One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

Category Archives: Shopaholic

I keep a suitcase in the basement that I fill with clothes that are headed to resale.  With as much closet purging and as little clothes buying as I’ve done in the past year, I have been consistently convinced that each trip to resale will be my last for at least the next 6 months, if not a year.  Because if I’m adding very few new clothes, and each time I’ve purged my closet I’ve gotten it down to just my favorites, how is it possible I could still have more stuff to get rid of so quickly?  Well, apparently, it is possible, because look:

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I sold back clothing about two months ago, so this new pile-up was a surprise.  The suitcase was so full of clothes that I felt compelled to take a look at what I was getting rid of and why, since obviously a mere two months ago I loved these very items too much to part with them.  Here’s is a brief sampling of some things that went from my love it list to my loathe it list in just a few weeks.

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Three pairs of jeans.  I wear jeans most days of the week, so I’ve always kept a lot of them in my closet – like up to 12 pairs at times.  But I’ve been steadily decreasing that number, because I’ve noticed that while yes, I always want to wear jeans, I also always want to wear the SAME jeans over and over again.  So why should I keep so many?  These three did not make the cut.

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Two summer dresses.  The striped on on the left is very cute and I did wear it a lot, but I got it at Target so it wasn’t the most well-made garment I’ve ever bought, and after being repeatedly laundered it’s starting to look a little shabby and slightly shrunken.  I definitely got my use out of it though, so I feel good about letting it go.  The pink dress is an inexpensive one I bought at Gap, and I wore it a few times, but it fell victim to the “one in one out” rule (I talk about letting it go in more detail over on the Tiny Homes site).  I was very tempted to say screw the one in/one out rule and keep both dresses, but I’m very happy with my new dress, and in just a month I have already worn the new one more than this old one, which has been hanging in my closet for nearly three years.  

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These shorts make me feel fat. Therefore, I feel irritable every time I put them on and end up taking them right back off. I have another pair of green shorts that don’t make me feel fat, but I kept these because….yeah, I don’t know.

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This shirt, cardigan, and blazer are all from Anthropologie.  I kid you not when I say that close to 70% of my wardrobe used to be comprised of items from Anthropologie.  I haven’t been able to afford to shop there in the past year, and cutting my Anthro habit made a big impact in stemming the flow of clothes into my wardrobe, since I rarely walked out of that store without buying something.  I currently have about 10 items from Anthropologie left in my possession, which for me is a little weird.  I think I hung onto to these three more out of nostalgia for my favorite store than any real desire to wear them.  But a whole spring/summer went by without me wearing the shirt or cardigan, and while I still like the blazer well enough, I’ve slowly gotten rid of most of the other items that I used to wear it with, so now it feels like odd man out.  It was time for all of them to go.

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I actually wore this halter top from the Banana Republic outlet store a lot, and I remember buying it on a whim and it being on such a great sale I thought “If I wear this five times I’ll get my money’s worth out of it.”  I definitely got my money’s worth, but the last couple times I tried it on I felt like it looked too boxy and ended up changing into something else, so I feel like my infatuation has ended.  But no guilt on this purchase at all!

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I do, however, have guilt over this black Diane Von Furstenburg dress which I held on to for YEARS, because it was very expensive, and well, because it was DVF.  But I rarely wore it.  I’ve never been a big fan of shirt dresses, but I’ve tried valiantly over the years to try to like them by purchasing various incarnations of the style.  I saw a picture of myself wearing this dress shortly after I’d worn it to our Godson’s christening, and I looked like a total frump.  After that, I never really wanted to wear it again.  My Godson is now seven years old.  Time to let it go.

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I have a LOT of guilt for getting rid of these boots.  Not because I like them, but because a) I spent waaaay too much money on them, and b) I purchased them while on vacation in Vienna, and made poor Ron go into store after store one day for HOURS while I searched for the perfect black boot (important side note:  I already had three pairs of black boots at home, and was wearing a fourth pair that I really liked while I was on this stupid quest).  I wore them only a handful of times, because holyhelllookattheheelsonthosethings – I’m lucky I didn’t fall down and break/sprain something/everything.  Every time I wore them I was worried I would catch that open heel on something and trip, so needless to say, I was not the epitome of graceful when I wore them.  And therefore, I never wanted to wear them.  And every time I looked at them in the closet, I was reminded of my bad judgement.  It will be nice to be free from their mockery.

