So. Spring is in the air (use your imagination). You are feeling festive and even pretty fit, after successful implementation of your New Year's resolutions (again...imagination). You want to celebrate by purchasing some new clothes, but there is no spring shopping line item in the budget. Should you fight the urge? If so, how? Should you give in to the moment? If you do, what is the best way to make a purchase that feels both responsible and still fun?
First, shop in your closet. You might be surprised to find that you can meet your needs right there, thus saving your splurge money and time for other purposes.
When your closet is in great shape, and you are wearing most of what you have, perhaps there are still some gaps. Maybe you figured out that your early-summer dress could make a great early-spring outfit with some new tights and a cardigan, or perhaps you noticed that you have some fantastic pants not getting worn due to a lack for appropriately-proportioned shirt.
This is the time to make a wish list. The list will be placed somewhere that will be handy during a shopping trip, and during other moments of financial temptation. A small slip of paper in your wallet near the credit card or an electronic list on a phone can be equally effective. The wish list should include any items, not just clothing, that compete for the splurge dollars in your budget. That way, when you are in the store, considering something new and unplanned, you can glance at this list...does the purchase allow you to cross off any wished-for items? If you buy this shirt, does it prevent you from buying the new lamp that you want or from saving money for vacation? The list will function as a set of brakes before you hit the checkout line, and it will also be an inspiration to hang in there and fight the temptations of the beautiful store. The on-sale ruffle shirt in your hand might lose appeal when you review your list and remember the pretty new bracelet for which you have been carefully saving.
Or maybe the ruffle shirt makes it past the wish list review, and now you are checking out. You are sure it will look great with the pants in your closet, and you love it. If so, it might be worth it. If there remains a twinge of guilt or doubt, it is worth taking a quick walk around the block, away from the item, to consider it from a distance. Most stores will put anything on hold, especially for a brief period. If you don't have time for that, be sure that there is a good return policy. That way you can get the shirt into your closet to verify that it works well with other garments. If it matches nothing, it might not be a good splurge. If it matches nothing and you still really want it, then perhaps it is meant to be, but that should be a rare occasion, or you will end up with a low-functioning closet and considerable morning frustration. Additionally, if the unplanned purchase requires special care or alterations, that could also be a red flag to slow down.
The wish list can also function in another way...instead of pseudo-brakes it can be a tool for when there is an irrepressible need to shop but you are not at all sure that you want or need anything. Consult the list. Maybe now is the time for the new curtains or the vacation. Urge, meet previously-identified "needs". Needs, say hello to splurge.
In that same ongoing fashion, I usually have special items on the list that would make life better, make me happy, or make winter more pleasurable. This is a good place to write down interesting things you come across while shopping. Sometimes when you shift into splurge mode and check the list, you see that special something that you wanted so terribly from Williams Sonoma but forgot about immediately after exiting the store. Delete that one, but consider the sofa that has been on there for a year or two, that you think about whenever you are sitting in your living room. Satisfying the distracting shopping urge while simultaneously making your home more inviting can feel more productive than buying clothes you don't need.
Another powerful tool in the effort to corral impulse clothing purchases and to keep a closet running smoothly is the internet. Shopping from the comfort of your home allows an opportunity for making comparisons without driving all over the place, and also one for trying on clothes in the privacy of your closet, with clothes you already have, instead of additional ones that a store hopes you will buy.
A less tangible, but very real, benefit is that you get the fun of picking out something and buying it, and then a second round of fun when you receive it a few days later. Sometimes the results disappoint, but other times, it's kind of like receiving a present. Either way, over the years, the act of waiting for items purchased online has conditioned me to be more patient when the splurge urge comes...in other words, my fondness for online shopping has had the surprising long-term result of helping me make more measured purchase decisions.
Understandably, many people prefer to shop in person, but even if you are in that camp, spending a few minutes shopping online prior to getting in the car can not only save you significant drive-time but can also give you a better understanding of what is available. It is more common in recent years that a company carries much more product online than they do in their physical store.
In short, if you must shop, shop smart. Check you closet, check your list, check online, and make the splurge worth it.
Happy Spring from Pants Lab.