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Do you find it hard to resist the temptation of buying new clothes or shoes every time you see something cute or on-trend? Do you comfort shop when you are stressed or feeling down? Or have you got into bad shopping habits and found it impossible to resist the ever-present lure of online shopping and never-ending discount offers and sales?
If you want to curb your shopping habits and reduce your spending, use this guide to regain control of your wardrobe and wallet. As a former fashion editor and stylist who has learnt to tame her shopping habit, I will walk you through all the things you can do to stop spending money on clothes without sacrificing your style.
WARDROBE MALFUNCTION: SIGNS YOU ARE SPENDING TOO MUCH MONEY ON CLOTHES
Do you worry that you are spending too much money on clothes?
Some pretty big signs tell you you are spending too much money stocking your wardrobe (and over-stocking). Here are some of the biggest watchpoints:
- You have a wardrobe full of clothes but still feel like you have nothing to wear.
- You rarely wear the majority of the clothes in your wardrobe.
- You frequently buy clothes impulsively, without thinking about whether you need or will wear them.
- You buy clothes to impress others or keep up with the latest trends rather than buying clothes you love and feel good in.
- You feel euphoric or super excited when buying clothes, but the feeling quickly fades, and you are either left with buyer’s remorse or feel nothing at all.
- You are constantly buying clothes for the thrill of the discount or sale bargain rather than because you need what you have purchased.
- You feel guilty or ashamed about your spending habits but can’t seem to stop buying stuff.
- You regularly buy clothes that are outside of your budget, causing you to feel constantly stressed about money and debt.
- You prioritise buying clothes over other important expenses, such as bills or groceries.
- You have trouble building up your savings because you manage to fritter away your disposable (and perhaps not-so-disposable) income on new clothes and shoes, and accessories.
- You have a sense of dread when you get your bank balance or credit card statement.
Do any of these watchpoints resonate with you?
Some of them certainly resonate with me. I have been guilty of buying stuff just because it’s the latest thing, and it’s taken me a long time to educate myself that a sale ‘bargain’ isn’t a bargain if it isn’t something I actually need and would have bought anyway.
This brings me to a very important point; want versus need.
WANT VERSUS NEED
In my experience, understanding and appreciating the difference between ‘want and need’ is key to making smart decisions when buying clothes.
So let’s define ‘want versus need’: Want refers to something you desire or would like to have, while need refers to something necessary or essential.
One of the best ways to rein in your spending on clothes is to prioritise need over want. This means only buying clothes you truly need, rather than giving in to the temptation of buying something just because you want it.
The very thought of this may send shivers down your spine. So let’s delve further into the benefits of always putting want ahead of need.
First and foremost, only buying clothes that you need ensures that you have a functional and practical wardrobe. AKA clothes you will wear regularly.
This means that you’ll always have clothes appropriate for the activities you do regularly, whether that’s going to work or working out.
In addition to ensuring that you have a functional wardrobe, prioritising need over want can also help you save money. By only buying clothes you need, you’ll be less likely to waste money on impulse purchases or on-trend items that you’ll only wear once or twice.
Finally, prioritising need over want can also help you to develop a more mindful and intentional approach to shopping.
By taking the time to consider whether you truly need a new item of clothing, you’ll be more likely to make thoughtful and deliberate choices about what you buy.
Perhaps you could create a shopping mantra for yourself, something along the lines of,
“Do I want it, or do I need it? If I need it, I will consider buying it. If I want it but don’t need it, I will say goodbye.”
Use your mantra whenever you are confronted with a discount offer, spot a mid-season sale or feel in danger of going on a shopping spree.
I found that defining ‘want versus need’ helped me to cut back on mindless clothes shopping a great deal.
However, there was also another powerful reason that I found a way to tame my spending habits; focusing on my financial goals.
FOCUS YOUR MIND BY SETTING FINANCIAL GOALS
I found it pretty easy to get a grip on my spending habits once I started focusing on bigger-picture financial goals. For example, my recent goals have involved building an emergency fund, home improvements, and financing travels with my family. I am also focused on ensuring I have enough savings and investments for the future.
So take some time to think about your financial goals. They don’t have to be major, and they could be short-term or longer-term. But just setting some goals will help give you focus.
Once you have done this, you can look at your finances and how they fit with your spending or, rather, how your spending on clothes fits in with your finances!
SPENDING PLAN: HOW TO WORK OUT HOW MUCH YOU CAN SPEND ON CLOTHES
It is well worth spending time reviewing your finances and working out exactly how much money to budget for clothes each month. Here is a quick list of things to consider when putting together a spending plan:
- First, look at your monthly income and expenses.
- Determine how much money you need to cover essential expenses like mortgage/rent, utility bills and groceries.
- Categorise all other regular financial commitments into essential and discretionary. Some bank accounts allow you to set up spending categories to easily see what is being spent when you check your bank balance.
- Decide how much money you want to save or add to your emergency fund each month.
- Whatever is left after your essential commitments and savings can be used for discretionary spending like clothes.
- Set a monthly budget with a limit on how much you can spend on discretionary expenses like clothes.
- Track your spending to make sure you’re sticking to your clothing budget.
- Consider setting yourself a goal to add whatever you don’t spend on clothes into your savings at the end of each month. This could give you a nice little dopamine hit to replace the dopamine hit from impulse buying shoes!
So now we’ve been through the watchpoints that tell you that you are overspending on clothes, the importance of understanding want versus need, and how to get organised with your finances. Let’s now look at clever ways you can cut back on your spending.
