Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lessons of a Shopaholic Part 3: Days 15-28 in Shopping Rehab

Day 15:
Enjoyed a nice social Sunday with friends, made it to church, and called my parents. Made divine cinnamon French toast for me and hubby. Gave the cat extra love. Didn't venture near a store.

Fought the urge to surf the retails sites. Instead, read Wikipedia for a couple of hours while DH played video games. Learned several interesting facts about India, Sanskrit, Buddhism, and the Jain religion. Learned that Buddhism is the world's 4th largest organized religious group while Hinduism is the 3rd largest. Also learned that Hinduism is one of the world's oldest living religions and that the word "Hindu" comes from the ancient Persian word for the Indus River. Looked forward to learning more about the world outside of shopping.

Day 16:
Focused the entire morning on administrative and housekeeping items. Then, received a call out of the clear blue from a work client asking to meet in 2 days. This sent me reeling to put together a massive portfolio and update numerous projects. Spent the rest of the day and evening on the phone and and computer doing research, polishing off my bio, and emailing various sources. Went to bed tired and slept well.

Day 17:
Spent the day running to meetings with other clients. All ran over and left me with little time for potential diversions. The rainy weather further underscored my desire to get home, get dry, and finish projects. Again, worked into the evening.

Day 18:
Met with new client after rising early to finish preparing. Meeting went so-so (mostly from my perspective), but I was proud of myself for having finished a lot of important tasks in a short period of time and finally updating a lot of out-of-date projects. Although I didn't feel that our goals were currently in alignment, I agreed to keep in touch anyway.

Day 19:
Worked on tasks for other clients and spent much of the day in negotiations between various parties.

Took a long lunch to celebrate my productive week. Found myself with nothing to do temporarily while waiting for responses from clients. Surfed the net, of course.

As always, a bad idea, given that J.Crew was once again offering a discount, and there were so many pretty spring things I wanted! Especially since the temperature was once again 70 degrees and I couldn't wait to get into spring clothes. Bravely resisted the urge.

Received several discount emails from other retailers. Cole Haan sent a reminder about the 30% off ending in a few days. Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy sent out a friends & family coupon code for 30% off. Ignored Ann Taylor, Piperlime, Nine West, and DSW.

Closed my internet browsers as they were doing me no good. Re-opened one window and went straight to Wikipedia for more enlightenment. Figured I needed fluffier topics to keep my interest. Read all about the actors and TV personalities on some of my favorite shows.

Did you know that Stacy London of What Not to Wear majored in philosophy and Germanic studies before working for Vogue and Mademoiselle magazines? And, her mother is Sicilian and her stepmother is a romance novelist. Also learned that Bobby Flay had a major falling out with Iron Chef Morimoto after losing to him in Japan in 1997 (caused apparently by Flay offending Morimoto). They had a rematch where Flay won the competition, and the two are now friends. Wikipedia is my favorite new time waster!

Finally decided to hit the grocery store to reload my fridge and pantry for the coming week. No more ordering pizza and Chinese food!

Day 20:
Fell off the wagon - hard.

Finished negotiations and paperwork for clients from previous day and had a nice long lunch. Took the opportunity to catch my breath and catch up on social emails that I had been neglecting all week. Devoted a few hours to taking care of details of planning the upcoming J.Crew Aficionada private shopping & Sunday brunch event. Checked evite about a dozen times, made calls to managers, sent several emails, and finalized logistics.

Hubby came home in the early afternoon, unexpectedly. He said he had to finish work projects in the evening and weekend after hours (ah, the joys of IT directors!). Updated him on all the exciting news about the J.Crew Aficionada outing and told him all the pieces were coming together.

With a little bit of trepidation, I finally broached the question I had been avoiding: "Honey, if I'm good for the rest of the month and avoid shopping diligently, can I end my shopping fast early to shop at our private shopping event?" After all, I did start a little early, about 4 days before Lent, which gives me a full 33-day fast before the big day...

"We'll see how good you are," he countered. "If you can stay out of trouble for that long, we'll decide then."

"I've already got almost 20 days under my belt. I'm sure I'll be fine," I assured him. Besides, I argued, it would give me incredible motivation to not shop if I knew that I would be rewarded with the ultimate prize: a guilt-free shopping spree.

Looking at my watch, I calculated that I still had time to run some errands before the Friday traffic started. With work taking over my week, I hadn't even had time to pick up my dry cleaning, let alone get my nails done. Oh, and there was also that pesky bag of clothes sitting in my car that I had finally decided to return from a few weeks ago...

Off I went on "errands." My intentions were good that afternoon as I sped along the highway toward my destination: another trip to J.Crew. Not my home store, of course, where I would have to face all the people who knew me, but the further-out store where I didn't feel compelled to buy something each time I returned. Especially since I had a very limited window of opportunity to go and come back before the hellacious Friday traffic hit with full force.

But oh, what a difference a week makes! My previous trip to this store was a success in that I managed to return without succumbing to the temptations of buying any new springwear or riffling through the sale rack for great deals on winter stuff. Today, however, the store was re-arranged to show off the floaty new dresses and bright graphic tees that had become the trend. How could I not take notice? I would just take one quick tour to assess the new finds, you know, so I could mentally take note of my wish list for the upcoming private shopping event.

Darn it! I knew instantly that I was not going to walk out unscathed. Serpentining through the sherbert colored cardigans, breezy patterned blouses, and flirty skirts, I could not muster up the slightest ounce of self control. Decided to make the best of it and give in. Walked out with a new Jackie cardigan, bright coral tunic, a polka-dot blouse, and a completely irresistible flower-clasp necklace. My only consolation? All were hugely discounted, plus, I had returned 2 items which brought the bill down significantly. Excellent acquisitions by anyone's standards! Even I had to admit that I felt a swell of pride as I sauntered out with a full shopping bag reviewing my superb selections.

Even though I had only spent $30, I had just bought 3 items -- that's 3 more than I was supposed to buy! To makes matters worse, I had a foreboding feeling that my misadventures were far from over. The damage, after all, had been done primarily to my psyche. I already felt as if I had failed. I had not only broken my promise to God and my better half, I had broken my vow to myself that I wouldn't shop for the rest of the month. Now, I would not deserve the rewards that I had promised to myself.

Still inside the mall and a very long way from home, I knew that my first fall would surely not be my last. Especially since I had missed my chance to escape before the massive wave of commuters flooded the roads. I would have to wait it out for another 2 hours before attempting to exit. I was stuck in the lion's den, ensnared by the trap that I had led myself into -- knowingly and, dare I say, purposely? My conscious mind knew what lay ahead, and but it could not fight my body that was pulled hypnotically to the seductive stores where I had dared not to step.

Enticed by a compellingly practical need for well-fitting pants -- after having exhausted my J.Crew options of late -- I wandered into Express, where I had previously found my salvation in the form of the Editor pants. To put it lightly, I was a bit fond of these amazing pants: I owned no less than 15 pairs of Editor pants ranging from work pants to trouser jeans to everyday chinos. Truly the best-fitting pants in the world on my figure, these pants accentuated all the right place while downplaying the rest. The problem was, I had changed sizes a few times and was in need of replacements.

Now, don't get me wrong -- no one makes a nicer wool trouser or cozier cord than J.Crew. But when it comes to denim and day-to-day workhorse pants, I didn't always have the best luck there. Especially lately when it seemed like petite fits were fewer and harder to come by, and besides the obvious length issue, the often generously-cut bottoms presented a lot of unsavory sagging issues. That, and the recent deluge of "easy leg" fits looked like loose sacks on my petite frame. Either that or the matchsticks were much too tight for my solid thighs. The designs that did look promising (mostly last year's) had already been placed in the final sale section online, which is never a good idea for trying on new pants. So, after having returned the last pair of ill-fitting chinos to J.Crew, I thought it best to re-investigate the origin of so many years' worth of great pants.

The salespeople were unusually supportive and helpful, probably because a manager took me under her wing right away. She collected pair after pair in various sizes to help me find the perfect one. After trying on a dozen pairs, I had forgotten how fabulous these pants made my butt look, and how slimming they made my thighs look. My legs looked longer too thanks to the straight fit and just-right flare at the bottom. I knew I had to buy more than one or I would regret it. Beside, the current promotion was buy 2 get 1 free. And the prices -- compared to the full-prices to which I had grown accustomed at J.Crew -- were decidedly easier to swallow. What could I do? I invested in 3 pairs (for the price of 1 J.Crew dress pant, mind you!). At least I would have great pants to wear through the spring, summer, and early fall. Mission accomplished! I felt instantly satisfied at my second success of the day.

Wandered past the Cole Haan store. Recalled that sale items were 30% off and figured I should at least look, given my recent bout with blisters after spending a lot of time on foot with clients. Inspected every pair of Nike Air heels before settling on one perfect pair of chocolate woven-leather midheels whose price was too good to be true: just $48 after the discount! Sprung for them knowing that they would come in very handy and save me many hours of discomfort. Thought of which new pants to pair with them first. Surprisingly, didn't feel that guilty at my impulse buy on the grounds that I really needed a great pair of dark brown work pumps and this price was truly remarkable for the unbeatable comfort and quality of Cole Haan Nike Air.

Then, I remembered my Holy Grail of coupons which, at this point, was burning a hole through my purse and threatening to expire in a day: 25% off at Coach. Treading very cautiously and with already-growing remorse, I hesitantly entered the Coach store with half-shut eyes trying nervously to avoid eye contact with sales associates. Such a clean, uncluttered store, with so many beautiful creations to gaze upon! The feel of the sumptuous new Parker Collection leather, the smell of the Coach perfume solid, the sharp looking Madison spectator bags, the shiny objects galore... Add to that the valuable 25% coupon that only arrives in the mail once a season... I....must.....resist.....must....turn....around....NOW!

