Clothes shopping can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. And in many cases, be it for work, school or a special occasion, buying clothes can be a necessity. But for many people, buying clothes is part of a larger pattern of overspending. In fact, clothing items are the most important purchase category for people with shopping addiction.
It can be difficult to curb that habit, but there are some strategies you can use to make it a little easier. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
4 questions to ask before buying clothes
How often will I wear it?
Before I buy a piece of clothing, I try to think about how often I will wear it. This helps me determine what the cost per use might be, and thus how cost-effective an item actually is. The more often you can wear a garment, the lower the running costs.
Here’s how to calculate cost per use. Let’s say I want to buy $150 wellies that I want to wear three times a week for four months, which equates to 48 days a year. That’s a cost per use of $3.12 per year. The cost per use is relatively low, so while $150 may seem like a lot for rain boots, it would still be a worthy purchase.
But let’s say I want to spend $150 on a cocktail dress that I can only wear twice a year. That equates to a $75 cost per use per year, which is much higher than the wellies.
Using utility costs as a metric can help you spend more on items you’ll wear often, like jeans, and less on items you don’t wear often, like a pair of gold heels you only buy for weddings.
Does it match my other clothes?
One of the biggest shopping mistakes I’ve made is buying something, coming home and realizing it won’t work with anything else I own. If I’m lucky, I can return the item. Otherwise it will sit in my closet for years until I pour it.
Now when I go shopping and find something I like, I imagine what else I can wear it with. For example, when I see olive green jeans, I think of the black turtleneck, chambray shirt, and red plaid shirt I can wear with it. My rule of thumb is that I should come up with at least three other items that match what I want to buy. If I can’t, I’ll return the item.
The same rule applies to accessories such as jewelry and shoes. Don’t buy earrings or shoes unless you can imagine wearing them with multiple things you already have.
Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?
How many times have you bought something just because it was a good deal? Don’t feel bad – I’m also guilty of buying a piece of clothing, not because I like it, but because it’s on sale.
If you see something on sale that you weren’t looking for, ask yourself if you would pay full price for the item. If not, it’s probably not something you really need. This question helps me avoid buying something because it’s too much of a bargain to pass up.
Will this cost me more money?
Before purchasing any clothing or accessories, read the care instructions to learn how to wash and dry the item. Doing this ahead of time can help you avoid buying dry-clean-only garments, which are inherently more expensive to care for.
If you like something that needs to be custom made, keep that cost in mind before buying it. A basic hem costs about $10, but more complicated tailoring can cost between $20 and $60. Add that amount to the sale price so that you have an accurate estimate of the item’s true cost.
How to Stop Impulse Buying of Clothes?
Shopping with friends can be fun, but it can also strain your budget. Your friends will probably encourage you to treat yourself, and if you see them buying clothes without worrying about the cost, you might be tempted to do the same.
If you do want to take someone along for advice on colors or styles, tell them in advance what your budget is and ask them to take your responsibility. If you make it clear that you’re on a strict budget, they’re less likely to lead you astray.
Limit shopping days
As a financial coach, I help people pay off debt by sticking to a budget. One of the best coping strategies I’ve found for my customers is telling them to limit shopping for non-essential items to two days a week.
For example, suppose your shopping days are Monday and Thursday. If you see a cute skirt on Friday, you’ll have to wait until Monday to buy it.
By the time Monday rolls around, you’ll probably have forgotten about the skirt. If you haven’t forgotten it, that probably means you really want it. This strategy works because it gives you time to consider whether you really need the item.
Choose shopping days that don’t fall on weekends, when you are most likely to spend money. I like Monday and Thursday, but you can choose any two days. If impulse buying is a big problem for you, consider choosing one day a week instead of two.
Save for later
I have a “to buy” folder in my Google Chrome browser where I drop links to things I want to buy. Saving those links for later eases the shopping jitters for me. And if you stick to the rule of only shopping during pre-approved days, that’s also a good place to keep items you’re waiting to buy.
Many retailers also have wish lists where you can add an item to buy later, and sometimes you’ll be notified when the item goes on sale. If you really struggle with impulse buying, I’d avoid the retailer’s wish list and use your own. That way, you won’t be tempted to buy something just because it’s on sale.
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Zina Kumok (168 posts)
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. As a former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four, and everything in between. She was featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Learn how she paid off $28,000 in student loans over three years at Conscious Coins.
This post 4 questions to ask yourself before buying new clothes
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