I could go on with more pictures and stories, but it’d be more of the same, and this post would take an hour to read.  In addition to the items I’ve specifically shown here, I also sold a bunch of t-shirts, sweaters, work out clothes, and a few more pairs of shoes – and walked out of resale with $204.  If I had any nostalgia about letting these items go when I went in, I can assure you I didn’t have any left when they handed me the money.

And here is the pile of stuff that didn’t sell that I will be taking to Goodwill:

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I guess the lesson I learned from this little exercise, and will probably still be learning for a while to come, is that I still have a lot more than I actually need, and much of what I am still clinging to is for reasons other than “I love it”.  I’m still finding my lagom.  

 

 


It hasn’t been my intention to turn into a once a month blogger, but I was just looking at the dates of the last two posts and realized that’s pretty much what I’ve become!  I’m going to try to get back into the swing of things, but if my current trend of busyness continues, I might only be able to up it to about twice a month.

I haven’t done anything interesting or remarkable when it comes to my stuff lately – I’ve parted with a few things here and there, but nothing major.  There are still areas in my home that could use some help, but with the amount I’ve been working, the last thing I’ve wanted to do at the end of the day is come home and sort through all my crap.  It’s been all I can do to continue to keep things like incoming mail and magazines under control.  Overstuffed drawers and closets?  Forget it, they can wait.

Actually, I was pretty proud of myself for throwing something away the the other day.  I reached into my purse for a lip gloss, and grabbed the first tube my fingers found.  I put it on, and noticed that it smelled kinda chemical-y, like maybe it was past its prime.  Then I looked in the mirror and wasn’t happy with the color.  Or how sticky it felt on my lips.  And  instead of just putting it back in my purse like I usually do, I actually THREW IT AWAY.  That may seem like the obvious choice, but take a look at the tube:

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I’ve had it so long, all the identifying brand information has worn off the tube.  It’s still mostly full.  I have probably hated the color multiple times, but I do remember that this lip gloss was expensive, so I’ve just hung onto it, hoping someday I would like it, use it, and get my money’s worth out of it.  I’m happy to say that I am finally able to toss stuff like this, leaving my purse a little lighter from unnecessary stuff.  And unnecessary guilt.

Other than that, I guess the main thing that’s been on my mind these days is that for as jubilant as we were to be out of debt, I mostly feel like we’re still in it, because nothing about our financial life is more fun than it was before.  Part of this is due to us having a lot of expenses in June, so to be fair, we haven’t had a month yet where we weren’t trying to come up with an extra $1,000 or so for bills.  But both Ron and I have been kinda bummed that we’re still scrimping and saving like usual, and we still can’t afford to do anything but the basics.  In fact, we were supposed to celebrate our birthdays in June since we couldn’t afford to do it in May, but June was so freaking expensive we couldn’t do it last month either.  We’ve half-heartedly talked about doing it this month, but our anniversary is in August and we need to save money to be able to celebrate that, so we may just take a pass on celebrating birthdays this year.

Obviously, these are total first-world problems.  We are not suffering.  My point is just that I keep finding myself wondering why after the initial high of reaching our goal, it really doesn’t feel better.  Even though I logically knew it would take us time to be able to bolster our finances back up, and that we couldn’t just run to the mall or start going out to eat on a regular basis the second we paid off our cards, I think a part of me WAS craving some sort of  shopping-related reward for our hard work.  For the past year I’ve kept all sorts of lists of the things I would buy when I was out of debt, and Ron and I even kept a list of things that we need to replace around the house once we are financially able.  And those lists have not budged, because instead of just charging stuff like we usually would, we are holding off buying anything that we can’t pay for in cash, or pay off in full if we were to charge it.  And that makes the whole shopping thing a sloooooow endeavor.

