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I Broke My Shopping Ban With 126 Days To Go. Here’s Why.

September 11, 2018
I Broke My Shopping Ban With 126 Days To Go. Here's Why _ Tiny Ambitions

Yep, you read that right. No clickbait this week. I bought something this week that wasn’t on my exceptions list. I broke my shopping ban.

What did I buy that was worth breaking my ban for? A dress for a fancy occasion at work. That’s it. Nothing too out of the ordinary or life-altering.

On the one hand, this is obviously a failure. I set rules for myself and I broke them. But, that’s not productive, nor does it mean I’m going to stop operating as if the ban is still on and go on a no-holds-barred shopping spree.

The purchase I made was made mindfully, after realizing that I had a hole in my wardrobe that needed to be filled.

I wouldn’t normally use the word ‘needed’ for something I purchased. But, that was the case for this purchase. I work in a casual corporate environment. Meaning, I wear business casual Monday to Friday. While I don’t have a ton of clothes in that category (I do still call myself a minimalist), I have enough to get me by.

However, my boss walked into my office last week and asked if I would be ok to attend a corporate event in two weeks, as the photographer. Totally fine. Well within my wheelhouse in terms of skills and what I normally do in my day job.

The problem arose when I got home and realized I genuinely didn’t have a single item of clothing in my closet that would be appropriate to wear to this type of event. It’s one of the biggest events we hold all year, with guests paying a hefty ticket price to attend. I would classify it as almost gala-esque, but not yet in ball-gown territory.

You can bet your butt that this minimalist hippie didn’t own anything even remotely resembling that type of caliber of clothing. Sure, I had a couple of dresses in my closet that might have worked. But I would have felt out of place at the event like I was trying to wedge my closet into something that it really isn’t. I can’t really explain why, but for this event (and another similar scale event we have in the spring) I really want to look the part. I don’t want to look like I’m just managing to pretend to look the part. I actually want to be the part.

So, off to the shops I went.

I Broke My Shopping Ban With 126 Days to Go. Here's Why. {Pin} _ Tiny Ambitions

Second-Hand For The Win

Following my modus operandi when it comes to shopping (and some of the rules I did give myself for the ban), I went to my local consignment store to see what I could find. I don’t know why, but I just like second-hand clothing more than fresh off-the-rack items.

There are the obvious cost savings, but I also do appreciate the environmental aspect of not buying a newly made item. Also, something about someone else having had the thought to buy an item makes it more worthy in my eyes, than just buying an item off the rack that a brand is trying to sell me (this is a topic for another blog post).

So, there I was in our local consignment store. I’ve consigned some of my own clothing and accessories to this store, so I felt confident I could find something I liked. I was looking for something that would be fancy enough for the event, but not leave me feeling like I was playing dress-up (which is more a mental mind-game than anything).

The Dress

For whatever reason, the shopping gods were smiling upon me and I found a dress that will work perfectly for almost all of the corporate events I have to attend in our calendar year at work. It’s a A-line dress with cap sleeves and a boat neckline, in a lovely paisley-esque geometric type print.

It’s heavier weight synthetic fabric (which I’d normally steer away from for everyday wear), gives a very flattering silhouette and makes the dress weightier – which I think increases it’s fancy factor.

With a belt at the waist, it will be the perfect piece for me to wear at this event to fit the tone of the evening, while still having my characteristic flair (which I’d like to think that I have).

The Ban Is Dead, Long Live the Ban

Just because I bought something that wasn’t on my exceptions list, doesn’t mean the ban is over for me. I still have over 120 days to go. I plan to continue the ban and don’t foresee anything else tripping me up.

Perhaps that’s the lesson of this. Even if you set yourself hard rules for your consumption for a month, a year, or longer – you genuinely can’t predict what will come up that may make you consider breaking it.

When I found out I was expected to work this event, I could have easily just made something in my closet ‘fit’ the occasion. I know I could have. But, it wouldn’t have felt right. I wouldn’t have felt right. I would have felt like the kid playing dress up in a room full of adults who were really ‘supposed’ to be there.

The Clothes Story We Tell Ourselves

I often tell myself this story about how clothes don’t really matter. Who cares about what you put on your body? But, in this instance, I really do. It was worth breaking my own rules to buy something that will help me fit the mold of expectation for this event.

