How to Really Break Up With Shopping
If anyone had told me that I was going to give up shopping for an entire year, I would have laughed in their face. But the consequence of that decision, one that seemed so superficial, has continued to impact every area of my life.
I’ve always been super thrifty (it happens when your parents are instructors of Dave Ramsey courses) but clothes have been the Achilles heel of my budget. I was forever “borrowing” from my other budget categories to squeeze another clothing purchase in.
Everything came to a head after I got married and started working for a nonprofit that helps families break out of the cycle of poverty.
Sitting across the table from a young dad who was crying, telling me he had sold their extra car, their tv, and everything else he could think of to feed his wife and his two precious baby girls and that he didn’t know what else he could do, broke my heart.
In that moment, I knew I had to be a better steward of what I had so that my husband Troy and I could make more of the things that really matter happen.
For the next few weeks, I wrestled with what that might look like practically, but didn’t have an answer. Then, our pastor challenged us to give up a blessing in our life and use it to bless someone else and a plan started to form. I knew cutting back on clothing would make the biggest impact on our budget, plus I wanted to figure out how to use what was already in my closet well. Logically, I knew I had plenty to wear, but it didn’t feel that way. Because no one taught me how to mix and match things, I only felt put together when I had on a new outfit combination, so I was constantly buying, and I was tired of it.
I was done with feeling like what I had wasn’t enough!
Over coffee, a friend and I decided to give up shopping for a year. We vowed that we wouldn’t buy any shoes, clothes, or accessories, and we’d save the money we usually spent on ourselves and pray about where God wanted us to spend it. As soon as we had the guidelines laid out (and admittedly, after a few purchases “to prepare”) I was excited (and a little nervous!) to take on the challenge!
To keep myself accountable, I started a blog, Greater Than Rubies. I knew if I told strangers on the Internet that I was doing this, I’d stick to it. So every day for a year, my sweet husband took my picture. I shopped my own closet, learning how to mix and match pieces, and I came up with over 365 “new” outfits. I shared an outfit a day + journaled my thoughts.
The style piece alone changed my entire life. But it was the other pieces that really got me. Choosing to be a good steward in one area had ripple effects across my life.
Mentally, it clarified a lot of things. I realized the whole “nothing to wear” saga was a choice, not just “how it was.” Deciding to use what I had instead of adding things constantly was freeing, not restrictive like I expected. Sure, there were days where I was like, “WHY did I doooo this?! #worstdecisionever” but those days were few and far between. Most of the time, it was fun to figure out how to use what I had better, and I got that “new outfit feeling” (you know, where you feel totally pumped and awesome and ready to take on the day in your cute new look!) with my own clothes instead of new pieces. The whole ‘gratitude turns what you have into enough’ is not just a cute cliche. It’s truth- and not just when it comes to clothes!
I knew that cutting out my clothing habit would make it a better year for us financially, but had no idea exactly how much better! The no shopping for clothes year turned into a “buying less of everything” year. Because I wasn’t out looking for clothes, I bought less in general. I also realized just how much stuff we have that we never use (an embarrassingly large amount), and I pared down our things across the board. We saved money, and gained physical and mental space we didn’t even realize we had to spare.
Wearing things that you feel good in also gives you energy. Think about when you wear your yoga pants and tee all day. You see yourself in the mirror and subconsciously think, “Wow, I look tired.” Then you begin to feel more tired. But what about when you’ve got on an outfit you feel amazing in? You feel energized. Getting your closet to a place where it’s easy to pull pieces and put together outfits sets you up for success every single day! Plus, it gives you back time you can spend with your family, chase a big dream you’ve been putting off, or anything else you want to make happen! I’ve also found when I feel good in what I’m wearing, I tend to eat better, and I’m active versus lounging in my comfy clothes, which tends to lead to putting off working out until tomorrow and more impromptu pizza and ice cream nights!
Ironically, a year without shopping also turned into my full time job as a style coach. Encouraging women to buy less is such a weird way to make money in the style industry, but so many women are captivated by the idea of learning how to use what’s already in their closet versus buying more as a fix, like most magazines, stylists, and Pinterest suggest.
Today, I’m constantly looking for ways to choose gratefulness because I know my natural bent is to want more, and advertising just fans that flame! Every morning, I write down at least one specific thing I’m grateful for. I’m also a huge fan of reading books about thinking positively, like The Magic of Thinking Big, and Getting the Best from Yourself and Others. Clothing-wise, I’ve built myself a basic capsule wardrobe, and I rotate in special seasonal pieces to keep those feeling fresh. I do buy things, but usually it’s just a piece or two per season and a statement necklace from J. Crew Factory or Happiness Boutique to give all my basics a mini makeover!
Deciding to give up shopping for a year felt like an isolated choice when I made it. But as I chose gratefulness for what I had in one area, I discovered that wanting more had made me dissatisfied with what I had across the board. Thank goodness the opposite is true, too!
It’s a choice we all face- will we choose to be grateful for the things we have and use them to free up our time, energy, and money so we can make more of the things that really matter happen? Or will our culture’s constant cry for more keep us wanting, feeling like if we just had that one more thing, everything would be perfect.
Think about what area you wrestle with dissatisfaction in the most. For the next week, what if you wrote down at least one thing a day that you’re grateful for in that area, whether it’s your career, a relationship, or stuff?
Choose thankfulness, and watch it turn what you have into more than enough.