The one thing we did purchase this month was a replacement for our nonstick frying pan, because the coating has been chipping and peeling off on the old one over the past year, and I’ve heard that toxins can be released into your food when that happens, so we knew we needed to make it a priority to replace it:

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Mmmmm….toxins

We actually would have put it off even longer, but Williams Sonoma was having a good sale on the cookware we use, so it seemed like an opportune time to buy it.  We have a smaller nonstick frying pan from the same cookware line that is also peeling, and we considered replacing that too, but ultimately talked ourselves out of it.  Technically, our “splurge” this month was Stella’s annual shots and vet exam, which we charged last month and will be paying off in full this month.  We hadn’t really planned to replace cookware this month, and if we keep buying new pieces, we will suddenly find ourselves back in the same situation of having to come up with an extra $1,000 beyond our normal expenses and I am sick to death of that process.  So the new pan is our one purchase for July, and we’ll have to wait until next month before we can get something else.

I hate this process.  I hate waiting.  I hate not being able to get what I want or need when I want or need it.  I hate knowing that there are things I want right now that will be sold out by the time I’m able to afford them.  But even as I type these words,  I know there is nothing special about me that says I shouldn’t have to wait – lots of other people have to wait for things they want, and many of them never even get it.  And I know that if I REALLY need something important, like medical attention or food or shelter, I  have a wide open charge card that can help me get it in the blink of an eye.  And I know that for all the hundreds of items I either sold or gave away over the past year, there was a moment where I felt I wanted and needed each one of those items too, even though most of them didn’t really provide a great return on my investment.

So I suppose I just have to work my way through this part of the process, and get comfortable being uncomfortable with all the stupid waiting.  But let me tell you…it totally sucks.


I’ve been asked a lot lately how it feels to finally be out of debt.  And my first response is always the truth – that it feels amazing, great, a total relief!

But what I usually say next, because it is also the truth, is that life doesn’t feel that much different yet.  In fact, we’re guessing it will be a few months before we really start to feel like we can relax financially.  To get out of debt, we put every spare cent we had towards our credit cards, which means we were frequently down to our last couple dollars at the end of the month.  As a result, there is no extra “fun” money cushion available to us at the moment, and we actually had some significant expenses this month that were planned and expected, but need to be paid all the same.  For instance, we had to do some repairs to the duct work in our house after we discovered one had come loose and we were paying to heat the crawl space instead of the house, which cost about $500.  We put off Stella’s annual shots and vet exam for a couple months due to our finances, which we felt really anxious and guilty about, so we said we’d make it happen this month no matter what and we did –  to the tune of about $250 bucks.  So we may not have to come up with our usual credit card payment anymore, but we still do have to come up with close to $1,000 this month.  I’m just grateful we don’t have to come up with the credit card payment ON TOP of that.

So yeah…life is not all that different for the most part.

But there is one effect of being debt-free that HAS surprised me – knowing we will soon have some discretionary income again has made me want to get rid of more stuff!  I had felt pretty plateaued out on the whole purging process, and felt like maybe I had finally reached my lagom in certain categories.  But right after we got out of debt, I suddenly felt this surge of of wanting to get rid of things, especially where my clothing was concerned.  Weird, right?

Well, maybe not.  Because when I think about it, much of the reason I was holding on to some items was because I wasn’t sure how long it would be until we were out of debt and I was no longer on such a strict shopping lockdown.  I was hesitant to throw out too many of my clothing options when I knew I couldn’t buy something new if I got bored.  And that fear made me clingy.

But knowing that it’s now an option (within reason) to replace something that is worn out, or to add a new item to my closet that I really love and think I will use, made me start to reevaluate things I’ve hung onto that I don’t love as much.  Also, the weather in Portland has been absolutely glorious, so a couple weeks ago I took my spring/summer stuff out of storage and retired my heavier winter clothes.  As I was about to hang each stored piece back into the closet, I really took a minute to decide if I still loved each garment, and in several cases the answer was either “no” or “eh…I dunno.”

