sweater tied over t-shirt

5 Ways My Shopping Habits Have Changed in 5 Years

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With the curtain closing on 2022, now is the perfect time to reflect. Not so we can hit the ground running in the new year harder and better than before, but so we can evaluate and take stock of the previous year, feel encouraged by things that are working, and steer in another direction if things are not.

The end of the year has me thinking a lot about what’s changed- both good and bad. And one area where there’s been a lot of change is in my shopping habits. Admittedly, my shopping habits haven’t changed much over this past year, but they have changed drastically over the past 5 years.

5 Years Ago…

I was only interested in the cheapest item.

Filtering by price can be handy. After all, why look for something that’s completely out of your price range? Except I didn’t just use the filter by price tool- I abused it.

When shopping for something online, I’d put a price maximum of $20, filter by the lowest price, look at the cheapest item, and usually purchase that one, regardless of reviews.

So what’s the problem? Of course, being spend-conscious and living on a budget isn’t the problem here. The problem here is that my only consideration was the price. I was not realistic about what items cost and I didn’t factor in quality or think that buying something cheap was a waste of money in the long run.

This led to me purchasing pants that would have buttons pop off as I was putting them on or seams on my dresses ripping after the first week. To sum up, this led to a lot of cheap clothes that didn’t last.

Today…

I value quality over quantity.

These days I would rather have one good solid sweater that I can wear several times instead of 5 fun and flirty tops. I understand purchasing better-made items costs more (especially in this climate- hello, inflation) and mentally, I have to be realistic about it.

This also means shopping less to afford better quality items, but since implementing these changes, I actually love my wardrobe.

5 Years Ago…

I would shop to fill time.

If I was feeling bored, watching TV, or just had some extra time to fill, I would pull up my go-to retailers (at the time they were Boohoo, Zaful, and Forever21) to online browse and shop for fun.

Am I against a little treat-yo-self moment? Of course not! But for me, I was getting stuff that I thought looked cute with no real rhyme or reason for purchasing these items.

End result? Money that could have been spent on nicer things was thrown at cheap, trendy items that I got bored of quickly and rarely worn.

Today…

I shop with a purpose.

Though I have a big focus on minimalism, this is not a minimalist blog, so I probably do shop, purchase, and wear more than the average consumer, but I work hard to make sure I am shopping with a purpose.

For example, I keep a running list of clothing items on my phone that I think I need, outside of my fully stocked capsule wardrobe. If I’m getting dressed and I feel like the outfit is missing brown knee-high boots with a block heel and my closet doesn’t have any, then I add it to the list.

If I’m getting dressed and I wish I had those boots at least 3 more times, then I start looking to purchase them. I try to shop based on what I think I need and would actually use instead of items just for fun. (Of course, no one needs several boots, but you know what I mean.)

5 Years Ago…

I shopped just because there was a sale.

I subscribed to clothing retailers’ newsletters because I thought I needed to know when the sales were happening. Even if there wasn’t anything I was specifically shopping for!

But of course, I ended up purchasing a few things, because that’s what happens. And if I didn’t? Then I left my shopping experience feeling unsettled and like I wasted time browsing for no reason.

Today…

I keep an eye out for sales.

Whether it’s today or 5 years from now, I’m always going to be a fan of saving money! But now, instead of shopping just because there’s a sale, I try to keep an eye and ear out for sales and time out my purchasing so they line up with discounts.

Those brown knee-high boots I mentioned earlier? I had them on my list for several months and then finally purchased them on Black Friday.

As long as the clothing item is not a “real” need and you can exercise some patience and wait for a major sale or discount to purchase it, you will be rewarded with savings.

Related: Is Your Shopping Getting Out of Control? Here’s How To Get It Back on Track

5 Years Ago…

I wanted to look like everyone else.

I used to be very heavily influenced by Instagram and social media. I was always looking to see what was trendy and I wanted to be in on the ground floor with emerging trends.

Remember when that rose embroidery trend was big several years ago? As soon as that was trending, I went to Zaful and bought this embroidered dress that I probably only wore once before passing it on.

But it had all the tell-tale signs that it wouldn’t last in my wardrobe: I bought something cheap, didn’t put thought into it, and bought it for other people, not me.

Today…

I dress for myself, not others.

Now, I’m not saying that I defy trends and have this super unique style. I love wardrobe basics and I still wear trends sometimes. But the difference now is that I wear them for myself.

I’m not trying to be seen as trendy, popular, or unique. I’m just someone helping women build and love their timeless wardrobes as I have come to love mine because I see the power in curated never-go-out-of-style pieces.

And you know what? Being original, however that looks, pays off. Back in the days when I was more present on Instagram, major fashion publication WhoWhatWear reposted me in my outfit of wearing a dress over jeans.

I didn’t wear it because it was trendy (in fact, it was very much not trendy haha); I wore it because I thought it was quirky and fun.

5 Years Ago…

I would frequently impulse shop.

Whether you’re browsing online or shopping in person, you’re bound to come across something you love. And though at my core I like to save money, there were many times I would buy something just because I thought it was cute. But 90% of the time I bought an item on a whim it became an item I regretted buying.

We are made to recognize and appreciate beauty- there is nothing wrong with that! But all that beauty can’t make it into your home for the sake of your budget, mental space, and storage.

Today…

I distance myself from a fun or statement item before purchasing it.

Whether it’s having something sit in my shopping cart, be a saved bookmark on my laptop, or a screenshot on my phone, whenever I come across something I feel like I need to have, I save it, and “sit on it” before making a final decision.

Sometimes you just need that overwhelming “oh my gosh that’s so cute” feeling to wear off for you to think clearly. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved by taking the night to sleep on something before taking the plunge.

8/10 times I walk away and don’t end up purchasing the item. And the times that I do? They become fun, well-loved items in my wardrobe that I enjoy wearing and don’t feel guilty about.

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These are just 5 lessons I’ve learned throughout my time of working in fashion. Everything else I learned, including my personal style training, has been channeled into my fashion resources.

If you’re looking for a surprisingly in-depth introduction to building your own wardrobe, check out the eBook, How to Build a Wardrobe From Scratch!

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Carolyn Arentson
Carolyn is the founder and creator behind My Chic Obsession. When she's not dreaming up new content, you can find her watching a funny tv show with her husband, raising her two boys, or planning her next trip to Paris.