The Shopping Reformation

by Gwendolyn Anderson

It’s been clinically proven that 99.9% of young women love to shop for clothes. And I’m no exception. Although it seems to be a common denominator, not all shoppers are created equal – and neither are their bank accounts. As I see it, there are basically two kinds of shoppers: smart shoppers and impulse buyers.

I, unfortunately, am an impulse buyer. But, I’m on a program to turn myself into a smart shopper, because I have realized that to be an impulse shopper is also to be a money-waster.

Here’s what happens: I see something and fall in love with it and I have to have it. Only when I get home and start rummaging through my closet do I realize it matches nothing else I own. Or, I see something so cute on the rack, go try it on – it looks awesome on me and  I have to have it. Only when I get home and try to work it into circulation do I realize that it’s not me – it’s the me of my imagination, but it’s not the me of real life. Or, I’m shopping with someone else who sees something, holds it up to me and says, “This will look so great on you,” and they convince me I have to have it. Only when I get home do I allow myself to fess up that I think it’s u-g-l-y! Or, I see something I love, it’s exactly the kind of thing I wear and it’s even on sale, so I have to have it. Only when I get home do I realize that I have more of that type thing in my wardrobe than I know what to do with!

When the seasons change and I go through my closet to thin out things I just won’t wear and store away for next year the ones I will wear again, I inevitably end up with a huge pile of clothes and usually some items that still have the tags on them! What a waste of money. I should have at least saved the receipts so I could take the never-worn items back.

I’m determined to reform my shopping ways though, and if you’ve seen yourself in any of the above, you should join the reformation movement too. It was one thing when Mom and Dad were giving us a clothing allowance, and not even so bad when we paid for clothes out of our own money while still living at home. But on our own – with only one income and so many expenses – no, we can’t keep doing this. Some Goodwill shopper is going to be very upset, but I’m through giving away clothes with tags on them.

So here’s what I propose: I’m going to bring my head into this game. I’m going to stop shopping with my heart and use some good old horse sense. Before I shop, I’m going to go through my closet and ask myself, What do I need? Do I need another pair of jeans? Do I need a nice shirt that goes with black pants? Could I wear these pants if I only had the right shoes to go with them? Then I’m going to make a list and put it in my wallet – like where I would keep coupons if I did that sort of thing.

Then, whether I’m making a deliberate trip to the store or I find myself in an impromptu shopping opportunity (like a friend drags me to Old Navy), I can pull out my list and say, OK, what do I want to see if I can find here?

With a clear idea of what I need, I’m going to head first to the sale rack – and not the 25% off rack either. I’m talking 75% off! There are admittedly pretty slim pickins on these racks, but I’m not going to dismiss the possibility that something I need (and love) could be just hanging out there waiting for me. If not, I’ll go to the next deepest discount – the 50% off rack, and continue to work in that direction until I’ve run out of sales. And I’m going to make a vow to myself to never, ever pay full price for anything. Even if I fall head-over-heals in love, I will just ask the sales associate when he or she thinks that item might go on sale. If she doesn’t know, I’ll make a note to call one week later to see if it’s on sale. Maybe by that time, I will have talked myself out if it and not even bother to call back.

Lastly, shopping is not going to end at the store any more. When I get home, I’m going to (within a few days) go through my closet and see if what I brought home does indeed work in my wardrobe. And I’m going to wear it within a week. If it shouldn’t be the fashion solution I imagined it to be, I’m going to take it back. If I can’t bring myself to wear it in a week’s time, I’ll take it back. I will save my receipts in my wallet until after I’ve worn it once and washed it once. That way if it doesn’t come through the laundry well, through no fault of my own, I won’t take a loss on it.

Ambitious? Maybe, but there’s a lot of money at stake here! In the final analysis, however, I don’t want shopping to become a joyless, preprogrammed function. There still has to be that element of treasure hunt and it needs to remain relaxing fun. So don’t go overboard with wardrobe analysis and policing the 75% off rack. In fact, one simple question, if honestly answered, will take most of us impulse shoppers a long way toward reformation: Do I really need this?

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