This time, instead of doing what I’ve always done – which is to just shove everything back in the closet anyway – I decided if the item wasn’t a definite “I love it” piece, I would test drive it. I would wear the item as soon as possible, and if it was uncomfortable, or didn’t really suit my lifestyle anymore, or made me feel frumpy, or dove me crazy in any way, it had to go.

It proved to be a great exercise.  Some items I only wore half a day before I couldn’t stand it anymore and changed into something else.  Some things didn’t even make it past getting dressed in the morning and checking my reflection before they landed in the giveaway pile.  In truth, I was probably being super duper extra critical of everything, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in my case.  As someone who has been prone to emotional and impulse buying, it’s good for me to practice being really, REALLY critical of purchases, whether that’s before I buy them (preferably), or admitting that they were mistakes after the fact and letting that acknowledgement make me more cautious moving forward.  I found myself learning a TON about what I really love and want, and what I need to carefully consider and avoid the next time I’m about to buy.

For instance, I’ve been a such a sucker for a sale in the past, that I’ve been known to buy things that aren’t my actual size, thinking I may take them to a tailor, or that the fit isn’t as bad as I think it is.  The items I test drove reminded me that I will pretty much NEVER take something to the tailor (because I’m lazy), and the fit is absolutely as bad as I think it is.  As a result I barely wear the item.  Like this very cute blouse from Anthropolgie:

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It was on sale, and I loved it.  But it was one size above my usual size.  I bought it anyway, and then every time I wore it, I spent a lot of time checking to make sure the neckline was still in place (it often wasn’t).  It looked great if I stood perfectly still, but as soon as I did something crazy, like, you know, move around, I was showing the world my cute blouse AND my cute bra.  Classy.

Also, both these skirts have been hanging in my closet for years:

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I don’t wear them that often.  Why?  Because despite the way I WISH my body was shaped, my actual shape does not look good in a skirt that’s cut like this.  Again, if I stand perfectly still, it looks great.  As soon as I start walking though, skirts like this start inching up around my hips and I spend all day tugging them back down.  They’re meant to hit just above the knee, but frequently on me, they scrunch up to miniskirt length.  I did make it through a whole day in the brown skirt, but it made me miserable and when I got home, I immediately took it off and threw it in the giveaway pile.

This shirt is a perfect example of how shopaholic crazed I can get sometimes:

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I saw it online, and it was on sale.  I dawdled about buying it for a couple days, but then decided I was going to get it, because it was the style I was looking for, I loved the color, and it was on sale.  But when I went back to the website to purchase it, they no longer had it in my size.  Suddenly I went from wanting the shirt in a nonchalant way, to an obsessive, white hot panic to track down another one just like it at any cost.  I trolled the web for a couple days and found another one for double the price of the one that had been on sale, and was just about to buy it, when I happened to check back with the initial website, and they suddenly had it available in my size again.  I triumphantly bought it, and was so excited to get it…until it arrived.  It was much cuter online than in person – in person it was much boxier, and the neckline was a lot lower than I’d realized.  Much like the blouse mentioned above, every time I wore it I found myself checking to see if my bra was showing.  I kept it for longer than I should have, trying to convince myself I liked it, because when I thought about the fervor with which I’d pursued it, I felt stupid.  But that’s the trouble with keeping things that make you feel that way – every time you look in your closet, they mock you and remind you of your mistake.  I decided it was better to admit my error and get rid of it, rather than have to look at it every day and feel guilty.

In the end, the size of the pile I amassed really surprised me:

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But I didn’t feel hesitant about getting rid of any of it.  I took it to resale and walked out with $84, which I’ve used to replace some of my worn out basic summer staples like shorts and t-shirts.  Everything I bought I found on incredible sales ($8.99 for some summer t-shirts at J. Crew, are you kidding me???), and I love the colors I chose, the quality of the items, and how they fit.

I have less stuff in my closet now than I’ve ever had, and while there still may be a few “on the fence” items lurking in there, I am pretty thrilled with everything I’ve kept, and still feel like I have a lot of stuff – maybe even too much.  It may not be be lagom yet, but it sure has been a pleasure to get dressed in the morning.


As of today, May 16th, 2014, Ron and I are officially out of credit card debt.

