I've never cared about the latest electronic toys and I drive a 1998 car, but I love to buy new clothes and shoes and bags, new dog beds and collars and jackets, every spring and fall. Mostly fall, because I love colder weather and also -- you can wear more clothes.
But I read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline a few months ago, and went cold turkey on recreational shopping. That doesn't mean I didn't buy anything at all; it means I didn't read catalogs and look for things to buy. A few times I realized I had a need for something, researched it a bit, then made a rational purchase. No impulse buying.
Before I read this book, I would have claimed that I didn't buy "cheap plastic crap from China," but of course, I did -- well, cheap crappy clothes and accessories from China, anyway. So in addition to becoming a "need only" shopper, I stopped buying cheap, disposable "fast fashion" clothes and accessories. (Ask my friend Dawn about the pain it's given me to give up my Charming Charlie cheap purse addicition.)
Now I'm taking it even further. I'm going to increase the amount of property I have fenced so my dogs and I can enjoy off-leash walks in the woods. I gave up almost all other discretionary spending to afford the materials and labor for that project.
So all my catalogs go straight into the recycling bin, unread. I am very carefully cleaning and mending my existing clothing, so it will last longer. I never flip around online shopping sites without a clear and specific -- and necessary -- purchase in mind.
And what I'm learning is that recreational shopping is a pretty lousy way to entertain yourself. I have absolutely no intention of returning to that activity even after I've paid for the fence.
Because "shopping" is not a hobby and it's not recreation. Our insatiable desire for new things is being fueled by the way the retail industry has blurred the former spring and fall seasons and turned them into a year-round cycle of introducing new fashions, followed by a few email reminders, then putting those things on sale, then on clearance, followed by the next round of "new" fashions, all within a few weeks.
They either hook you with the shiny new, or suck you in with the big savings. And nowhere in that dizzying kaleidoscopic retail experience are the questions of quality and need ever raised.
None of us needs new shoes every year, let alone ten times a year. My dogs couldn't care less if they're wearing last year's collars and sleeping in last year's beds. If a sweater looked good on me in 2009 it will look good on me in 2013, regardless of whether or not it's in a color that the fashion industry has declared "out."
Currently I'm buying nothing that isn't essential, but when the fence is paid off, I fully intend to leave some room in my budget for buying things that aren't strict necessities. I'm lucky enough to be able to afford to do that, and I'd like to do what I can for the economy, too. But when I do, I'll be looking to purchase a few quality items that I expect to last years, not endless pieces of trash I'll be getting rid of within a single season.
I like the way this feels.