But wait! What was that adorable little keyfob hanging innocently at the counter, in the very back of the store? Why, it was a cute little bunny with real mink fur tufting out of its tail - how precious! Especially since "Bunny" was my namesake and a source of endless gag gifts received over the years, especially around Easter and, especially from my friend Anna. How could I walk away from such a sweet little treat? Had I not successfully resisted last year's Kate Spade bunny keychain? And wasn't this one so much cuter with it's little white fur tail?

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen writes in Child Psychology that giving in to temptation is "a self-fulfilling prophecy." Citing a study that found that college students who had been asked to talk about their vices ended up giving into their desires to commit the vices, she concluded "the study participants thought they'd succumb, so they did. Resisting temptation was difficult because of their thought processes."

Pawlik-Kienlen goes on to suggest:

"If acting on your thoughts can work against you (by causing you to succumb to temptation), it can certainly work for you (helping you resist temptation)... To resist temptation, turn temptation around. Instead of thinking about not eating chocolate chip cookies, focus on eating fresh fruit or veggies, or going out for a walk or run... Instead of focusing on not gambling, think about other ways to spend your money... Instead of thinking about not surfing the internet, consider the benefits of sleeping all night long or spending time with family or friends... Give yourself healthy, fun treats like going to the beach or watching a funny play or performance. Take an afternoon off work or treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure. When you resist temptation, celebrate!"

At this point, I had all but talked myself into committing my next vice. Knowing that it was already priced so reasonably and having the additional discount would make the temptation all the more unavoidable. And let's face it, if I was going to blow $45 on a manicure and pedicure to avoid giving into this one last temptation, I might as well just buy it and have something to show for my money. This would be my very last transgression before getting back on the wagon. Really.

Well, not really. I felt a giant wave of shame mixed with sudden fear at the thought of coming home with illicitly begotten items. Instead of sprinting to my car, I made a slight detour through the candy store (the representation of my uninhibited urge to spend, perhaps?). Knowing the way to my beloved's heart, I assembled a tall pile of our favorite Italian candy bars: Kinder Bueno, the hazelnut paste-filled wafer covered in chocolate, made by Ferrero. Armed with my peace offering, I made a beeline for the garage and unloaded the goods into my car. Walking in the door of my house about 30 minutes later, I strategically brandished the bag of candy, knowing that DH wouldn't be able to resist.

"I got you something," I chirped sweetly to my significant other.

Not falling for it, he retorted, "What did you get for yourself?" Guiltily swishing my J.Crew bag around, I faced him with downcast eyes and presented the package for him to inspect. Usually, he's somewhat excited (okay, curious) to find out what "kills" I've brought home from my shopping adventures. But probably disgusted at my utter lack of faithfulness to my promise, this time, he just sighed and sent me to my room to unpack my baggage. Which, I might add, was mysteriously missing a few bags from, say, Coach, Cole Haan, and Express. Striving to avoid confrontation from my outrageous act of rebellion, I had stealthily consolidated all the goods into one bag and re-wrapped everything in tissue for good measure.

My guilt bore down on me like a ton of bricks that evening. My dissatisfaction with myself was matched only by the bad taste in my mouth from knowing that I had ruined my chance to shop at the big upcoming J.Crew event. Alone in my dressing room making space for all my new acquisitions, I pondered my future as a hopeful mother: how would I ever teach my children to avoid the perilous temptations that loomed ahead if I, as an adult, could hardly control my own pocketbook?

Day 21:
Took up compulsive housecleaning instead of compulsive shopping. Washed 6 loads of laundry, decluttered my office, scrubbed the pots and pans, tidied up the kitchen, collected all the recyclables, and cleaned my room. Decided to start fresh, despite the previous day's disasters.

Rummaged through my closet and pulled out a couple dozen pieces of unneeded items and several shoes. Folded everything into 3 giant shopping bags and lugged them to the local consignment store. The owner was delighted to see me after a prolonged absense. I explained that I was there to sell, however. But after she sorted through my goods with relish and gave me good reason to believe that stuff would actually sell, I felt guilty about not buying something... especially since I had barged in on a busy Saturday unannounced without an appointment and unloaded a large number of items. I thought it was only the right thing to do, to buy one small thing.

After a 20-minute search through the store's 3 levels in an enchanting historic rowhouse off the main street, I turned up a pair of to-die-for jeans that fit me like a glove. Thrilled at the prospect of bringing home yet another pair of fabulous pants -- already in a petite length and in my favorite dark denim to boot -- I was further overjoyed when the owner offered me a seller's discount, bringing my total to around $50. Which, for almost-new expensive denim that made my derriere look like a million and my legs a mile long, wasn't bad.

Just when I was paying, honey called to check in on me. "I'm just finishing up," I proclaimed. I let him grill me on the day's damages. He chastised me halfheartedly but later asked to see my new purchase. After trying on the jeans for him, he must have liked what he saw, because he not only complimented the fit but left the subject of my purchase largely undiscussed. Although I felt bad for buying when I was supposed to be back on the wagon, I felt really good for bringing in so many things to sell. Even better when I learned that any unsold goods would go to my favorite charities.

Oh well, there's always tomorrow to get back on the wagon for good...

Day 22:
Made French toast again but this time it came out burnt. Probably due to the new bread I had used. And the fact that my mind was elsewhere.

Stared at my full J.Crew online cart while savoring my post-burnt toast coffee. Knew that I had purposely missed two great discount codes in row, but now I didn't know for what purpose exactly. Decided to post my wish list so I could stare at it somewhere other than the J.Crew site for the next 2 weeks. Also hoped it would serve as sufficient motivation to avoid all forms of retail temptation, both physical and web-based.

Went to church again to face God. The priest really drove the point home as he expounded on the day's readings: the 10 Commandments. Though shall not covet. Thou shall not commit idolatry. Thou shall not bear false witness. Guilty, guilty, and guilty. Felt better after confessing and asking for forgiveness. Went to the grocery store afterward to replenish our food supply. Vowed to finally resume volunteering after a year-long lapse.

Day 23:
Felt hopeless and just plain bad following the weekend's shopping catastrophes and the third straight day of rain. So bad, that I could not muster one ounce of self control to prevent me from placing the Cole Haan order that had been sitting in my cart. The shoes that I absolutely needed -- because they went with everything in my wardrobe and were a high enough heel to wear with my long pants -- were on sale and actually available in my size (no small feat, no pun intended). And if I was going to take advantage of the 30% discount plus free shipping, today was the last day.

What the hell, I'm firmly off the wagon anyway. Might as well get the shoes that will end all shoes. As well the superfly sporty wedge sandals that I've been eyeing for months for good measure. In both colors. Maybe they'll make me happy when my husband finally divorces me. Maybe I can work in the Cole Haan store for extra money. Prayed that at least one pair wouldn't fit me so I would have to return them.

Made one tiny breakthrough: Emailed the place where I used to volunteer and told them I wanted to volunteer again. Asked them to call me to discuss times and needs.

Day 24:
Felt bad again, but sought serious help. Realized I wasn't going to be able to do this alone. Decided to investigate outside support.

Googled "shopaholics anonymous" and "shopaholics anonymous meetings" but to no avail. I mean, there are hundreds of entries, but none that I was looking for.

Did you know that there are loads of "Debtors Anonymous" groups in just about every region which meet regularly? I took the self-test they offered. Only answered "yes" to 3.5 out of 15 questions. Further examined the 12 "Signs of Compulsive Debting." Could only identify with 3 of the 12 signs. Not sure if this is group is going to help me get to the root of my problem.

Kept searching. Found a "Spenders Anonymous" group that seemed slightly more promising. Didn't answer "yes" to to more than 3 of the 13 questions to determine if I was a spender, but definitely identified with the stories of recovering compulsive spenders. Unfortunately, couldn't find any chapters in my region, let alone my metropolitan area. No online support groups available, either.

Came across Gambler's Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Schizophrenics Anonymous, and Workaholics Anonymous, to name a few.

Gave in and surfed around the spuriously named site of Shopaholics Anonymous. Spurious because 1) this is not an actual support group for fellow compulsive shoppers, 2) there's not much anonymity in printing the name of the person who's in charge of the so-called support group, or the name of various celebrities who have allegedly been helped by him, 3) the entire mission and mantras of most "anonymous" groups modeled after AA is to help individuals for free instead of charging them for therapy, 4) most "anonymous" groups attract new members by word of mouth rather than self-promotion, and 5) any group that claims to represent "anonymous" does not hold public conferences.

Furthermore, I failed to see the connection between the forces that drive shoplifting or employee theft and those that drive shopaholics. Apparently Dr. Shulman believes that he can appeal to all three groups with one website.

Disgusted though I was by the lack of an actual and aptly-named "shopaholics anonymous" support group (at least in the D.C. Metro area), I did take Dr. Shulman's advice on reading two books he recommends for compulsive shoppers: To Buy or Not to Buy and I Shop, Therefore I Am by April Lane Benson. Both are available on Amazon and received very high reader ratings.

Also, contacted Spenders Anonymous to find out if we could start some meetings in my area. Felt much better instantly.

Received an autoresponse an hour later from Spenders Anonymous telling me that they received my email and that, if I'm writing to inquire about meetings in my area (as most people inquire, check the website for a complete list of meeting locations. If there is not a meeting in my area, they suggested that I attend other 12-step programs, or, start my own meetings using the materials they have available online.

Felt a little deflated. Obviously, given some organizations statistics that up to 25% of the U.S. population has problems with compulsive spending, it boggles the mind that there are not more support systems available.

Decided that, until I find something better, it might make sense to attend at least a couple of Debtors Anonymous meetings. Penciled in the hourlong "Shoppers Night In" meeting for this Friday evening.

