What a Shopping Ban Can Teach You

Posted by Jill Chivers in Fashion, Style and Shopping, Interviews and Profiles, Shop Your Wardrobe Strategies, Shopping Strategies, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

Today’s post is from Sally McGraw who instituted a self-imposed shopping ban on herself in an effort to knock off her particular shopping dragon.

Everything you’re about to read is true.  And since there’s no better person than a communications specialist with a flair for storytelling to do the telling, I’ll hand over to Sally right now.  In her own words….

Sally McGraw

In the fall of 2008, I began a 6 month shopping ban. I was shopping and spending unchecked, causing financial damage, and feeling utterly lost and out-of-control. So, as other style bloggers have done before me, I decided to create a self-imposed ban. I knew quitting cold turkey would backfire on me, so I allowed myself $10 per week to spend on used clothing, shoes, and accessories. Nothing new for 6 months besides gifts.

I did it entirely for myself, because I was feeling awful about my relationship with shopping, not due to any outside input. It was fun and it was hard and it was weird and my readers had varied reactions. Many were supportive of my project, many more fascinated by my progress, and a small minority quite judgmental about my slip-ups. And if I’m being totally honest, three years later my spending is still a little wacky. The constant influx of newness from the bajillion style blogs I read makes it hard to quench that want, want, want feeling.

But I pay all my bills on time, save for retirement, save for personal reasons, have a pension, minimal credit card and no other personal debt. I would never hold myself up as a paragon of financial responsibility, mostly because I believe that every person should decide for herself how money should be spent or saved.

During my shopping ban, I accumulated some wisdom about keeping spending in check.  This might be helpful to some of you folks, too. Especially if you find yourself in a constant state of lusting and shopping.

  1. Cut back on blogs, catalogs, and mags: When the temptation of seeing new things is removed, the urge to shop diminishes. Simple as that.
  2. Make saving automatic: I have $30 per paycheck deducted and socked into a savings account at a credit union. It’s not my main bank and I frankly have no idea how to withdraw money from it! It’s building slowly, but it’s there. If you can take money right out of your paycheck, you won’t even consider spending it.
  3. Make a list of unworn items: This is a huge one for me. Whenever I buy something new, I add it to this list. And whenever I  do outfit brainstorming, I go through my closet and add to the list any items that are underutilized. Whenever I get that aimless urge to spend on something, ANYTHING, I look over my list. Because it is long. I have lots of stuff. And remembering that I have fun, new or newish items that are yet to be worn curbs the spending urge.
  4. Create a savings goal: When I have no real reason to save, it’s much harder. I was able to sock away money for our Iceland trip fairly quickly and easily. Whereas just putting it aside for … a rainy day? Car repairs? The future? If you want a house, make a house fund. If you want to travel, make a trip fund. If you want lasik surgery, make a lasik fund. Imagining a larger goal can make saving less difficult.
  5. HALT: This is an AA trick that I’ve learned. If you’re itching to spend, ask yourself if you’re also feeling hungry, angry/anxious, lonely, or tired. All of those emotions are triggers for addictive behavior and sometimes just identifying what you’re truly feeling can help you dampen the urge.

My shopping ban taught me that my money issues have to do with control. If I can’t control my money, I feel powerless, frustrated, and rebellious. I’ve had to find other ways to work around my urges. If you’re wired like me, some of the ideas listed above may help.

About the author:Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based blogger, freelance writer, and communications professional who writes about style and body image issues.

Oh and if you’re wondering about the usefulness or efficacy of shopping bans, you might find this snippet of interest. Donald Black, MD, is professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine and is listed as one of “America’s best doctors”.  He writes about all kinds of fascinating things to do with human behaviour and works with people who have shopping addictions.

Dr Black is quoted as saying: “With some patients, I tell them they should have a self-proposed ban on shopping”.   So, I’ll take that as a general endorsement of our approach here at My Year Without Clothes Shopping, even though it isn’t a specific one.


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    6 Responses to “What a Shopping Ban Can Teach You”

    1. Stacey says:

      Hey Jill!

      I’m so glad you shared Sally’s profile. It really is fascinating and informative to learn from other people’s experience!

    2. Nikki says:

      Great post from Sally. Thank you. I loved the idea of writing everything in your closet down. I may try it!

    3. tammy vitale says:

      I so agree with “stop reading blogs, magazines and catalogs.” They are set up to make you desire something. It is their very nature. Since I mostly shop for clothes from magazines, when spending gets out of hand I start folding the page I’m interested in and putting the magazine in a stack. I have a lot of stacks. It will get lost. When I find it, it is usually out of season so I can go “sale” shopping on line to see if it’s still around – that is if it still looks as good as it did the first go round!

      • Jill says:

        yes, that one is a GREAT tip — if you don’t ever see it, how can you hanker for it? I’ve found that to be true, not so much with magazines and catalogs (they aren’t my temptation), but with items in the stores. If I don’t go into the store, I can’t see what thtey have and I can’t be tempted. It’s an amazingly effective strategy!

    4. Julia says:

      I’ve stopped going into stores as frequently as I used to. Now, the grocery store has some things that can be tempting, but if I limit my giving in to temptation to just 1 item per visit, or 2 items per week, I can keep the money part of it from being a huge impact by buying the $1 item and not the $8 item. (And I really don’t need any more pans now, they just look pretty, which it the temptation there.)

      I just realized, this year, I haven’t made any clothing purchases for myself without either checking in with my husband, or better yet, taking him to the store with me. That’s another way to keep things in check. It was a lot of fun to take him with me to help me pick out what colors of Converse sneakers to get — I figured I’d get 2 pair, so that if one clashed with something, the other would still work, and I wanted his input on colors. He told me to get the red ones, which wouldn’t clash with anything in my wardrobe that I’d wear with sneakers in the first place, except maybe some green tops – and the green being separated from the red by something else would minimize the problem. So, I only got 1 pair when I was thinking I’d “need” 2! (He and I pick out outfits for each other on a regular basis, or if I’m having trouble deciding between 2 or 3 outfits or elements of an outfit, he’ll help me out there, so between that and my having tried on almost everything in my closet for him last summer, in an effort to get rid of awful things but keep good things, he has a decent idea as to just what’s in my closet.)

      • Jill says:

        The “husband strategy” is also very effective, as a method of containing spending – depending on what kind of husband you have! Sounds like you and your husband make quite a team, not only when it comes to shopping, but to outfit creation in general!

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