How can I control my online shopping addiction?
September 4, 2010 8:04 PM   Subscribe

I am addicted to buying clothes online. Every time there's a sale for anything (15% off, free shipping etc.), I feel compelled to take advantage of it and buy whatever I want. I rationalize my behavior, thinking "oh, I'm saving myself money in the long run by buying these clothes now, rather than later when there's no sale." Or I'll say, "If I don't buy it now, they'll run out of stock, and then I won't have this beautiful item." What can I do, say to myself, or change in my behavior, to prevent my online shopping sprees? If you see an item you like online that's just a convenient click away from being yours, what is the checklist you go through, mentally, before deciding to purchase/not purchase it? How do you keep your clothing budget under control?
posted by invisible ink to Grab Bag (46 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you see an item you like online that's just a convenient click away from being yours, what is the checklist you go through, mentally, before deciding to purchase/not purchase it?

I ask myself, "do I have the money to pay for this?" If I do, I get it. If I don't, I don't.

And when I say "do I have money", I don't mean, "do I have enough credit to buy this", I mean, "do I have enough cash to buy this, and pay all my bills".

Make yourself an account that's only for "fun stuff". Put money in it every month. When that account has money in it, feel free to buy yourself fun stuff. When it doesn't, don't.

I know this sounds simple, but it works.
posted by jrockway at 8:09 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nd the fun money account.

Maybe don't even have a debit card for the important stuff account.
posted by k8t at 8:15 PM on September 4, 2010

It depends on how bad you think the problem is. If you find you have trouble sticking to a budget, you can do a couple of things, such as :

- block your access to your usual shopping sites with LeechBlock

- when you get your paycheck, deposit/transfer most of it into a "holding" account, except what you need for bills and gas etc... If you really feel like buying something, you have to wait for the transfer back to your regular account to go through, so sometimes the initial urge passes.

My checklist is :

- Do I already have something similar?
- Can I wear it/use it at least 3 times a week, for three seasons out of the year?
- Is it dry clean only?

What often stops me is thinking "Could I get something similar for less, but the same quality?" A couple hours of fooling around looking for just the right Keen shoe from Zappos et al will usually put me off. There are sites like ModCloth that really get me, though - especially the "Only 3 left in your size!" messages. I only visit those kinds of sites when I know I have the extra money for something there.
posted by HopperFan at 8:16 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I save up and then I got with a personal stylist. She manages my budget and my wardrobe and I get awesome clothes at awesome prices.
posted by acoutu at 8:16 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I rationalize my behavior,
If you can do so in real time, realize that the word rationalize is actually two words -- rational lies -- ie we take a lie and bend it all up to make sense of it to ourselves.

What can I do, say to myself, or change in my behavior, to prevent my online shopping sprees?

If you're able to do this in real time, perhaps recognize that you are playing right into the plans of the merchandiser, that you are being manipulated by pretty pictures to buy something you have no need of.

Mine isn't clothing, mine is high tech "stuff" -- but knowing I'm being manipulated can be a bucket of cold water thrown on me. Buying things I don't need is a way of trying to fill a hunger that just won't ever be filled, even if I get to Imelda Marcos level lunacy in trying to fill it -- she had enough shoes to last her upwards of fourteen thousand lifetimes, and still she wanted -- Needed! -- more more more more. A friend of mine calls it "The whore of more" and it just won't be quieted sometimes.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:24 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

I generally try to use the 24 hour policy, wherein if I see something I really! want! I will wait 24 hours and see if I even remember it and/or still want it. 97% of the time I've completely forgotten about whatever it was by the next day and I figure whatever passes the test is probably worth buying.
posted by grapesaresour at 8:30 PM on September 4, 2010 [9 favorites]

Do the "one-in, one-out" rule. You can't live without that snappy skirt with the ginko leaf print? Buy it!
But get rid of or give away a skirt from your closet you don't wear.
This keeps your closet from becoming stuffed with "outfits" (as we midwesterners call spur of the moment junk clothes.)
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:32 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

What can I do, say to myself, or change in my behavior, to prevent my online shopping sprees?

