January 18, 2017

A Fashion Fast : On Buying Less in January

That little thrill when you hit the button 'buy now'. What if instead of wanting the thing you're purchasing, you really just want that thrill? What if it was the mini endorphin rush, not securing the item, that you began to seek out? What if your savings account isn't looking quite as full as you'd like it to?

Well then you'd be me, I fear. Well, it's not that bad yet, this isn't the story of a real honest to goodness shopaholic, at least not yet. I don't have a single credit card, I don't have debt beyond my student loans (darn student loans!), I pay my bills, and I have savings that I add to regularly. Still, I also have a lot of stuff, I love my stuff, and I love buying more. So I decided to tell myself that I was not allowed to buy anything on Etsy for the month of January. Nor could I purchase any jewelry, hats, vintage clothing--anything in the accessories/clothing category for the whole month. Well that shouldn't be too hard you are thinking, most people don't shop for things that often anyways, a month isn't so very long at all to go without making a non-essential purchase. Well no, dear reader, it isn't, except that for me- it would be.

I was doing so well too until a pair of chocolate brown gloves in my size, a larger and rarer size 8, popped up on my radar. Okay so I made it two weeks, which still is pretty good for me, and I intend now to make it another two before I give into Etsy's siren song. Collecting vintage makes a shopping ban harder, when things are likely to be snatched up by another collector and only appear once in a blue moon. Excuses, excuses....anyways.

Oh by the way, yes I am going to be taboo today and talk about money.

You see, ever since I started working after college, I allowed myself a treat every payday. At first it was a vintage brooch or something similar for under $10 dollars. Then it was better investment pieces for a bit more. Then I started working full time and allotted myself a budget each week for frivolities. I was building my collection of vintage accessories, stocking up on fabrics for my sewing projects, and snatching up rarer finds before someone else got to them while I dithered. All the while I still paid my (really few, I'm a very very lucky girl) bills each month, and put the majority of my check into my savings, but still I wonder now: how much more could I have saved if I hadn't allowed myself so much fun on Etsy?

And I worry too, about that little thrill. I started to wonder if the actual act of hitting 'buy now' gave me more of a boost than actually receiving the item in the mail a week later. That's concerning isn't it? Well it's a tiny red flag at least, telling me I may be using shopping to make myself feel better which is a bit of a slippery slope right?

I think I take #treatyoself a little too much to heart sometimes.

And buying a great vintage hat or a really fun brooch does make me feel better. Better than what though? I am pretty content already, why do I crave the boost shopping can give me? I think perhaps, like a little kid, I like knowing I can get a little reward for doing the things I must, but I should be able to adult without expecting to be rewarded, even if only by myself. A stressful work week? A new pair of earrings can fix that. But costume jewelry and vintage scarves are not supposed to serve as adult versions of stickers on an imaginary chores chart. I don't get a brooch for going to work, like I once used to get a sticker for eating my vegetables (or not in my case, I still don't really like vegetables). I let myself invent this rewards reality a long time ago: I went to work all week, I woke up super early like a real adult all week, I did my laundry, I paid my student loan bill, and now I get to buy some stuff on Etsy as my reward. Umm no girl, that's not how it will always work.

But it has worked that way, and it has been fine for a long while now, and if I (or anyone) has the flexibility in their income to collect brooches and buy new sweaters I don't begrudge that. I just began to notice a pattern in my own behavior, and it made me question my unconscious motivations and also the very real money I could have saved if I had bought less.

