We’ve all done it: Strolled into a store and emerged with something impractical, unaffordable, or just simply meh. Whether it’s a $2,500 Chanel bag that you absolutely needed but now can’t make rent, or a $13 Forever 21 blouse that won’t impact your checking account but will sit in your closet unworn, these purchases are able to evoke feelings of buyer’s remorse.
Let’s get one thing straight, we love shopping, and the last thing we’re going to tell you is to stop doing it if it makes you as happy as it does most fashion lovers.
However, we can offer up a few solutions to help you shop smarter and spend your hard-earned money—whether it’s $10 or $1,000—on things you really like and that you’ll use, as opposed to buying just for the sake of, well, buying. Read on for a complete guide to avoiding buyer’s remorse!
1. Take inventory.
Firstly, take a cold, hard look at your closet. What’s hanging front and center? These are probably the everyday things you wear the most, which means one of two things: You don’t need a new one, or you do. (Translation: you don’t need another one.)
Your plan of attack: Pull out the 10 things you wear the most (shoes and bags, too!), and examine them. Is your favorite staple blouse getting yellowed in spots or has a pesky collar stain that can’t be removed? It’s time to replace it. Are your go-to black skinny jeans finally broken in and looking better than ever? You don’t need another pair. Keep this going for all 10 items, which will provide you with a basis from which to deduce what you really need this season.
2. Distance yourself from promotions.
Here’s a little secret: How information is presented to you online and in stores is a highly-strategized form of marketing, and marketers want to do everything in their power to make sure you don’t buy something and return it. One way they do this? Through coupons.
What’s that? You only shop at super-cool or high-end places where coupons don’t exist? Think again. Any call-to-action retail information at all—sale emails from Net-a-Porter or ASOS, free shipping codes, or 25% off all designer shoes—can be considered forms of coupons.
While deals can be amazing if you’re legitimately in the market for something, they can be pretty dangerous for the casual shopper who—when she woke up this morning—had no idea she needed or wanted, say, a $400 Kenzo blouse from Barneys until she got an email that it’s 20% off.
Your plan of attack: If you’re a sucker for an impromptu promotion, try unsubscribing from the five brand emails that lure you in the most. That’s not to say you can’t go directly to the retailer’s sites when you know you want things, but you’d be surprised how little you impulse buy without the pressure of tempting limited-time emails being hand-delivered to your inbox all day. Same goes for flash sale sites, by the way!
3. Try the wait-a-day game.
This one might be the hardest, but it’s the one that’ll be most effective to real-deal shoppers who often find themselves in stores after work, or frivolously shopping online during the day. What does it involve? Pretty much waiting a day before you buy.
Your plan of attack: Every time you’re shopping for something you love but don’t really need, put it back on the rack (or remove it from your online cart) and wait a full 24 hours. If you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s a sign that it might be worth it. You’d be shocked how often we forget about items that we almost buy when we put a little time and distance between it and us.
Obviously, if you’ve been looking high and low for a certain pair of boots and they’re sold out everywhere and you stumble across them in your size and on sale, by all means, buy away. This trick is best reserved for items we know for a fact will be there tomorrow. And it really, really works.
4. Big purchases should be treated like big purchases.
When someone buys a big new car or a big new house, they don’t buy a bunch of smaller, cheaper houses and cars a few months later, right? So if you buy that major investment bag, why buy five other, cheaper bags soon after? This will kick in buyer’s remorse both for the pricey bag you’re not using as much, and the cheaper bags, which you know you didn’t really need.
Your plan of attack: You know how they say to make a list of pros and cons before purchasing a house or a car? Well, apply that to bags, shoes, and clothes. Even if you don’t exactly buy into “it bag” or “investment piece” ideologies, odds are you’re still, in your lifetime, going to want something expensive, so writing a list can help suss out how worth your money something is.
Write down why you think you need it, whether you have the liquidity to really afford it, and how often you’ll realistically use it. Will you be able to wear those 5-inch Charlotte Olympia or Manolo Blahnik heels to work regularly, or not really? Can you commit to carrying that Proenza Schouler bag every day for years to come?
Another thing to figure out: Will this big purchase cause real problems for you down the line? Meaning, will that pair of Isabel Marant boots set you back far enough that your phone bill or student loan payments won’t be met this month? If so, it’s a good idea to let them be for now, and start saving a little every month so you can eventually buy them guilt-free (the best way!)
5. Don’t Keep Up With the Joneses (or the Tomasi Hills, the Dumas, or the Zirhouvas)
Any street style addict knows that there are certain personalities that simply kill it every time they’re photographed. However, just because you saw Taylor Tomasi Hill, Miroslava Duma, or Anya Zirhouva draped in Commes des Garcons, Chanel, or Céline—or because you’ll be in New York during Fashion Week and want to get snapped by Phil Oh—isn’t a great reason to go out and splurge on the same stuff.
Don’t forget: Several big street-fashion players, editors, and bloggers get sent designer stuff for free to entice folks like us to go out and buy it. Others are, well, richer than us and it’s their day job to flit around the world in the latest designer clothes, which is fun to admire but not necessarily healthy to emulate.
Your plan of attack: Seek out lesser-priced pieces that that resemble things you admire on street style stars. Plenty of sites and stores offer items that feature similar aspects to designer pieces, and put your own stamp on it.