Set off to (gulp) pay one of my credit card bills (the most massive one) at the store. Nothing like a big fat reality check to quell a shopping urge. Was accosted by rows and rows of bright floral motifs and found it nearly impossible to walk straight to the cash register and back to pay my bill. Tried to run out of the store when I was done but was pulled in by the enchanting smell of flowers and pretty Clinique Happy Bloom perfume bottle. Had to test it. Two salesgirls immediately rushed to my aid and informed me that the perfume comes with the most darling miniature flower compact that contains the most gorgeously flattering shade of pink lip gloss. And, they were starting to take reservations for the upcoming Clinique Bonus. Help! I must get out of here!

Instead, I moved in closer to inspect the promising-looking new Clinique Even Better Makeup foundation with SPF 15. Lately, my skin had been flaky and dry no matter how much I exfoilated and moisturized day and night with my normally nourishing Lancome Primordiale day and night creams. I was also experiencing some redness issues due to allergies and dryness. These issues had been rendering my trusty mineral powder foundation useless of late.

The Clinique consultants went to town on my face. First, one dusted a hefty dose of the yellow-tinted Redness Solutions Instant Relief Mineral Powder on one side of my face. Instantly, my compexion went from red to perfectly balanced. On the other half of my face, another blended the Even Better foundation in precisely my color. It transformed my flaking red visage into a glowing, warm, and even-toned countenance. Both products helped tremendously, but the liquid foundation imparted much-need moisture and luminosity that the powder just couldn't match. It also had an added benefit of minimizing my lines and blemishes. The consultants proceeded to give me an unexpected makeover. A girl who was shopping in the store actually stopped to compliment me on my complexion.

Sold! I had to have this magic potion. But I knew I couldn't wait 13 more days for the bonus to start. On the other hand, I do hate missing those bonuses, especially when they were giving away a fetching floral case full of interesting new products like the Blushwear Cream Stick and a Youth Surge Moisturizer. What to do? I pressed the consultant for a sample of the new foundation. She complied and made me a little sample jar with my exact shade. How nice of her! I conceded and agreed to buy a mascara now, since I was running out. Besides, it was cheap and wouldn't come close to getting me the bonus gift. But I promised that I would try the foundation at home and return in 2 weeks to buy a full sized bottle during Bonus Time. She seeemed placated enough.

Left the store and made it home without doing any more damage. Swiped my hand through the mailbox on my way in the house and out fell a temptation: 30% off anything at Cole Haan. Now, I realize that I had just illicitly ordered 3 pairs of shoes online with the 30% off sale items discount, but this was 30% off the new, full-priced items! This season's offerings were proving to be very hard to resist with the elegant new Phoebe handbag collection and Huarache open-toed pumps. I had also been seriously craving the new cobra embossed wedge thong for summer. Must not buy! Must be good!

Day 25:
Tried my new magic potion sample from Clinique. Surprisingly, the results turned out to be just as amazing as the day before. I was so happy with my glowing face and proud of myself for applying it properly with the foundation brushed using the technique that the consultant had shown me yesterday, I almost forgot about the shopping I wasn't doing.

Naturally, the feeling of contentment didn't last long. Got an email from a friend who finally wanted to take me up on a shopping trip. I had contacted her previously about taking her shopping to help her revamp her wardrobe, now that she was getting married and approaching the big 3-oh in a year (ah, the young and carefree...). She offered to meet this weekend and go to J.Crew (at my suggestion). Debated on whether or not to risk it but decided that, if I shopped vicariously through her, it wouldn't count against me -- would it?

Calculated how much I still owed after having made a solid dent with yesterday's payment. The problem is, I've been making sold dents each month, but I keep rebuilding the debts shortly after I pay them.

Wondered if that ingenius trick from the Confessions of a Shopaholic movie would work: freeze my credits cards to keep them out of easy reach. Actually went to dunk them in a bowl of water and stick them in the freezer, but then had second thoughts. What if I needed to use my J.Crew card when I took my friend shopping this weekend? What if I needed an emergency beauty product at Macy's?

Tried to remember if I had offered to actually buy clothes for my friend or just help her shop. Made a mental note to see if my hubby (who was conveniently old friends with this friend and hence my connection to her) would pony up some cash instead. Also made a note to write down my Macy's card number on a Post-It note just in case I had to make an unexpected run to the cosmetic counter. Then recalled that my card was expiring at the end of the month anyway and the new card that I had received a month ago was still sitting in my room waiting to be activated. Debated on whether or not to freeze that card too, in case temptation overcame me. Decided against it.

Checked the daily blogs. Oh no! Another 20% off discount at J.Crew, this time on final sale items! It was hard enough to refrain from buying any of the new full-priced spring items at 20% off last week, but I didn't know if I had it in me to resist 20% off already low sale items that have been sitting in my cart for weeks. Re-opened the J.Crew window in my browser after vowing to keep it closed for as long as possible. Took inventory of the 12 items currently in my cart. Seriously considered atl least 3 of them that I had been watching for the past couple of months. Another huge decision to make....

Obsessed and obsessed and obsessed over it all day. Couldn't get two particular sweaters out of my mind. Pictured myself in them constantly. Planned all the ways to incorporate them into my wardrobe. It was driving me insane. I know that I shouldn't be spending any money period. But I felt like it was going to eat me alive if I obsessed any more.

Resolved to just get one sweater, stop obsessing, empty my cart, and close the J.Crew browser window for the rest of the week (or as long as absolutely possible). The $80 was worth that peace of mind, and I hoped it would give me the resolute determination I badly needed to stay away for the rest of the month.

Day 26:
When I was growing up, my parents bought Murphy's Law calendars and related paraphernalia year after year. Not because we were Irish (at least not by birth, though we were for some inexplicable reason "adopted" by numerous Irish families throughout my childhood and early adult years). Largely, Murphy's Law was well-suited to our household because it was agreeable to my parents' wry sense of humor and belief in a divine figure with an even bigger sense of humor. The witty platitudes and free-flowing alcohol helped both go down more easily. I should point out that neither Drs. Spock nor Suess figured prominently in my upbringing.

Feely mildly sarcastic, I formulated my own Murphy's Laws:

1. The best discounts come to those who don't need them.
2. The less time or inclination one has to shop, the better the discounts will be.
3. Coupons either come all at once or none at all.
Corollary: When you're praying for one to come, it won't come. When you are sick to death of them, they won't stop coming.
4. When you've got money to spend and an eagerness to buy something good, nothing will be available in your size or color.
Corollary: When you're desperately trying not to shop and praying that nothing good will jump out at you, everything you've ever wanted is available not only in your size and color, but also at a can't-miss price.

Such was my mood as I stared back at the beaming models on the J.Crew site that beckoned me to throw caution to the wind and "Just Do It." That is, just buy something already and stop being tormented by indecision.

I sought temporary relief from my shopping itch, along with a side of wisdon. Googling "help for compulsive shoppers," I came across several good discussions from various sources. I stumbled upon this simple, easy-to-follow advice from University Credit Union in an article entitled Tough Times Series: It Was Such a Bargain: Help for Compulsive Shoppers:

"Studies show that females still make the majority of family purchases, and that shopping is considered a socially accepted female practice--you know, "retail therapy."

Women who are compulsive shoppers generally purchase clothes, shoes, and kitchen items. The small percentage of men who compulsively shop tend to splurge on computers, electronics, power tools, and even investments. (Male spenders more often tend to be compulsive gamblers.)

... "Money is not the issue and income level is not the issue," [Dr. Donald] Black [a psychiatrist and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, Iowa City] says. "I've had poor patients with no money who go to garage sales and hardly spend anything. Their finances aren't impacted, but they're spending every free minute doing this."

On the other hand, someone could be a multimillionaire and have plenty of money to spend. This person isn't getting into trouble financially, but maybe she's spending so much time shopping that she's ignoring her children. The behavior will not always lead to a financial problem--it depends on the individual.

Ann, an upper middle-class housewife, spent numerous hours frequenting second-hand stores checking "if anything new had come in." She was constantly looking for that special item that would make a set complete or that she thought would add to her wardrobe or décor.

After years of accumulation, Ann's house was cluttered with her "bargain" purchases. Rented storage units were so packed that, when she needed an item, she couldn't find it. Garments with tags still on them lined her several closets.

Because Ann shopped at thrift stores and only purchased "sale" items at other stores, she thought that justified her spending. But bargain shopping added up fast--so fast that Ann soon was rushing home to get the mail before her husband could so he wouldn't see her credit card statements."

Here is how the article recommends preventing "Shopping Binges":

- Pay for purchases by cash, check, or debit card.
- Make a shopping list and only buy what's on it.
- Put financial goals in writing so you have something to "save" for.
- Get rid of department store credit cards; carry one major credit card for emergencies.
- Record every dollar you spend and your feelings about each purchase.
- Avoid discount warehouses; allocate a certain amount of cash to spend if you do shop at one.
- Avoid catalog ordering and watching TV shopping channels; throw out mail-order catalogs immediately after you receive them. If you must order through the mail, send a check instead of using a credit card where it's easy to overspend. Mark the purchases you're interested in and wait a few days before actually ordering to see if you really still want that item.
- Take a walk or exercise when the urge to shop comes on.
- Find a money mentor; look for a friend or colleague who spends and saves wisely and ask for advice.
- If you feel out of control, you probably are. Seek counseling or a support group.


This made a whole lot of sense to me. I mulled over those thoughts that day as I pondered how to get back on the wagon again, and this time, stay there for good.

But first, please, please, please just let me buy that one last sweater....?

Day 27:
Never heard back from the volunteer group. Never received a follow-up response from Spenders Anonymous. Saw that I was tentatively scheduled to attend tonight's Debtor's Anonymous meeting when I checked my Outlook calendar and recalled a prior engagement for the evening -- a bon voyage happy hour for a friend who was taking a distant journey. Oh well, I mused. Better luck next week.

