comment- I definitely have fit problems being short and short-waisted, but I don't have a tiny waist AT ALL. Strangely enough clothes in Korea and Japan fit very nicely. Still, $32-45 is a deal compared to mall prices on clothes, not to mention the social and ecological costs of buying new. And when you get something tailored to your body you feel more confident and it really sets your wardrobe apart from everybody else in mass produced clothing. Is the secondhand culture big in Japan? I ask because in Korea, where my family is from, it's still kind of looked down upon... the old generation respects principles of thrift but the new generation chases trends and wouldn't be caught dead in anything used. What tops do you find work for you? I still have trouble with tops, although the t-shirts I'm wearing now fit well. I need to find a tailor I trust in Paris. I do some alterations myself but others are beyond my skill level.

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  8. Excellent post! I decided not to buy clothes for a year and only redesign the ones I have. This post surely is helpful! ;)

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    1. Thank you so much! What a good idea, and an awesome project! I look forward to seeing how you refashion everything.

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