I am baring it all this month! First, with my post about about What I Learned From A Holistic Nutritionist where I discuss my skin and digestive issues, and here where I reveal that I shop too much and I’m putting myself on a spending ban… er… challenge (haha).
So, here is some back story. I have been into clothing and fashion for a while. The first time I really remember caring about clothing and what I was wearing was when I was about nine or ten years old. I wanted to fit in with the popular girls – isn’t how these things always start? During my formative teenage years, I was mostly concerned about fitting in. Things started to change in early high school I was making new friends who were into music, particularly punk music, and I started to see myself differently. I didn’t necessarily want to fit in with a particular crowd anymore, I wanted to express myself and I wanted to stand out, at least a little. My values were also changing, I started becoming interested in thrifting, going to concerts, going out with friends, and these all informed my sartorial decisions. Fast forward to my early twenties – I started working in retail. I worked at the store called Divine (RIP) in Saskatoon, SK. It was a really fun store that I’d loved shopping at when I was in high school. It was a mix of new and vintage clothing. Our commission for sales was that we would get a certain amount to spend in store. So that year, I really beefed up my closet and had access to more clothing than I’d ever had before. I was able to pick up clothes from brands like Cheap Monday and Mink Pink at a pretty great discount. And this is where the real clothing shopping habit came to fruition, I believe.
Over the years since moving to Vancouver in 2014, my style has definitely changed. I’ve noticed a general trend toward simplicity; basic styles, fewer colours, more muted tones, and a lot more black. This might be do to the fact that I moved here when I was about to turn 25, and now I am nearing 29… edging closer and closer to 30 everyday! Some of these style changes were bound to happen regardless of where I lived but I think moving to the west coast has definitely had an effect on my closet composition. Moving to Vancouver also provided so much more access to clothing of all kind! There were brands and stores that I’d heard of but never shopped before while living in Saskatchewan. It was an overwhelm of possibilities. In a city that definitely has a particular style, and has lots of fashionable people in it; the need to fit in re-emerged. I didn’t want to stick out as a prairie girl. Fast fashion stores like H&M, Zara, Aritzia, Brandy Melville, Urban Outfitters (stores I only had access to when visiting bigger centres) were suddenly only a bus ride away. After about a year of exploring them and indulging here and there, I started to become more aware of the state of the fashion industry. I watched the documentary The True Cost; I became more interested in minimalism, capsule wardrobes, and conscious fashion. I decided that I would no longer support businesses that treat their clothing, and most importantly the people producing them, as disposable. No more shopping at H&M and Zara for me.
You would think that not shopping at fast fashion retailers and trying to adhere to a quasi-capsule wardrobe would put a major halt on my shopping habit. And in many ways it did, but somehow it persisted despite the restrictions I’d placed. The perimeters that I had were that I would only shop secondhand or from local businesses, and that I would try to only buy things that were made in the USA, or Canada or would purchase from brands that seemed to be working towards sustainability in some way: organic cotton, recycled materials, planting a tree for every garment sold, etc. It took me a long time to implement all of these changes, and I would slip up here and there. Even shopping in a local boutique, sometimes I would still buy something that I knew was made in China, with the excuse that I had supported a local business and telling myself I would keep the garment for a long time, and that it wouldn’t be a flash-in-the-pan impulse purchase. Sometimes this turned out to be true, sometimes not.
