When thinking about my purchasing habits, I realized I was spending more money than I’d like on shopping. Not only that, but I was buying clothes I didn’t need (or even like), my makeup drawer was overflowing with useless products, and I was running out of closet space. Though my purchases were rarely extravagant, they were becoming more and more unnecessary.
So, what was my solution? I would go 60 days without any retail therapy.
The fact of the matter is: what you think you spend is very different than what you actually spend.
What does it mean to go 60 whole days without shopping? Can you wrap your head around that idea? Not to sound dramatic, but I, for one, could not. My mailbox is regularly flooded with Amazon packages and I frequent Shopbop.com as often as most people check their email. So in my mind, not shopping for two months was momentous. But let’s not go crazy, here. Did I still buy necessities like deodorant and toothpaste? Yes.
Before the 60 days began, I made sure to establish what was off-limits, and what was considered an everyday essential. Off-limit items included apparel and accessories (jewelry, purses, shoes, even socks), as well as superfluous beauty services, like manicures, waxes, and blowouts. Essentials were mostly narrowed down to toiletries and household items, like groceries and garbage bags.
So, what happened? Did avoiding the mall like the plague make me a changed woman? Not quite, but it did lead to some important realizations about how I was spending my hard earned money.
I made use of what I had.
Going 60 days without swiping my credit card drove me to dig deep into the back of my closet and salvage old items I once deemed un-wearable. The truth? There were plenty of really great pieces I had discarded too quickly. Old sweaters, dresses, and even shoes presented themselves as completely viable outfit options. I ended up discovering a whole new wardrobe inside my very own bedroom.
I cleaned out the rest.
I told myself that if (when) I shopped again, I wouldn’t buy anything until I cleaned out my closet. When I actually set out to do it (with the help and supervision of a trusted friend), I shockingly ended up with a relatively small donation pile. I realized I had a lot of really great clothes, and I started brainstorming new ways to wear each of them in ways that felt fresh and updated.
I separated “need” from “want.”
The sentence “I need that pair of shoes in my life” was basically my life motto. But when I restricted my spending during those 60 days, it was easier to identify the difference between “need” and “want.” I even made a list of things I actually did need, so that when the 60 days were up, I had a well-defined guide for any future shopping trips.
I looked at the numbers.
What you think you spend is very different than what you actually spend. Once I took a look at the numbers, I could no longer hide behind rationalizing my shopping habits. There was a noticeable, positive change to my bank account during those 60 days, one that I hope to maintain even now that the challenge has ended.
I realized the root of the problem.
Before this challenge, I never confronted my shopping habits. What really drove me to shop? Shopping – especially online shopping – is a source of immediate gratification. And if you’re feeling bored or uninspired, immediate gratification can be an easy temporary fix. Instead of shopping, I chose to focus more on professional projects and building my freelance writing portfolio. And I also used some of the time I normally spent browsing shopping websites to search for new recipes, which then drove me to cook at home much more often.
While reflecting throughout the 60 days, I remembered that I would shop to relieve stress, delay professional projects, and generally avoid life’s challenges. Not shopping for two full months allowed me to pinpoint areas in my life that needed focus and attention, and I now confront every purchase beforehand by asking: “Why do you want this, and what will this accomplish?”