Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A shopping mindset

I haven't posted in a few days because Sandy has been consuming everyone, myself included even though I'm nicely landlocked and far away from the storm and the weather here has been beautiful, but it felt wrong to be posting other stuff when my Twitter stream is full of damaged houses and displaced people. But... well, gotta get back to it, right? And what better topic to start with than the deeply serious topic of shopping? But seriously, to my East Coast friends, here's hoping that your power comes back soon and the damage is minimal and your insurance companies and landlords are cooperative. I'm so glad that you're all safe.

So, on the shopping thing. I... don't do it much. I used to do it a lot more, and then Torsten quit his job and we buckled down on our budget and I stopped shopping pretty much entirely. But then, after awhile, I wasn't the sole breadwinner anymore but... I just didn't quite pick up the shopping bug again. And I think that's for the best. I think that time we spent on one income was a really good wake-up call for us on what things are worth spending money on for us (high-quality groceries, travel, our house) and what things we didn't actually miss (tons of meals out, new clothes).

But every now and then I do realize that I need something specific, and I go to the mall and I walk around and look at the stores and try things on and it's kind of great. It used to be that whenever there was something specific I was looking for, I was pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn't find it. And I'm sure I'll run into that luck again soon. But my two most recent trips to the mall have been shockingly successful. First I went looking for boots and skinny jeans, and actually found both, AND I didn't buy anything else at the mall, despite browsing pretty much every store there, so I consider that a win. And then, more recently, I decided I wanted a nice, warm winter sweater and I went to the mall and found one almost immediately (at Banana Republic, where I almost didn't bother looking because I never used to fit into their stuff and I forget that now sometimes I actually do, and also it was on sale so extra win).

Of course, that second trip I did actually buy a few things I wasn't on a mission for, including a couple shirts for Callum and a Christmas gift for my mom and a shirt for myself, but you know what the nice thing is when you don't shop very often? You don't feel bad about a few unplanned purchases because they are such a rare occurrence.

There's something about shopping that's very addictive. Blogging makes this worse. You look at all these photos of people in these nice clothes and you see the latest fashions and you start to think that maybe you should revamp your wardrobe, too. And then you go to the mall and all the stores are so appealing and everyone is so friendly and it's so relaxing, at least if your husband has stayed home with the baby so there's nobody to whine or complain (and yes I'm referring to both husband and baby in this particular instance; if anything I think Torsten is more likely to whine while shopping than Callum is). And you find yourself just... coveting. At least, I find myself coveting and I assume I'm not the only one, given how many bag-laden people I pass at the mall.

I've gotten pretty good at resisting the urge to give in to my coveting. I'm good at analyzing whether I really LOVE something, whether I'll really get a lot of use out of it, or whether I just think I like it because it's shiny and different. And I'm also pretty good at accepting it if I do determine that I love something and will wear it regularly. I can buy it, assuming the price is reasonable, without massive amounts of guilt. I don't sneak shopping bags into the house so that Torsten won't see.

But... two trips to the mall and I can see the mindset coming back. I saw all this nice jewelry at the mall and started realizing that I have never been great at accessorizing, and even less so since having Callum since he grabs at everything, and thinking that now that he's older that's something I'd like to start doing more of, and shouldn't I start looking for good jewelry? Which, of course, would necessitate another trip to the mall on a jewelry mission. But at what point are you just manufacturing shopping missions because you're just in a buying kind of mood, and you want more stuff?

I'm not a minimalist. I do care a lot about experiences and will pay for them, but I've also found that there are certain things, the kind of things that a lot of bloggers sneer at, that I do care about and that do enhance my daily life. I'm OK with that. I don't see a problem with enjoying shopping, as long as you exercise restraint and do it within your means. But still... somehow I'm just seeing that shopping can be a mindset, and it's one that I used to be in, and then I wasn't anymore, and now I can see how easy it would be to go back to that mindset. And I wouldn't mind going somewhat back into it. Not shopping at all when we were on a single income? Sucked. A lot. But hopefully the experience, in the long run, will help me find some middle ground, and not just be some temporary blip.

So what about you? Do you shop often? What stuff do you think is worth the money? Do you feel like there's a mindset behind being a frequent shopper, and if so, do you think you're in that mindset?


  1. I struggle with the same thing - seeing folks in their nice clothes on their blogs and wondering if I need those items. 99% of the time I don't, and the 1% of the time I do, it's already in my closet.

    Lately my shopping obsession has been my own closet - I've just been pairing up new outfits from things I already have. I've found a few hits, and some flops, and then there are the clothes I don't wear because they should go to goodwill, an those go into the goodwill pile.

  2. I'm not a big shopper in most cases. I love Christmas shopping, especially for my nieces and nephews (and probably go overboard there). I'm not a minimalist either, but after 15 years of marriage and 13 years in the same house,I don't need much. I prefer to order clothes online so I can try them on at home.

  3. I'm definitely not a frequent shopper. It's just too exhausting! But when I do go (every few, or even up to six, months) I buy a lot. I prefer to get it out of the way so I don't have to go back for a while!

    Online shopping seems to be my downfall. Not clothes, really, but random crap from Amazon. Kindle books and household items, mainly.

  4. I am not a frequent shopper. I've recently started spending more on clothes because I'm sick of the stuff I buy at Target or Old Navy falling apart after a few wearings. But now that I want to spend money, I can't find what I'm looking for! I despise malls, so I've started to buy online.

  5. I definitely see this. My mom and I like to shop recreationally: every week we go out together and browse stores like Home Goods. Sometimes this is good: it's a fun social time for us, and frequent browsing is a good way to find good deals---as long as we're okay leaving the store without buying anything, which we are. But it can (and does) also create needs/wants: "I had no idea I wanted a vase like that until I saw it!" "I had no idea I liked owls so much until I saw them everywhere!" Etc.

    So it's a mixed thing. I find it relatively easy to keep it balanced, but sometimes I'll feel like it's slipping to the point where I need that "shopping high" of buying something; then I try to dial it back and get satisfaction out of looking, or out of CONSIDERING buying (but not), or whatever.

    One method we use is this: if we see an item that causes a sudden rush of need/want, we might leave it on the shelf and see if we still want it by the time we leave the store. Often we don't even REMEMBER to reconsider the item.

  6. Topic close to my heart! I've never been a "good shopper," not even as a teen. And I'm pretty frugal so I buy a lot of stuff at Old Navy or Target that sometimes falls apart. I'm especially bad about shoes - keeping them much longer than I probably should.

    But I like the satisfaction of being mostly guilt-free when I shop for me, knowing that I do really need the things I'm buying.

    This fall I definitely need boots, regular shoes, and new sweaters and jeans. And cute PJs! I've had the same ones for, like, 8 years or something!

  7. My need/want for shopping goes in waves. Right now I'm in a lull - the thought of going to the mall seems overwhelming; the thought of trying on clothes seems tiring and annoying, and I can't think of anything immediate I want/need.

    These lulls are ALWAYS followed by consumer-frenzy binges though :) All of a sudden I'll get an email about a new sale at White House | Black Market (my shopping crack) and before you know it, I have 3 new dresses on their way to my house to "try on" and I've decided I need new throw pillows and maybe a new lamp while I'm at it and maybe Chris could use some new shoes....?