I had a problem. A shopping problem.
On average, I spend $120 a month on clothes. I know this because I track my expenses carefully, but it's not like I'm racking up the same amount every month. Last January, during an unusually cold winter, I dropped $325.
I realized that a good chunk of the clothing I was purchasing wasn't getting worn. Instead of investing in quality, I was stocking up on cheap clothes that didn't last long. That was never a great feeling. Trapped in a cycle of splurge-induced guilt, I'd buy things spontaneously, never wear them and then buy more things because I thought I had nothing to wear.
On the first day of my job at Elite Daily, I impulsively dropped cash on a bag and shoes at a sample sale as a "gift" to myself. Going to work for one day after two months of unemployment made me feel like I had money, when in reality a paycheck comes later.
Even though I love my bag and wear those shoes all the time, that one purchase was enough to make me rethink spending. I officially stopped buying clothes after Black Friday in November and didn't spend any money on clothes for three months after that.
Here's what happened when I broke up with shopping for three long months.
Spending time with friends didn't have to mean buying things.
Shopping is one of my favorite things to do with friends, but it's a lot less fun when you're not the one buying clothes.
Two months into my no-shopping challenge, I hit up a store with coworkers. They were stocking up on stuff they could wear to a festival in Florida. I looked at some pieces that caught my eye, but didn't see anything I loved -- especially when I saw the price tags.
After avoiding clothing stores for weeks, I'd forgotten how much things cost. $60 for a top seemed criminal when I know that $60 is half of what I pay for a monthly MetroCard.
I wasn't ready to break, but it was hard to be around friends who both walked out with adorable new items.
Fewer purchases meant more money in my wallet.
Spending less on clothes freed up money to invest elsewhere. When the holidays came around, I didn't feel as stressed about gift shopping as I normally do. And, more recently, dropping money on a short vacation with my boyfriend was no sweat.
Since my Saturday afternoons weren't spent walking around Soho eyeing clothes I'd probably never be able to pull off, I had more time to hit the gym and run on a treadmill. Going to H&M is more tiring than going to the gym, anyway.
I stopped making impulsive decisions on clothes.
Even though I didn't buy anything, I did a fair share amount of window shopping and online store perusing.
I was able to do my research and carefully pick brands instead of impulsively buying clothes. I sought out deals and kept my eye on items I hoped would go on sale. Later, buying something I'd been coveting felt much more satisfying.
Wearing the same old clothes meant thinking about my wardrobe strategically.
There were plenty of days when I opened my little closet and felt legitimately sad. I searched through it, looking for clothes that just didn't exist.
I was hyper-aware of how many times a month I repeated sweaters. It's not like people are keeping count of how many times I'm wearing a certain article of clothing, but wearing them over and over made me miserable.
I realized that buying new clothes isn't just about necessity. New clothes are a confidence booster. By the end of the three months, I was in desperate need of one.
I cleansed my closet, and my soul.
Before I decided to go shopping and unleash my credit cards from their leather prison (AKA my wallet), I knew I had to do one more thing: purge my closet.
I ransacked my wardrobe and pulled out ten spring pieces to shlep to Crossroads, my favorite consignment store. They took everything I brought. I found myself rolling in $80 of Crossroads store credit (or $50 in cash, but I always take the store credit).
With the store credit, I was able to trade ten overworn pieces for three gently used designer ones. I walked out with almost $1,000 worth of clothes (if I had bought them at their retail price) for free. I went home feeling like a new woman.
I survived without retail therapy for a few months, and the shopping fast made me appreciate clothes in a whole new way. When I open my closet now, I see clothes I've earned.