I make no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of purging and editing one’s life . Getting rid of stuff you don’t need is good for the mind and the soul. Digitize your music and your filing cabinet. Donate old books and clothes. Sell things you don’t use on ebay or craigslist. I feel light and happy when I know that things that were cluttering my space are now being put to good use.
Here’s a secret that only my closest friends know: I am an online shopping addict. Clothes. Shoes. Random sporting goods I use once (I somehow convinced myself to buy boxing gloves). I say that I am an online shopping addict rather than was an online shopping addict, because the desire to buy stuff never really goes away. I just have learned to manage it.
Piperlime, Zappos, Modcloth,and Sephora.com were my Achilles heels. I figured out how to get coupons that no one else knew about. I had multiple accounts. I had a constant stream of pending shipments that turned my bedroom into a nightly try on room. I feel shame.
The thing is, I never had any financial issues with my purchases. Why? Because I was a functioning shopaholic. I sent about 90% of what I bought back to the merchant. I had a packing tape dispenser, pre-printed labels, and a trusty UPS guy who knew me by name. It didn’t matter that I ordered several hundred dollars worth of clothing because I didn’t keep it. But whether I kept it or not, it was still a problem. I was trying to fill a void in my life with stuff. And pretty things, as lovely as they might be, only bring fleeting pleasure. Emotional peace is something else entirely.
When I started eating for my health , a larger proportion of my income went to food. And while there are some great cheap options , it’s not always easy to find something healthy that competes with a 99 cent box of mac and cheese.
I’ve read advice that said to avoid the sites that tempt you. I may as well have avoided the internet all together which wasn’t feasible given my job. I already had a budget set up and my net expenditure on my sneaky “hobby” wasn’t breaking the bank.
I had to figure out a system on my own. The desire to buy things online is something that has to be managed 24/7 – the store is always open. I’ve found that the following have kept that pesky “buy me!” voice in check.
1. Remind yourself of the bigger financial picture
Since we moved to LA , it’s been my dream to adopt another dog. I would love to bring an older gentleman or lady into our home to give Bea a companion and add love to our household. The thing is, dogs are expensive, and we need to live in LA for a few months to make sure our lifestyle will allow for becoming responsible for another living thing. So every time I see a dress or a cute pair of pumps, I think to myself “this makes adopting another dog that much further off.” And I want so badly to have another dog, that buying a silly sweater that I don’t need pales in comparison with my bigger goals.
Maybe your goal is buying a house, paying off your student loans, taking a once in a lifetime trip, going out regularly, or having a baby. Whatever it is, it will make you a lot happier than a purse ever could.
2. Have a clothing swap potluck A friend of mine used to do this in New York and I thought it was such a great idea. Get a bunch of girlfriends together and have everyone bring a dish and clothes they are sick of (but still in great condition). Then after the meal everyone can swap clothing. You can get that same new item rush without spending money, and because you eliminated items from your closet, any new items wont create additional clutter. It’s a fun way to catch up with old friends (and really fun if they wear the same size). Any left over items can be donated.
3. Remind yourself that things don’t bring happiness. Experiences do.
Studies have shown time and again that acquiring stuff brings far less satisfaction than having unique experiences. The best memories I have are from trips, wine classes, concerts, weddings, and other fun experiences. Money well spent.
4. If you can’t think of at least 3 times you’ll wear it or use it, it’s not worth it It bites when I think about all the things I’ve bought and never used. Or bought and used exactly once. When you are thinking of buying something, ask yourself: will you use it more than once? Are you positive? I bought a jumpsuit (I know) thinking “well, this is a great idea. It’s a whole outfit.” And that whole stinkin’ outfit hung in my closet until it went to goodwill a year later. Major fail. Here’s a vintage picture of an adorable pit bull instead of me wearing the jumpsuit. Because I NEVER WORE IT.
So far, this is working. It’s been a while since I’ve bought something I didn’t need. And funnily enough, focusing on my health has made me feel better than I have in years. And glowing from happiness looks better than any outfit ever could.