Let me just say that again….

WE ARE OUT OF CREDIT CARD DEBT!!!!!!!!

(Gee, it feels good to type that sentence!)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might recall that it was May of 2013 when we took my dad’s advice about a process for paying down our debt and finally got really serious about digging ourselves out of the financial hole.  A year later, we’ve accomplished it.  I know I probably sound all braggy, but trust me, it was a long, crappy, depressing year filled with a lot of work, cost cutting, saying no to things, and very little fun.  So I’m gonna brag a little, because I feel like we’ve earned it.  I couldn’t be prouder of us.

A year ago this time, between my personal credit card, Ron’s credit card, and a joint household credit card, we were $26,000 in debt.  It took me a long time to be able to admit our debt number to people, because I was ashamed of it.  I knew we’d racked up that debt with some legitimate costs, but most of it was the result of a lot of careless spending, on stuff we didn’t need or love.  Whether our number was more or less than anyone else’s is irrelevant – what matters is that we don’t have the income to support carrying that kind of debt, so for us, it was a really bad idea.  Not to mention, the interest those cards were accruing was DISGUSTING.  In order to pay it off in a year, we have been trying to come up with roughly $1,300 just in credit card payments every month, which let me tell you, was no easy feat with my variable actor income, and all our other bills.

But it’s over now – we have paid off every single penny, and it feels amazing.  A week ago, when I asked Ron what he thought it would feel like to finally have it all behind us, he said, “I imagine it being like when the main character in a fairy tale is finally freed from the spell of an evil witch or wizard or something.  That’s what this past year has felt like – like we’ve been under some kind of bad curse that couldn’t be broken.”  That’s actually a pretty accurate description.  Now we just feel…FREE.

I’ll write a post sometime soon with more specifics about our pay down process for anyone who is interested, but today, we are just going to celebrate. Ron took the day off work, and I don’t have a ton I have to do so we can spend some relaxed time together.   We have a fancy bottle of champagne we’ve been saving for a special occasion, and I can’t think of a better time to drink it.  While we still haven’t bolstered our account up enough to go out to dinner to celebrate, we’ll make a nice dinner at home, and the character I play on Grimm is in tonight’s episode (season finale!), so we’ll probably stay home and watch that.  And we won’t have to feel guilty about any of it, because we aren’t charging anything to make it happen, and it’s totally within our means.

Best.  Day.  Ever.

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I cannot tell you how excited I am to share this story from my friend Danielle Fournier.  I got a message from Danielle one day after she read one of my posts, sharing some details of her own story and I begged her to write a guest post for me.  I’ll go ahead and let you discover it for yourself, but I have to say, I am so inspired and humbled by Danielle’s journey and her honesty about the details of how she got herself into debt and then found her way out of it.  All I can say to Danielle is, “Bravo!”, and to my readers, “Enjoy!”:

Confessions Of A Former Shopaholic

I was once a shopaholic.

When I turned 18, I received a $3,000 credit card from my bank. I hit the ground running and didn’t look back.

My first purchase was indicative of a pattern that would lead to near financial ruin fifteen years later. At the time, I lived just up the hill from Frederick & Nelson’s in Seattle. I used  my shiny new credit card to purchase the most useful of items- a full length silver fox fur coat. I celebrated that purchase with perfume from another department, then dinner, then a trip to the cd store. All of it was bought with money I didn’t have.

Credit was cheap in the 90’s. My minimum payments, which was all I ever made, were $35-$75 a month. Easily affordable for a young woman with a roommate, a decent income and no responsibilities or financial planning aspirations.

My credit was so good, I bought a house at 25. By the time I was 30, I had 12 credit cards totaling nearly $80,000 in available credit, two cars on payment, a mortgage and second mortgage. I was a model of credit worthiness, all payments made on time, month after month. My house was lovely, the rooms filled with designer sheets, seasonal decor, and collectibles. I had three sets of dishes, including  a service of fine china, and closets full of fashionable clothes, most with the tags still intact. Life was good.

