Breaking my clothes shopping ban two months early

I own a lot of clothes. For years I was a serial clothes-buyer, accumulating a piece or five here and there at a low-level but steady rate whenever the urge struck to get a flowy summer dress or an oversized comfy sweater (y’all, I’m fighting that urge HARD right now, now that it’s finally fall in DC) or a cute new scarf. And then, last November, I got sick of paying off those transactions on my credit card and I just…stopped. (Stopped buying clothes, that is, not stopped paying off my credit card!)

I didn’t even realize until earlier this year that I’d been on an unofficial clothes buying ban, at which point I decided to make it official for the remaining six months (or beyond) of the year.[*]

But I broke my ban and bought clothes in September, two months shy of a full year. I was so close to making it a year! Here’s why.

The damage

So what exactly did I buy? This wasn’t a one-off. I bought a cardigan, a t-shirt (although I picked up three t-shirts at FinCon too, and you could make an excellent argument that I indirectly paid for those!), a light insulated jacket, another pair of hiking socks (now that I’ve found good ones that aren’t wool, I feel like I can’t own too many), and new underwear.

Say what now? That’s a lot!

Not fast fashion

It’ll be abundantly clear in my September spending report that these items were a departure from my usual clothes-buying habits. That is, they weren’t cheap fast fashion. Every single piece was more expensive than I’d normally purchase. And honestly, that’s a good thing.

I’ll think a lot harder about the decision beforehand if I’m buying a $50 cardigan versus a $20 one; $50 for an item of clothing isn’t something I can be blasé about. That’s not to say that more expensive always automatically means better (I’m not working out in $80 leggings from fancy athleisure stores when I can get ones for $20 at Old Navy that have lasted me 2-3 years so far), but there’s a lot to be said for not just buying whatever’s cheapest and easiest to find.

Spending more money on these clothes doesn’t mean I wasn’t smart about buying them, though. All of the clothes were on sale, either because the store was having a sale, or because I bought last year’s color instead of one I actually wanted. Having a dark magenta jacket wasn’t my plan, but it cost me $130, instead of $250 for the more versatile navy or black option. Saving $120 was totally worth it, though, because really, who the hell cares about last year’s colors versus this year’s? Also omg what?! I would never pay $250 for a light jacket and $130 is already super expensive!

Strategic purchases

Previous clothes purchases were about depth, not breadth. Already owning multiple sweater dresses wasn’t at all an impediment to me adding a few more into the mix. But these new items were all specifically chosen to fill gaps in my wardrobe; yes, it may seem far-fetched, but there are just a few things I don’t actually own!

Both the cardigan and shirt are actually my first items of travel clothing, meaning they’re made of light materials that will dry quickly and don’t wrinkle. The same goes for the underwear, too—it’s quick-drying “high-performance” material, and I figured while I was replacing the last of my holey high school-era underwear, why not buy something that’ll serve double duty for both travel/workouts and every day wear?

I want to do a lot of traveling both in my FI life and before that point, so it makes sense to start gradually accumulating some pieces that can travel easily (unlike the vast majority of my very wrinkle-prone cotton wardrobe). This first round was prompted by the necessity to pack light for both FinCon and Cents Positive (you’ll also see some spending on packing cubes in the September report, as well).

As for the light insulated jacket, I’ll admit to suddenly wanting to explore jacket options after a particularly freezing week at work last month. I’m already so sick of always being cold and it’s not even winter yet! The jacket is working very well for the much chillier fall weather we’ve had this week, and once it’s cold enough outside to switch to my coats, I’ll probably keep it at work as yet another option for layers.

I did just buy a onesie last weekend, which was definitely not necessary or a hole I ever thought I’d end up filling in my wardrobe. Instead, it was a purchase specifically for the Cents Positive onesie/fascinator party we’ll be having. Although I can say with confidence that it’s going to come in handy in my horribly-insulated apartment this winter!

So warm! So soft! So great for anonymous photos!

Falling off the wagon doesn’t mean quitting

I didn’t have to buy any of those clothes, even if they’re useful items that I’ve already worn in the month since I bought them. After all, I didn’t own them before, and if the need were really that dire, I would’ve already rectified the situation. So yeah, I can justify the purchases all I want about why they weren’t a bad idea, but the fact remains that I broke my shopping ban.

Time to buy a bunch of cozy, chunky sweaters since I’ve already failed, right?