Couldn't get the stupid J.Crew sweater out of my head. Yes, it's a piece of woven cashmere, but it was proving to be of utmost importance to my sanity at this point. It wasn't just any old sweater: it was my all-time favorite cardigan in my all-time favorite color in my size (and in the shrunken fit I preferred). Checked my J.Crew cart and saw that, wonder of wonders, it was still sitting in my cart after 12 days. Other final sale items had long exited my cart, but this sweater remained, despite being marked down to a perfectly acceptable price. Surely this was a sign. I simply couldn't rationalize why getting my favorite sweater -- that I was planning to buy since it came out -- at an additional 20% final sale price was a bad idea.

Telepathically, J.Crew reached out to me by telephone. I received a call from my store letting me know that a jacket I had dropped off a while back for alterations was ready to pick up. I told them I'd be in that day to pick it up.

Meanwhile, I waited and waited all day for the FedEx truck to drop off my Cole Haan shoes that I had ordered four days ago. Formulated another Murphy's Law:

5. An impatiently awaited delivery will arrive at the very last possible moment of the day.
Corollary: The one day of the month your spouse goes into work a tad late or takes the afternoon off, the package will arrive promptly when he opens the front door.

Hadn't heard back yet from my friend who had contacted me three days ago about going shopping. Called and left a message asking her if she wanted to go this weekend so I could pick up my jacket.

Didn't hear back from anyone else I was waiting to hear back from either, and I needed to get going so I could get my errands done and still make this evening's social engagement. Also remembered that I needed a manicure. Decided to swing by the mall to get my nails done and to pick up my jacket. Then, I would head over to the party.

I was on the way out the door when my friend called me back about shopping. She said this weekend worked for her, so we agreed to meet the next day. Decided to postpone my J.Crew visit until tomorrow. I was slightly relieved that I wouldn't have to go to the mall alone today.

Then, as I again set out for errands and a manicure, the blasted Cole Haan package arrived. Naturally, my husband was now home and expecting his own FedEx package of books that he had ordered. So when he announced excitedly that the FedEx truck was outside and ran out to collect his books, I darted out behind him and rushed to meet the delivery man. He appeared to be carrying two packages: a large box and a small, slim box, which looked like it contained books. My hubby guessed right away that something was amiss.

"That's an awfully large box... I don't remember ordering that many books," he accused. He pushed me back inside while he signed for the packages -- I mean package. It appeared that his books didn't arrive, so the other slim box must have been for a neighbor. However, he lost no time in tearing open my box and inspecting the contents.

"Shoes?" he exclaimed. "You are very, very, very bad!" he continued with disgust dripping in his voice. He examined all three boxes before deciding that neither the shoes nor I were worth any more of his time today.

I had no excuse whatsoever to offer up except that I needed comfortable shoes so we could start taking walks again. That, and I told him they were really cheap with my discount. He didn't look like he cared, and frankly, I didn't blame him.

I proceeded to try on each pair, praying all the while that they would be either ugly or ill-fitting. Well, at least 2 out of 3 didn't fit (and one of those wasn't that pretty). I can't recall a time when I felt more elated that shoes didn't fit me. As I wrapped up and re-boxed the unwanted pairs, I felt highly relieved that I was returning the 2 pricier pairs and that the 3rd pair I was keeping was not only exceptionally practical but relatively inexpensive at $66 (especially for Cole Haan Nike Air). I committed myself to restarting my daily walking regimen with my new superfly sporty wedge sneakers. And I felt that I had (at least temporarily) gotten shoe shopping out of my system.

But that bloody J.Crew sweater kept re-appearing in front of my eyes. What the hell, I conceded. I'm just going to put myself out of my misery. Bit the bullet and ordered it. At least now I could hope to enjoy a peaceful weekend with family and friends without being assaulted by the persistent nag of remorse at having missed the sweater. Vowed to remove everything else from my J.Crew cart and re-close the browser window. Also forced myself to close eBay, which had *mysteriously* re-opened following my ill-fated searches for various J.Crew items.

Enjoyed a convivial evening with a group of social girls. Bid a proper bon voyage to the would-be traveler and enjoyed some yummy appetizers with a couple of glasses of wine. As this was a well-dressed and shopping-friendly gang, the repartee briefly turned to our latest adventures. I tried to listen to others' tales for a change instead of dominating the conversation with my own shopping exploits. It felt good. The wine also felt quite good and had the added effect of making me feel confident and happy. By the time I got home, the urge to shop had faded and I was able to spend the remainder of the evening in quiet bliss in front of the TV with my hubby without constantly wondering if I should check the sales.

Day 28:
We met some friends for a fun day of beer-making at Shenandoah Brewing Company. I had never tried it before, but at the invitation of my friend and her boyfriend, we met them and several of their friends for this interesting experience. While I considered myself more of a wine connoisseur and frequented many wineries and wine-tastings, I did enjoy a good beer now and then, particularly with certain cold-weather foods to which I now gravitated again during our "cool" spell.

I have to say, it was more fun that a barrel of, well, beer! The process of selecting the exact recipe, compiling and measuring all the ingredients, starting the brew, and mixing it took about 3 hours. During the lulls, the eight of us played cards while downing endless pitchers of various freshly brewed blends plus all the soft pretzels and chili dogs we could hold. It was also fun to make new friends, whom we'll see in another four weeks when we return to bottle our custom beer. Everyone was so down-to-earth and the employees were swell. They even had toys and a play area for kids.

Note to single gals: if ever there was a place to pick up red-blooded and only mildly intoxicated men without wheezing through walls of smoke or enduring cheesy pick-up lines, this is definitely it! Although my crowd consisted primarily of couples, there were plenty of all-guy groups that looked friendly and ready to mingle. With plenty of downtime during the brewing process, this place is much less noisy than a bar for carrying on a conversation -- and much cleaner to boot.

Later, I took my friend shopping at J.Crew. Had to remind myself several times that we were going to shop for her, not for me. And, my DH was kind enough to offer up some cash to help me buy her an outfit on the grounds that 1) I didn't buy anything for myself, and 2) I didn't put anything else on my J.Crew credit card. I accepted it since he was an old friend of the girl's, and it was he who came up with the idea of taking her shopping in the first place.

We had am amazing shopping experience! Though it wasn't an easy few hours -- mostly spent running in and out of the J.Crew dressing room grabbing handfuls of possibilities for my friend to try on -- it was well worth it. The process was wrought with strong emotions and deep insecurities, much like an episode of What Not To Wear. Truly, every single girl on the planet believes that clothes just aren't made for her body type and that no pants exist that could flatter her figure. In addition, it often takes no small amount of cajoling and bargaining to get people to try on cuts and colors that they would never otherwise consider. The efforts of Susan, the J.Crew personal shopper, cannot be overstated. Her patience and good eye helped us to finally amass a worthwhile collection and, together, we put together a few key ensembles. The transformation was dramatic: frumpy free-spirit to fabulous femme fatale.

My friend was grateful for the help and confident in her new outfits. I kept my fingers crossed that her self-image would soar dramatically as a result, and also that the effort would continue into the future.

There was another big accomplishment that day: I didn't buy anything. Now one single thing. And this is my favorite store we're talking about! Part of the success was due to my steadfast determination to focus on someone other than myself. The other credit goes in no small part to the store associates who persisted in preventing me from buying anything, having read my blog. Can you believe it? J.Crew is now looking out for my spending habits! At least since it will likely affect how much I am able to buy at the big private shopping event in one week.

I felt so good when I came hope late that evening. Tired, but good. My hubby was proud of me too, and made me report the play-by-play of the shopping experience. The feeling of doing good and being good was a strong motivation for me. I realized that, if I believed that I could be good, I would continue to be good. I also looked with renewed hope toward the big day when I would be allowed to shop. I somehow felt more powerful knowing that, when I have something to look forward to, I will savor it more. And I had every intention of going back to that store in one week with a set amount of cash and a definite budget so I would not go overboard (or use my J.Crew card).

Though the previous two weeks were full of ups and downs, I felt strong as I prepared to enter the final week of my shopping fast...

27 comments:

HeidiG said...

Again, I will say - you are so brave to share this with us. I so wish you well for your final week. You are on the right path. Sometimes we stumble but as long as you keep moving, you'll get there. This is helpful to me and many others. Thoughts & prayers are with you.

GingerSnap said...

3-Penny, you really are so honest and wonderful to share your feelings with us. Please do not beat yourself up over falling off the wagon (even if it was a hard fall). No one is perfect and you are making great strides. Plus, it sounds like you have a fabulous and supportive husband to rely on.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is very enlightening, I had no idea what went on in the mind of a compulsive shopper. I have the exact opposite problem you do -- I don't shop/spend enough, and my embarrassingly shabby wardrobe shows it. I have been reading the JCA blogs to try to get inspiration to buy more clothes and improve my wardrobe. What are the roots of your spending? Have you been like this since childhood?

3-Penny Princess said...

HeidiG - I'm really grateful for your thoughts and prayers! I know they're working on me! I really appreciate your continued encouragement and I'm glad that, somehow, my experience helps others too. It really is easier to get better with people cheering me on!

3-Penny Princess said...

GingerSnap - You've been such a good cheerleader for me! Thank you! I do have an amazing husband who not only understands my bad habits but loves me anyway. He'd probably love me even if I never improved, but knowing that makes me want to improve.

I'll try to be more positive and encourage myself rather than reflecting too much on mistakes. It does motivate me more. Thanks for continuing to follow my story!

FabulousFloridaMommy said...

Hi 3-Penny Princess! Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share. I will also continue to pray for you...you can succeed and overcome!

Btw, have you considered taking up writing? You are very good at it, and it would take up a lot of the time normally spent on obsessing over shopping. Just a thought...

3-Penny Princess said...

anon @ 10:38 - thanks for visiting! It's interesting to hear the other perspective as well. I hope the JCA community (and also, our Polyvore sets) have inspired you a little.:) I know that the other girls here inspire me a lot daily, both with their creative ideas and with their encouragement.

No, I wasn't always this bad. I think I go through phases where I spend out of control. I'm usually pretty neurotic about monitoring my expenses, balancing my checkbook, and organizing my bills. The problem for me is the abuse of credit cards. I've learned that they just create too much temptation for me. When I stick to a realistic budget and pay cash, I'm much more likely to succeed in spending responsibly.

