A Very Common Problem

Has this every happened to you?

Your closet is busting at the seams, you’ve got piles of clothes toppling onto the floor, and yet you still have nothing to wear.

Obviously, you are not alone. It’s a known fact that no matter how many articles of clothing you have, you’d still be exasperated by the lack of options.

You Can’t Have Too Many Clothes

In our consumer culture, it’s impossible to have enough clothes. There is no threshold because once your walk-in closet is full, you can get extra wardrobes, armoires, dressers, shelving units and storage containers. You can even convert a spare bedroom to a closet, or build a 3000 sq ft, multi-story wing.

So how do you know when you have enough?

The answer is easy. Unless you are living out of an 8 kg backpack, you’re good.

How I Kicked The Habit

I grew up in Dallas, Texas, home of the most shopping malls per square mile. A lot of free time from childhood to young adulthood was spent in malls, either with my family (my mom still loves it), equally bored girlfriends, or by myself.

Shopping was a pastime, something to do when there wasn’t anything else. Plus, the dopamine spike after each purchase was fun.

When I discovered FI sometime in 2012, too much money had already been spent on clothes. I did a simple calculation of how much my wardrobe has cost me (average cost per piece of clothing x number of pieces).

Thinking about how much more I could’ve had in an index fund made me want to kick myself.

Plus, the dollar per happiness ratio was abysmally low. Most of my clothes didn’t bring me joy (that’s why I had nothing to wear) and an embarrassing amount still had tags attached.

So I slowing started cutting the cord. I set a $100/month shopping budget, enough for maybe two articles of clothing. It was hard to keep within limits and I didn’t for awhile.

Eventually, enough guilt cultivated and I started doing a better job of sticking within budget. I avoided the downtown shopping district and found other sources of entertainment (can’t shop on Netflix…yet). I guess I got tired of seeing the budget bar for clothing in my Mint account blare red every month.

Soon after, I was able to lower the budget to $50/month.

Where it still sits today, though I hardly shop at all. It definitely helps to have outfits from the past decade tie me over.

The 2014 spike was well over budget, but a combination of factors led me to ignore it. Namely 1) working at an e-retailer and getting the inside deets on upcoming sales 2) being single and updating my wardrobe accordingly, and 3) having fashionable girlfriends who loved to shop at said e-retailer.

 

For funsies, here is a chart of the top stores I frequented:

A lot of work clothes too (Ann Taylor, Kate Spade handbag, Banana Republic)

As you can see, fully kicking the habit was a slow and steady process. Even though I knew logically that it was an unhealthy habit, it still took FIVE years of incremental changes. Sometimes, I get tempted by celebrity fashion ads on social media feeds, but I have a much stronger will now.

Conclusion

These days, I only grace malls when forced. Usually, this is with my mom and I only begrudgedly agree to spend time with her.

When I need new clothes, consignment stores are my first stop. Curated preowned clothing shops like Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange are my go-to’s. I’ve actually bought a few items from them the past couple of years, but it’s not reflected in the data because of credit from selling old clothes.

And really, the reason behind used clothes is not even for the saving money aspect.  Did you know that Americans throw away 80 POUNDS ON AVERAGE of clothing each year? Because a lot of fabric is synthetic, it winds up in landfills, the ocean and even in our food. Oh, and the fashion industry is f’ed up – fast fashion, sweatshops, child labor….but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’ve kicked a shopping habit, please share your tactics!