Wants vs. Needs

Blair Waldorf once said, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go kill myself. Or max out my credit card. Whichever comes first.” Those of us who are into fashion can definitely relate. The past month of my life has been spent coveting new suede boots and then chiding myself, because I know that the money can be spent in more useful ways (like the new pair of glasses that I really need. Let’s just say that if I get pink eye, I’m screwed…).

I’m not alone in my “Gotta Have It” boat. There are several well-documented cases of people with full-blown shopping addictions (hello, Hoarders anyone?). But most of us don’t fall into that category. We aren’t $120,000 in debt, stealing identities to buy more stuff and stealing from friends and family. All of our bills are paid first, but the problem comes when all of our discretionary income is spent on clothing, when some of it could go into a savings account.

I am the first one to admit that when I’m stressed out, sad or bored, I get the urge to run to the mall and pick up some new Steve Maddens. But that’s not always practical. So how do you deal with this issue? Anyone who uses food as a coping method will tell you that quitting cold turkey doesn’t work. What ends up happening is that you do great for a couple of weeks and then pig out on an entire cake. In our case, we go to the mall and spend $500 in one trip.

If you use shopping to cope with stress, you’ll definitely need to find some new outlets – like the gym, or a journal, or painting or pretty much anything else that calms you down without being self destructive. More importantly, don’t cut yourself off from clothes entirely. Just stay practical. You don’t need 17 new outfits every month. Stick with one or two new pieces, or if you really want to splurge, go to a consignment shop or TJ Maxx and stretch your dollars farther.

Next, take inventory of your closet. If you haven’t worn something in 2 years, get rid of it. If it’s still in good condition, consign it and get some money out of it. If it isn’t donate it to Good Will or recycle it. Once you have more room, determine what you actually need. If you’ve already got 7 pairs of brown suede boots, then they aren’t a “need.” However, if winter is approaching and most of your sweaters are in the “donate” pile, then feel free to get yourself some new ones – after you’ve determined a reasonable shopping budget.


image used with permission from Flickr user jbthescot via Creative Commons for Flickr.

Finally, make sure you track your spending. This may seem like a “duh” moment, but a lot of people who stress shop don’t keep track of how much they spend in a month. Track your spending with an app like “iCash tracker.” Then make a spreadsheet of how much you spend on clothes, makeup or other frivolous items. Once you’ve done this for a few months and you can determine an average number, cut it by 60% and put the rest into savings. Then when you want something really expensive, you can buy it without a credit card.


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