Secrets of an Unsavvy Shopper

I’ve read my fair share of articles, books and advice on how to create and live on a realistic budget. When it comes to women and finances, there will always be tips on how to be a savvy shopper. Where the best deals are, how to use coupons and even the best times to shop. This blog entry is the exact opposite of that. Instead, it’s about dealing with the reality of shopping gone bad. 

A few weeks ago, I was on the elevator heading up to my office and I took a look at my outfit. I was wearing a cashmere Donna Karan winter jacket that was priced at $400 (got it on sale for $200!), J. Brand jeans, for which I paid the full price of $180, a Michael Kors watch priced at $200 (got it on sale too!), a Gucci shoulder bag that I’d gotten as a Mother’s Day gift from my ex-husband years ago and my newest fashion coup, the cutest Tory Burch flats that would go with everything in my closet on the days when I didn’t want to wear heels. The price: $235. I added up the cost of everything at full price and we’re talking a total collective value of $2000. Then I thought about what was in my wallet. Suffice it to say, there was NOT that same amount of money. That thought gave me pause.

Interestingly enough, that same day, I’d gotten caught up in a hallway chat with two of my co-workers who complimented my new Torys. I always get a little shy when it comes to being praised, but I’d also felt good that my fashion sense had been co-signed. Then one of the co-workers asked me about my jeans. She said she loved the look of them and then asked how much I’d paid for them. I wasn’t embarrassed to say what they’d cost; both of these women are no strangers to designer prices. But again, as I said “It’s terrible, I paid $180 for them, but they are SUCH great quality!” it made me think about the money I put out vs. the money I keep in my wallet. 

I won’t deny that I operate with a full-blown consumer’s mentality. I wouldn’t venture to say that I am a shopaholic; I don’t forgo the household bills in favor of shopping for the latest trends, but I’m also not the best with defining a budget and sticking to it. I love the concept of shopping. In grocery stores, malls and the black hole of them all, Target. Rare is the occasion when I have gone into Target with my shopping list and came out with exactly what I went in for. I always manage to find one or two other things to put into my cart and a justified reason for purchasing them. Of course, I curse myself all the way home as I calculate the extra money I spent, but more often than not, I find myself doing the same exact thing the next time I take a Target trip. Based on the status updates of friends on Facebook, I know I’m not alone when it comes to that red bulls eye. 

While I am responsible in the sense that I bought my condo when I was 25 and have not missed or been late on a mortgage payment in nine years, I’ve never missed a credit card payment and I have an established 401(k), Roth and IRA accounts, it’s the meantime and in between time of the 15th and 30th of the month where I seem to get into trouble. I overspend or overshop (made that word up), and find myself juggling certain payments to ensure everything is paid on time. Sometimes that means hitting my savings or not paying as much on a credit card as I originally planned to. While I want to continue to grow and develop spiritually and emotionally, I also want to have better control over my finances. I am tired of feeling like I’m operating behind the 8 ball. I make a pretty decent salary, have no car note and only have myself and my son to take care of. In the grand scheme of things, juggling the bills should not be happening. 

I decided to sit down and lay out all of my monthly debts. I broke them down into household payments (mortgage, condo fee, utilities), credit payments, student loan payments and other general expenses (groceries, parking for work, entertainment, etc.). On the one hand, I’m not completely in the hole. Taking into account all of the money that goes out, I still have money left over. Conversely though, when I added up all of my debts, I realized that there is a hole I have to get myself out of. I totaled my credit card debts, student loan debts and mortgage separately. Then I added them all up together. That almost made me pass out. But I took a hard look at what is and I told myself that things had to change right then and there. The changes would have to be small and gradual, but they would have to be made. I often reflect on the legacy that I want to leave for my son and looking at my current financial landscape, I know that is definitely not something I want to leave him. 

I am by no means a financial guru, yet I am fortunate to have people in my life who are and I most certainly intend to lean on them for guidance. I’m not sure what my exact plan of action has to be. The activity of laying out my financial situation was done pretty recently, so I am telling myself not to be hard on myself. I don’t have to figure it all out today. It took me years to create this situation; fixing it is not going to happen overnight. In fact, I’m actually proud of myself. Ignorance is bliss and one cannot typically be faulted for something they didn’t know. However, I believe that once you are made aware of something, the responsibility then falls on you as to what you are going to do about it. Whether you decide to take action or not, you have to make a decision that you can live with. For me, there is no way I could look at this financial picture and ignore it. Accepting responsibility is always a large part of the battle and I have done this. Eventually though, I will have to come up with a defined plan for creating a better financial situation. 

Just as with everything else, this process will take time. I love Chanel designs and I’m sure I’ll see a handbag or a pair of shoes that will make me drool. I also have a perfume fetish, and I know I’ll still pull out the page of a recommended fragrance from my monthly “Essence” magazine. I’ll be strolling down the aisles in Target and have an “Oh, that’s CUTE!” moment. Yet, I have been reflecting and saying out loud to myself that I need to learn how to disconnect from material things, even if I don’t consider myself to be a materialistic person, and focus more on receiving Universal abundance. This requires a real shift in my mindset. I have to train myself to say no; to walk away from something that I’d usually justify buying because I work hard or because I’m a single mom and I need to remember to treat myself. I want to research and understand what underlies my spending habits. Based on things I’ve read and the work of my financial friends, that seems to play a large part in how we use our wallets. 

Who we are financially, emotionally, spiritually is all interconnected…at least, I think. As I toss away the latest Nordstrom’s catalog that came in the mail (yes, I perused it first), I have to remind myself that I am working towards my “free” in all those areas of my life. The journey of discovering me continues, and the J. Brands and Torys I already have are here to stay, but it sure will feel good to lessen the burden debts as I evolve along the way.

#retail therapy


4 Comments on “Secrets of an Unsavvy Shopper”

  1. sim greem says:

    very good advice and not just for the women. This guy is taking notes

  2. Dionne says:

    OMG! I am so glad that you are assessing your shopping habits. You are blessed that you can do this because you want to and not because you have to. I am rooting for you!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I often “create” a budget for myself, then see a “50% OFF” or “Sale you can’t miss” Well, I have discovered that even with 50% off, there’s still that other 50% I must pay, and that “sale you can’t miss” well I actually CAN miss it, and not really miss it– if you get my drift 🙂 Budgets are necessary and it’s all so much clearer when it’s written in black and white in front of you.

  4. Deidra Johnson says:

    I too have the same issue. I try to create a budget for myself to splurge so that I’m not interrupting any funds that need to go to the household expenses.

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