By the end of 2018, I knew I’d purchased way too many clothes. I was running out of hangers when I did laundry, in addition to having to get an additional hamper to handle my increase in dirty clothes. But what really sealed the deal for me was when I scrolled through my online order history at my favorite clothing store and saw I’d made multiple purchases each month, resulting in spending over $200 a month.
So when 2019 came around, I decided to keep a better eye on my finances by tracking my spending, as well as figuring out just how much I actually spent on clothes over the previous 12 months. The results? Just over $5,960 — and that’s just clothing at major retailers, not merch I’ve purchased to support my favorite online creators, get my business up and running, or clothes I paid cash for.
So here are the three main reasons I purchased so many clothes in 2018, and what I’m doing to change my spending habits:
1. I’m bored and/or passing the time.
At some point in 2017, I developed a habit of browsing my favorite retailers’ websites as a hobby or a way to pass the time when I couldn’t be bothered to do anything else. That carried over into last year and, with my favorite retailer, resulted in multiple $100+ orders each month.
How I’m changing it:
Prioritizing tasks and projects that my future self will thank me for. This is a goal I started working toward at the end of last year and something I’ve actively been doing since I rang — AKA snoozed — in the new year. I even purchased a poster that says, and I quote, “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” If buying a poster to remind me to be proactive doesn’t say commitment, I don’t know what does.
In addition to the new poster, a lot of other things have changed since this time last year, which has naturally eaten up some of the time I would have otherwise spent mindlessly shopping. I’m working on building my side business, gaining some new skills, tracking my expenses to understand where and how I spend my money, and marathoning Love Island on Hulu. (If reality TV is your thing, I highly recommend it. It has relationship drama and you get to listen to people with various English, Irish, and Scottish accents speak. What more could you want?)
2. A desire for change
I’ve never been someone to shy away from change. In fact, I’m someone who seeks it out. However, there’s a difference between seeking out change because I’m bored with my life and pursuing change because I want to change something specific.
Compared to 2014-2017, 2018 felt stagnant. While I was definitely pursuing and changing things, nothing I was doing was nearly as exciting or life-changing as things I’d done in the previous four years, like graduate college or move into my own place. As the saying goes, you want what you can’t have. That was definitely me in 2018 — wanting all sorts of changes but either being unable or feeling unable to pursue them. So, I turned to clothes to fill the void.
How I’m changing it:
Addressing the reasons why I want to buy something. If an item doesn’t meet one of these three criteria: 1) something I’ve been wanting for a while, 2) is the sole or one of the sole reasons I’m visiting a website, 3) is something I’m purchasing as a replacement for a worn out item then I’m not allowed to buy it for at least a week — at which point I’ve usually forgotten what I put in my cart anyway. So far, this has been pretty successful. By this time last year, I made 3 separate orders of 2–6 items from a single clothing store. This year? I’ve only made one purchase of two items, one of which was an item I’d been wanting for a while, and have chosen to return both things because they just didn’t work for me.
3. I’m unhappy and am using shopping as a way to deal with it
This goes right along with the above reason but I think it needs to be called out specifically because while I certainly purchased things when feeling out of control of my life, I also purchased things when my anxiety and depression got the better of me. In addition to control, it provided me with a way to feel happy when I felt pretty crappy otherwise.
Although it certainly wasn’t a bad year, 2018 was still rough for me. The new job I started at the end of 2017 was a career change. It resulted in a lot of feelings of failure, imposter syndrome, and not being good enough. I’m in a much better place now when it comes to my job — I actually just celebrated a year there last month — but 2018 brought out some of the worst things I thought about myself.
How I’m changing it:
I’m taking care of and prioritizing myself. I’m meal prepping and cooking at home more often, in addition making time to exercise multiple times a week. I’m going to bed earlier and not taking my phone with me. I’m sitting with how I feel and feeling it, rather than turning to shopping as a crutch. And I’m (finally) going back to therapy to deal with my anxiety and depression.
Tara is a software engineer who wants to challenge and change the status quo when it comes to the tech industry. In addition to sharing tips, advice, and her personal story about being a software engineer on her Instagram, she’s also a lover of dogs (and a dog mom) and writer.
Image via Unsplash