Cancel all your credit cards.
posted by netbros at 8:34 PM on September 4, 2010

1. Credit card, meet scissors.
2. Don't ever buy any clothing you haven't tried on.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:36 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Books are my weakness, moreso than clothes. What I've started doing lately is adding stuff to my Amazon cart, but waiting a day or two to make the actual purchase. More times than not, I wind up taking the stuff back out of the cart when I go back, as I've lost interest. Or, I put it on "buy later" status because even though I'm still interested, I no longer feel that "gotta have it now feeling."
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:40 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to buy clothes online, and then I just decided to stop. Period. Every time I would buy clothes, I'd be thinking, "This is perfect, just what I need, and at a good price! All my online searching has paid off!" And at least half the time, when it arrived, I was so disappointed I wish I hadn't ordered it. Sizes aren't reliable, and the clothes are photographed and lit to look great. You can't feel the fabric or get a realistic sense of the article based on an online photo. In short: instead of focusing on the glitzy thing you're seeing in front of you, think back to the times you've been disappointed once you saw what came in the mail. That alone is reason to err on the side of not buying online. Better to buy in person and know what you're getting beforehand, even if it costs 15% more.

Speaking of sales... A percentage reduction in price, or a minor charge you're not going to incur, is meaningless. Those are purely relative. They're not just relative to "What would this exact item have cost online without those deals?" They're relative to "What would this item, or a similar item, cost at a brick-and-mortar store?" And they're relative to how often sales happen. In my experience, sales at clothing stores (online or physical) are extremely common. If sales are common enough, the distinction between a "sale" price and a normal price starts to seem pretty arbitrary. So, I've stopped thinking of a "sale" itself as any kind of draw. If I'm already shopping at a store because I need something or really want something specific, then it's a different story: I'll naturally prefer what's cheapest. (It doesn't matter whether the retail price is cheap to begin with or if it's cheap because of a sale.) But the mere knowledge that an $85 item could have been $100 doesn't make it any more attractive than if it were always $85.
posted by John Cohen at 8:42 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Realize that there will always be another discount coupon, free shipping offer, or sale. You don't need to use them all.
posted by spinturtle at 8:52 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Move to a smaller home. Seriously, nothing cured me of my 'things' habit more than a) having to pack it all up and lug it around with me and b) having it clutter up my small city apartment. You can only wear so many clothes in a week! I don't have the space now for more than I need.
posted by JoannaC at 9:01 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have piles of clothes that you have never used? If so, put one next to the computer. Perhaps give the pile googly eyes so that it stares at you plaintively when you go to shopping sites.
posted by XMLicious at 9:29 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

2 suggestions.

1) Make a "clothing schedule" and look to see what you will plan to wear. I know it will vary based on weather conditions, but you should know what to expect enough to get a general idea. Once you see how many things you have, put that schedule next to the computer and figure out where the new clothing will fit before you buy it.

2) open a separate bank account just for online shopping. My bank has free checking if I have a direct deposit, so I have $50 a pay check split to another account and I use that account for all my online shopping. That way, if I want to make a big purchase, I have to transfer funds before I can cover it.
posted by slavlin at 9:36 PM on September 4, 2010

One of the things I've done is, ignoring the discount, take the price (with shipping etc) and compare that to how many hours' worth of work it'll cost. Even on sale, is that shirt worth 2 hours of work? Even on sale, even looovely, is that pair of boots worth two whole days' work? A lot of the time, the answer is no.
posted by galadriel at 9:38 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I try to find negative reviews for items I don't need, but have an urge to buy. Instead of thinking it's "perfect" I'll try to find flaws with it.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:39 PM on September 4, 2010

Best answer: 2nding putting things in your cart then sleeping on it. What seems like a good idea one day might seem sorta useless the next.
You've probably already discovered this, but the hunt is sometimes more enjoyable than the catch.
Another thing you might consider is figuring out what exactly you plan on doing with what you buy. Don't you already have a dress almost exactly like that one? Do you really need that blouse in more colors? Why not just break in the espadrilles you already bought before getting another pair in black? A person can only buy so many outfits before they start to lose track of them.
posted by Gilbert at 9:40 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One other suggestion:

Do you love yourself? Do you TRULY love yourself? If so, how are you treating yourself when you go online and purchase things with such frequency?