Discounts and sale are also a huge temptation for me. The past year has seen sales on an unprecedented level, especially at stores that don't have a history of discounting. This makes it hard for me to resist shopping. Again, the sales themselves aren't bad, just my inability to control myself.

I'm learning a lot as I go. I have no intention of giving up shopping completely -- that would be like giving up your favorite food or giving up wine. I am trying to learn to do it in such a way that I control it instead of it controlling me.

On a different note, do you happen to live in the Washington, D.C. area or do you plan to visit? If so, we'll take you shopping and put together some solid outfits for you.

Thanks for reading!

tough love said...

I'm very confused by your posts and your responses. Do you think you have a problem or not? I discovered your blog through that of another JCA, and the good hearts of you and other JCAs really shine through and touch me--so believe me, my comments are not meant to be mean, but I'm wondering about your sincerity and your honesty, with us and with yourself. From my perspective you do have a problem (and we all have our problems, surely!) but I'm not sure the extent to which you are facing up to it. If you are carrying credit card debt, why are you still spending money? If you are on a shopping ban because you are a shopoholic, why are you planning to reward yourself with shopping next weekend? Are you really concerned about your relationship with your spouse? Again, I don't want to be mean, and your husband sounds beyond wonderful . . . but I know from within my own family that a spouse's uncontrollable spending/cc debt can lead to divorce, as you yourself suggest.

Yes, the deals during this economic downturn have enticed many of us to spend more than we ususally do, or should. But your problem seems to run deeper than this. You seem like a smart cookie. If you are serious about stopping, you might want to get professional help to get to the root of the problem--or do some soul-searching yourself. It seems to me that in posting your story, you may be looking for enabling rather than solutions. Good luck to you and god bless.

3-Penny Princess said...

FFM - thank you for your prayers and inspirational messages on your blog!

Thank you also for commending my writing! I am honored to receive this compliment from you! My hubby actually convinced me to start this blog almost 3 years ago (wow!) and always said that I should write. Now I think he's regretting it because my strategy is exactly what you suggest: write instead of shop. Now, instead of losing me constantly to the stores, he loses me to my blog.:) I have to be careful not to spend too much time on it because it's easy to get sucked in and lose track of time.

But I definitely enjoy it and I think it's therapeutic for me. I hope others get some enjoyment from it too!

3-Penny Princess said...

Tough Love - thank you for constantly looking out for me! I am truly blessed to have the care and prayers of you and others who are staying with me! You're absolutely right that my posts often contradict each other and, sometimes, I too lose my purpose. I am most definitely not looking for enabling, nor am I looking for people to tell me that what I've been doing is all great. I definitely want to hear suggestions and be held accountable.

One thing to keep in mind though is that this has been a journey and a learning experience for me - and I'm still learning. I'm learning from my mistakes, and I'm learning about myself. I learned that the most important thing is to just stay on track, even if I veer off. I don't want to just give up altogether when I make mistakes in judgement. Rather, I want to learn (as you suggested) why I made those mistakes and how they can be prevented in the future.

Probably the biggest lesson so far is to recognize that it's not the shopping itself that's a problem: it's the control that shopping has over me (both financial and mental). For this reason, I need to mentally tell myself when, where, and how much I'm going to shop rather than just submitting to unplanned temptations at random occasions. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but I need to feel in control of the situation.

For me, shopping is like food, and being on a fast is like being on a diet: Neither food nor shopping is the enemy. It's not realistic (or healthy) to stop eating completely. It's important to begin eating/shopping in a controlled, moderate, and deliberate way that is healthy. It's also important to continue to learn the habits that contribute to healthy eating/shopping. Most importantly, it's vital to stay the course even when I have failures or fall off the wagon.

Now that I've observed some of my motivations, I've learned that I am extremely reward-driven. But not by idealistic rewards or rewards that are too far away. I need rewards that are timely, tangible, and worthwhile, or I tend to lose hope. Right now, a lot of rewards that used to keep me on track are no longer feasible to expect, and some of the reason I've lost my way is due to the lack of good, tangible rewards.

You may think it's crazy to go to the shopping event this weekend when I'm trying to reform my compulsive shopping, and I definitely see that! But remember this: the strongest motivation I've had since I went on my shopping fast in February was to stop shopping for a while so I could shop guilt-free at this weekend's event. It's the event I've been waiting for and the reason I'm trying to stay on the wagon as long as I am.

This reward will serve several purposes: it will test me in my new resolve to not use credit cards. It will also test me in sticking to a definite amount of spending, which will be decided beforehand and brought with me. It will give me something to look forward to for the next 6 days so that I don't feel tempted to shop beforehand. And, it will give me a great experience to savor in my memories (and hopefully in my closet) after the weekend, which
will give me added motivation to not shop until the next "reward" time. The $125-150 (which I think will be my set budget for Sunday) will go far in ensuring that I don't shop any more before or after for a while.

You're also right that I have to focus first and foremost on paying off my debt. I am already significantly down from where I started in February, and I will continue to make advances in this department over the next few months. Also, not using credit cards will help to keep those balances down a lot!:)

As for my personal relationships, yes, I'm also concerned about those. To be honest about that, my relationships have suffered about 40% due to money and 60% due to the time that I spend shopping. My husband can forgive some financial bingeing (which I obviously need to get under control and learn better habits), and I can even return or sell more of my stuff if I still binge occasionally.

But what I can never, ever make up is all the hours and hours of time I've spent shopping or obsessing over shopping. It's not fair to constantly abandon my family (and sometimes friends) because I'm obsessed about getting some deals or driving all over the world to try and find some obscure "perfect" item. My husband resents this aspect of my shopping habit.

What I currently do is spend days and weeks looking for sales, discounts, or items to trade. I also spend oodles of time on retail sites or blogs that talk about clothes (not that I don't appreciate all the great reviews!), which takes a huge bite out of the time I could spend with others.

I hate to say this, but I felt better when I just went into a store once or twice a month in years past and just paid full price for something on the spot. Then I got exactly what I wanted, I brought it home, and I didn't worry about what else to buy again for a while. More importantly, I didn't obsess about whether I had bought the item I really needed or just something that was on sale, and I didn't drive all around town in search of more items. I think it's because I had less time to shop to begin with , so the time I had was spend more wisely.

I think too that shopping with a lot of discounts and sales is a lot more harmful for me than buying things at full price. Even though this is also counterintuitive financially, I'm learning that I'm extremely succeptible to losing control when I perceive myself to be getting a lot of great "deals."

Like I said, I'm still learning. But I'm finding that writing about this helps me to understand things better. And, I really treasure all the comments and advice that comes from you and others here! Please continue to support me!

Tough Love-the original said...

3PP just want to clarify that someone else used the handle "tough love" (at 1:08pm) and that was not "me" ;) I will switch my name to.."becoming frugal".

I love what you have posted today and really all the posts that reveal your valuable research. You do know a lot about the problem at hand and like myself, you just have to COMMIT to action.

I do agree with the other "tough love" that you really should stop shopping. With each new object of desire, ask yourself, is this a "need" or a "want"? If it is a want (aren't they all?)then forget about it, step away, put it down, run!! Whatever...but don't DO IT! I bet you have something very similar or close enough. I know without even seeing your closet that you don't NEED anything;) Let's see..you have it all and could get dressed everyday for a year without adding ANYTHING new. Am I right? No? ;0)

Honestly, I think you need to start by stepping WAY away from it all. Don't make plans to shop (meet the JCA's and do not buy anything-just have dinner and relish in their purchases knowing you were strong enough to resist! Put that cash you would have spent toward your debt and feel GREAT about yourself!) Make plans to go for a walk with your friend(s) and talk. Have coffee and chat, have a drink with DH and some good conversation. You have to get off the merry-go-round. STOP looking. STOP going online, STOP going to stores. Stop obsessing--I have wasted enormous amounts of time away from my family and kids (and work for that matter) while snagging the best deals online, returning gobs of things I should not have been purchasing etc. BTW, I know I could not walk into my J Crew if they had read all this about me..doesn't that bother you? I am very ashamed about my bad habits but that is me and I am astounded and revel in your candor. I think it is a wonderful way to truly get the help from blogland. Laying it out there. Also, you are SMART! I agree with others--a great writer as well.

More advice: No more returning things (get it ALL done and out of the way), no more going to the store to pay your bill, no more online "lurking" J Crew --NONE!

The part of the other "tough loves" comments that I can agree with is--how bad do you want this? I had to hit bottom and want it bad--like I do now. Then I read the blog "You Look Fabulous" (love it by the way) and there was a post about one of the fashion mag editors giving up shopping for 1 year (maybe Anna Wintour of Vogue-I cannot remember.) Anyway, I made up my mind to not shop for a year. I am 2 months into it and I do not covet all these things anymore. Honestly-I am so excited about the creativity that this has thrust upon me. And so excited and jazzed about watching my debt go down and savings go up. Clothing, shoes and purses etc. are a serious waste of my kids college $, retirement, vacations, home improvements etc. My DH and I used to just do these things (vacation etc.) with the family and carry a little bit of CC debt (then there was my own hidden CC being run up to the hilt on clothing etc.)but due to not having our finances/budget in line, we really had lost control. I didnt pay the bills so I had NO IDEA how much it costs us just to pay for the BASICS let alone all the fun and fluff. Crazy--it makes me feel even more NUTS now. How could I burn that $--most of the stuff I have is fab and just sits in my closet. Ebay sucks right now so I cannot see selling right now either.
Anyway, now I don't want that anymore--I am taking control and it feels GOOD:)

Another thought/Rewards:
Think about people who have just enough clothing to perhaps wear the same basic pieces everyday except for changing up their accessories. Make your imagination & ceativity work for you. Use accessories to change up your look.
Set up a plan--when you get the next CC paid off, reward yourself by planning a trip to say Marshalls/TJ Maxx and stick to the list--do not veer no matter what--use all of your will. Since you have now analyzed your entire closet and used polyvore etc to make outfits, determining the perfect scarf, jewelry needed to fill in or make something exciting of your outfits. See what kind of games you can play with yourself to reward behavior.
I pray you catch the savings bug and I ask you pray that I stay on the right path;)

Becoming Frugal said...

