The full guide to shopping smarter

The mindless shopping days are over. But how do you shop smarter? Try these tips.

When I was a university student, I went shopping almost every week. I had the time, I had the money, and above all, I love clothes. Problem was, my wardrobe grew and grew, but it didn’t necessarily help me dress or look better. Instead, all my constant shopping got me was a wardrobe too stuffed for its own good.

(Sounds like you?)

Since then, however, I turnt my shopping habit around 180°. I shop more carefully and mindfully and don’t fill up my wardrobe with just anything anymore. My wardrobe markedly improved, my style became more refined, and getting dressed also became easier. Paradoxically, buying less also brought back the real fun of shopping.

Here’s how.

Practical prep work

Don’t let spontaneous impulse buys dictate what goes into your wardrobe. Plan what you want to buy beforehand, and you save yourself a lot of money and wardrobe space.

1. Go two months without shopping.

The best way to become a more mindful shopper is to not shop any more.

At least for a little while.

Can be one, can be three months. But for a stretch of time, impose a shopping ban. You will learn things about your wardrobe you did not know before. Like, has it always lacked a simple camisole? And why aren’t there enough black tights? But instead of trying to stuff every little wardrobe hole you find on impulse, see how urgently or often a specific need actually arises.

2. Make a “need” list.

During the time of your shopping ban, keep a list. Jot down anything you repeatedly find wanting in your day to day. Can be something specific, like “extra-long white ribbed 100% fleece lined cotton turtleneck longsleeve for layering,” or something more in general, like “bag.”

3. Additionally, and optionally, keep a wish list.

This is optional, but personally I do it all the time.

Browse online shops occasionally, just to see what’s there. If anything strikes your fancy, bookmark it under wish list. In this, you can safely act on impulse. Consider it a substitute for actual shopping. Without, of course, actually shopping.

4. Edit, then re-edit your lists. Continually.

Don’t act upon any of your lists straight away, though. Don’t forget: shopping ban! Instead, check your lists once in a while and determine if each item still seems as pressing to you as before. If something’s not, take it off your list again. Update your lists in this way continuously to reflect changes in the season, weather, a new job, new hobbies or your ever evolving taste.

5. Settle on your final shopping list once your shopping ban is over.

You made it through at least a month without purchasing anything? Congratulations! Now, last but not least, the final edit of both your “need” and wish list together is your shopping list.

How to set your mind to shopping smarter

Transitioning from shopping addict to mindful shopper does not happen overnight. But setting your mind to it and understanding why you want to shop smarter will smooth out your trials and errors.

6. Ask yourself: Why do you shop at all?

A few possible answers:

  1. Because I enjoy the process.
  2. Because I like all things new and shiny.
  3. Because I want to change my style.
  4. I’m out of clean underpants. Also, my socks all have a hole.
  5. Because I’m bored.
  6. Because I’m stressed and want to relax.

Can you shop your way to happiness? The obvious answer, of course, is no. And yet we often try.

If you find yourself browsing shopping aisles simply because you’re bored or whenever you’re stressed, that’s not wrong per se. But try to get to the bottom of your actual issues. Find other ways to deal with them. Then come back to shopping.

7. Measure out your comfort zone.

Observe what you ended up wearing the most often during your shopping ban. Because that is probably what you feel the most comfortable and/or dashing in. Also, it has likely proven itself already as fit for your every day.

For example, if you’ve noticed you never wear heels, then you probably don’t need heels. Or if you’ve been wearing the same soft kashmir knit sweater all week long, you might want to indulge in more sweaters that make you feel comfortable and warm.

8. Set a budget.

To assign a budget to clothes shopping is definitely sensible. Equally reasonable is to determine how much you want to spend at the most. Set a maximum price. However, to shop smarter, the next suggestion will make all the difference.

9. The $150 rule.

Now, it absolutely doesn’t have to be $150. It can be a 100 or 70 in any currency. But, it should definitely be a not insignificant amount of money to you. An amount which, if a single article of clothing cost that much, it’d seriously cause you to stop, and hesitate. In short, it should be an amount that, in the words of this article on The Atlantic, would force you to think about just how much you really want that item, how much you will actually wear it, and whether you think the value it offers is worth the significant cost to you or not. And, once you’ve settled on a specific amount, make it the absolute minimum – yes, minimum! you allow any of your clothing purchases to cost.

Naturally, this will limit you and eliminate a number of options from the get-go. You won’t be able to find anything at that price at Primark, Forever21 or H&M. But that’s the point. Imagine, this could be you:

“By forcing myself to seriously consider my purchases, I’ve been more likely to buy clothes I genuinely like and appreciate, rather than accumulating low-cost impulse buys.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Shopping smarter

And now, of course, you are about to do the deed. The actual shopping. Try to keep the following in mind.

10. Stick to your shopping list.

Self-explanatory. Stick closely to your shopping list. Browse only the categories of clothes and accessories you’re actually in want of. Which means, don’t go through skirts if what you need are bras. It says right there on your shopping list.

11. Fall in love.

If anyhow possible, don’t settle for anything less than perfect! You should fall for something – hard – before even considering the purchase. Follow your gut feeling. When you hold it in both your hands, you should feel “a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising. When you hold something that doesn’t bring you joy, however, you will notice that your body feels heavier.”

Yup, words by Marie Kondo. Because whether you are decluttering or shopping, the things you surround yourself with should decidedly “spark joy.”

12. Take your time.

Sometimes, or rather fairly often even, it will elude you. The perfect whatever it is you’re looking for. But don’t rush it. Make peace with the idea of going home empty-handed in that case. Because never settle for anything less than perfect. That’s why I call it ideal wardrobe building, not OK wardrobe building.

13. Remind yourself of your shopping goals.

Whether you are trying to build the ideal wardrobe or re-define your style, stay focussed. Whatever it is you want to achieve, your patience will pay off in the long run. And always think: Surround yourself with only things you love so you can wear something you love every single day!

14. Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap

If you would not have bought something at its full price, buying it at half price doesn’t actually save you money. Similarly, if you didn’t need it to begin with or will never wear it either, then even if it’s cheap, it’s money right down the drain. Peruse the sales racks only if you have something specific in mind, and quit thinking cheap is good.

The benefits of shopping smarter are: Your wardrobe will improve! You will become more discerning! Each purchase will have a purpose to it other than just the cheap thrill of buying it! You will shop less and save money! You save money and are able to afford better things! Prolonging the shopping process by planning it out before also prolongs the fun! So there are many reasons to shop smarter. You should try it now!

Anything more to add to the list? Write me in the comments!

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2 comments

  1. […] Insgeheim hatte ich immer mal geplant, einen Beitrag wie „Alles-was-ein-Kleiderschrank-braucht-und-nicht braucht“ oder „Wie-baue-ich-eine-Garderobe-auf“ zu verfassen. Doch sobald ich mich dafür an den Rechner setze, langweilt es mich bereits zu Tode. Ich verstehe zu gut, warum kaum professionelle Köche einen klassischen Foodblog mit Rezepten betreiben. Dies nur am Rande. Was ich eigentlich loswerden wollte: Manchmal verfassen andere die eigenen unsortierten Gedanken tausendmal besser. Daher möchte ich nochmal auf Vics Blog und ihre Ratschläge zu „wardrobe building“ verweisen. Decluttering und Downsizing sind zwecklos, wenn man sich nach kürzester Zeit wieder mit (unnötigen) Sachen überfrachtet. Daher schnell noch hinterher: The full guide to shopping smarter. […]

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