Be mindful of what you are telling yourself before and after these binges. Addictions: Shopping/food/alcohol/etc,. etc,. all stem from negative things we tell ourselves and the "needs" we are trying to fill.

Pay attention to what you are thinking.

And accept yourself. Stop judging yourself.
posted by learninguntilidie at 9:45 PM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

I've been on a very strict budget for the past year or so (paying off student loans, car, etc.), and part of sticking to it meant cutting out clothing purchases almost completely. It was hard at first, but I realized that 1) I already had pretty much everything I needed in my closet, and 2) if I took good care of what I had, it didn't need to be replaced every year/season.

For me, it was easier to go cold turkey than to try to stick to a limited clothing allowance, because I never had to do the "but do I REALLY need it?" dance in my head. The answer was always no, I never even had to think about it. Knowing it was temporary helped, but flat-out avoiding clothing stores helped even more.

It was kind of fun to be forced to be creative with what I had, and even though I don't need to be so careful now, spending some time really living with what I own has made me much more deliberate about new purchases.
posted by ella wren at 9:52 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every time there's a sale for anything (15% off, free shipping etc.), I feel compelled to take advantage of it

1) How do you know about these sales? Unsubscribe from the email blasts and stop going to the clothing store's websites. Maybe even use something like Leechblock to restrict access to them, as HopperFan suggested.

2) Look through your clothes and make a list of things you need. Maybe you need some black pants for work, or a new pair of shoes for a wedding you're going to. Got the list? Okay. Now you're only allowed to buy things that are on this list. No impulse buys, no hoarding of clothes, no purchases because you saw it in the store.

If you didn't know that you needed an item before you went to the site or into the store, then you really didn't need it.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:16 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know that this is a clothing-specific issue; it could be that clothes are just your chosen item for the more-more-more need. Have you ever read Your Money or Your Life? It's not a book I love the way some people do, but one concept from it has really stayed with me for the 15 or so years since I read it: the idea of the gazingus pin. Your gazingus pin is something you tend to buy over and over even though you don't need it, you have one almost just like it at home, or for some other reason. It might be shoes, and you end up buying a pair of red pumps that is practically identical to the three pairs of unworn red pumps you already own, because there is something about shoes that you just think if you buy this one pair, or find the perfect pair, it's going to fix something or meet a certain need.

My current gazingus pin is really cool homeschooling stuff for my kids. I can find myself shopping for a new math curriculum when I have one unused and one partially-used math curriculum on the shelves, for instance. My theory is that I am drawn to curriculum because I think if I find the right one it will solve all my problems with structure, and with my oldest son being behind grade level in math and reading, and it will make me stop worrying about whether I'm covering everything they need to know. But I don't actually buy new curriculum (and I recently turned down a friend's offer of a bunch of free hand-me-down stuff) because I recognize that this is an area where I'm looking to a thing that can be purchased to solve problems that can't be solved by buying something, and to relieve my anxiety. Just being able to say, "Oh! I'm on-line reading curriculum reviews because curriculum is my gazingus pin right now" helps me not click the "buy now" button.

For whatever reason, clothes are your gazingus pin. Maybe in addition to budgeting, storing money in certain accounts, imposing a waiting period, and so on as people have suggested, recognizing that there's something else you're trying to accomplish by buying clothes can help you unlatch that behavior from whatever it is (beyond being warm and looking good) you're trying to accomplish with it.

Maybe not. This is just one of those things where having a catchy name for the phenomenon helped me recognize and cope with it in my life.
posted by not that girl at 10:23 PM on September 4, 2010 [9 favorites]

Similar to ella wren, I recently put myself on a pretty tight budget and almost entirely stopped buying new clothes. What works for me is- NEVER looking in the first place. I do lots of things online but I don't allow myself to shop. I don't go to stores just to "browse" or "window shop." When I decide in my life that I NEED something (eg my rain boots get a hole in them, I don't have any tank tops that i feel comfortable in because I gained some weight, etc) I go looking for that particular item. Then I get rid of the ill-fitting or broken pieces, instead of promising myself I'll loose some weight or mend a garment. It's hard at first, but for me not looking at all seems to be WAY LESS tempting than looking and then trying not to buy anything.
posted by MrsHarper at 10:23 PM on September 4, 2010

If you are a net debtor, what is the highest interest rate you owe money at (or if you are a net creditor, what is the highest expected rate of return you can lend at)?