Hahaha, nope! For a fair number of things in life, I’m someone who needs to set strict all or nothing boundaries because if I let myself do or have something just this once, I have a hard time not justifying it to myself the next time. This philosophy is why I don’t let myself buy Oreos, for example. Because that shit will be gone in three sittings (one column = one serving, right?), as I am apparently incapable of eating a moderate, sane amount of Oreos or lots of other tasty junk foods and then stopping.

But apparently this is different. Because in the last 10 months I’ve largely broken my old habits of browsing, of wanting new clothing and acting on that impulse, of just checking out the available options just for the hell of it. I don’t feel the need to buy more clothing right now, and that’s not just because the price tag on this round was much higher than I’m used to for the number of things I bought. I very much still need to declutter and let go of more clothing items. I don’t need anything right now, and when a need arises in the future, I’ll address it then.

So I won’t be giving this up as a failed experiment and going back to my old ways. Nor will I do so once I hit a year of the clothes ban: why should an arbitrary date determine whether or not I should think carefully about my consumption patterns? I’m hoping in the future I continue resisting the urge to act on impulse, and make conscious decisions about whether or not I really need an item of clothing.

And while I don’t love that these purchases all happened at the same time and made September extremely expensive, I don’t regret making them.


 [*]For the record, since I talked about it in my official clothes ban post, I did not end up keeping the two dresses I added to my order, nor did I end up buying any shorts for my second job—I just found a pair I already had that worked well enough (even if they’ve probably got stains since khaki shorts aren’t great for bartending). Plus the ones I ordered didn’t have actual back pockets and that was unacceptable!

18 Replies to “Breaking my clothes shopping ban two months early”

    1. Girl, I feel you. A bunch of my socks have decided stretched-out elastic is what’s in this season so I’ve ended up getting rid of quite a few pairs lately 🙃

  1. I hope once I officially break my ban I can be as intentional about my spending! Like you, I’ve needed the strict boundaries to keep myself in check. The only sad part about just borrowing the onesie I’ll be wearing is that I’ll eventually have to give it back! So warm and snuggly.

    1. Hahaha I at least won’t have to deal with that! And ugh, the boundaries are so necessary. A new sweater or two looks so damn tempting right now…

  2. I really like Eddie Bauer for their Travex travel material clothing. The key is locating an Eddie Bauer outlet. Sign up for their rewards program and they periodically email you a $10 gift cert (not coupon!). Clearance rack + $10 gift cert + store sale = bargains my friend.

    1. Hah it’s funny you mention that, since that’s where the shirt and cardigan came from! Huh that’s a good hack that I might have to look into.

  3. I buy the $80 leggings, because they’re soooo much cuter, Erin!

    I’ve found that making rules for myself has helped curb some bad habits. For example, I was walking on 5th Avenue when I thought, “Ohh, maybe I should go see what’s at at Zara…” But then I remembered my rule: I don’t shop at Zara or H&M anymore. Instead of allowing myself to browse, I just don’t set foot in either store anymore. And the desire begins to wane. And then you’ve got yourself a new habit.

    It sounds like you’ve made a lot of mental progress with how you shop, and that should be celebrated!

    1. You should see a particular pair I have from ON—it’s a white/gray chevron pattern that looks JUST LIKE ones I saw other people wearing from a particular $80 company!

      That’s such a great habit! I hardly ever run by physical stores these days, but not idly browsing websites is really the only thing that’s saved me in this shopping ban.

    1. Haha not buying clothes as often definitely helps with the being able to afford the more expensive intentional purchases!

  4. Congrats for getting as far as you did. I agree with YoungFIRE above, the key is intentional spending. If it was really necessary, go ahead – but buy quality. Fewer things, but better things.

    Good luck in your ongoing journey!

  5. I’m approaching month 5 of my shopping ban, and I too have broken it once so far (for handcrafted goods when I was in Spain, because… well, Spain) and I think it was really refreshing to not feel any guilt about it. I love how your purchases were also intentional and you can foresee using those items in the future. No regrets is also super refreshing, because the shame cycle with shopping can be real and it doesn’t lead to any good.

    Also, amazeballs onesie!

    1. Yep, it’s ridiculously nice to be able to spend money on clothes and not feel too guilty about it. I didn’t necessarily like spending the money period, but this felt way better than all of my previous clothes purchases!

      Breaking it 5 months in for handcrafted things from Spain sounds like a fantastic one-off reason to break the ban!

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