Shopping and Excess

One of our readers brought up an excellent point regarding large wardrobes. Often people who have so much complain like we have so little. Even taking into account cultural and social differences, it's difficult to pinpoint what is that line between enough and excess. becca and I, both Christians and seven year veterans of fashion blogging, are frequently asked questions about consumerism and how it affects our both our purchases and our lives. So today we're taking a break from our lighthearted content to deal with very real questions about shopping.

Do you have too much?

This is a relative question. We've never done a post about a "20 piece closet" or "the 10 essentials every wardrobe needs," because that varies from person to person. Almost every list I've seen says you need a pair of khaki pants, but the fact is you can get along just fine without khaki pants. These lists also lean toward a classic/preppy style, which doesn't work for everyone. Clothes involve personal style, body shapes, and lifestyles, so trying to boil it down for others has always felt presumptuous.

Instead of trying to match your wardrobe to someone else's list, ask yourself the following questions:

- What do I need? I recently reevaluated my beauty routine and trimmed back on several products. One look at my closet makes it clear that any clothing I purchase at this point is because I wanted it. Knowing this helps me keep my spending down.

- Did I buy this because I needed it, wanted it, or because it was on sale? Some people think they are very thrifty because they only buy things on sale, but buying is still buying. If the item doesn't get any use, the purchase was a waste.

- Do you buy something every time you enter a store? Shopping is social for us. "Do you want to go shopping?" for us means "Do you want to hang out for a few hours in a screen-free environment and talk about all the things?" For some people, shopping always means buying even things they aren't particularly excited about. So either try to not buy things, or suggest going to the park.

- Could someone get more use out of this than me? Do you have items that you wear once a year? Things that you used to love but don't even like any more? Stuff that doesn't fit? If it's an item someone else could be getting use out of, then give it away.

- Is this in the condition it was meant for? For example, I have a pair of nice dress shoes that are so worn, they can no longer pass as dress shoes. Likewise, stained or worn office clothes no longer have a place in your closet -- unless you want to wear a pencil skirt and blouse next time you paint.

- Do I even have room for all of my stuff?  Closet space is a key factor for selling a home these days. Everyone wants their own walk-in closet...and extra hall closets...and basement storage...and a storage unit. Instead of constantly increasing our footprint, how about we scale back?

Do you spend too much?

A reader once got mad at us for posting a pick-of-the-week for something neither of us owned, which is silly in reality. Just because I like something and would consider buying it doesn't mean I should buy everything I like. However, her expectation may not be so far off base in a world where haul videos, videos in which young cute women show off and describe what their weekly purchases, are one of You Tube's most popular genres.

We are very self-disciplined window shoppers. Having grown up in a pawnshop, I am hyper-aware of what state excessive buying can put you in. becca doesn't even have a credit card. That doesn't mean we're penny-pinchers or that we never buy fun things. It just means we don't let our buying control us.

What is your goal? It's easiest for me to save money when I have a particular goal in mind. Whether I'm saving for a car or a trip to Japan, it's easier to say no to impulse buys when I have a goal to weigh the purchase against. This is a little easier when you know where your money is going each paycheck.

Track your purchases for a month. Make a column for needs -- food, diapers, gas, loans -- and another for wants -- a trendy top, a new shade of lipstick, venti coffee. Just figuring out how to categorize these things can lead to some interesting discussion. (If your black pants tear, is a new pair something you need or want?) Does your spending on wants outweigh your spending on needs? Could you scale it back? Could you monthly match your charitable giving to what you spend on wants?

Our biggest question is always: Is your spending so excessive that you cannot give to those in need? We're not asking if you can give $5 a month to a charity. We're not saying that you need to give money to everyone who asks it of you. How much you give, why you give, and to what you give are all your personal decisions. But if some situation came up where someone you know needed money, would your first thought be of the shoes you wanted to buy instead? If your first thought is shopping, maybe you should scale back your spending.

What are your thoughts on shopping and excess?


Rachel said…
Great post! There are plenty of people out there who are addicted to shopping or who shop emotionally. I don't shop often, but my closet is still filled to bursting. I know I need to purge and scale down but for some reason it is hard to get rid of things even if I don't wear them often! Shopping is fun, but it can certainly be a pitfall.
Jael Paris said…
I feel so weird when I have an emotional attachment to clothes for no reason. The dress I bought in Paris will always be special to me, but why can't I give away a top that doesn't fit any more? Why is it suddenly my favorite thing?
Rachel said…
It was hard throwing away so many clothes when we moved from Japan. And I still ended up shipping a few big boxes of things. Even when I ask myself the question if I wore it in the last year, I sometimes try to trick myself into keeping it. My weakness is shoes that I bought online. Even if they don't quite fit right, I think, "But they're so cute! They only pinch my toes/ slip on the heel a little bit!" and somehow, I end up with several ill fitting shoes that I don't wear that often.
Anonymous said…
I sometimes get a little Kindergarten teacher protective of my clothing, too, for no logical reason, making excuses for stuff when it's just easier to let it go!

One thing that helps me to NOT buy something that is is just right is telling myself that for me, it's so-so, but for someone else, this is perfect. Then I leave it for the perfect person to enjoy.
Anonymous said…
Also, if I were Rachel Zoe, I would make my closet look more beautiful.

Asha Goyal said…
I feel so weird that when I have an emotional attachment to shopping and deals for a no reason. The Q12 Soundpeats earphones I bought from amazon online store will always be special to me, Why it is suddenly so much favorite thing for me?

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