smart spending

Curb clothes spending with a shopping diet

Young adult shopping at a department store
Highlights
  • Take inventory of what you have before going out and buying more clothes.
  • Get creative and find items that you can use with multiple outfits.
  • Use jewelry and accessories to make outfits look different and new.

If you've ever experienced the "shopper's high," that dopamine-induced feeling of pleasure after snagging something new, you know how powerful the urge to add to your wardrobe can be. But chances are no matter how many clothes you have in your closet, at some point you've stood in front of it and thought, "I have nothing to wear."

Likening our wardrobes to the Pareto principle, we tend to wear 20 percent of our wardrobe about 80 percent of the time -- the rest of it is mostly taking up space. Yet we keep adding to it as we're lured to the mall by sales, discounts and even boredom. To curb this spending, a number of groups have popped up in recent years, including The Great American Apparel Diet -- participants vow not to shop for apparel for a year -- and Project 333, which challenges people to choose 33 items of clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes to wear for three months.

Even if you don't have more pairs of shoes than there are days in the year, you can still learn something from these shopping dieters about spending more strategically. Here's their advice.

Take inventory of what you have. One of the most important techniques in maximizing your wardrobe is learning what it already contains. "If you take a step back and look at what all you have and how the pieces work together, it brings to the forefront the idea that you might not necessarily need as much as you have," says Justin Hamlin, an IT consultant and blogger in Fishkill, N.Y., who participated in Project 333.

"You don't have to go out and find something that matches those pants because you probably already have something in your wardrobe that fits."

Everyone has favorite pieces, and this can give you a good clue as to what you should buy in the future. "Spend some time looking at the things you wear over and over again," says Sally Bjornsen, founder of The Great American Apparel Diet.

"What are the outfits you feel best in? Pay attention to that and buy more of that." If you look in your closet and notice that you never wear those wool sweaters because they're itchy, don't kid yourself into thinking the next one you see on the shelf, no matter how pretty the color or nice the fit, is going to be any different.

Buddy up. In the same way that having a fitness buddy is proven to help you work out more, being more conscious about your clothing consumption is easier when there's someone else experiencing it, too.

"Support from other (people) who know precisely what you're going through is very meaningful and important," says Jill Chivers, self-described shopaholic and founder of Shop Your Wardrobe, an online program that helps women develop a healthier relationship with shopping. When going through her own year-long shopping fast, she committed to blogging about it twice a week to stay accountable.

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