Survive Your Spending Ban Resolution: How To Buy Fewer Clothes

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Marlen Komar)

As the noise makers whiz and the confetti falls on New Year’s Eve, a lot of us seal our new resolutions at midnight with a sip of champagne and a new can-do attitude. These promises run the gamut—from small steps like finally cleaning out that junk drawer to actually using your long-forgotten gym membership—but if you’re in the business of spending less money on Benton stripes and bucket bags this year, you’ve come to the right article.

If you want to spend less on clothes in 2017 and plan to go on a spending ban, you might already be wringing your hands. Let’s not beat around the bush and say it straight: If you’re a frequent fashion patron, not being able to shop sucks. Hunting down new shoes and playing with the newest trends is fun, and who doesn’t like a little pick-me-up trinket now and then? But just because you’ve promised to shop less (or not at all) doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with your wardrobe. Read on to find tips on how to survive your spending ban and keep your resolution this time around—scout’s honor it won’t be that bad.

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(Image credit: Marlen Komar)

Take inventory of what you own.

This one is going to be messy, so roll up your sleeves, grab a glass of Prosecco and get ready to go deep-diving in your wardrobe (hey, you should have the time now that you’re not at the mall). In order to shake off those pangs that drive you to shop, take a detailed inventory of all the things you own. Essentially, you’re going to try to prove to yourself you’re not actually bored with your wardrobe, so you don’t need new items to play with. You might have dresses in there that you long forgot about, standout pieces you haven’t worn in ages, or items that you haven’t given the time to realize their mixing-and-matching potential. While the newest crushed velvet culottes and block heeled booties will definitely make you drool, you won’t have such a yen to buy them if you know you already have amazing pieces you can play with in your closet.

Action Step: Make a fun afternoon out of it. Buy yourself cupcakes or get your favorite beer (unless that breaks another resolution…whoops), and haul all your clothes onto your bed. Start sifting through them, becoming reacquainted with pieces you’ve long neglected, and seeing what kind of new combos you can create that you’ve never tried before. Try organizing your closet in a different way that can inspire new sartorial moves, for example, instead of organizing by color or season, try putting things in terms of layerability (all crewnecks together, all turtlenecks together, all vests together,) or print. That way you can start to notice new ways you can match pieces together, and create fabulous outfits that will let you breeze through a spending ban.

Create a Pinterest board just for your closet.

If you’ve been pinning outfits that you one day want to recreate, fabulous! But don’t feed into the need to spend money by pinning looks that revolve around items you don’t currently own. Instead, create a Pinterest board that revolves around pieces similar to those already tucked into your closet. Look for outfits that play with the kind of silhouettes you tend to favor (a-line skirts or baggy shifts,) patterns you enjoy wearing (do you have lots of stripes or florals?,) textures you lean towards (maybe you own a lot of lace or suede,) or trends you bought into (are you more minimalist or urban?)

Finding inspiration for new ways to play with details, rather than just specific items, will help you find new ways to breathe life into your closet.

Action Step: Stand in front of your closet and, on a piece of paper, take stock of what kind of details you should be looking for when on Pinterest. What trends do your looks lean towards – preppy or bohemian? Do you love loud prints, or do you prefer neutral color palettes? Do you have a lot of sheer items you’d like to work into new outfits, or do you have a lot of knits? Then taking that recon, look for outfits that mimic those same characteristics.

(Image credit: Marlen Komar)

Find new ways to layer.

Sometimes our clothes feel old because we’ve already worn them all the ways we know how…and that’s when the urge to shop kicks in. But what you need is a new formula, not a new sweater, so do some research on how to layer your items in new and exciting ways. They’ll feel like completely new looks, and the need to upgrade your wardrobe will go away.

Action Step: Take out your trusty notepad and write down those key pieces you reach for over and over again on a weekly basis. Then, go on Pinterest and search for new ways to style them. For example, let’s say our uniform of choice revolves around chambray shirts, oatmeal colored turtlenecks, and cardigans. A quick Pinterest search shows me some exciting options: You can layer a turtleneck with a suit to create a laid-back but unexpected errand outfit; you can button up a cardigan and tuck it into a skirt to create a top, and you can layer a printed top underneath your chambray shirt to add a fun pop of pattern to your tried and true piece.

Let yourself have cheat days.

Just like with a diet, if you decide to cut out all the cupcakes and froyos cold-turkey, a binge day is surely in the making. To keep yourself from exploding your credit card with a crazy purchase because you just couldn’t take it anymore (!!!) allow yourself small treats for being good.

Action Step: Permit yourself to buy a small trinket or pretty staple every few weeks (months?) or so, but put a spending limit on it. Depending on how much you’re trying to save that month, your limit can range anywhere from $10 to $40—whatever works best for you! The point here is to not just give your inner shopohalic a blank check, but rather put a cap on her spree.

(Image credit: Marlen Komar)

Create fun challenges for yourself.

If the whole point is making a spending ban fun, then whip up creative weekly challenges that will keep shopping your closet fresh! You don’t want it to turn into a chore or else that itch to shop will creep back up and derail you.

Action Step: Create a list of wardrobe challenges that will make you look forward to flexing your creative muscles. Plenty of blogs create just these kind of challenges, so a quick internet search will give you plenty of ideas. Or if you want something simple, you can always choose an item and see if you can style it in different ways throughout the week – whether it be your chambray shirt, a particular scarf, or a tricky skirt, have fun with it.

Visibly see what you didn’t spend.

A great way to keep yourself motivated during your ban is to physically see how much money your “I-almost-bought-it-but-I-didn’t” moment saved you. As more often than not, our assets are digital and not cash, his one might not be for everyone, but give it a try if you think it’ll work for you. Here’s the idea:

To make walking away from a covetable purchase feel like it was the right decision and completely worth it (and not a bit heartwrenching), set up a jar in your room where you cash in the sticker amount of the purchases you pass up. Seeing it grow and grow will motivate you to keep dodging those siren songs.

Action Step: Find a jar, put it on your dresser, and watch that money pile up. You’ll feel like you have Scrooge McDuck’s vault inside your pickle jar by the end of the month.

In the end, you’ll be more sartorially savvy than you began, and will have a new appreciation for your wardrobe.

Oh, and you’ll have a fat, fat wallet.