When I resigned from my job in a corporate office to go to Business School, I had no idea that my spending habits would change as much as they have.
I saved up a significant amount of money to cover the remainder of my tuition and any traveling that I wanted to do.
I knew that I needed this money to last me for the next year and a half, as that’s how long my schooling would take to finish.
It was just by accident that I bought no new clothes for a year
I always lived within my means while I was working and thought I tried to make mindful purchases. However, it seemed like every week there was another excuse to shop online or head to the mall to add something new to my wardrobe.
It’s the sale section that was my weakness.
Half-off those designer shoes? –Sold.
Zara is having a sale? –Don’t mind if I do.
Free shipping on every order, plus receive an additional discount off sale merchandise? –You don’t have to tell me twice!
It was almost like an addiction.
I loved the feeling of buying something new, having something new to wear to the office or for a night out with friends – it was a temporary source of happiness and I felt richer than I actually was.
But that’s exactly what it was – I was creating a false sense of wealth that came through cheap and easy consumption.
I wasn’t even utilizing all the new clothing and accessories that I was buying. I would wear something once or twice, then toss it in my closet and never look at it again. It was a waste and something I wouldn’t do today. (I’m sure we could all relate).
I didn’t have an income when I was attending Business School though, and this forced me to track each and every expense going forward.
I was confronted head on with my previous spending habits.
I immediately unsubscribed from every shopping websites so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy anything. I still went to the mall, but not every weekend. Instead I would browse the stores and pick up clothing, but then consider if I really needed to buy this?
Before making any purchase, I always asked myself: is this necessary or is there a better way I could use my money?
Whenever it came to clothing, accessories, shoes (or any other type of clothing) the answer was always the same: I don’t need to buy this.
I’m not going to lie, at the beginning it was hard not shopping and buying new clothes. But, over the course of the year, it got a lot easier. I no longer felt tempted to keep up with the latest trends or add new clothing to my wardrobe.
I kept reminding myself that this money would be better spent on travel (and school of course). In fact, I began shopping my closet and discovering items that I didn’t even remember owning.
I realized that I had lots of perfectly good clothing and there wasn’t a need for anything new at this time.
This was a big change from my perspective just a short while ago. Whenever I went on a vacation in the past, I would always drop money on a new wardrobe to bring on my trip.
(If I was going to a warm destination, this meant I would buy new sandals, swim suits, rompers, tank tops, shorts, etc.)
This year was different, I didn’t buy any new clothing. Instead, I shopped my closet.
I’ll be honest. I was fortunate enough to have a large wardrobe prior to attending Business School, so it wasn’t too hard for me to put together fashionable outfits with what I already owned.
So, what did I learn from not buying any new clothing for a year?
What I learned from not buying clothing for a year
This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure.
1. Buying experiences brought me more happiness than buying things
Buying a new outfit or a pair of shoes always made me feel good initially. But that feeling of happiness wore off pretty quickly.
Spending money on experiences though — such as a weekend getaway — brought me happiness during the planning stages, happiness during the vacation, and happiness when I looked back and reminisced about the trip (even a year or more after the experience had happened).
That’s pretty incredible and studies have actually shown that buying experiences brings us more happiness than buying things. I learned to let go and not base my self-worth on material things.
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2. When items are out of sight, they’re out of mind
What you see is what you’ll wear.
If an item is tucked away in the back of your closet, chances are it will stay there until the next time you decide to declutter your wardrobe. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
I tended to gravitate to the same articles of clothing whenever I put together an outfit and felt that I was running out of things to wear. Once I spent time organizing my closet, I discovered lots of items that I forgot I even owned.
I became more aware of what was in my wardrobe so items would no longer be forgotten.
3. Buying trendy pieces are fun, but not a wise investment
Those trendy pieces that I bought last season were no longer in style anymore. While it was fun to buy and wear those items in the moment, they were of little use to me in 2014 since I was buying no new clothing.
Fortunately I have never been one to buy a lot of trendy fashions, but it made me reflect on why I bought those select items in the first place.
Was it because I actually liked the trend? Or was I just a victim of savvy marketing tactics?
I discovered that it was a mixture of both.
I learned my lesson and now when I shop, I invest in timeless pieces that will always be in fashion.
I also stick to neutral colors as this makes putting together an outfit much easier. This fools a lot of people since I can wear the same black dress several times and nobody knows it’s the same one because I’ve added a different accessory to jazz it up.
This does not have the same effect though if it’s a bright colored dress or has a distinct pattern.
4. I became more productive
Since I was no longer spending my weekends at the mall or my lunch hour shopping online, I became more productive with my spare time.
I focused on my studies, traveled, read more books, started this blog and spent quality time with friends and family – all of which brought me more happiness than shopping.
5. I have enough. I’m not missing out on new stuff
At the beginning of 2014, I thought I was going to have a fear of missing out because I needed to conserve my money and not spend it on clothing or unnecessary things.
But that wasn’t the case.
Whenever I felt the need to go shopping, I would always go through my closet and remind myself of everything that I already owned. I was grateful and felt lucky to have the wardrobe that I did.
Seeing friends, family or fashion bloggers buying new things didn’t make me jealous. I recognized that buying new clothing would not make me a better person, or more likeable. It was just a means to create a false sense of wealth.
Stuff will always be there, it’s not going to go away. But I have the power to make a choice and be mindful with my purchases. Shopping isn’t a hobby and it’s not going to fill any void in life.
Fashion industry facts from the True Cost Movie
1. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter (right behind the oil industry)
According to the Danish Fashion Institute, 25% of the world’s chemicals are used for textiles and the industry is noted as the number two polluter of clean water (after agriculture).
2. Only 10% of the clothing we donate to charity (or thrift stores) gets sold
We have good intentions when we donate our used clothing to charity or thrift stores, but only a small percentage of this clothing actually gets sold.
The rest ends up in landfills or sells by the box to countries like Haiti which destroy the local industry.
3. One-in-six people work in the global fashion industry
Most of these workers are women who earn less than $3 per day.
4. 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have committed suicide in the last 15 years
When we think of fast fashion or high street clothing stores, we generally know that their merchandise is probably made in sweatshops. However, we usually don’t think about the origin of the materials used to make the clothing.
Punjab is Indian’s largest user of pesticides, and there has been a sharp rise in reports of cancer, mental illness and birth defects.
Many of the farmers in Punjab have also gone into debt from buying genetically modified seeds from Monsanto, which is partially the reason for the high suicide rate.
5. High street fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21 and Gap don’t own the factories that produce their clothes
Working conditions are mainly left up to the individual factories that these high street fashion brands contract with.
Since these brands need to compete with each other on cost, factories owners are desperate to get the business so they produce clothing for cheaper and cheaper (which gets squeezed from the workers’ wages).
Not too long ago, Cambodian workers tried to protest in the streets, but the government ended up shooting and killing a number of these protesters who were just protesting so they could make a living wage.
I bet that $20 floral dress doesn’t sound so cute anymore.
Over to you — have you done the no new clothing challenge?
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