Confession — I secretly pride myself in being “good at shopping,” like it’s a sport. The part of me that hates being materialistic loathes my ability to sniff out deals. I can scan a 70% off sales rack at Target and snatch the best from the bunch in a matter of minutes. I’ll grab my bundle, take it into the dressing room, endure a frenzied trying on session, which always feels rushed, because no one likes wasting time in the dressing room. Liking too many items in the dressing room is the pivotal point that determine whether I’ll be leaving the store, empty-handed and dejected by the time I wasted, or seeped in shame and remorse, for having walked out with way more than I should have bought.
I’d fallen back on the occasional Goodwill run for a new pair of pants or blouse, and was doing just fine with the limited and wildly affordable selection there. But alas, with the new job, I’ve convinced myself I should adjust my wardrobe to fit the part, whatever that part may be. I deserve nice, shiny things, right? Mmmm…wrong.
But hey, we all have brains that make regrettable decisions every now and then, and mine is pretty overactive. So rather than quelling that urge to spend and working with what I have, I decided it wasn’t the grueling decision-making progress or buyers’ remorse that caused my post-purchase dissatisfaction. It must be the crowds at the mall, I foolishly decided. Maybe if I avoided the crowds and trying online shopping, I’d have what I thought I needed, without the hassle.
I’ll “invest in” (not splurge on — rhetoric is key in self-manipulation) a few flagship pieces of versatile work clothes, I decided. I announced my new quest to my disinterested husband, who reminded me I didn’t have to run how I spent my money by him. I knew that, but I needed validation to feel justified in the trail I’d resolved to embark upon.
I entered the URL for Anthropologie and began poring over their desireables. The world was my oyster, for that shining moment. Then reality struck. Yeesh, this is the price PLUS tax and shipping? I could find a pencil skirt for half that, I convince myself, jumping down to Banana, then to from Gap’s sale items and finally in the burrows of Old Navy‘s final sale remnants. There are great deals out there, I chanted to myself, trying to keep up my good spirits. I just have to keep looking. I can have it all. I can have it all. Without fail, the moment that comes at the end of the shopping journey would hit. I’d feel compelled to buy something to excuse all those wasted hours.
I plugged in my credit card number, and cringed, knowing I’d set my expectations too high, and had failed. Half of what I get is always returned. And I find that the clothes I keep never seem to be enough. There’s always that one sweater I never found, which would compliment that blouse so nicely, or those black flats that look exactly like every other black flat I have, but I must need them, because I can’t seem to let go of them.
Post-shopping frenzy, I’ve scared myself with how hard it is not to keep looking. I get constant emails about blow-out sales, reminding me there’s more on the horizon, and coaxing me to dip my toe into the shopping abyss I’ll surely be engulfed in again, soon enough.
There are always a few gems I’ll find that are bargains, but more than I want to spend. I just have to muster up enough self-control to look the other way (after saving it in a shopping cart, just in case.) Once they’re out of my line of sight, those things I thought I couldn’t live without fly out of my brain just as fast as they’ve swirled in.
As pretty as they are, deep down, I know that things can’t make me happy. Experiences and people can. Time and time again, I’m reminded how horrible it feels to get tied up in that frenzied feelings of needing something I don’t have, which leads me down the path of wanting too much, all at once. Gluttony is a horrendous thing. And those marketing ploys from stores don’t make it any easier to stave off the desire to spend more.
It’s so hard to stay grounded in the present, and to make the best of what have, even if all my outfits aren’t cutting edge. Figuring out “my look” is only half the battle, after all. The other part comes from accepting whatever identity I come to embrace, and being patient with myself in the progress. So have patience and be weary, fellow deal-seekers. Temptation is everywhere, and the holiday season is nearly upon us. Just remember that you have what you need to be happy, right here, right now, and let everything else unfold from there.