Using that rate as an interest rate (minus 2.5% to approximate the effects of expected inflation), calculate t, the real total that each of your dollars, if left unspent, would grow into between now and your expected retirement.

Whenever you consider buying a new $40 shirt, remind yourself that that shirt will actually wind up costing you $40*t worth of real, 2010-denominated wealth.

So, for example, supposing you're currently borrowing at 6% and you're 30 years away from retirement:

6% - 2.5% = 3.5%
$1 * (1.035)^30 = $2.71
t = 2.71

$40 * t = $108

...and so spending $40 today means that when you retire you'll have about $108 less in real wealth (and because we adjusted for inflation, that $108 is in 2010 dollars, not 2040 dollars!).
posted by foursentences at 11:05 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whoops. 1.71 is 29 years' growth, not 30 years', but you get the idea: once you know -- in cold, hard, quantified terms -- just how much damage each spent dollar is really doing to your ultimate bankroll, it becomes much harder to spend the marginal dollar.
posted by foursentences at 11:15 PM on September 4, 2010

You have to realize that these "15% off" or "25% off" or "free shipping on orders of $100" deals aren't really deals at all. A real sale is 75% off and up. Free shipping deals are only deals when it's on very low purchase amounts (say $20) or applicable to orders of any purchase amount. That's when you jump on the sale. AND THESE DEALS/SALES DO EXIST.

Otherwise, it's not a deal, just a marketing ploy to get you to spend money you don't really have. I mean seriously? "Free shipping on orders of $100"?? DAMN RIGHT I get free shipping. I just spent a hundred freaking dollars, I think I'd deserve at least that.

Don't get tricked by stores trying to trick you by offering bonuses in the form of things that they should give you anyway. For instance, Sephora brags about giving out "3 samples with every order" Oh, you mean those little foilpacks with a tsp of lotion? Or those minuscule vials of fragrance? THANK YOU SO MUCH, O KIND AND GENEROUS LORDS!!

I get a lot of promotional mail my inbox from stores and labels, but for the most part they go straight into the trash folder. I glance through them briefly and if it's not a mindblowing sale, I'm not interested. Waiting is the best thing -- I've gotten trendy shirts from Forever 21 for $3 and staple jackets from Macy's for $10. And seriously, if you don't get that one amazingly-beautiful-must-have piece now, something will come down the line that you'll be equally enthusiastic about, so you're not really missing out.

Remember, the stores are all out to get you! It's up to you to decide whether or not you're going to fall for it.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 11:29 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, I don't like buying clothes online because (a) with shipping it'll take me a week or two to get them, so no real instant gratification, (b) unpleasant "Oh, btw, we only ship UPS to your house and require a signature" policies (not every website makes this clear before you've paid, and I tend to skip sites that I know will force me to use UPS) make me wish I hadn't ordered shit, and (c) since I couldn't try on the clothes before buying them, they frequently do NOT look good on me. Also (d) I am way too lazy to go to the post office and mail the clothes back.

So really, to me it's more trouble than it's worth. But I guess in your case you don't feel that way?

Actually, the 2-week wait plus UPS/packaging drama tends to deter me from a lot of online shopping unless I can't get it any other way. I also like to leave empty shopping carts because I'll be wish-list shopping and then realize this will be a pain to do, so then I kind of feel like I got my shop on even though I didn't hit the final payment button.

