Tuesday, 28 December 2010

TGAAD 21/52: On Spending and Buying

Chris and I are going to visit the Big Apple in a couple of weeks on our first wedding anniversary. I decided ages ago to not worry about The Great American Apparel Diet too much while we are in NYC. I am going to allow myself to do a little bit of shopping there. The question that troubles me right now is: what is going to be worth the money?

Okay, so I have bought a few things while being on TGAAD, but I have been rather surprised how differently I am starting to view buying the less I do it. I paid 3 euros for the cardigan I am wearing today. It has been a great purchase: it is warm, comfortable and wearable. I have worn it probably 20 times already. But if I had found it in a proper store, how much would I have been ready to pay for it? $25? $50? $100? I honestly don't know. I feel like I am losing track of what things cost and why. Or maybe it is not the cost that is the issue here: maybe it is me. The truth is that I feel uncomfortable spending money. I have somehow lost the ability to justify spending. I wonder if this has something to do with having reached "a stuff saturation point"? Or is this the result of no longer feeling a void in my personal life that I was trying to fill with a lot of shopping in the past? Have I broken the habit? Or, have I perhaps finally learned something about the value of money?

I have come to understand a fair bit about my own shopping patterns; for example that the thrill that I have got in the past from shopping reached its peak at the moment of money transaction. Realizing this was quite a shock to me. I had always just assumed that the main point in my shopping was to have and own new things, not to buy them. But the less I have bought things, the more I have come to recognise that the high has come from the buying.

Looking back at my little spending spree in Finland a few weeks ago, I notice now that I made one or two mistakes. I got excited about cheap prices at flea markets and, for example, bought a burnt orange corduroy skirt+shorts=skort that I probably will not wear. Overall though, I did really well, and yes, I am going to pat myself in the back because of that. I bought practical things that I could see myself wearing a lot in the future; things that I am excited about having and wearing. I even got myself a new pair of skinny jeans, and I didn't feel guilty. But I did notice feeling awfully distracted in proper clothing stores. (I visited quite a few while shopping for Christmas presents.) There were so many clothes everywhere; clothes that seemed horribly expensive, and more importantly, clothes I knew I didn't need, or even want. Clothing stores even looked like spending traps. The layout of a store would look obviously calculated to me. Everything from store windows to the choice of music played in shops felt like products of a carefully considered marketing scheme, which, of course, it is.

Back to the question regarding our trip to NYC: what do I need, or want? You know, maybe I don't need anything, although I could see myself trying to find a good pair of flat shoes, perhaps, or a neat handbag, maybe even a white shirt. Whatever I might end up buying though, I know that I will buy for different reasons than three years ago. I aim to feeling good about wearing something that I appreciate, not something I just wanted to buy for the sake of buying.

Cardigan: second hand / Valtteri flea market in Helsinki
Tee: JCPenney
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Kurt Geiger


Someone said...

You know, that is really interesting about where you found your buying "high." Mine is probably the first time wearing something, if it's about new-to-me clothes/accessories. At that point an item is new and promising; if in reality it doesn't end up looking or feeling good at that first wear then it falls off the pedestal.

Regarding clothes prices, the same thing happened to me a long time ago (well, I'm a good deal older). I can rarely justify spending full retail price and I tend to avoid shops unless they're having deep sales. There are exceptions of course, but I think when we stop believing that the prices asked equal the value of an item, we are simply more mature. We are wiser and not as easily suckered into forking over our money.

Part of the problem with the mismatch these days is that lots of things LOOK good at first but are low quality, so someone can make a fast buck. We live in a world of fakeness and illusion now. It used to be that quality and price were much more related and people could choose accordingly.

About New York: if you're going to buy any wearables, what I would do is research places to get discounted, high quality items that are not easily obtainable anywhere else but in person there, such as unique fashion outlets or sample sales. Flea markets and thrift stores are always an option of course (although outdoor shopping may not work well this time of year). The boutiques can be fun but when you're looking at racks where the plainest thin sweater starts at $350, well...just window shop at those.