Oh and ...
"I have no intention of giving up shopping completely -- that would be like giving up your favorite food or giving up wine. I am trying to learn to do it in such a way that I control it instead of it controlling me."
That sounds just like someone in denial. To some major extent, you MUST give up shopping. JUST like an alcoholic does not drink and has to stay out of the bars so that they are not enticed to drink. You obviously have a problem, so you have to stop shopping--completely. Or you will not get it under control. A drink here and there doesn't work for an alcoholic.
That's why debting is so difficult to manage. We must use money in life and we must go into stores. There would be a time when we actually NEEDED let's say a new pair of jeans because ALL of ours did not fit or were actually WORN OUT (yes, hard to imagine isn't it?)and we had to hit the stores but do so using our CONSCIOUS mind. Not walking around unconscious buying whatever we think we covet so much.
It's a tough deal-no doubt about it. I feel your pain:(

Anonymous said...

If you have credit card debt, you do not have $125 to go shopping with the JCAs. That should go towards paying off your credit card! If you have debt, you cannot afford to buy an outfit for a friend!! If she was really a friend, and if she reads this blog, she'll return your money and watch you as you send it off to JC for a payment.

You cannot go to the JCA outing. And if any of the DC JCAs care about you, they will not let you attend. The SAs should not take your money - like a bartender refusing to sell to an alcoholic.

This is all said with love and good wishes for you. You are a beautiful smart person who does not need the latest JC sweater to be fulfilled. I really hope that you are able to get a handle on this.

tough love said...

My apologies to you and to the original "tough love"--I did not read all of the comments on your previous post, and did not know the name was taken . . . that said, it is perhaps significant that two of your readers chose the same name and had a similar reaction to your posts.

When I went back to read the original "tough love"'s post, I also skimmed through your blog since the beginning, which I hadn't done before.

Sweetheart, you have a serious problem. Please forgive me . . . but your honeymoon was essentially a glorified shopping trip! TWO of the same Burberry bags in different colors at $1,000 a pop? On top of your Louis Vuitton, Furla, and goodness knows what else? And then your glee at "upgrading" your 2+ carat (size mentioned more than once) diamong ring, tempered by your embarrassment at shopping at Zales?

Darling, you get affirmation and a sense of self-worth from your purchases. Is there anyone in your life who can talk straight to you about this, and make you see the light? A parent, a sister, an aunt, a friend? Your darling--and I do mean this--husband seems a bit bewildered by your habit, and I don't think you are going to get the support you need online, from shoppers like yourself.

You are a snob, pure and simple, but most certainly a charming, kind one . . . why don't you put your energies into developing your soul and spirit, rather than bankrupting it? You live in one of the most culturally rich cities in the nation . . . do you visit the National Gallery? How about taking a class at one of the world-famous universities there? A cooking course? Why not make a list of all the great books you've never read, and focus your energies there?

You obviously have a lot of mental energy that can be positively channeled. Improve yourself on the inside, if you feel you need improvement! As for needing rewards, you could certainly put the money you spend on shopping (once you are out of debt) towards more rewarding things in the long term . . . travel, your home, etc.

I have a 63-year-old shopaholic colleague who serves as a cautionary tale in my life. She is stunningly beautiful and is always wearing clothes that make her look like a million bucks, and cost just about as much. People are always telling her what great taste she has, and how great she looks, and some people admire her for this. She basks in the glow of these compliments. What people don't know is that she has been married three times (and has been sadly single now for 15+ years), she has declared bankruptcy once, and in the 10 years I have known her, she has sold all of her possessions, along with an apartment and a house, twice, in order to fuel her shopping habit. She is now living in a student slum apartment and has drained her retirement account . . . but boy, she looks great doing it!

I am keeping you in my thoughts--you seem like such a nice person, and you deserve every success and happiness. Be strong!

3-Penny Princess said...

Becoming Frugal (Original Tough Love) - wow, you really gave me a lot to think about! I had to sleep on it to really consider everything you said. My initial reaction yesterday was, "That's definitely not going to happen! There is absolutely now way I'm going to give up shopping completely -- just temporarily!" I also said to myself, "I am most definitely going to buy at least one thing this weekend since this event has been the major inducement to my keeping a shopping fast in the first place."

But then I thought about what you said about the "needs vs. wants". And I can't argue that 95% of the things I'm buying at this point are all wants, because, you're right, I have pretty much everything I need already.

One thing that I am starting to do now is earnestly "Shop my Closet." I know FFM, Slastena, and others have written a lot about this. But I think the idea is just starting to catch on with me. I have vowed to make a major effort in breathing new life into everything I already have, because the truth is, I have a highly enviable wardrobe! Others would be thrilled to have one-half of what I have (even one-third). This makes me want to find more creative ways to make what I already have new and exciting.

You are also right about not going "returning" or paying my bill at the store anymore. I know that it gets me into trouble almost every time (returning more so than paying because, while paying is a reality check, returning makes me believe that I have new money to spend).

I love your idea of rewarding myself when I pay off a credit card! Maybe it does make more sense to reward myself for doing something proactive (taking an action, accomplishing something tangible) than for just not doing something (not shopping). I will think about what type of reward will motivate me strongly.

I've also been thinking about some larger goals to keep in mind so that I have an incentive to save money instead of just spending my "disposable" income. I think we used to do that in our household but got off track. I will talk to my husband about it and see what we both want to work toward.

Probably the hardest thing for me to agree with is the comparison of shopping to a drug. Right now, I am still comparing shopping to food. I think part of the reason for my thinking this way is because I don't think of shopping as inherently bad for you (like heroin or cocaine). I think of the abuse of shopping as bad, much like a dieter who abuses food by bingeing on food, using food as an emotional crutch, and being dishonest to eat more. I think of the effects of comulsive and uncontrolled shopping as bad.

But since it's impossible for a person to never shop, I still feel that it is a behavior that I need to learn to control rather than give up forever. A person could conceivably give up alcohol, but a person cannot give up buying things. I mean, I need to go to the grocery store today to buy food, and I need to go to the department store later this week (either in person or online) and buy gifts for upcoming weddings and baby showers. The reality of not having access to a store is not a plausible one. What is plausible is mastering the emotional triggers that will help control my urges to buy things I don't need with money I don't have.

Most importantly, let's remember that I spent many years of my adult life as a moderate, responsible shopper. It is possible, and I can become that person again. The 4 biggest problems for me are 1) credit cards, 2) discounts and sales, 3) shopping without a purpose, and 4) not having a savings goal.

Without a doubt, I have vowed to pay off my credit cards as well as spend as little time as possible shopping (and only for things we need rather than things I covet). I still need to think about a lot of things, including my values and relationships. It's not a linnear journey. It may have detours and bumps, but I will get there as you have.

I am grateful for all the time and care you have offered me, and your prayers! I will pray for you also!

3-Penny Princess said...

anon @ 9:43 - thank you for your love and good wishes! You're absolutely right - I don't need that extra J.Crew sweater (or any other item) to be fulfilled. That was a really bad week for me and I have since thought about my "needs vs. wants" at Becoming Frugal's suggestion. That's why this is a journey... Sometimes there will be bumps and detours before I get to the next destination.:)

As far as attending the next JCA outing, I'm afraid I can't not be there. I am the person who is planning it and organizing all the details from start to finish, from the store opening logistics to transportation to the brunch venue to seating arrangements. I've been planning it for a month. I'm definitely going to be there!

The only question is whether or not I will buy something. As of yesterday, that wasn't even in question as my entire reward for starting a shopping fast in February was to be able to shop at the upcoming event. But now, as I've read some of the comments and thought about it more, I'm not so sure if buying something is the right thing to do. I will need to ponder it more so that I'm completely at peace with my decision.

With regard to buying my friend a few pieces, that was my husband's money and decision. This girl is one of his oldest friends and she is getting married and changing careers right now. We've been trying to help her change her image for years, and this was an early wedding present to her. My husband does not regret his decision to spend a little bit of money to help her, and we would be extremely upset if she were even to suggest taking back those gifts. In her case, the purchases were needs, not wants, and her image is very important right now to her career growth and confidence. We are thrilled that she is happier as a result of the experience.

But I do see where you're coming from, and I know that it's a place of concern and care! I appreciate that greatly! I still have many strides to make. It has only been about 4 weeks, and I do feel that, emotionally, I have learned a lot already. I will heed all of your advice as I continue to improve. Thank you again for caring!

anon @ 9:39 said...

Thanks for the clarification about your friend and why you bought her the outfit. If it's part of her gift, then it makes more sense to me.

I know some of what we are writing make seem harsh, and you certainly seem to be taking it in the way it was intended. I read your posts and they strike such strong emotions in me. I wish I could help you in person! But in some ways, you need to be the one to help yourself, and you seem to know that.

I recommend you check out the Beck Diet book. It is about changing your thoughts in relation to dieting, but I think you could easily substitute shopping and still get some benefit/tips/ideas on how to move forward.

Again, blessings to you. A lot of us "out here" are pulling for you!!

And I agree with the others that you have a gift for writing.

3-Penny Princess said...

Tough Love 2 - you have a lot of excellent points! I do live in an amazing city with so much to learn and enjoy! I used to be better about taking advantage of it more. Working on weekends, along with the domestic needs of running a household and taking care of family has unfortunately reduced the time I have to do these things. But one of my goals is to get back into the cultural swing of things and enjoy them again.

