I have frequently found myself shopping for the same item over and over again. I guess I like what I like and that seems to be cardigans, items in black and blue, neutral shoes, etc. Yup. So I have tried to make sure that I get items that I really need (ie. a new white cardigan because my current one has a hole in it) and items that will give my wardrobe some oomph and color. I make actual lists and mental lists of things that I need when I go shopping so I don’t come home with an item that’s über similar to something I already own. I love shopping and knowing that I have a tendency to buy multiples of the same item, I tell myself that if I don’t really need it or already have something similar I can always return it. Sure, but that only works when you actually return it.
A couple of months ago that list included a new suit. I was starting a new job and my suits were pretty boring and old. Yes, I own three actual suits: two that were hand-me-downs from my older sister and one that I bought myself but the pants don’t quite fit right (I got them hemmed a tad too short and they are a tad too small :(). So, I wanted to start the new job with my best foot forward and in an awesome new suit. I went to the outlets (yay! I live near outlets now!) and found an awesome Banana Republic charcoal grey suit that fit amazingly for about $150. Score! The pants were a tad long and needed to be hemmed (the right length this time!) so I didn’t wear it right away.
Not wearing the new clothing item right away is a good tip to tell if you really need that new item or not. I left the suit in the bag and started looking for a tailor in my new town. In the meantime I started working at my new job and realized that almost no one wears suits every day like I thought they would. It’s mostly a business casual work environment and I would be way over dressed if I wore suits often. I went back to my closet and tried on my suits. What was wrong with them? Two of them were kind of boring and old, but they were still in good shape, fit well, and were a classic style so they didn’t look very dated. The ill-fitting suit? Well, that’s a weight loss problem and I will just wear flats with it.
So it turned out that the new suit was not a necessity after all, but instead was a want. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with buying yourself something nice that you feel and look awesome in, as long as you can afford it. Aye, there’s the rub. Could I afford the $150 I had spent on this suit? Technically, yes. I had gotten a big tax refund and had purchased the suit with that money. But was this a responsible use of this money? My gut said no. Why? Because my sister is getting married in England next year and I need to find a way to scrounge up the money to go. So for me, the question came down to this:
Do I need this suit or do I need to save this money to go to my sister’s wedding?
Done deal. Guilt kicked in and I drove back to the outlets. Luckily, I keep the receipt for shopping purchases until after I wear them, just in case, so I had the receipt and was within the 30 day return period. Gosh, that was hard to pass that suit back across the counter to the sales woman and state my desire to part with it in exchange for the money that I paid for it. And gosh I wanted to wander through the Banana Republic outlet sales racks to find an amazingly cute little blouse that was justifiably cheap. But no, I stuck to my guns, returned the suit and walked out the door.
Was I proud of myself? Yes. Is it hard to deny yourself something you want, especially when it is so justifiable? Yes.
I had made the choice between a want and a need. I want a suit but going to my sister’s wedding trumps that short-term satisfaction. Delaying satisfaction is a key component of being financially responsible, saving for future expenses, and getting out of debt, all of which are goals I am shooting for. So here’s the tally. Responsibility: 1, Instant Gratification: 0. Wish me luck.