I used to be one of those people who could never walk into a mall without walking out with something. I spent hundreds of dollars on items that I thought were “cute” or things I thought I needed to buy now and save for a “rainy day”. I was an impulsive buyer. A collection of shopping bags lined my room. Things that I didn’t really need piled up and got swallowed by my walk-in closet and it wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I realized I had a serious shopping problem.
I moved into a modest-sized, railroad-style apartment with a cramped, small closet. I had never seen a closet so small in my life. Hurdling all my items up five flights of stairs, I remember unpacking and literally having a mental breakdown. All the clothing around me and the little space I had to stow my stuff away shocked me. It scared me. It shook me out of my shopping habits.
And I remember counting my shit. 100 dresses. I owned 100 dresses and many of them had shiny, new tags dangling from them. There were things that I had bought from my trip abroad to London, items that I had salvaged because, hell who knew the next time I’d be across the Atlantic. There were goodies I had stowed away from college, unworn sweaters from Aunt Betty, skin-tight Halloween costumes, and my hoard of clothing from summer trips. But 100, mostly unworn dresses? I had to face the music – I just had too much shit.
Moving to New York forced me out of my crazy shopping habits because I knew that I just didn’t have the space to stuff and “save” for rainy days – whatever that psychotic lie I was telling myself really meant. And since I’ve been living in the Big Apple in my small apartment, I’ve learned to live simply – and that has had a dramatic impact on my shopping habits.
In fact, I don’t really shop anymore. Unless, I really have to that is. It may just be that work keeps me busy and I don’t have the time to shop. It may just be that I’m too lazy to take the subway down to 5th avenue. What it actually is that I’ve come to realize that being a mild shopaholic was not going to work in the City for two reasons – I didn’t have the space and I needed every extra penny that I could save to avoid getting sucked into a high-sodium Ramen noodle diet. Now, when I see cute stuff in the mall or at a store, I think about the items that I haven’t worn. The tags swaying in my closet immediately push compulsive thoughts out of my mind.
If you’re a shopaholic or think that you may be suffering form impulsive buying then know that you’re not alone. Before moving to New York City, I found alternative ways to curve my spending. Here are three major tips to get you started on breaking your compulsive habits:
Purposely Lose Your Credit Card: Leave that stupid thing at home. It will only cause you trouble and put you in debt. I made a promise to myself to not buy anything unless I had the money now, which was the opposite of what credit cards teach you. Those plastic debt-builders make false promises to you, making you believe that you can have anything you want if you make yourself a slave to the “buy now, pay later” method. Don’t do it. It’s deadly to your financial health and will make you stock up and buy things you don’t need. Let the cards expire, hide them in your drawer, do whatever you have to do – don’t you dare take those things with you to the mall.
Don’t Buy On First Sight: This probably comes from my desire to save money as I shop, but when I would go shopping I would never commit to buying something when I first saw it. If I saw a leather jacket at Macy’s, I’d wait to buy it until after I made my rounds through the mall to see if there was a cheaper or better buy. The time away from the item also helped me realize if I really needed it or wanted it. Usually, I had time to bait myself away from making a compulsive buy. Beware of making first purchases unless you know exactly what you need. Also, watch out for final-sale stores. You’ll end up going home with tacky, cheap stuff that you wouldn’t ever dream of wearing more than once.
Get Your Friends to Hold You Accountable: Admit that you have a shopping problem. Just admit it. Even if your best friend glorifies your closet of endless wears, get her to hold you accountable. If you know that you are going to buy more than you need, go shopping with a friend who will limit what you spend. Before you enter the mall, make up whatever shopping rule you need for yourself (“I won’t spend more than $100 today” or “I will only buy accessories until noon”) and ask your friend to be your personal shopping officer. That way when you get sucked into wanting to buy that silk gown for that fantasized gala you think you’ll attend in the future (we can all dream, right?) she can snatch your wallet away and save you from making another compulsive mistake.