However, it wasn’t really. I lived on credit. I had gas cards, department store cards, regular Visas and Mastercards, plus an American Express. Debit cards weren’t in high use yet, but I had an active check book and ATM card. I spent money as fast as I could make it. I never, ever had more than $40 on me, because I was breaking $100s the minute I got them. But hey, the money kept coming in every month, so who cared?

Two events happened a year apart that would bring me to my financial knees and change my life forever.

On May 27, 2007, my younger brother was involved in a diving accident that would devastate our family in ways both financial and emotional. Spinal cord injuries require vast amounts of care involving medications, caregivers, and surgeries. My parents saw their retirements wiped away in a matter of months caring for their son when the insurance wouldn’t cover expenses.

I found myself leaving a three generation family business to go into sales in my brother’s business while we figured out what his prognosis was. Three months turned into six, then a year. I spent six days a week traveling. My bills started falling behind.

I sold my car. I used the money for something other than my bills. I stopped buying a new wardrobe every season. I kept working, but the bills kept stacking up in my new position with lower pay. As a family, we all pitched in and just made it work that first year. We all lived in a haze of sadness over the injury, but remained hopeful for both physical and financial recovery.

I received a phone call from my father in October of 2008. I had turned over my finances to him during the past year when I was working out of town. The truth is, I knew I was in trouble and I couldn’t face the facts, so I just let him handle it. I completely stuck my head in the sand.

I knew what was coming. I had to sell my house.

I cried and cried and cried. I had turned a humble chalet with yellow Formica and glued down carpeting on five acres into a charming abode with high ceilings and custom wood floors. I was so proud I had done this in my twenties. I had all these things that signaled me as a success. And now I was going to part with each and every one of them.

I felt like a horrible failure. But it was the beginning of the happiest time of my life.

My beautiful little house sold in less than three weeks. I had no time to sort or even clean. Box after box went into the moving van. I had rented a tiny apartment next to my parents in Seattle that had room for a bed, a love seat, a desk and a bookcase. The kitchen was three burners, a small sink and a mini fridge. Everything else went into three 10×20 storage units.

Since the house had doubled in value, I paid all my debts off. I then closed each card, dying as I cut each one to bits over a trash can. They weren’t any good anyway. I had stopped paying them three months before when I could no longer afford the payments. My cheap and easy credit had ballooned to a whopping $7,000 a month, the mortgage being the smallest of the bills. I decided wrecking my credit was favorable over not paying off the cards. With my income cut in half, my only choice was to sell everything I owned to pay the debts.

There was one beautiful, beautiful blessing in my house sale. I got to see Paris.

With all my debts paid, I had some left over. I was heartbroken over the past two years and I decided I would let my money serve me for once. I was going to make a dream come true. Stuff, no matter how fine or beautiful, has never filled me up. It has never loved me, never held me or wiped a tear, or left me in wonder after a conversation.

Thanks to a travel agent with a a huge heart and lots of experience, I was able to travel for nine weeks on a budget I had previously reserved for a weeklong soiree at a hotel. Armed with three sets of clothes and a pencil, I roved over 16 countries by myself. I came home a changed person.

It turns out, the worst thing that ever happened to me was really the best thing to ever happen. Strangely enough, letting go gave me so much more than I ever dreamed of. I only pay cash now for anything, preferably with real paper money. Now, when I want to buy a pair of shoes, I do so without remorse or guilt. But I have a rule, for each one that comes in, one item must leave my closet. I have learned to create and respect boundaries with my stuff, which has poured over into all areas of my life.

Cutting the ties with things has opened me up to experience. My identity no longer revolves around labels, and I have found peace in simplicity. From the joy of making my own dinners to being able to afford four weeks of travel a year on a very average income (because I no longer shop frivolously), I live a life no longer tied to my financial security dictating every move I make.

And that is the greatest luxury.

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D.E. Fournier’s stories explore the places where the mundane and the mystical coincide in everyday life. A third generation newspaper publisher, ink is in her blood. She studied Ethnic Studies at Oregon State, before earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. She lives in Seattle. Read her travel blog at http://farandawaytravelblog.blogspot.com/

 

 


For the first time in…well, EVER, we have our taxes done this year before April.  There was a definitely method to our madness– because we are still making significantly large payments to our credit card debt, we decided we would need to plan ahead and figure out a way to save if we owned any money.  We did end up owing some, but not as much (thank God) as we thought we might – in fact, our accountant’s fee was more than what we owed the government, so we are grateful and will be able to pay it in full by the due date.