And goodness knows having a blog gives me a good excuse to shop. I can tell myself my readers want to see new things, that people don't like seeing the same outfits/shoes/hats over and over again. Everyone follows a few blogs where it seems the blogger never repeats items and must either have the largest closet or the largest income in the world. I may be a blogger, but I'm also just a regular gal, I repeat my outfits, I wear the same dress on the blog again and again. In reality, the excuse of showing my readers something new (so go ahead and buy the shoes), is just that-- an excuse. An excuse so that I can buy something else...and here we are back at the thrill of 'buy now'. (also, I really like seeing bloggers style the same things in new and creative ways, and it's something I perhaps need to do more of here on my own little blog)

"Compulsive buying disorder (CBD), or oniomania (from Greek ὤνιος ṓnios "for sale" and μανία manía "insanity"[1]), is characterized by an obsession with shopping and buying behavior that causes adverse consequences...Shopping as a mood lifter may be an adaptive behavior if no compulsion is involved; it has jokingly been called retail therapy. But like opioid use, it can be either a therapy or an addiction, depending on whether it is adaptive or maladaptive."

-Wikipedia entry for Shopaholic

I never want shopping to be an addiction for me, retail therapy is fine, dependency is not. I suppose in writing this post I just wanted to parse out (for myself really) why I decided to try and have a fashion fast this month. I needed a shopping reset, and taking the time to write this post makes me feel I have at least done my due diligence to work through why I quite like to shop. More moderation is needed, and recognizing the patterns in my own behavior helps me feel like I am at least aware of how something as seemingly innocent as shopping could become a problem if I don't check in with myself now and again. Shopping as an activity or even a hobby is strange anyway isn't it when you really think about it? I mean nearly everyone does it, but where is the line between healthy shopping and not?

So it may not have made my list of goals for 2017, but this year I want to focus on saving more and shopping less. There will always be more "holes" in my vintage collection I could fill, always be great bargains on Etsy that someone will scoop up before I can strike, and always be something I feel I need when I really don't. Better to put a system in place now than end up having an actual real problem later. I am a collector, I do enjoy vintage and the joy of finally finding that one color of gloves I'd been searching for (*ahem* like chocolate brown...), I don't think I need to cut shopping out of my life entirely, but I do need to cut back, and I do want to make more instead of buying.

I really, really, want to hear your thoughts about this topic! Please comment and let me know how you balance shopping in your own life. I think vintage lovers have it a bit harder, knowing full well when we find something great we may never see another like it again! 

More on shopping and money? :

Buying is not Making - A great video by one of my most favorite YouTubers Rosianna Halse Rojas

"...this feeling that purchasing something was the same as doing something..."

Bad With Money with Gabby Dunn - A most excellent podcast with writer/comedian/YouTuber Gabby Dunn about how she is bad with money and is trying to learn. My favorite takeaway so far has been learning about rich people thinking (save, save, save) vs. poor people thinking (don't got much might as well spend it).


  1. A very interesting post!

    I have a few thoughts. On saving, I find it much easier to save for something tangible (paying off student loans, buying a house, getting married - I saved every penny for those!) than to be adding to that elusive 'rainy day' fund. Last year, with no longer the wedding to save for, I got into the bad habit of only saving what was left each month. Bad strategy. This year a set amount of savings leave my account each month right after payday. I put a small amount of money (£50) aside each month to spend on whatever I want. I can either save for a big treat (hotel break) or buy something smaller on a whim.

    I love the money expert Martin Lewis over here in the UK, he runs www.moneysavingexpert.com. Fab advice. He says to have 3 to 6 months salary saved for emergencies. I have done that, and am now working on longer-term savings. A common bit of advice is to save 20-30% of your salary but I haven't achieved that to date. I am earning the UK average, not loads of cash left over each month but enough to live comfortably as a person with no children/pets and a fairly frugal lifestyle.

    As for vintage purchases, I rarely buy from vintage shops online. I've had bad luck with poor fit and items not being as described. I get most of my vintage from charity shops, boot sales and affordable vintage fairs. So the purchases are fairly small in monetary value. I regularly redonate things, pass on to friends, or re-sell, so that helps control the clutter a little.

    As for buying less, yes I am with you on that one. I want to make more of my own clothes and only buy quality things I really need, or something really fabulous! I don't ban shopping in January though as that's when you can get some amazing deals, and the charity shops are brimming with delights.