The cautionary tale of your 63-year-old colleague is also a big reality check. It's truly heartbreaking to see this happen to nice people. I too have a family friend who seems to fit this description eerily. I hope it's not the same person! The saddest thing about it to see someone reduced to those circumstances, especially at that age.

I am very fortunate in that I don't have a lot of debt (nothing that can't be paid off over a few months) and that I realized I was spinning out of control long before it became too late. I am careful about maintaining the household bills, keeping my credit score high, and paying off debts. I own my house in my name and usually pay for the mortgage, utilities, and groceries without my husband's contribution. I have also been adamant over the years about selling things on ebay when I've bought too much.

Which brings me to some of your comments. How carefully did you read my previous years' blog posts? I didn't buy two $1600 Burberry bags. I bought one for $900 and another for $600 later on ebay 2 years ago. And, I sold both one year later for $600 and $500. As for the Louis Vuitton, I had bought that 5 years ago $900, and I sold it for $700 2 years ago. In fact, I sold every single expensive handbag that I ever owned, including some vintage Gucci and Chanel bags that I had collected over several years.

Now, I buy Coach, Cole Haan, and Kate Spade bags at the outlet where they don't cost more than $200-250. The only Cole Haan shoes I buy are either from TJ MAxx, the outlet, or on clearance with a discount at the retail store. And I only buy Nike Air Cole Haan dress shoes because I'm on my feet a lot walking around in the city with clients. Every single time I buy one bag, I sell one. I sold many pairs of Cole Haan shoes recently. I also have been in the habit for the last several years of cleaning out my closet every 3 months and donating boxes full of stuff.

Yes, I did shop during my honeymoon 2.5 years ago. It was a conscious choice, as both of us had been working 2 jobs and saving so that we would have the cash to fully enjoy our month-long tour of Europe. We spent the money we had put aside specifically for the purpose of doing everything we wanted. We didn't go into debt, and I didn't shop much for a while afterwards.

The things I bought on my honeymoon consisted mostly of 2 small inexpensive Furla items, 1 inexpensive MaxMara purse, a small canvas Gucci purse (all the Italian purses cost me significantly less than they would here), and 1 couture quality trench coat that I'll wear for years to come, along with some small souvenirs and clothing items from Monsoon-type stores in London. I'm not saying I didn't buy a lot, but I'm saying that it was a conscious choice that we both worked a lot to save for.

About my Zales diamond post: I'm not sure how carefully you read it, but the entire point of that post was to poke fun at the fancy diamond stores where the same diamonds costs double or triple. I had endorsed Zales as a great place to get diamonds for less, especially since it was owned by the same company as Bailey Banks & Biddle. The only criticism (and it was only in jest) was that completely inappropriate work attire worn by the sales associate who helped me, though I said excellent things about her product knowledge. Furthermore, I have never wanted a new or bigger diamond ring. I have been completely in love with the one my husband gave me, and for that matter, I've always thought the current one was too big! My husband is always the one who talks about getting a bigger ring in the future. I always tell him that I would never trade it for another. Again, the only purpose of my bringing it up in that blog post was to mention that people talked to me about the concept and to liken their views on diamonds to cars that they could upgrade every few years.

In fact, if you go back and read my blog posts since 2006, you'll see that 90% of them were written with the primary objective of eliciting humor and entertaining the reader. If you got from that a snobbish attitude, I apologize, but it was never intended. Sometimes sarcasm and snarky humor can sounds like snobbism.

Please read my post about shopping at Target to see that I am not the least bit concerned where my clothing, shoes, and accessories come from. I also mentioned in this current post that I own now 18 pairs of Editor pants from Express. The fact is, I don't own one single item from a store from the likes of Neiman Marcus or Saks. I never shopped there. The only high-end items I ever used to purchase (and I certainly don't now) were nice handbags. And, a full 100% of these came from eBay for one-half to one-third their cost, which never exceeded $500 except for the 2 Burberry bags. I stopped buying couture bags a couple of years ago as I realized I didn't need them. While my friends would all agree that I dress nicely, look put-together, and use accessories well, no one would ever mistake me for a person who buys expensive clothes. Right now, 75% of my closet is from J.Crew, Ann Taylor/Loft, Limited, and Express, while the other 25% is from cheap stores like Target and Marshalls.

Not that it matters where I shop or how much the items cost for the purposes of identifying that I have a problem controlling my shopping. Like I wrote in this last post, a person can shop at thrift stores or drive all over town to hit all the sales and still rack up debt. That's why I recognized it and am in the process doing something about it. I don't want to end up divorced 3 times (or even once) and I want to save the relationships that I have harmed. I want to work toward a more important goal than having the best wardrobe ever. I want to value things other than material goods, and I also want to be fulfilled by more important things. I don't want to have unnecessary debt, and I am doing my best to pay it off with the intention of not adding any more to it.

I am extremely grateful for your time and care, and I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses for my past behavior. But it offends me to be called a snob - I am many negative things, but a snob I am not. I am what I said: a compulsive shopper with bad habits that I need to break. Inasmuch as the advice and care is meant to help me reform my habits, I am grateful for it. Making judgment calls about what I used to purchase (and since sold) in the past is not going to help me pay off my debts and heal my relationships.

Again, I appreciate all the advice, love, and concern. I hope you continue to pray and look out for me as a make a more earnest effort to stop shopping and start living a more valuable life!:)

anon @ 10:38 am said...

I love looking through the Polyvore sets; it's so helpful to see how people put together outfits. And I've learned so much from reading everyone's blogs. I'm in science/engineering and my artistic side is completely undeveloped. Combining colors and textures and making outfits look polished is a huge struggle for me. So I tend to stick with boring basic outfits. But I'm starting to move up the corporate ladder and need to put more effort into my wardrobe.

That's so nice of you to offer to take me shopping; unfortunately I'm a good 5 hours away from the DC area. I've thought about starting a blog to document my daily outfits (the good, bad, and ugly) -- it might help with facing up to my problem. Not sure I could handle the nasty anonymous people though. For now I'll just keep lurking and learning. :-)

3PP's DH said...

3PP's DH here, just some background on my love's and mine financial relationship. We keep our finances separate. Although I am aware of my wife's CC dept, which I could pay off, I would rather her learn to structure her life to fit her income. We are by no means leaving above our combined means, perhaps she is individually, but if she falls, which I would allow her to do; I will always help her get back up.
Personally I don't have any CCs and never had, I believe in never buying something with someone else’s money.
She is very open and honest as if you can her both the subconscious and the conscious sides of her brain.
She is much stronger then she acts and someday she will realize that.
With two type A’s in a relationship it is better to encourage without controlling, there is no reason that I should get personally angry at her, just express my disappointment in her lapse in judgment. Sometimes people forget that love is such a blessing to have that it is not always important to focus on the little things. That is until the little things become big things…I am always aware that it could get out of hand and that is why I keep a close eye on it.
Thanks
-3PP’s DH

tough love said...

You're right, I didn't read your posts carefully--I skimmed them, and I evidently didn't get the humor. Only you know your story well, your motivations, and your truth. As Anon@9:39 said, your posts are illiciting strong emotions and opinions. I hope some of them are helpful, and that you don't feel too attacked (thumbs up to DH for his chivalrous post!) God bless.

3-Penny Princess said...

Tough Love 2 - I meant it when I said that I am truly grateful for your comments and "tough love." It takes guts to say what you and Becoming Frugal/Tough Love 1 have said. I can sense the despair in your voices and the fact that you don't want me to end up in the awful situations that you mentioned. I don't want to either!

Everything you (and others) have said to me after the last 3 posts has struck a major chord in me. It has really affected the way that I'm thinking about my problems and how to resolve them. This has been emotional for me, and I am deeply touched that it has elicited strong emotions in others. I will have you to thank when I finally accomplish my goals!

Also, I am absolutely floored by my DH's comment! He did that without my knowledge. It brought tears to my eyes to read it. This is exactly the reason I want to become a better person - not because he doesn't love me the way I am, but because he deserves better!

Becoming Frugal said...

Well-I get where your DH is coming from. Mine has dealt with this off and on forever. Has always supported/supports me. Tried not to enable me and definitely has enabled me without really knowing it. Knowing what I know as a compulsive spender, I would get down and dirty with my addicted spouse. If he would have come to me and asked me VERY DIRECT questions about our money, all the new stuff I had in the house and arriving at the house--I would have freaked, broken down and had to be held accountable. But he would just kinda nag here and there. Beg me at times to stop or make comments that I was spending too much money and how were we going to pay for our kid's college if I kept this up?

When he did nag, it made it difficult to find ANY balance because I started to feel I couldn't go shopping AT ALL-even when I DID need something. I heard his nagging--what did you buy? And me always saying--I had to return something so I exchanged it or this was such a DEAL! And him saying do you know how many $15 dollar deals add up to $100's very quickly? He's right--what a waste.

More of my story: I have been in debt as I mentioned. When I was spending way beyond my not-even-completed-with-college means (say $6K when I was 19). Meaning it is tough to get out of that hole when you aren't yet making the kind of money necessary to support a pricey shopping habit. When I completed college and my then boyfriend (now DH) knew we had something worth holding onto. He helped me out by offering to secure a consolidation loan with his car. I was adamant about paying off as quickly as I could, paying more than the minimum and keeping my good credit score in check (one thing that thank GOD I never messed with. I always have paid my bills on time and as much as I can pull together. Never just the minimum unless absolutely necessary when I was younger.) I had broken down and knew I needed help. With his offer to help consolidate, I also knew I wanted to help myself and realized how totally out of control it had gotten and that I couldn't do it alone. Not even the support of family or my dear boyfriend was gonna provide the tools to stay on track. I went to DA, I eventually paid off the loan, and things were great. I got my life back on track and then stopped going to DA. I never wanted this to happen again but it did and has on several occasions since then. BTW, as you mentioned, DA sounded like the wrong thing for me, too. When I first learned about it, I didn't consider myself someone who debted for debt's sake--like needed to be in debt but I didn't relate the two until I got there and heard other people's stories. I compulsively shopped and unfortunately always worked retail (which was a MAJOR source of my problem. Imagine being faced with new J Crew clothing coming in all the time and a major discount to boot-yikes!) DA gives the support of others that may be buying say..tremendous amounts of books and cannot stay out of the bookstore. Has to have every new copy of whatever type of book..they may not even be in debt but as mentioned in your article, it doesn't mean their shopping and compulsiveness isn't hindering their life. It means things are WAY out of balance. Like you have suggested, you are devoting FAR TOO much time on shopping, the coupons, the deals, the internet, shopping trips, fashion blogs, and your mind is merely FAR TOO PREOCCUPIED with SHOPPING!

