For some people, shopping fills a void. I used to be one of those people. I loved shopping, and I loved the way new clothes made me feel. For a moment I was fashionable, hip, trendy, even cool.
In college, when classes were tough, or my stress levels were high, the mall was my sanctuary. My school was in a rural town, and part of the fun was the escape to the more cosmopolitan suburb about half an hour away. But also I loved shopping.
I loved the way I felt browsing from store to store, seeing trends, buying things. My roommate and I would spend half a Saturday in the mall. It was bonding as well as stress relieving.
I can’t remember spending very much money on things in college, but the attitude followed me into my first post-college job. To say I misunderstood money would be a severe understatement. I didn’t shop when I needed things, I shopped because I felt I deserved a quick trip to the mall after a hard day’s work.
“I Deserve It”
Where does this mentality come from? Why did I ever think I deserved anything from the mall? Willpower is a muscle, so when you exercise it multiple times in one day, it gets tired, so when you’ve had several things thrown your way at work, and you hit the mall, your defenses are way down, and if you’re anything like me, you barely register the price of a new sweater.
Because you deserve it.
However, by thinking you deserve something — anything — you’re keeping yourself broke. Because that shouldn’t be the way we think about money, or things, for that matter.
The Alternative That Worked for Me
Once I realized how destructive my shopping behaviors were, I knew I needed to change something. Anything. Everything.
So I simply stopped. Cold turkey. No more going to the mall, no more retail therapy, nothing. Not until the credit card debt is paid off, then we’ll revisit it.
And you know what? It worked. I’ve been free of credit card debt for almost two years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been retail shopping since then. I pared down my closet, keeping only the things I love. I found designer jeans at thrift stores. I got creative, and I got more boring.
And now? Going shopping stresses me out. I’m constantly shocked by how expensive everything is, and I find no joy in new sweaters.
Instead, I release work-related (and other) tension on the yoga mat.
Because if there’s one thing I deserve, it’s a healthy life.
Image via Wikimedia Commons