    Sorry this is such a long comment, I am just really interested in this kind of thing!


    1. Thank you Porcelina!

      I totally agree that it feels easier to save for specific goals. Currently I know I will have to buy a car (eek!) at the end of next year so I am saving for that, as well as trying to save enough to travel to Japan this year (I must be crazy, but I can't stop dreaming of going). I really should think broader and longer term, but dreaming of wandering around Kyoto keeps me motivated to save so it's working for now :)

      I would really like to have that same sort of emergency savings you mention too, one can never be too careful in that regard. I have definitely been looking into more personal finance advice lately so I'll check out that website!

      I envy your ability to find vintage locally, I always seem find a sea of 1990's denim dresses and sticky looking polyester in the thrift shops here! I am such an Etsy devotee, but it is much harder to buy clothing online by far and away. I have gotten a bit better at it recently which is dangerous, but luckily clothing that checks all the boxes (fit, condition, style, and price) is still super difficult.

      Thank you for your long comment! I love a long comment :)

  2. I love your blog and am sorry that my first comment is a criticism. "My favorite takeaway so far has been learning about rich people thinking (save, save, save) vs. poor people thinking (don't got much might as well spend it)." is factually incorrect and insulting to millions of people who survive in poverty. Dunn thought she was tossing off a clever turn of phrase; she was actually mocking human beings who have real struggles. We can develop healthy attitudes toward money without dehumanizing those who have little.

    On a positive note, your stylings are exactly what I remember on my much older cousins. Hair, makeup, shoes, color combinations, even the way you pose in your pictures are straight from my family album. Thank you for the time and effort you put into sharing your passion.

    1. Thank you so much for your great comment Sarah. I am so glad you have been enjoying the blog, it is my passion indeed!

      I don't mind criticism either, especially since the concept in question isn't my own creation but just something that resonated with me. The phrase and episode where the rich people thinking vs poor people thinking idea was discussed on Bad With Money was in an interview with Dr. Brad Klontz, and the concept is his not Gabby's. I don't really think she should be blamed for his idea just because it resonated with her and her experience in her own family life growing up. As there are many people who are terrific with money though they may have very little of it, there are also many people who are born into wealth or achieve great wealth only to squander it all and end up penniless. It didn't seem to me Dr Klontz or Gabby were saying that his concept applied to all people. It came off to me when the idea, or money script as he called it, was explained that he was not discussing people in living in poverty, as in below the poverty line, but more so people who are seeking financial planning and therefore must have something extra each month that they know they should be managing better. I can totally understand how calling that particular money script, which was described as a detrimental mindset, "poor person thinking" would be offensive, especially since so many people living in or near poverty line do not think in the way he was describing.

      Dr Klontz's insensitive naming practices for his concepts aside, the idea itself resonated with me a lot because in the past I have often thought to myself I didn't have enough money to be saving any of it, that I should spend the last $20 bucks on that movie/handbag/dinner instead of thinking of saving it. So their discussion struck a cord with me because it made me realize I should look at what I have as potential no matter how little it may be.

      Thank you again for your comment, as I really hadn't thought of how the episode and Dr Klontz's ideas could be perceived as offensive towards people living in poverty. It is a totally fair criticism and your comment made me reevaluate the episode in a deeper way which I think is always a good thing.

    2. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I'd definitely research Dr. Klontz so I can see his comments in context.

  3. I'm fond of shopping as well, especially on eBay. I rarely buy clothes there, but sewing gadgets, fabrics, yarn and sometimes jewelry. What I do to keep control of my shopping is to add things to my watch list, and if I still crave it after a few days I'll get it. I'm very price conscious, but I still spend more money on eBay than I like.

    When I buy clothes I mostly get them second hand (mostly vintage) at thrift stores, but I make a large portion of my wardrobe. Especially trousers as it's nigh on impossible to find trousers with a good fit off the rail! If I find vintage gentlemen's trousers from the 30's to the 50's I buy them, because they actually fit rather nicely, even if I'm a woman, and they're nice and warm.