You know what's a good idea to do when you really need to get your shop on, but in a cheap way? Thrift stores. I bought 20something books and 6 ties for a craft project at one last weekend and still spent under $20. Much cheaper.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:44 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Buying clothes is one of life's great delights, and the Internet is like one big, giant, awesome closet! It rocks! You shouldn't stop taking advantage of the wonderful array of "stuff" online. I'll share a bit of my own experience:

Firstly: I buy a ton of clothes online because the local mall sucks something fierce, and I can never find anything IRL that I'm willing to spend money on. Basically, I go to the mall to try things on just to get a gauge for what size I am, and then I go home and order stuff.

BUT! Secondly! As others above have said, I NEVER use a credit card - only debit! I ran myself up quite a credit card bill (90% clothes) about 5 years ago, and am still paying it off. The credit card cannot be a part of your online shopping experience. It just can't.

Also: If you order some article of clothing, it shows up, and you aren't 110% thrilled with it, send it back and get the refund. If you're like me, most of the "fun" of clothes shopping is experimentation, seeing what works, having fashion shows in your living room, etc. It's not wearing the skirt or whatever to work tomorrow. I think sometimes people keep inferior and/or ill-fitting garments that they ordered because it's too much trouble to send it back. (I've done it). Send back 50% of what you buy, and I bet you won't be any less fulfilled.

Random thoughts: Know your measurements! Wait 24 hours (I do this, and it has landed me some stunning items, and I can't even count the number of ridiculous garments that I do not currently own because it didn't look that great in the harsh morning light). NO credit cards EVER. Also, before you order something, mentally fit it into your existing wardrobe! "These shoes don't match anything I own but I want them!" =NO. "These shoes will look fantastic with my brown skirt, my khakis, and my green dress" =YES! That's actually vital. Otherwise, you end up buying a whole new bunch of stuff to match the shoes....etc. You see what I mean. Debit, matching, and 24 hours! Good luck!
posted by deep thought sunstar at 1:39 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think two things that have helped me keep shopping to a minimum is (1) being picky and (2) not having a lot of money. I always use debit, and have strict ideas about how much things should cost and what kind of clothing I'm interested in. I try to look for versatile items that I need or don't already have, rather than idly browsing for anything that might look nice. Oh, and I also let things sit in the shopping cart for a while before deciding whether I actually want to buy them.

With few exceptions, I won't buy from any site without free shipping (those with high minimums don't count) and a generous return policy. One in which you can return items to a brick-and-mortar store for a refund in the original form of tender (boo, store credit). Also, any discount less than 30-40% off is not a sale (see above: stores are all out to get you). I think if you window shop enough, you'll begin to get an idea of which sales happen all the time (and are therefore not worth it) and which actually have amazing deals.

And it's true that new discounts and new clothes come around all the time. Even if you do miss something here or there, something like it will be back soon enough.
posted by junques at 2:39 AM on September 5, 2010

Unless you need a particular article, don't even go into the store, look at the website or open the catalog. Don't subject yourself to the shiny pictures and misleading promotions. When you do really need a particular article, look at several stores and websites, and buy only that item, from wherever the bottom-line deal is best. Do the math.

I still feel the urge to shop recreationally, but I interpret that urge with suspicion. There's always something better to be done with my time, energy and money. I take the desire to go shopping as a cue to think about what that 'something better' might be. The point is to redirect those urges constructively, not to grit my teeth and resist them.
posted by jon1270 at 4:12 AM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: Every time there's a sale for anything (15% off, free shipping etc.), I feel compelled to take advantage of it and buy whatever I want.

You need to become unaware of this crap. Are you browsing shopping sites for recreation? Clicking spammy email links?

Delete the shopping sites from your bookmarks and stop going to them unless you need something very specific. Unsubscribe yourself from every email list that sends you a sale notification.
posted by pracowity at 4:34 AM on September 5, 2010

I am not really a clothes shopper, so I am not sure if what I do about clothes is useful for you or not. It may sound really boring to you, but it works for me.

For a while, I was on a strict budget for everything, not just clothes. While I was in that state, I did not browse for clothes (online or offline), shopped in thrift stores, and threw away catalogs.

Eventually, I reached a point where my clothes were genuinely getting worn out. I also realised I was wearing out the key pieces and favourites in my wardrobe, and then had other stuff which just made my wardrobe messy but which I didn't actually wear.

