Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What a bargain.

I decided to give up shopping for Lent. Only Lent started right after Christmas and ended on Saturday for me.

I'm not sure exactly what prompted that decision. Probably I was hung over from holiday shopping and decided to go cold turkey for a while. I also thought it would be interesting to see if I could apply the principle of "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I thought about how if we buy a bigger house next year, our mortgage payment will increase in proportion to our square footage and how it might be a good idea to get in the habit of cutting back on luxuries now. And it occurred to me that while my husband is at the top if his field in what he does, in this economy there are no job guarantees and it might make sense to practice living on less.

Oh, and it helped that there wasn't a single thing I needed that I didn't already have in a drawer somewhere. It suddenly made sense not to buy more stuff.

So I set myself a challenge, to see if I could do it. Orange County is a shopping mecca. At anyway four way intersection you will find a nail salon, a Starbucks, a shopping mall and a Tuscan style house with a Spanish tile roof. I decided to skip the mall in favor of my closet and see what I could find in there.

I closet shopped.

And you know what? I didn't even touch half of what I have in there (it actually took me a while to determine the exact fraction on that, btw) and I didn't get bored, even without a trip to Nordstrom for a little variety.

I didn't even need to shop for the boys. James got stuff from his grandmother for Christmas that fixed him up just fine, and we lucked into two huge loads of hand-me-downs for Baby G, one from Kenny's boss and one from one of my old friends.

It was an interesting experiment for me. I have walked into South Coast Plaza and dropped a couple of hundred without blinking because I felt like it. It doesn't make any dents in our budget and I never really thought too hard about it. But a self-imposed shopping ban has helped me to realize a truth that most of you hold to be self-evident. Just because I can buy it, doesn't mean I should.

I'm adjusting my shopping philosophy now. I definitely think it's okay to pick up something for fun. I definitely see that I'm not a shopaholic and never really was. I was more just in the habit of taking for granted that I could buy something that I liked just because I felt like it, and that it's a blessing I definitely should NOT take for granted.

And most importantly, I think I'm more aware of when and why I'm busting out my husband's hard earned dollars. So the adjustment for me is this: I'll still shop, but I'll start with Stein Mart and Marshall's and Nordstrom Rack before hitting the big mall. I have a good eye and I'm discovering the thrill of victory when I find a great piece for cheap. And I won't always be concerned with whether I need something, but I will think more about how much I'll really wear it.

Oh, and outlet malls? Totally my friends now.

Best of all, shopping in my closet for a few extra minutes generally eliminates a trip to the mall altogether.

And I realize this isn't deep in the face of the difficult challenges people are facing financially right now, but it's a small little step for me, and I'm glad I took it. I'm always glad for those small little moments to stop and truly appreciate what I already have and this was one of them. It amazes me how quickly I've forgotten the years that I struggled as a single mother to make ends meet, where Target was the nicest store I could afford. But in much the same way that I couldn't care less about whether my car is new or used as long as it runs, and that I hoard discount movie tickets with devilish glee, and I go to three different grocery stores every week just to make sure I'm being thrifty as possible in my food shopping, my innate cheapness is rearing it's head over my wardrobe...and I'm glad.

Sorry, guys. I'm no longer doing my part to single handedly keep the retail sector alive. I hereby officially relinquish my role in the stimulus plan.


Kristina P. said...

I used to shop a lot more than I do now, but I also used to mystery shop for extra income, and I no longer do so. I find that if I can just not go into the stores, I am fine. Not only did mystery shopping bring in extra income, but I was always doing shops at the mall!

Becky said...

"I go to three different grocery stores every week just to make sure I'm being thrifty as possible in my food shopping."

I do this too! And I'm glad you've discovered the thrill of a good deal.

Annette Lyon said...

That's just awesome. Way to go.

CaJoh said...

I think I looked at my closet and realized that I have all the clothes I need and don't need to buy any more for a while. I know my daughter-in-law is a great thrifter and will always find amazingly great quality items for cheep. Glad to see that you can also do without if you choose to.

Kimberly said...

I'm in the same place right now, though for different reasons. I managed to persuade Neil to pay for me to go to the Storymaker's conference by promising to cut down on household spending and luxury shopping.

I used to place orders to Amazon.com whenever I felt like it.

Now that money is being used to pay off our student loans instead. A much better use of it, indeed.

Josi said...

Good for you, it's good to discipline ourselves into figuring out what we really need, isn't it? Good job.

DeNae said...

When we were first married, we lived in an apartment complex where the washing machines took quarters. It didn't take long before $10 rolls of quarters became, to me, nothing more than the metal tokens required to do my laundry.

I realized years later that, in many ways, I still thought of money as "tokens to get what I want". It wasn't fully "real" to me. So I've been on the same mission as you, cutting back on the shopping and really thinking about how I spend.

When I treat our resources as something over which I have stewardship and for which I will have to be accountable, I spend more responsibly.

Well done, you!

Mina said...

i think it's so easy to get into the habit of spending because you can. For me it was, anyway. It's fun to buy stuff. Even if that stuff is not for yourself. And frankly, from an economical standpoint, the American economy at the moment is driven by that purchasing bug. But that doesn't make it healthy in the long-term, for a nation or an individual. It's good to find that balance. Nice idea for Lent. Bless you, my child.

Kazzy said...

Good idea to practice self-discipline. I can't imagine dropping a couple hundred bucks and not feeling it in the budget. We have to account for every dime. I think most of us do have more things than we need.

wendy said...

shopping depresses me ---looking in my closet could depress me as I must have alot of humidity in my house --my cloths seem to be shrinking (tee,hee) damn humidity. We do buy more then we need and that is for sure.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I know how you feel! I've totally been trying to do the thrifty thing lately too. I think this economy has freaked us all out.

Shaka said...

consumerism!-i don't want to be a victim!
i've reined in myself. when i feel the urge to purchase for varieties sake i remind myself that what we have is enough-when the kids outgrow things i will buy new stuff but for now we have what we need!

Jessica G. said...

I don't have a shopping eye. Sure, I like to shop for stuff but I'm never the one who brags about an awesome deal. That's because I never find those.

All I can say is that I'm glad The Children's Place designers currently suck or I'd be in a whole lot more trouble.

Eowyn said...

I have unfortunately had to do the same with the book business. I am not keeping it alive right now. What sadness!

And yet, way to go! The good deal rocks! (Kohls nearby? Their clearance racks. . .)