Everything I Learned During My 3-Month Shopping Ban

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Don’t ever say the following to your husband (of 10 days) as you stand inside the walk-in closet you painstakingly cleaned for five hours:

“Wow. I have so many clothes. I could go months without shopping.”

Because then he’ll say, “Yeah right.”

And you’ll respond: “No really! I can, and I will.”

And then he’ll say: “Prove it.”

And then you’ll end up like me, a pride-filled idiot slugging through a three-month ban on shopping for clothing, shoes and accessories. I couldn’t just stop at clothes. No, I had to prove my “strength” by giving up my precious shoes and accessories too. (And for what? I already got the guy to marry me!)

My husband and I set parameters and put our bet in place. Spoilers: I made it through the shopping ban and won the bet. I went three full months without purchasing a single clothing item, pair of shoes or accessory, even though I attended two weddings inside that time frame. My husband tried to get me on a technicality by claiming folders I’d purchased counted as an “accessory,” but I’m not buying it.

Here’s what this exercise in restraint taught me about myself, my clothes and the consumer world on the whole:

1. I actually ended up getting rid of things. I have plenty of clothes, shoes and accessories and voluntarily chose to clear some of it out of my closet. Some clothes just sit in your closet and never get picked because of this, that or the other thing, but you still can’t let them go. Throughout my shopping ban, I was so sick of going to look for something to wear and not picking the same things over and over again, that I decided to clear those items out of my closet for good.

2. It’s better to have less than to have a pile of things you never wear. Extraneous clothes just take up space, and they make you feel bad if the issue is about how they fit. It also completely discounts your claim that you “have nothing to wear.” That statement doesn’t quite hold up when there are dozens of items hanging in your closet.

3. My desire to buy new things is purely for the sake of having new things. I went to a wedding in Seattle. I wore a lovely gold lace dress that I have worn once prior, for three hours, with a completely different group of people. And yet I desperately wanted something new. I had a specific vision in my mind of how I would look on Bainbridge Island in Seattle, it didn’t match this dress and that irked me to no end. It probably irked me more because I almost always give into the desire to buy the new dress, so like a mosquito bite that couldn’t be scratched, it itched even worse. I don’t love that feeling, and I’d like to be more careful about falling into the shiny ball trap in the future, with or without my shopping ban in place.

4. Bottom line: I love clothes, shoes, and accessories. I use them as a form of self-expression. They make me feel comfortable and content. I find shopping for them soothing. Are they a vice? And I shouldn’t indulge them often, but every once and a while, I enjoy buying a nice piece.

In the end, I figure I saved about $300.  Maybe more considering there were two wedding guest dress purchases avoided. I will admit that my “itch” lessened over time, but that may be because I stopped going anywhere near stores. There was the one time my husband tried to push me in the direction of my favorite little shop and I actually yelled, “No! Stop! Don’t taunt me! I’m at the end of my rope!” But I was mostly kidding, maybe.

When the bet officially ended, I took $100 in cash on an afternoon shopping adventure in Topanga Canyon. No more, no less. Exactly $100. It was the perfect way to celebrate that I did, in fact, make it through those three months. It proved that I am perfectly capable of eliminating shopping from my life. I do not, however, enjoy cutting myself off cold, and though I appreciate the lessons learned, I think a happy medium approach is going to be more my speed.

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Image via Unsplash

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