I asked our accountant how many years of back tax paperwork we truly needed to save – and she said five years was probably enough, but if we wanted to play it safe, seven was the official number.  Because nothing freaks me out more than the thought of having to reconstruct a financial year from memory, I decided to go with saving seven years, but was still able to purge about three years worth of excess paperwork, which felt great.  I set aside an afternoon, plugged in the shredder, and took savage delight in watching all those old bills and receipts get chewed to bits.

But as I was feeding the papers into the machine, the balance on a couple of our old credit card statements caught my eye, and I stopped to read them more carefully.  You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?  Well, when you are a shopaholic, so is an old credit card statement.  It was like stepping back into a Mall of Shame.

For example, look at the average amount of money I spent just in the month of June several years ago:

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Granted this was a couple months before we got married, and it’s  true that expenses can be high during that time – I know a couple things on this statement were wedding related.  But let’s face it, there is a lot of Nordstrom-ing going on this month.  What I also know was that during this month I had left my full time corporate job to take a part time writing job, at a 40% pay cut with no benefits.  There is NO WAY I could afford this level of buying.  And yet…there it is, in black and white, all the places I bought stuff that I probably didn’t need and definitely couldn’t afford.

I flipped forward to the month of our wedding, to see if our spending slowed down any, now that we’d had time to adjust to my new reduced income, but the bill from our joint credit card reflects no such change:

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Again, some more wedding charges, but did we need to go out to eat that much?  And how about throwing away $39 on a late fee (which happened ALL THE TIME during those years).    It should also be noted that we had just received a crapload of presents and new stuff for our wedding, and spent a bunch of money on souvenirs from our honeymoon in Mexico, so WE DIDN’T NEED ANYTHING.  It’s…sad, really.

I decided to look at a statement from close to a year later, to see if I’d finally pulled it together:

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There may be less line items on this one, but holy crap, look at the amounts spent at each place.  $541 in just one trip to Anthropologie?  Don’t forget I’d already been there twice already that month, dropping $226 the first time, and $58 the second time.  And $478 on boots at Bella Moda?  Another $200 on shoes at Johnny Sole?  And clearly my dedication to keeping Nordstrom in business hasn’t waned this month – four visits to the tune of about $240.  Yes, I did make a $400 payment, but I spent more than that in just ONE visit to Anthropologie – there was no way I was getting ahead of my debt.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, and ever wondered if I was being dramatic about my shopping habit, I hope this clears things up.  I have a real problem when it comes to shopping.  I almost typed “had”, but I’m not so cocky as to think I’m over it yet – one of the only things that has kept me in check this past year was the cold grip of fear that closed around my heart whenever I thought about our debt to income ratio. I haven’t shopped because I felt like I absolutely couldn’t do it and still cover our basic bills.   But as our debt is dwindling down, I find myself wondering what will happen after it’s gone, and I have disposable income again- will I go back to my old ways and rack the debt back up?  I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson and I wouldn’t – that from now on I will be responsible and level-headed when it comes to shopping and debt.  But the truth is, I really don’t know.  I guess only time will tell.


I have never really felt compelled to come up with a good reason to shop.  In the past, I have shopped because I just like doing it.  Or because I had free time to kill.  Or because I like pretty things.  Or because I was feeling sad and I knew it would cheer me up.   Sometimes I actually did need stuff, but not needing things was never a deterrent either.

If anything, especially over the last year, I have had to remind myself of all the reasons why I should NOT be shopping.  And because those reasons are all boring, depressing, nose-to-the-grindstone types of reasons like debt and not enough space and the admittance that I don’t use some of the stuff I already have, it always feels like a really dreary argument.  And because I’m a shopaholic, my crafty, addicted brain is excellent at coming up with really, really good counter arguments to combat what common sense is telling me.  It becomes all I can do to stay on the No Shopping Wagon.