Also, guess what? Just like AA, you are always recovering and never fully recovered. Sorry-that's just the way this is. There is something missing and you are seeking it all the time. Then you get your SH*T together and all is well for sometimes even years, only to relapse.

Anyway, my point here is that I was in debt, paid off my loan and was on track. At times I had actually gotten to the point where I realized I only wore like the same 2 black boots in winter (flat, heel) and the same brown shoes. I remember not buying any shoes for like a couple years as I found I didn't actually wear anything but the same ones (and this is someone that worked retail her whole younger life, studied fashion design in college, is always on top of the latest fashions etc.) So I am just saying that I never go out looking schlumpy and usually am the type that draws attention for looking pulled together and almost a little too nice for my kid's school event;) So back to the shoes..I didn't buy any for a LONG time and shoes were MY THING. I might add, I did buy some new clothing seasonally which is usually my trigger to binge. Often I would take things back to Marshalls that had tags and get store credit plus spend even more money-loved to shop Marshalls and get SO many great BARGAINS! But felt it wasn't that terrible (looking back--it was and is money out the window).

But then out of nowhere, I started getting back into it all BIG TIME and became obsessed again. I got my own secret CC that my DH didn't know about. I would only put a random $200-$500 on it here and there and pay it off in full. But then I re-discovered J Crew and the JCA and it was ALL DOWN HILL. I racked up some debt even after being able to pay off some major CC bills each month. Meaning paying upwords of $1k+/mo and finally topping out where I owed about $4K still and was now carrying a balance on my CC. Not something I was prone to do ever since completing DA. But it was now too high a balance to pay it off by selling on Ebay or with sneaky funds--it was too much money and the with the weight of it all, I broke down. Overwhelmed with what I had done, tired of lying to my husband about the thousands I was spending without his knowledge (mind you this was on top of the JC card he was paying off from our joint funds) I mean how ballsy is that of me? But guess what--it wasn't me. It was like an out of body-someone else. I felt almost manic. And guess what-I ended up very depressed about it all.

I work. I have always worked to support my love of THINGS! At times it was 3 jobs--that's when you know there's a REAL problem! And it was another point in my lfe where I read books about simplifying your life and realized that if I didn't buy so much crap-I didn't have to work near as hard! Obvious right? It seems like it and this theory worked for me for awhile. A lot like diet and exercise-I often eat too many calories and always feel I gotta workout, gotta workout. Well, at times I would just realize like shopping...I wouldn't feel it was so all-consuming that I workout today if I just simply ate less and made sure it was healthy food. Not obsessing because I ate this or that and MUST workout to off-set the calories. When all this is in balance-I eat to nourish my body and do not feel the need to HAVE to workout because I ate a whole batch of cookies. Off on a tangent but working out, eating and my weight are very intrinsicly tied to shopping. I tend to be up a few pounds when I am not shopping and can and do lose weight when I am compulsively shopping. I remember telling my husband that if I were uber-wealthy and could shop all the time, I would be so thin (I am not large by any means, a sz 4)but I mean-I don't even think about food when I am in that mode. Otherwise-food fills the void. Then I have to workout--etc. its a vicious cycle.

So I guess you can see that I am trying to fill a void with things, there is great unbalance in my life and I want to TAKE CHARGE! I am actually TIRED! I was physically/mentally DRAINED from shopping at J crew for months and dodging my husband, my kids that were seeing boxes all the time at the door and saying more J Crew? I mean what kind of message does that send? I felt secretive about anything I wore and still do. If someone asks me it is always me lying saying it was a Christmas gift or it's old when I know I just pulled the tags off even if I bought it in November.
Ugh--it's so clear to me again that I have spent enormous amounts of money (and time)that we could have actually been planning something special or saving for a certain thing. He would always say--well we could go to Italy if you would stop buying so much crap. I could never stop long enough because that immediate gratification always took the place of the the long range goal of visiting Italy or adding an outdoor room/stone porch to the back of our home. Ya know--just tough to look at the big picture but when you really get a grasp on it--it becomes all TOO CLEAR that things are WAY OFF KILTER.

I don't know if you are a fan of Oprah but she talks a lot about balance in life and her weight. I feel it goes hand-in-hand with shopping. I just read the last page of O magazine in her "what I know for sure" in the March issue and she touches on all of this balance and buying "things" it's a worthwhile read. Also, was flipping through channels last night and watched E channels "Keeping up with the Kardashians" the title is "I'd Rather Go Naked..or Shopping". Try to DVR or catch this where they pose an intervention with Kim as they realize she shops FAR too much. She would be the one described in your article as the type who has the money but drops 20K at a time in the stores on a routine basis. Doesn't matter if she has the money now. Could she EVER possibly wear any of that more than once if even one time? Does it make it right to buy many hundreds of thousands of dollars of clothing just because right now-you DO have the money? Imagine the changes in the world she could be making with that money--talk about the REAL fulfillment she could have. It means things are way out of balance for her. She's trying to buy something else and she just ain't getting it with clothes, shoes etc.
Well-this is one REALLY long post! But I hope this helps you and any others to understand this issue from another perspective, know they are not alone and certainly be supportive.
Have a great day--one day at a time!

Becoming Frugal said...

Let me introduce you to my blog friend Sal over at: www.alreadypretty.com
She is also an amazing writer and covers some fun topics--she has a zest for life which is super fun, too:) I hope you will read today's post re: AA there is much food for thought.

3-Penny Princess said...

Becoming Frugal - so sorry for the late response! I've been meaning to comment on your last post but work keeps getting in the way...

Thank you so much for being so brave and sharing all your heartwrenching personal stories! I can really feel your pain and regret for a lot of things. But I can also see that your attitude is wonderful! Your DH sounds amazing too! He seems to really understanding what drives you. Mine acts that way too sometimes. But it sounds like your family is really supportive too!

How eerie is it that you are also inspired to save by some of the same things: I always stopped shopping when I knew that we might go to Italy, and now I've stopped shopping partly to save money for home renovations. I was even writing about that in this week's diary! I guess we really have a lot in common in that we both need a strong and tangible goal in order to stay the course.

I have to say that this week has been a joy for me because I haven't really had strong urges to shop. First of all, I spend hours on Polyvore creating set after set with clothes I already have (which you'll also read about in my next post). The fact that I still have tons of outfits to create make me realize just how many great things my closet already contains.

Surprisingly, I didn't get as much joy out of that last J.Crew sweater that I had ordered last week. It was just like in "Confessions of a Shopahilic" where she debates and obsesses over going to the sample sale, then literally fights the other girl to get some items. But then after she gets the stuff and examines it, she realizes that it's all just a piece of fabric and not the answer to her needs.

I also feel better because, when I have gotten the urge to shop this week, I really was able to keep it under control. I kept reminding myself that, at this point, just about everything is a want rather than a need. This in turn made me happy, which in turn made me want to shop less.

When I'm happy, I don't need shopping. I want to do other things, accomplish other goals. I'm also spending more time with DH and kitty, which I love.

Thanks also for sending me the link to the "Already Pretty" blog. You're right, that is a great post! I will check out more of her blog.

Please return to read my final diary post after this week's adventures. I hope to end it on a really high note, and I hope everyone will be proud of my progress! But mostly, I hope I make a permanent change. Ultimately, the people I want to please the most are my family and myself. Let's keep praying for each other because I know it's working!

Becoming Frugal said...

Great to hear from you! Sounds like you are moving in a positive direction!
I wanted to correct something um,er...I have mostly been the type that CANNOT see my long-term goals come to fruition due to always spending obsessively on immediate gratification items--mostly clothing, shoes and purses. So working on saving for long-term goals is VERY new to me and I am hopeful I can make it work. I know if I concentrate on paying off debt while putting something to savings for a wonderful trip or home renovation, not only will I have a goal but can keep my eye on the prize:) Hopefully using that prize each time I get the urge to buy something completely unnecessary.
Ya know..a want not a NEED;)

So glad want or need is working for you and H.A.L.T. discussed at Already Pretty is interesting too.

I am sure I am lonely/bored sitting in my office all day talking to no one and just mindlessly wander onto to online shopping...not ANY MORE!

Keep up the good work, the great attitude--it's wonderful to hear you are starting to understand you have more than enough already and that polyvore is helping you to recognize all the potential already in your closet!

I did want to mention that I was at the bookstore and flipped through that book you mentioned in the post (the one you have pictured-can't remember the exact title but pictured is the back of a girl.) Anyway--what an AMAZING book. I think it touches on ALL that I wish I had known many years ago when this began to be a problem for me. I know there are still some tools that I could use in there (I don't claim to know it all!) but wasn't sure I wanted to spend the $ on the book. I get all the concepts and I am on the right path. I may run to it should I start getting overwhelming urges to shop. I highly recommend this book and let me know if already got it. Have a great weekend!

Pam in MD said...

I just discovered this blog and have spent an hour reading it. I was looking for a shopaholics support group in the DC area. Today is Day 1 of my Freedom from Superfluous Spending project. Made the decision w/my therapist yesterday. It is one of the major things that holds me hostage in life. I knew I wasn't alone, but it's great to be reading 3PP's honest anecdotes and the comments from her readers. Better than looking at Ebay, at least so far! Thanks, Pam in MD