That’s not something that’s easy for me to admit. I don’t like conforming. I often go out of my way to rebel and challenge social norms. But, at work, I want to be taken seriously in what I do. And, for this event, that meant I had to go shopping and buy something (I don’t love that this is the way the corporate world works).

Mindful vs. Mindless Consumption

It might seem overkill to dedicate an entire post to one purchase. But this wasn’t a mindless purchase. I didn’t walk into the mall and just decide that I needed to buy something. It was for a specific event, and I knew exactly what I was looking for. I had given it some thought and had given myself some parameters to work within, in terms of style and price. And, I was able to find something within those guidelines.

That’s why, for me, it doesn’t really feel like I broke the ban. If I was to break the ban, it would be going into my local mall and going on a shopping spree of poorly made clothes that I didn’t need and only bought because they were ‘on sale’. That was not the case for this purchase.

It just feels fundamentally different to buy something intentionally vs. impulsively. That difference is something that I’ve been refining over the first 239 of my ban. It’s in a whole other world on the consumption scale.

Moving Forward

If you’re doing some kind of anti-consumption challenge, first of all, that’s awesome. Second, I don’t want you to feel like if you break your ban that you’ve failed. It would be easy for me to fall into a shame spiral of berating myself for this purchase and bombarding myself with negative self-talk that would not only be damaging in the short term to my progress on the ban, but would also be detrimental in the long-run in terms of my consumption habits and how I view buying ‘stuff’.

Breaking your ban doesn’t mean that you’ve failed.

If you did it with intention and purpose then you purchased something that will genuinely add value to your life. And there’s no failure in that.

If you broke your ban with an impulse purchase that you didn’t really need in your life, it’s also not a failure. It’s a learning opportunity for you to examine.

Did something in your life trigger you to make that purchase? Can you keep an eye out for that trigger in the future?

Every consumption experience is an opportunity for learning and growth. There is no need for shame and negative self-talk.

You don’t need to do that to yourself.

I don’t need to do that to myself.

Have you ever ‘failed’ at a challenge you set for yourself? How did you bounce-back?

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Erin | Reaching for FI September 20, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Yep, I’ve broken my clothes shopping ban this month, and for more than one item. But these feel different. For one, they’re more expensive items than I’d normally purchase (which is sorta freaking me out a bit. The income/expenses ratio isn’t going to look great this month haha) and aren’t fast fashion. And two, I’ve thought about these and they’re filling holes in my wardrobe (a few items of travel clothing that I will also wear in my everyday life. And a light insulated jacket because I am ALREADY TIRED of how damn cold I am at work every day and it’s not even winter yet), even though you could really argue there aren’t holes to BE filled since I do have so many clothes. And now that I’ve bought clothes this month, that could very easily be an excuse to buy lots more. But I’m not going to. So I have a feeling I’ll be writing a similar post soon, haha.

    Also, I LOVE the dress!

    • Britt September 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      It’s such an interesting experience buying something mindfully vs. mindlessly! I think it’s awesome that you’re filling those wardrobe gaps. If it’s stuff you will actually wear and use, then it isn’t a wasted purchase and was worth ‘breaking’ your ban. I can’t wait to read your post about the decision! And thanks for the dress love – its so lovely and I have zero regrets about buying it. I think that means I made the right decision. 🙂

  • networthbound September 17, 2018 at 10:55 am

    I also just recently broke my shopping ban. In the past, I would usually resign to defeat and go back to my spendthrift ways until the next time I got a shopping hangover and then start a ban all over again. This time I took a similar approach to you – decide that I fully intend to keep going, and that a slip-up doesn’t mean the ban is over. Letting go of the shame cycle has been such a weight off my shoulders, and hasn’t impacted my enthusiasm for seeing the rest of the ban through. Making mindful decisions is so much easier when we are kind to ourselves!

    • Britt September 17, 2018 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Anna. It’s so awesome that you were able to get out of the shame cycle over your consumption habits. I used to get really bad shopping/consumption hangovers – my internal monologue would be ripping myself apart for the purchase. So I completely agree with you that being kind to ourselves is an important part of making mindful decisions when it comes to consumption. It’s also just a better way to live our lives. Not everyone will be nice to us in our everyday lives, we should at least be able to count on ourselves to stand by us.