Recently, I have been performing on a live radio show called Live Wire – if you aren’t familiar with it, you can listen to the podcasts at livewireradio.org.  We record the show in front of a live audience in Portland, and then the show is broadcast in various cities all over the United States.  For the live performances, I usually get dressed up – I don’t need a costume per se, but I usually wear something a little fancy, like a nice dress and high heels and some sparkly jewlery.  With the amount of shows I’ve done at this point, coupled with all the clothes I’ve gotten rid of, I’ve worn all my nice dresses at least 2-3 times each.  So I’ve been feeling some outfit boredom.  Add that to my ongoing shopping hunger, and you have the perfect recipe for a bullshit rationalized shopping binge.

I have found myself “window shopping” for some new evening wear items–both in person and online–a lot lately.  And as the shopping guilt creeps in, I hear a little voice in my head arguing, “But you NEED it for work!”, so I push the guilt aside and follow the enabling little voice and continue to scan the racks for something to buy.  It’s a really scary how easy it is to sway me–because lets’ face it, I DON’T need new clothes for work, I just WANT them.  I could probably rotate through the same 5-6 dresses over and over again and the audience would never care, or maybe even notice.  The people who listen to the show on the radio can’t even see me, so they definitely don’t notice or care.  The truth is I am still not past the point where buying new things makes me feel better, and as I’m continuing to trudge through the debt pay down process, I’m consciously and subconsciously always trying to find ways to make myself feel better.

So though I’ve managed to resist making any actual purchases (I even found myself standing in the queue at H&M at one point, one person away from the cashier, before I finally stepped out of line, hung the dress on the nearest rack and slunk out of the store with a pounding heart), I still have not figured out what to do with the feelings that remain, or the leftover shreds of the argument that feel so credible that I DO need something new.

And then last week  it occurred to me, why didn’t I just ask a friend who wore my size if I could borrow a dress?  It would keep me from buying something that I didn’t really need, spending money I didn’t have, but still provide a solution to my craving.  I know in my heart that even if I did buy a new dress, after I’d worn it a couple times I would just want something new again, and then I’d  end up having to figure out how to store the stupid thing before ultimately selling it.  This pattern is largely how I ended up with so many clothes and so much debt in the first place.

My dear friend Nikki is the same size as me, and we’ve traded clothes before – often when I clean out my closet, I give her first dibs on anything she might like before I resell or donate the rest, and she does the same for me.  Nikki is one of those people that I’m just in awe of – she is so driven and badass yet super zen and calm at the same time.  This is a woman who, while pregnant with her first child,  ran a marathon and was doing yoga handstands well into her last trimester.  She’s a wonderful actress and runs a theatre company with her husband, travels, teaches yoga and runs yoga retreats, and manages to somehow be an attentive friend, mother, wife, and colleague and never look stressed out or yell at people like I know I would if I were trying to do all that.  If you just saw these facts about her written on paper, you might either think she was too good to be true, or be green with envy at all she manages to do and be while making it look so easy.  But then you meet her and can’t help but fall in love with her open heart, genuine friendship, generosity, and honesty.  In fact, the first time I met Nikki we were at an audition where we were up for the same part, and she ended up getting it.  You’d think maybe that would have inspired at least some feelings of professional competition, but I had liked her so much and so immediately, and thought she was so talented, that I found myself unable to feel anything but happy for her.  We ultimately ended up being cast in a  show together and became friends, and I can’t help but feel like I’ve known her for much longer than I have.

When I asked Nikki if I might be able to borrow some dresses, she immediately said yes, and we realized that the timing was actually kind of perfect since she is currently pregnant with her second baby,  so she won’t be wearing most of her dresses right now anyway.  I went over to her house this week and looked through her stash and it was so much fun–I got some pretty things to wear for the show, didn’t spend any money, and managed to sneak in a nice long visit with my friend as well. Win-win-win-win-win.

And though I teetered very close to the edge,  thanks to Nikki’s generosity, I have managed to stay on the No Shopping Wagon for yet another day.

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