I looked at a few of those '10 essentials for your wardrobe' type lists. I adapted it to fit my lifestyle (type of work I do, what I wear when I go out, what clothes I have actually worn until they have fallen apart, what have I already got, seasonal weather where I live), wrote my own list, and now pretty much only buy things that I am missing from the list or which are on the list and need replacing. If it is on the list, I pay whatever (within reason!) as long as I like it a lot as I know I will get good use out of it.

It might mean my wardrobe is a bit boring to some - I spend the bulk of my money on good basics - flattering jeans, good quality work pants, merino knits, good jacket etc. But I really like all the clothes I have as I only buy them if a) I need them, and b) they really suit me. I do buy accessories on more of a whim as a way of dressing up my outfits.

This list approach has also stopped me doing panic buying for 'special occasion outfits' because I worked out a couple of pieces that would work well, kept an eye out for what I wanted and bought them when I found them.

Helpful blog post at Get Rich Slowly on How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear - not quite the same thing as an online shopping addiction, but may be helpful.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:40 AM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I bookmark the item in Delicious with the tag "wishlist," or if I'm on Amazon, I add it to my cart, but don't actually check out. (I don't use one-click checkout, that's for sure.) If I really want an item, I'll probably think about it for a few months before buying—even if, like that OXO salad spinner, it's something that would really help my meal preparation. If I'm still eagerly anticipating buying it after a few months, I know it's something that probably has staying power in my life.
posted by limeonaire at 6:37 AM on September 5, 2010

Some goodmsuggestions already but also make sure you unsubscribe from every single shopping site mailing list that you have found yourself on.
posted by superquail at 6:43 AM on September 5, 2010

Re: clothing specifically, when you feel like splurging, go to a thift store or secondhand/resale shop. Your splurging money will go a lot further there, and you still get the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of getting a deal.
posted by limeonaire at 6:47 AM on September 5, 2010

I tell myself, "There will be other [insert name of item here]." Fashion marches forward and I guarantee you that in one season, in one year, in three years, there will be clothes that you fall in love with just as much as these, that are just as on sale.

It really helps me to get out of the mindset of "I will regret not buying this!" because I remind myself that I will always have more opportunities to buy awesome stuff at awesome prices. It's not like you're on vacation in a country with awesome clothes and awesome sales. You live there.
posted by chelseagirl at 7:29 AM on September 5, 2010

I have any sale-related promotional emails go to a separate account, and I only look at them if I'm looking to buy clothing for a particular reason.
posted by elpea at 7:30 AM on September 5, 2010

It sounds like you have a much bigger issue regarding spending and clutter that should be addressed. So, you know. Consider thinking about addressing that. AskMe is a great resource for both the soul-searching and the practical aspects, and books like Your Money Or Your Life and It's All Too Much! are great offline resources.

But specific to your question, I have a one-week "cooling off" period. If there's something I desperately want, I add it to a list and put it on my calendar. On that date, I re-assess the purchase. 95% of the time, I don't want it anymore.

I also avoid "problem sites." These are sites that have suckered me into purchases in the past. Usually with the "OMG HUGE SALE ENDS IMMEDIATELY U MUST BUY NOW K??!!!"

You can even get a browser plug-in that will block a list of websites, if you need that little extra bit of external support.
posted by ErikaB at 10:22 AM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: This book (How to be a budget fashionista) is not only an excellent guide for creating a "staple" wardrobe, but it gives you a lot of structure and control around what kinds of clothes to buy and how many you actually need. I highly recommend it.
posted by ukdanae at 10:37 AM on September 5, 2010

Those offers really come quite often. If you skip out on this one, there'll be another one coming shortly. If you miss out on the awesome skirt this time, I'm sure you'll find another that you're equally enthusiastic about some other time.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 11:26 AM on September 5, 2010

I don't have this problem with clothes, but I do with other things. For me the problem is two-fold: one was impulse control and the other is disorganization. And they both kinda feed off each other. It's easier to fall into the trap of impulsively doing and buying things when you have no real plan or order to what you're doing, and it's hard to plan when you're in the habit of using impulse to guide your decision-making.

