Friday, February 7, 2014

This Week in Thoughtful Consumerism, Vol. 8: Why “Buy Only Things You Really Love” Does Not Work for Me

Hi, my name is Rose-Anne, and I’m a recovering underbuyer.

I was raised in a frugal household.  I absorbed the examples set by my parents, so I don’t struggle with overspending.  I struggle with underbuying.  I struggle with looking frumpy while I squeeze another wear out of falling-apart clothing.  Thoughtful consumerism is my passionate recovery from an unhealthy relationship with money and self-care.  It is valuing myself enough to buy what I need, preferably before I desperately need it.

Some of you may know I spend a lot of time cruising around the style blog world.  And I love it.  I love the pretty pictures, the outfit ideas, the little tidbits of life that women share with each other through style blogging.  It’s fun, it’s a little frivolous, it’s an escape.  Style blogs have expanded my ideas of clothing and fashion.  They’ve opened new worlds to me (scarves! belts! tied-up shirts!), and they’ve helped me get more style miles from my existing wardrobe.  But there’s one piece of advice that I hear a lot, and it makes me pause:

“Buy only things you really LOVE!”

I know that this advice comes from a well-meaning place.  Typically, the writer was an overbuyer who finally stopped buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff.  She learned to ask herself questions before the point of purchase, questions like:

* How well does this item fit into my real lifestyle, not my aspirational lifestyle?

* Can I integrate this piece into three different outfits?

* Does the color of this item flatter me?

* Do I already own something similar to this?  If yes, does it make sense to buy a back-up?

I like these suggestions.  They’re useful and bring an element of pragmatism to shopping.  (Let’s face it: a lot of us use shopping to escape reality.)  Trading the value of your hard-earned dollars for material goods is an act that should require thoughtfulness.  But I find “buy only things you really LOVE!” difficult, and here’s why: because loving something in the store is not the same thing as loving it in your closet and on your body.

Because I don’t love to shop and because I’m an underbuyer by nature, shopping can be kind of a wrenching experience for me.  Maybe I don’t love a particular shirt, but I need a new collared white shirt.  So I buy the shirt I’m with (get it?), and then what?  Well, that’s when the real decision-making begins.  The truest test I have for new purchases is how much burning desire I have to wear/use/play with my new purchase.  And not just the first time I get to enjoy it, but for several months and beyond that first use.  Let me illustrate with a few examples.

I Would Have Never Worn This Outfit Three Years Ago    

I bought the purple shirt in that photograph on a day when I had Target store credit, and I had to spend it that day.  I bought the shirt knowing that I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  And guess what?  Now it is one of my favorite shirts, and it’s been with me for years.  As an underbuyer, I would not have bought it because I’m frugal.  But the shirt has a lot of details that I love, and I’ve even come to enjoy its longer length.

The lesson here?  For underbuyers, it’s worth it to take a chance on something you like but don’t love at the time of purchase.

Finding Roots

Another example: my favorite jeans.  I only own two pairs of denim now, having gotten rid of all my old pairs after moving to steamy Texas.  I bought this pair feeling kinda lukewarm about them.  They’re pretty basic, but they fit well, and I justified the purchase by thinking of them as a back-up pair.  And now?  I love them.  Love love love them.  I had them hemmed after purchasing, so my initial investment was higher, but having a great-fitting pair of basic jeans is awesome.  Because they look and feel good on me, I wear them frequently.  To my mind, that makes them worth every penny.  Again: I took a risk.  I didn’t know they’d become my favorite.

Sometimes I do fall in love with clothes on the day of purchase, like my Target dresses.  They make me so happy.

Me in New Dress{Oh, I miss my short hair.}

But it’s not always love.  If you’re an underbuyer, hopefully you can afford to take a risk every once in while, maybe even a calculated risk like, “One out of every three times I like something, I’ll take it home with me and give it a try in real life.”  It’s just like dating: if you like someone, maybe you can take a chance on love.

And if that fails, hopefully you can return the purchase!  (Or just be friends.)

Are there any other underbuyers out there?  What are your thoughts on purchasing decisions?

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