Could you buy just 5 new items of clothing this year?
Even a shopaholic like me knows it's time to change
Look me in the eye and tell me you've never done this.
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My name is Sam and I’m a (bit of a) shopaholic. (Look at me, qualifying in the first sentence. The truth is, I would be far worse if I had the money.) I have always loved clothes, even back in my student Goth days when I had about a £25 to last me a month after rent and all those clothes had to be black, I could still spend hours scouring Digbeth Market (student second-hand shopping venue of choice in Birmingham circa mid-1980s) for yet another black dress. I still mourn my most coveted find, a black double layer lace shift dress from the sixties that fitted like a glove back when 20-year-old me thought I was fat and I could just about get half way up my thighs now, but that’s a different conversation.
It took me many years to connect my clothes shopping habit to my emotional state – the more stressed, bored, unhappy, etc I was, the more I sought solace in a(nother) new x/y/z – and many more to curtail it. And, if I’m honest, the curtailing was connected far more to lack of cash than any sort of burgeoning self-knowledge.
Earlier this week I was talking to social media money mentor, amongst other things, Santis O’Garro about her spending habits and how she got her debt under control (and turned it into her job). She explained that her lightbulb moment came from the realisation that it was the spending she loved, not owning the thing itself. She spent, she said, for validation, to feel she belonged, to be accepted. And for the buzz that went along with that. With her first pay packet, aged 13, she bought a pair of Nike trainers that finally gained her the approval of the cool girls at school who had previously mocked her. Later, when her ex dumped her, she bought an Audi A4 cabriolet (his favourite car), to show she was doing OK. She, like many of us, shopped to prove her worth, not because she needed anything other than validation.
"To this day, I still get that feeling," she writes in her new book, The Money Mentor (Opens in a new window). "It doesn’t come from actually having the products at the end of the purchase, but from everything leading up to that. I feel powerful; it makes my inner child feel worthy and accomplished. It’s the steps of walking into a shop, the buzz in the air, even the sales- people packing my products up and the moment I am just about to pay; that’s pure endorphin bliss."
I recognised that feeling ,if not the specific impetuses. (Who hasn't spent an evening on the sofa filling a basket online, for the sheer fun of choosing outfits for another life? Just me? Oh. OK then.) And, hand on heart, I have never bought a car to make an ex jealous although I certainly do recognise the sentiment! I have, however, bought (countless pairs of) hideously expensive, ludicrously high designer heels in an ineffective attempt to fit in on the front row, for instance. Ditto fancy dresses I bought in a panic, felt painfully uncomfortable in and wore once at some black tie do or other because I thought I should... I could go on, but you get the picture.