  • Diana September 12, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    I started my shopping ban on New Year’s Day. Then in February we found out that we were going to host a wedding for 70 people at our house in August for our Afghan exchange student. I broke the ban to purchase what had to be bought, but it was worth it and I never thought of it as a failure on my part. Over the course of this year, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my buying habits. As a teacher, back-to-school shopping has always been a cherished tradition, but this year I didn’t go. I felt sorry for myself for about 24 hours, but then I challenged myself to shift my mindset – How many outfits can I make out of what is hanging in my closet without wearing the same thing twice? I have a feeling that it’s a lot more than I ever imagined was possible. I’m back to enjoying the ban, and I’m not sure that I will ever shop the same way again.

    • Britt September 13, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Diana! Your experience shows that we can never know what life is going to throw at us and its all about how we adapt. I’m so glad you didn’t see you wedding purchases as a failure – because it wasn’t!

      Congrats on shifting your mindset for back to school shopping. If nothing else, a shopping ban is really good at making you challenge your old shopping habits. I know mine has done the same for me!

  • The Luxe Strategist September 11, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I’d say buying one item with a little more than 3 months to go is a total success! It’s not like it was an impulse buy at all.

    Do you have dress rental options in Canada? I was invited to a black tie wedding, and like you, I don’t have things that are that formal. So I’m looking at renting a dress instead of buying.

    I also wish there was less stigma with buying secondhand. I never realized it wasn’t the norm until I started writing about it on the blog.

    • Britt September 11, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks, Luxe! I’d like to think the whole experiment will be a success.

      I think we do have rental places in Canada for dresses. If I ever need a legit gala level type dress, that is definitely where I’ll go for it. It just makes so much sense to rent something like that, then buy something for the once-a-year(maybe) that you’d need it.

      It’s so weird to me that there is a stigma around buying secondhand. I grew up wearing secondhand as a kid and a teenager, so I guess I never thought it was that weird. I do it now as an adult because it’s just what I prefer (rather than it being a necessity). Secondhand stuff that has lived a life before it has made its way into my life is just so much cooler than boring ‘new’ stuff.

      Before I started blogging and found lots of sustainable, green bloggers, I just assumed everyone knew about the benefits of buying second-hand. Apparently not!

  • Scott @ Costa Rica FIRE September 11, 2018 at 10:06 am

    I’d submit that making an important work-related purchase should have been an exemption, so as far as I’m concerned, you are still on track for full success!

    The only goal I set for myself this year was to run at least once in each week of the year, something i discovered I’ve never actually accomplished in 25 years of doing a lot of running. Sure enough the week we visited the Philippines, I brought my running gear and it turned out the hotel we stayed at half the week had no treadmill, the other half of the week was at an AirBNB (no treadmill), and running outside was not really viable given the locations.

    So, I didn’t meet the goal this year, but I can say for sure that it got me out there running a few more times this year than I would have if I didn’t set that goal for myself – and that is what is most important!

    • Britt September 11, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks, Scott! I ao agree with you – I think I am on track. Perhaps though it is something I should have taken into account when creating my exceptions in the first place.

      Congrats on your running failure! You may not have actually achieved the goal you set, but if you got out there more than you would have if you hadn’t set that goal, then it’s a success. I think it’s awesome that you can recognize your achievement for what it was and not berate yourself for not achieving your actual goal perfectly.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Jennifer Chan September 11, 2018 at 7:27 am

    Two things I love about this post:
    1) You mention the environmental benefits of shopping at a local consignment store; and
    2) You’re still continuing your shopping ban.

    Too often when we have a “hiccup” or when things don’t according to plan, we decide to fold it in early. The point isn’t perfection, it’s striving for progress. That’s how I feel when I end up going above budget due to an unforeseen expense: It isn’t just about spending a certain amount this month, it’s about training yourself to avoid impulsive consumption and learning how much money you actually need to live a good life.

    Good luck on the next 126!


    • Britt September 11, 2018 at 7:50 am

      Thanks, Jennifer! I agree. We can often just go off the rails when we fail, instead of seeing it as a bump in the road (that’s a lot of transportation metaphors, but you know what I mean).

      As for consignment and second hand shopping – I wish more people recognized and valued the environmental benefits!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.