Why I buy (and how to curb it)

This year I am committing to less. I don’t even have a word for the year. But it would be “less” if that didn’t feel so counter-intuitive. One of my commitments is less spending (on clothes in particular). It seems like my corner of the internet is going wild over the Minimalist documentary right now. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen it. We don’t have Netflix. How is that for minimalist? Even without seeing it, it’s clear that less consumption is on a lot of minds at the moment. My personal commitment came after a wardrobe cull and the realisation that I absolutely do not need any more clothes. 

Here’s the thing about committing to spending less on my wardrobe — it’s a wonderful theory — I’ve had it before. In the abstract, I am fully behind it. But then there is a pretty dress in the window, and it’s not too much money, and it would go so nicely with those shoes, and I’d like to support this little boutique. The reality (and the temptation) often dwarf my initial enthusiasm. Resolve dissolves.

Which leads me to examine why I buy. What propels me to make a purchase? There are loads of generic articles on this – the predictable ideas around poor old dopamine and novelty, the effect of advertising, the need to keep with the Jones’ and so it goes. I actually really like this one about the whole science of new things and the brain. While that’s all very interesting, it doesn’t specifically speak to my own triggers. Those are the things I need to think about if I am serious about curbing my spending.

I have a good idea of what’s in my wardrobe and where the gaps are, so I always shop around those things. But it’s not necessarily planned. Occasionally I will go out shopping with a very specific list and buy strictly to that list. However, it’s not the way the majority of my purchases occur, nor do I find a lot of joy in that way of shopping. To be honest, all gaps in my wardrobe are well and truly filled.

The things in my wardrobe that I truly love, I tend to stumble upon by chance or I have made myself. If I try a garment on and love it, if I know it goes with what I already own, if it fits me well, if it’s a little but unusual or unique, if I suspect it will garner compliments and it’s a reasonable price, then I will buy it. The same goes for online shopping (although I have to guess at the fit.)

I’m still mindful – just opportunistic.

For a long time, I wouldn’t buy anything unless it was on sale. I’d go through the Myer and DJs 50% off reduced price rack with an eagle eye, scoring designer threads at bargain prices. There is a thrill in that. And there are plenty of things in my wardrobe worn on a regular basis. A favourite Leona Edminston dress comes to mind – I think it was just way too long for most folk. Being able to access designer quality at a lower price has always appealed to me.

It’s part of why I make things. There is a certain caché to a tailored garment, made out of quality fabric, that fits me exactly. When I buy fabric, it’s about more than just the end piece of clothing. It’s about a process of imagination and creation. Buying fabric is seriously addictive. Just ask anyone with a fabric stash. (Anyone who sews with regularity has a fabric stash). But the elation associated with a new project fades and the hoarded collection stays.

Aside from seeing something at random and falling in love, I am influenced by Instagram, blogs and magazines. Often at the turn of the season I’ll look to incorporate a few new trends and those will be my inspiration and gateway to the shopping drug or the sewing bug.

Keeping all that in mind, being aware of what triggers my spending, here are some ways I will curb the habit this year:

  • No new fabric until the fabric box is completely empty and I raid my mother’s over-flowing stash. This is a slight cheat, because it will keep me in new clothes for quite a well yet. I should probably spread out the fun.
  • However, if a new piece of clothing enters my wardrobe, whether made or gifted, something must go to accommodate it.
  • Use blogs, Instagram and mags as inspiration to shop my own wardrobe.
  • Avoid arranging clothes shopping dates as an activity when catching up with friends. Instead, we might go for a walk, catch up over a picnic, see a movie or go to the fresh food markets.
  • Walk past the stores I’d normally walk into.
  • Mend my clothes.
  • Rework old and broken jewellery into new pieces.
  • Alter trend-driven pieces so that they remain in my wardrobe (I’ll post about this at a later stage)
  • Keep an eye on sales racks but for gifts only. I can still get the bargain buzz.

I’d like to go the year without buying any new clothes. But I won’t beat myself up if I don’t. If I fall madly, deeply, crazily in love with something that’s the right price, I may still buy it. Part of this idea of “less” is also less pressure.

Although maybe telling my husband about the no-buy commitment wasn’t such a great idea.

Are you committing to buying less this year? Any strategies to help you through the commitment? Why do you buy?

16 thoughts on “Why I buy (and how to curb it)

  1. Julie says:

    I think we are all probably able to live with less of everything. My Mum often comments that it’s hard to buy gifts for people as they have so much and tells tales of the ‘old days’ where people really needed things and were happy with the simplest of gifts. I think she’s right. I struggled to come up with ideas at Christmas for things I actually needed versus wanted. I’ll be trying for less clutter in my life and more experiences instead.

  2. Helen K says:

    I’m aiming the same thing but with stuff. So many books we own we haven’t read, games we haven’t played, items that need to be in frames and displayed, not to mention furnishings that haven’t really been used. Looking to use what we have more (or donate / give them away if we don’t want them). The good thing with books is the library (we can still borrow newer books, which is great.
    Helen K recently posted…Back to basics – What makes a home?My Profile

  3. Jacq says:

    I watched The Minimalist docu and I absolutely love it! I have to master his wardrobe skills though. I think it’s hard to have like 9 solid pieces and that’s it. 🙂

    Jacq
    jacqwritesworld.com

  4. Jo @ Countrylifeexperiment says:

    Living so far from town, all my shopping is done on the internet or else I have a specific list and have already looked on line for the best place to find what I’m looking for. I never ever go to the shops for fun or just to browse. As a result I really only buy when I need something. I’m also ruthless in getting rid of clothes I no longer wear. Every item of clothing i have I love. Having a small wardrobe makes choosing what to wear easy too.

  5. Cristin says:

    Discount racks are the thing that get me, though I sometimes wonder if I actually save much since what I bring home tends to be hit or miss. Nothing like the thrill of a good bargain, though!

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