CLEVER WAYS TO CUT THE AMOUNT YOU SPEND ON CLOTHES
Here is a list of some clever ways to cut the amount you spend on clothes. See how many of them you can adopt and track your progress.
- Shop your wardrobe and create new outfits with what you already own.
- Borrow clothes from friends or family or rent clothes for special occasions.
- Give yourself a time-out before making a purchase. Commit to taking a set number of days before buying something new. Be warned that if you leave it in an online shopping trolley, you might be sent ‘helpful’ reminders to trigger your purchase. Be strong!
- Shop charity shops, thrift stores, vintage stores or consignment stores for affordable finds. (Head to upscale neighbourhoods for secondhand shopping bargains)
- Avoid shopping when you’re feeling emotional or stressed.
- Unsubscribe from email newsletters and unfollow social media accounts with spending triggers to promote endless discounts and offers.
- Sell clothes you no longer wear to self-fund your clothes spending budget.
- Take care to wash and look after your clothes properly. Your clothes will look better for longer, and you won’t feel the need to replace them as often.
- Create a capsule wardrobe – keep reading for a complete guide to creating a capsule wardrobe.
I will take the last point on this list and run with it because I found that creating a capsule wardrobe brought about the biggest change in my clothes spending habits.
HOW TO CREATE A CAPSULE WARDROBE
You might hear the phrase ‘capsule wardrobe’ and think it is only for power-suited businesswomen or minimalists. But the reality is that anyone can benefit from a capsule wardrobe, which is a great way to curb spending.
WHAT IS A CAPSULE WARDROBE?
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing, shoes and accessories that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits.
By focusing on a few key pieces that you love and that work well together, you can cut down on the number of clothes you need to buy and maintain. So that’s a cost saving right there, two cost savings!
SET THE FOUNDATIONS FOR YOUR CAPSULE WARDROBE
You don’t want to create a capsule wardrobe starting from scratch if you are trying to stop spending so much money on clothes.
So, the best place to start is with the clothes you already own. I think the popular term for this is ‘shopping your wardrobe’.
Take a look through your wardrobe and pull out the things you wear regularly. They should also be things that make you feel good when you wear them (this is particularly important, you don’t want to build a capsule wardrobe around stuff you have to date,, worn a lot but don’t enjoy wearing). These are the things that should form the core of your capsule wardrobe.
At this point, you can also remove all the things you don’t wear, for whatever reason, and set them aside to donate to charity or sell.
There is nothing more depressing than looking at a bunch of clothes you no longer like, don’t fit into or make you feel less-than daily, so get rid of them and leave plenty of space for your capsule wardrobe.
BUILD YOUR CAPSULE WARDROBE
The next step is to fill in the gaps around the core. Think about the activities you do regularly and the types of clothes you need for those activities. For example, if you work in an office, you’ll need a few appropriate pieces. If you enjoy going to the gym, you’ll need a set of gym kit.
Quality pieces always trump trendy pieces in a capsule wardrobe. When choosing new parts for your capsule wardrobe, focus on quality over quantity. Look for well-made clothes that will stand the test of time.
This may mean that you spend slightly more upfront, but in the long run, you’ll save money by not having to replace cheap, poorly-made clothes constantly.
THE BENEFITS OF A CAPSULE WARDROBE
There are many benefits to having a capsule wardrobe. First and foremost, you’ll save money on buying clothes.
By focusing on a few key pieces, you’ll be less tempted by impulse spending and buying trendy items you’ll only wear once or twice.
You’ll also have fewer clothes to look after, which means less time spent doing laundry and organising your closet.
You will, of course, need to update your capsule wardrobe, a good rule of thumb is to assess and update it once at the start of every season.
HOW TO STOP SPENDING MONEY ON CLOTHES ALTOGETHER
All these tips should go a long way to helping you stop spending so much money on clothes. But what about if you want to stop buying clothes altogether?
Here is a quick list of tips on how to implement a complete spending freeze:
- Do a ‘no new clothes challenge’. Set a goal not to buy any clothes for a certain period. Of course, you could always try setting yourself a reward if you reach your goal.
- Get creative with your outfits and try new styling techniques. YouTube and TikTok are great places to find inspiration.
- Avoid online shops altogether. Unsubscribe from all their emails and avoid visiting them full-stop.
- Become philanthropic. Donate money or time to a charity instead of spending it on clothes.
- Find a support system for friends or family who want to cut back on spending. For example, start a WhatsApp support group.
I hope these tips help you understand your shopping triggers, how to create positive clothes shopping habits and get your spending under control.
If, however, you believe that your issue with spending goes beyond bad habits and into the realm of shopping addiction, I suggest you seek professional help. The NHS website is a good place to start.
Here is a list I’ve put together of signs that may indicate that you are addicted to shopping:
- Spending more money than you can afford on clothes, shoes, and accessories
- Feeling a rush of excitement or pleasure when shopping for new items.
- Using shopping as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression
- Feeling guilty or ashamed after a shopping spree
- Hiding purchases from friends or family members
- Constantly thinking about shopping or planning the next shopping trip
- Neglectingting other responsibilities or activities in favour of shopping
- Feeling a sense of emptiness or dissatisfaction when not shopping
- Continuously buying items that are never worn or used.
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, she has used her experience as a mum to create useful guides to organising family life. During that time, she has found the most joy in creating lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.