25 Tips to Get Your Clothes Shopping Habit Under Control

Clothes Shopping Habit

This article has been updated and refreshed from its original version in June 2018.

For many women, shopping for clothes offers more than just a necessity—it’s fun, a form of relaxation, and sometimes, a habitual way to reduce anxiety stemming from other areas of life. In some cases, this enjoyable activity can lead to remorse, overspending, and financial strain.

Whether it’s the thrill of finding a bargain, the lure of the latest fashion trends, or encouragement from well-meaning friends or shop-owners, various factors can fuel the urge to buy more than we need or can afford. By understanding your triggers and learning practical strategies to help you manage your shopping habits effectively, you can enjoy fashion sustainably and without regret.

First, Face Reality

It’s easy to overlook how quickly small purchases can accumulate into a significant expense. By taking a moment to reflect and truly understand where your money goes, you can gain valuable insights into your shopping behaviors and the emotional triggers that often accompany them.

First, look back over the past 6 to 12 months to see how much you spent on clothing, shoes, and other accessories. You can do this by pulling old credit card and bank account statements, or if you use a budgeting app like YNAB or Goodbudget (or Emoney if you work with me) these purchases may already be categorized for you.

Once you have a better understanding of your spending habits, you can create a reasonable budget for your wardrobe. Remember, this isn’t about restricting your style or passion for fashion; rather, it’s about aligning your spending with your values and financial goals.

With a clear, realistic budget in place, you empower yourself to make smarter purchasing decisions, fostering a healthier relationship with shopping and your finances. However, sticking to your new budget over the long term often requires a proactive and practical approach.

Consider these tips to get your clothes-shopping habit under control:

Notice that many of these tips are as much about the psychology of shopping as they are about the acquiring of new clothing, shoes, and accessories.

  1. Try to intentionally schedule shopping trips instead of spontaneously dropping into your favorite stores just to “take a look at what’s new.”
  2. Don’t shop when you’re lonely, tired, frustrated, anxious, or bored.
  3. Avoid shopping immediately after a setback or a major victory.
  4. When the adrenalin kicks in and you catch yourself in a shopping frenzy, leave the store before buying anything. Focus on centering yourself first.
  5. Don’t let friends, shop-owners, or salespeople convince you that something looks great on you when you don’t think it does, or it’s just not your style.
  6. Decide what you need in your wardrobe and make a list. Take the list with you when you go shopping.
  7. Before you buy anything on sale, ask yourself whether you would buy it at full price.
  8. Think quality, not quantity. Not only will the item of clothing last longer, but you’re also likely to love it longer.
  9. Stop rationalizing. You don’t need a whole new wardrobe because you got a new job or because you now work at home.
  10. Buy things you’re going to wear now, not for a far-off occasion or event that may never happen.
  11. Buy clothing for the way you live now, not for the way you wish you were living. (For example, buying a fancy dress when you never go to fancy parties.)
  12. Avoid buying one-off pieces of clothing that don’t go with anything in your wardrobe.
  13. Don’t buy clothing in the wrong size thinking you’ll lose weight or have it “taken in.” (Although, having a good tailor is worth its weight in gold.)
  14. Try shopping with cash, not credit cards. It’s easier to set limits.
  15. Limit the number of trendy items you buy to just a small percentage of your wardrobe.
  16. Think 10: everything you buy should be as close to a “10” as possible.
  17. Realize that a new dress, skirt, blouse, or jacket isn’t going to make you more beautiful or change your life.
  18. To help make better buying decisions, analyze your wardrobe to understand what your favorite go-to pieces are. What are the common themes?
  19. Home in on what colors and styles look best on you to limit choices.
  20. Instead of going shopping with girlfriends, do something else. For instance, go for a hike, to a museum, or out to lunch.
  21. Embrace the “one-in, one-out” rule. (If your wardrobe is very large, you may want to release two or three pieces for each new item you buy.)
  22.  Think like an economist and analyze the cost per wear before buying.
  23. Track your clothing and accessories spending to hold yourself accountable.
  24. Unsubscribe from marketing emails. Retailers often tempt you with constant emails about sales and new arrivals. Reduce temptation by unsubscribing from these marketing communications.
  25. Implement a waiting period. Before making a purchase, institute a 24 to 48-hour waiting period. This pause can help you decide if it’s a genuine need or just an impulse buy.

Kick Your Clothes-Shopping Habit, Once and for All

If you’re able to stick to your new budget for a few months, set a lower budget for the next month and see how it goes. Tracking your spending not only keeps you honest. But it will also show you if you tend to buy the same items over and over (which is very common). For instance, how many pairs of jeans or black tank tops do you really need?

It may take several attempts to get your clothes-shopping habit under control. But with each small victory, you will get stronger. Just think about all the time and money you’ll gain by not buying so many clothes and what else you can do with it to make your life better.

P.S. This post is written by someone who loves fashion and who continues to incorporate these tips into her own shopping habits. 🙂

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Curtis Financial Planning