So many circumstances have changed in my life recently. My mom, Milan. I couldn’t be happier about moving on to the next chapter, in a new country and life.
Though it is far less exciting, and largely a problem I kept hidden, I also paid off the $9000+ balance of my three credit cards, in anticipation of applying for student loans, my credit score being under scrutiny.
Looking back, it all began with a single credit line, at a Bank of America student rate, while I was in college. Then another, at my credit union. And within the last two years, one that promised zero interest for a year.
I embraced credit spending like many other young adults because I had so little disposable income. Trying to be Carrie Bradshaw after college, I built myself a mental prison, shopping at IKEA, on Gilt, and for trips to visit friends in New York and Chicago.
Using credit for emergencies and major purchases makes sense, but avoiding the obvious by letting it be your cushion, is reckless. Just before I paid off my bills, my credit score had sunk into ‘poor,’ reflecting a high debt-to-credit ratio, and several dings for late payments. Had I wanted to lease my car now (rather than two years ago), I wouldn’t have been able to.
The ringleader of my debt spiral was unnecessary shopping. For stuff, and a LOT of clothes. My therapist immediately recognized the deeper cause: coping with a void, filling some imaginary need, or lacking.
I consider myself to be in shopping rehab, by dissecting the issue with her, and more carefully planning how to spend the money I already have. And, putting nothing on credit unless absolutely necessary. For the record, the injection of liquid cash came from my liberated 401k, which I contributed to for several years at my previous job. Yes, it could have remained to accumulate, but it was more worthwhile for me to reset the balances before the embarking on new forms of debt.
I don’t think I will ever not love shopping, or love things. Instead, I am examining all of my purchase decisions. Do I need that item? Am I compromising on style or size for the sake of a discount? Was an item on my watch list?
Far too often, across aspects of life, we allow ourselves to be wooed into something we hadn’t planned on. Marketing and the human touch, like working with an attentive sales associate, are both very powerful. I can attest to this, as I walked into Nordstrom planning to spend $85 on a white polo shirt (for summer!), and walking out having dropped $425 on the polo, a pair of jeans, and a pair of khaki joggers. Luckily, all things I’d been looking at buying anyway.
Most of us have layers of consciousness. On one level, you convince yourself to buy. On another, you know you shouldn’t. I have found that purchasing necessities, though they may be expensive, is more gratifying than feeling tricked into buying something with little practical value. This is why we all end up with packed closets and only a fraction we love to wear regularly.
That said, frivolous, fun spending cannot be discounted entirely. In the end, you can’t rationalize away treating yourself to something special on occasion.
My peeve comes from items I (1) bought on sale, BECAUSE YAYYY SALE!!, and (2) ended up being unsatisfying to wear. Cut to my blue suede Ralph Lauren flip flops, which bleed onto my feet and stretched out after a single wear. Fail.
How great would it be to align the two sides of any purchase decision: how an item inspires you before purchase, and how it actually makes you feel after purchase. And you can! By asking being calmly introspective, and be willing to pay for what you really want. Full-price may not be the worst travesty in the world if your wardrobe is smaller but full of things you adore.
Part of any twelve-step program to right previous wrongs and make amends is selling off evidence of past excesses. I refused to donate pieces from my closet that could be consigned, so I have been auctioning on eBay and raking in hundreds of dollars. Purging is so elevating too.
So there is an upside to overspending, kids.
To reiterate, here are some bullet points to keep in mind, if you too love shopping and have poorly managed your funds recently or in the past:
- For any purchase, ask yourself: is this needed and necessary?
- Is the quality such that I could be wearing <blank> for years to come?
- Sales or discounts ARE NOT a good reason to buy if you don’t love something. Life is too short to wear ‘meh’ shoes. Pick what you like, keep an eye on it, and if you must have it, pay full price, dood.
- Beware of every place you leave your e-mail address. They will add you to their daily blasts, and blasted you will get.
- As many of my less fashion-conscious friends would say, spend your money on experiences! *I argue that many experiences can be just as wasteful or disappointing as needless stuff.
I have now completed the fifth step in the karmic guide to dressing better, being happier, and lacking less.
A little shout-out of thanks go to my dad, Tona, and Dr. Stowitsky for nudging me to the right path. XO