Being this way made a real mess of my life, and being mindful of that was my first step, and helps a lot.

The second step is to come up with a plan. If this is difficult and overwhelming, then a friend or counselor can be a big help. You need to look at your wardrobe and your budget, and come up with a goal. How much can you afford to spend? What clothes do you need, what clothes do you want? There are some great links in this thread to help with that.

For me, having an overall structure in my mind helps me not to make impulsive decisions, because when I want some thing I see, I can use this ideal to determine whether or not I should get it. An example from my own life would be crocheting projects. I used to buy all kinds of yarn, just because it was beautiful and I wanted to make something with it "someday" or it was on sale, etc. I had a gazillion projects going at once, and no limits. And I would start projects the same way: Oooh pretty, I want to make it! In the end I was so overwhelmed, I never finished anything. I had tons of *stuff* but nothing that amounted to anything. If you're anything like me, then there is a ton of stuff in your closet, but when you open it you're like "Oh crap what do I wear?" This feeds into the shopping, because you have this feeling like you need/are missing something, but you don't know what it is.

Nowadays, when I shop I have criteria that have to be met before I can buy anything. No more than one project at a time, and I can only have yarn for the current project and the next one on the list. Projects have to be something I can use, or give as a gift (and the gift has to *really* be something I plan to give, not "oh I'll make this and just give it to 'somebody'." There has to be a specific recipient and occasion in mind.). I accept that there are thousands of beautiful things I will never make, and that's okay, because I have enough to do and the things I do have are what's right for me.
posted by cottonswab at 11:51 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

here's the other part of that: when you order stuff and it comes, do you try it on with a discerning eye, and return the stuff that sucks? maybe it's different for people who aren't fat, but half the stuff that i order when the sales/coupons/online disounts tempt me really sucks when it gets here and i end up returning it, no harm done to my bank account.

because if you're ordering a ton of stuff and you never wear it, or you order it and it's stupid and ugly and doesn't fit, but you don't return it, that's a problem too.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:02 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: invisible ink: How do you keep your clothing budget under control?

It seems to me that what you're really asking is "How do I keep my clothing expenditure under control?" because you do not in fact have a clothing budget.

My suggestion to you is to go four weeks cold turkey with NO online shopping at all while you make a budget and take steps to get your spending under control. You will be surprised how that darling little cardigan you see today is not something you actually regret not buying 30 days from now. You will learn from this and it will be good for you.

You can also make a deal with yourself that if its worth buying, it's worth buying at full price - because that is the cost of overcoming your impluse control problem. Impose a two-week waiting period on any purchase. So go ahead and love it today but do not buy it just because its on sale or there is free shipping. If it's still worth it to you in two weeks, then go ahead and buy it at full whack, assuming the budget says you can afford it.

It actually feels good to look at the money you have to spend, the list of things you want, and make rational prioritised decisions about what you will buy. I promise!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:04 PM on September 5, 2010

Response by poster: All fantastic answers, I will definitely be rereading this thread over and over, and implementing some of the suggestions (opening a "fun stuff" account in my bank right now). Many thanks, everyone!
posted by invisible ink at 2:17 PM on September 5, 2010

One of the ways I curbed my impulse spending* was by giving my credit card to my boyfriend with strict instructions that if I were to go to him and ask for it he was to give it to me, no questions asked.

The simple act of having to go to him and ask for it put a brake on impulse purchases, making me reconsider them. It just wasn't worth going over to him and asking for it for purchases that, in the end, were just impulses. But if it was something I really wanted, or if it was something I needed (like booking a hotel online), then it wasn't a problem.

* The other way being diagnosed with ADHD and going on medication.
posted by telophase at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2010

One more thing that has helped me curb my online spending has been a Big Scary Financial Goal. I used to spend a small fortune online every month on clothes and makeup, but right now we are saving for a house deposit and i've successfully managed to transfer my obsessive nature over to saving rather than spending. I'll admit liberal use of spreadsheet porn to track exactly how much i'm saving. If you're like me and your spending is more about your personality and less about the thing you're buying, you might find a big goal useful!
posted by ukdanae at 10:18 AM on September 6, 2010

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