How the No-Shopping Summer Worked: Nora’s Story, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Focus on Spending Less Money

HI YOU GUYS! Here I go again, apologizing for my long absence. Putting it out there: a lot has happened (for both my colleague and me) and we agreed we would be okay taking our posts-per-week count down from the pretty rapid-fire blogging we were doing back in the winter. Still, we didn’t mean to take that down to an average of one post every month. Or to promise a book club post and then never follow through. (That one’s on me; LP’s part of the post has been sitting on my to-write list for ages. Promise promise it’s still coming.)

What’s happened in my life lately, you ask? HAPPY TO SHARE! Aside from the home-buying, which kick-started my disappearance, I’ve also dived back into teaching weekly citizenship classes with my favorite co-teacher at one of my favorite organizations. And [drumroll] N and I got engaged! Yay!

Blog-related, I tried really, really hard to succeed at the No-Shopping Summer, and I did…okay. Not great. There was some cheating. There was some substitution spending (new house = new furnishings!). My ultimate reaction to how the summer went was that I think I set too unattainable a goal for myself. Still, it was a worthy exercise and I did come away with a few key experiences; most importantly, I developed important tools for that urgent feeling a sale gives me. You know the one – “OH BUT IT IS 50% OFF AND FITS SO WELL AND I REALLY NEED BOOTS.” (Yes, I seriously tried to convince myself, in July/August, that I needed boots. My name is Nora, and I’m a bit compulsive.) I came up with a series of questions to ask myself to really decide whether I really need the item in question right now:

  1. Will you need to wear this within the next week?
  2. Have you been searching for this exact item for more than a year?
  3. What is the estimated price-per-wear on this item?

The first two questions are pretty subjective still, but were really helpful in making me feel better about not buying things I was certain I needed RIGHT THEN. More than anything, the last question is one I was surprised I don’t struggle through more often, as a seasoned shopper. I think I have a great intuition of “I’ll wear this a lot” that I’ve never really forced myself to estimate a number of times I’ll wear the item to feel like I’ve gotten a great value for it. If I set a $1 price-per-wear on a top, that means a $50 sweater has to be worn 50 times before falling apart or getting donated; given that sweaters are supposed to be sturdy and well-made anyway, I feel comfortable with this. On the other hand, summer tops generally fall apart much quicker and/or fall victim to perspiration – as such, generally $20 is a good cap for a summer top. Pants and skirts are much more versatile and transcend season a bit more than tops, so a $100 pair of pants will likely be used twice as often as a $50 sweater or $20 top in the same year. Dresses are more expensive but are also my most regular outfit. I’m still working out the science*, but I like this plan.

The main point of the No-Shopping Summer, of course, was to curb spending. Did that happen? Well, not really. Turns out I like pretty decorations and skincare as much as I like pretty clothes and accessories. So, in addition to really evaluating the price-per-wear when I get an item, I’m also going to start doing my best to buy secondhand where possible, which will allow me the Pretty Things I Love at prices that make me feel Not As Stressed. This is a huge challenge for me, as online shopping is one of my favorite activities, and secondhand shopping requires a great deal of in-store time. Still, there are a lot of great consignment shops in DC where I’ve had a great deal of past success, and I’ve already got a lot of the basic pieces I need, so I feel good about this one.

So: price-per-wear and secondhand. This is a good start! My final goal for myself is to simplify my skincare routine and, where possible, find good drugstore alternatives. I’ll be bringing back “Know Your Face” with a new “splurge or save” feature, where I chronicle my attempt to find drugstore dupes of my favorite Sephora and department store skincare products. I’ve already got a few winners stocked up, and more to come. Get excited, folks!

*And there are obvious exceptions, such as my wedding dress. Insha’Allah, I will not be wearing that one again.

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