The Breaking Point:
At the end of April, I went shopping on a Thursday morning. I went to a Salvation Army Thrift Shop about a twenty minute walk away from my house. I was excited to check it out because I’d never been to that particular thrift shop before. It seemed to have better clothing selection than some of the others in my neighbourhood, as it’s sort of tucked away from the main street and has less foot traffic passing by. I spent about $50.00 on three dresses and a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans. The very next day, I was out for a walk and I ended up browsing through my favourite boutique. Mistake number one… Despite the fact that I had literally just bought new (to me) clothes the day before, I ended up walking out of there with a shirt-dress, a t-shirt, a scarf and some earrings. Too much! While I did really like the items I purchased, and I believe I will be wearing them for years to come, I was hit with a wave of guilt and shame. Do I have no control over my spending? Do I spend this much every month? How many trips could I go on if I didn’t keep indulging in this habit? These were the questions going through my mind. Despite the fact that I had placed all of these restrictions on the types of clothing I would buy, from which stores, and how much clothing I should or should not have, I was still using shopping as a means of recreation, even as a means of self-soothing. I wouldn’t say that I’m an emotional shopper in that I don’t shop if I’m sad, or angry or stressed. It’s more so that it gives me pleasure; it gives me a destination, and it gives me a task. Rather than simply going outside for a walk for the sake of it, it gives me somewhere to go. Shopping for clothing also indulges the side of me that loves and appreciates beauty and creativity through adorning myself and putting outfits together. It satisfies that craving I have for finding something unique and expressing myself. The only problem is that this sense of beauty, uniqueness, newness wares off soon after it’s been hanging in my closet; perpetuating this incessant pass time.
After those two days in a row of shopping, I realized that these restrictions I’d placed were well-meaning and well-intentioned, but they were not cutting it. Abstinence was the solution in my case. So, as of May 1st, I decided that I would embark on a 60 day No Spend Challenge. This challenge is limited to clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry and makeup. I will still be buying food, obviously, and still am allowing myself to buy other, non-fashion items here and there. To many people 60 days of not shopping is laughable and might even sound a little pathetic, but this is where I am at. And I think that many other women, particularly women my age or younger can probably relate to this issue. We have grown up in a consumerist society where women (and men to a lesser extent) are encouraged to clothing, makeup and accessories as a means of keeping up with the status quo, and as a means of coping, distracting and comforting ourselves. The less we think about what, how much, and why we are consuming, the better. I realize that I am a little late in addressing these issues within myself, but late is better than never. It is no easy to feat to break a habit that’s served me in some ways, whether or not that is detrimental to myself (and others!) in the long run.
My 60 Day Challenge started on May 1st and ends on July 1st. Theoretically I could go out and buy something new the next day, but I’m hoping that going two months without indulging myself in that way, using what I have, and relying on different ways to pass the time, to reward myself, to dress myself up, will have sunken in. As I said above, this 60 day No Spend Challenge includes all clothing, accessory and makeup purchases.
In order for a challenge to be really effective, there needs to be some type of consequence to hold myself accountable, rather than just falling off the wagon and going right back to my old habit. If I do end up purchasing clothing, shoes or accessories within the 60 day period, I have to put double the amount of whatever I spent into savings. This may seem pretty inconsequential, especially if I’m thrifting, but it will de-incentivise my impulse purchases by effectively tripling my spending. It makes purchasing a $40.00 shirt a lot less enticing, knowing that I will actually be parting with $120.00 from my chequings account.
I hope to gain a sense of control over my spending, and to acquire a sense of discrepency and frugality. I want to feel more financially secure at the end of the month, and not run down my bank account. Before this challenge I did save money every month and generally kept track of my incoming and outgoing finances; I was not running myself broke or into debt, but I am hoping to become more intentional about my extra spending. I also hope to gain a greater sense of self, and self-worth outside of my physical appearance and possessions. I want to take the energy I would use to go shopping and put it into improving my emotional and spiritual body through going for walks, meditation, writing, yoga and reading.
What will I do with the money saved?
I want to save the money I might otherwise have spent to go on a trip with my boyfriend down to Portland for a few nights at the end of summer. This will be a bit of a pricey trip as we will have to purchase train tickets, pay for an AirB’nb and save some spending money for food and outings as well as transit in the city. I have my savings goal cut out for me.
Please comment down below and let me know if you’ve ever put yourself on a spending ban, or if you’re interested in it. Have you ever felt that shopping is a problem for you? Is it with something other than clothing? What did you do to curb your spending? Do you have any tips? Let me know!