    I do feel a little uneasy about eBay though. I might try staying away from it for a month or so, and see how I do ;)

    1. Thank you for your comment Suna! I definitely add things to wishlists too, and I do plan most of my purchases well in advance (I can buy a new coat next payday, and then that new camera lens the payday after that, etc). One of the hardest things for me is when I see something pop up for well under its usual market value and I know someone will snap it up well before I can plan to buy it weeks later, so usually I'll get it then and there and by doing so go a little over whatever that weeks budget was supposed to be! oops

      I suppose I can feel a bit better knowing I do budget and am always after bargains, and that because I do lurk around Etsy so much I do know a good price when I see one! At least I am an informed customer ;)

  4. Hi Bianca,
    I admire you for setting yourself such a challenge, and indeed, January is usually quite a dull month for many (inducing us to indulge in those little 'pick me ups').
    I completely know what you mean about buying vintage, there is always that voice in the back of mind saying - if I don't buy it now, it will be gone forever. I'm sure this is increased for those of us who buy vintage, as each item truly is unique. I also understand the weird pressure blogging can produce - the pressure to not wear the same outfit twice etc. This is partly why I only blog around twice a month, as I do wear the same thing over & over, it's just I don't often share it with my readers more than once.
    I think if you have a budget that you stick to, it's totally fine to treat yourself every now & then. Having said that, saving is also always a good idea - for holidays, days out with friends, - or even that truly special vintage piece that one day you may come across & wish you had saved up for!
    Hope you are well my lovely, I'm not sure I have commented before, but I read each & every one of your posts! Jenny xx

    1. Thank you Jenny! January can indeed be so dull after the glitter and fun of the holiday season, and what could be brighter than rhinestones or juicy bakelite! It's a good point that saving could mean one can get a nicer/rarer piece of vintage down the line too, something to keep in mind ha!

      I have always loved reading your blog as well <3 Thank you for your most lovely comment!

  5. This is something I have battled with for a long time, I am on the whole, a spendthrift. I have it mostly under control these days but it still bursts out every now and then! It makes me quite ashamed, the amount of money I have frittered away over the years. I shopped when I was unhappy, when I was stressed, when I was bored. We don't go on holiday, we don't have a car to run and we can't afford to buy a house so over the years I've got into the habit of spending rather than saving just for the sake of saving.
    Mt vintage weakness is handbags, I have no willpower at all when faced with another jewel to add to the collection.

    1. "... so over the years I've got into the habit of spending rather than saving just for the sake of saving." This resonates a lot with me too, it seems like if saving will never amount to much it is better to have the thrill of something new in the moment instead. I found saving up even for smaller things, like a pricier reproduction shoes, got me in a better habit of saving in general. Now I am saving for a big trip I'd like to take next fall and even if the plans never worked out I am happy to have the motivation to build more stable financial habits.

  6. I would love to see more of your repeat items! It helps me restyle more of my own pieces.

  7. This was a really good post and I've been thinking about the same things lately too. I do set myself a budget each month, but sometimes I end up buying lots of things I don't care about that much. I don't buy much online: my weakness is the thrift stores. I see things and snap them up because "they are so cheap", or "vintage" and "they won't be there next week", without taking the time to stop and evaluate whether I truly like them and if they work with my wardrobe. Then I end up with a lot of things that don't work for my style/wardrobe.
    Good job for setting yourself a challenge and recognizing a habit before it became an addiction!
    The Artyologist

    1. Thank you Nicole <3 I suppose I should feel thankful the thrift shops around my area usually don't have many goodies, or I'm sure I'd be having the same problem! I have definitely done the same sort of thing in my online shopping realm though, buying hats that don't really suit me because they were only 10 dollars and things like that. It is sooo easy to snap up bargains in the moment!


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