Have fun!

RoseAG said...

My rule about shopping while traveling is to keep it to accessories.

The things you might be inspired to buy on a trip aren't necessarily what you'll wear as a part of your normal life, so buying something big can easily turn into a mistake.

If you've lusted after some particular item for weeks and it's only sold where you're going that's OK, but going to NYC and buying a big wardrobe item on impulse is risky.

Teenysparkles said...

Good luck, I'm sure you'll be fine. That cardigan is so cute. i fell off my wagon and bought a teeshirt for way more than i should've. I don't even really like it. i had a friend with me telling me i should ...so i did. And now it is going to be gifted to my mum...it's true I feel that silly about it. You're an inspiration, keep it up!

JRose said...

Well, things ARE ridiculously overpriced, so you're right about that. I don't get a high from actual buying...but I do get a bit of a high from actually throwing money away. Is that terrible? I sometimes throw away pennies because it's fun. I'm too practical to throw away significant amounts. I don't know, do you think I need therapy? (I'm joking...)

Modesty is Pretty said...

You look so warm and comfortable in your outfit. I love a sweater that will keep me warm any time. Happy early Anniversary! Yes you deserve a pat in the back because it's really hard not to buy things only because you like them. In the past few days I've left many things behind, at stores and thrift stores, things I liked but didn't need. I went through my closet and took some things out that I bought because I "liked" them but they are totally not my style and I noticed why sometimes it's hard to get dressed, I have too many clothes but most don't work together. I've recently started making some new purchases, I hadn't shopped at a store in a long time, almost everything I have is thrifted, while going through my closet I noticed that the things I paid full price get a lot of wear and are still hanging in there. Those things are few, so I'm trying to make smart purchases on new stuff, it's hard though once I pay for them but I can see myself wearing them a lot. I really enjoy reading your thoughts and reflections on your TGAAD. =)

Charlotte said...

When I go to NYC, I spend most of my time in art museums. That is never a waste of time or money!

Like you, I have turned into a very poor customer in "regular" retail shops. If I can buy an Ann Taylor cashmere twinset at Goodwill for $3, going to a store where it might cost $100 seems pretty pointless. I'm just not interested.

Your sweater is extremely cute.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, sweetie! Perhaps I will be the one who buys impulsively in NYC (though really, all I desire is a pair of Fluevogs! :). oxox, CR

Myrna said...

Whenever I travel, I look for an amazing piece of jewelry or an accessory that I absolutely love. I don't always find one but when I do, it becomes my souvenir of that trip especially as I keep these items for a long period of time.

Anonymous said...

When abroad, I look for three types of things: books, scarves and chilli peppers, but that's just me.
As for things being overpriced- I couldn't agree more on that. A few years ago (incidentally when I started being financially independent) I began buying clothes mostly in thrift stores and at flea markets (with the exception for shoes and underwear). Since then, 5 euros have seemed enough for an entire outfit and 10 euros could easily buy me a decent winter coat. Money spent in thrift stores never seemed wasted to me - even if I wore a piece just a couple of times, it still was value for money. And I really doubt that if I was to spend, say, 50 euros on a piece of clothing, I'd be equally glad with my purchase. A huge part of my satisfaction of buying comes from me being so thrifty; as if I cheated the System. Call me Scrooge.

K.Bean said...

Figuring out when the high comes seems like a great way to better understand one's own shopping habits. I will have to figure out when my buying high hits. I think mine might be the moment in the change room when I mentally flick through outfits I can make with my newfound treasure.

jesse.anne.o said...

I think my high comes at purchase and then when something works well for me while on. I do feel a small victory when I've made a smart, versatile purchase.

The thing about *retail* here is that you can get almost anything here, online. I would recommend 2 things - 1) looking at all the spendy stores on 5th Ave and Barneys Co-Op, et al as a tourist attraction and 2) scope our resale places; those are fairly well stocked and accessible (Buffalo Exchange, Beacon's Closet, etc.)

Our vintage is usually ridiculously overpriced.