Thursday, January 8, 2015

Shopping Fast: Clothing and Accessories

Although I had already decided to institute a shopping fast for cosmetics and skincare products this year, I had been dragging my feet on doing the same for fashion purchases. I originally thought that it would simply result in setting myself up for failure. While I have accumulated a decently-sized work wardrobe, I was not completely confident that I had everything I needed for work. I don't necessarily need to shop for office clothes until October, but I wanted to preserve the flexibility of being able to buy items when I saw them available for a good price. I also wanted to leave room for this or that perfect thing if I saw it at the store. 

My post-Christmas sale shopping has led me to reevaluate. With the spate of additional percentage off sale promotions, I ended up being tempted by a lot of pretty things that I wanted to try out, but that I don't strictly need and that don't fill an identified hole in my wardrobe. In particular I grabbed some items (the Baikal Dress and Shimmered Monarch Skirt) from Anthropologie's online 25% off of sale price promotion. Even on sale, their items tend to be a little bit outside of my price range, especially when I take into account highly probable issues with quality and fit from buying things sight unseen. Neither is final sale so I will be able to think about whether either item is worth keeping, but their shipping fees are steep. Even if I return both, I have definitely spent nearly $20 just for the privilege of trying on the items. That experience would at least be a lesson about not buying online when shipping is not free and I am not sure about what I'm getting.

While all this online shopping was going on, I was also looking at my finances for the semester and trying to draw up a budget for the months immediately before and after I start work. I have not historically been the most frugal person, and while a reasonable budget allows me to enjoy a lot of the things I like (some eating out, a gym membership, some room for shopping) while I do the things I must do (aggressively paying down student loan debt, paying my rent, etc.), I will have to cut costs in some areas quite a bit if I want to save money for more distant things like future vacations. In short, it will be good for me to reexamine my shopping habits and see if I can make some changes.

My shopping fast probably most resembles the one described here by Maja. I am planning to stick to the fast for about nine months (after work starts, my needs will probably change) and it extends to all my clothes, accessories, and beauty products. I will also try to extend the principles to other categories of shopping, but no complete guarantees in anything else. My ground rules are as follows:

  • First, I can buy the things that I actually need. Of course, I need to be careful and thoughtful about what is an actual need. Before late February or early March, I plan to buy some socks. By late April or so I will probably buy another casual summer top or two at most. Sometime before September I am also considering buying a nice, but still rather modestly priced watch (perhaps a Skagen) because I don't currently own any. 
  • Second, I can buy replacements for things that are truly worn-out or used up. This has a lot of overlap with things that fall under the first rule. Under this category, I am vaguely in the market for a pair of sweatpants to serve as lounge clothes. I recently purchased a pair of sandals in order to replace a current pair that is already on its last legs. At some point in the summer I will probably need another pair of flats as well, given the rapid rate at which I wear out the ones I have. 
  • Third, I am still allowing myself room for a few "wants," provided that I have given it enough thought. I've been thinking for a while about getting a bracelet to round out my collection of jewelry (costume jewelry in the price range of pieces from Gorjana or J. Crew). I might also consider buying a ring (something like this, though potentially not at that price point) that would be suitable for everyday wear. I have not made a firm decision about either purchase, but I do plan to leave room for expenditures like that if I have given it a lot of thought. 

I will lay out my specific plans for cosmetics in another post. (Spoiler alert: I went a tiny bit crazy in that category last year because of stress-shopping and the like so I am cutting back significantly.) I feel some trepidation about whether I can fully stick to this plan, but I also feel that by having taken the time to think about my shopping and what I want versus what I need, I will be moving in the right direction. 

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