Love to shop? So do we. Now that we got that out of the way, it’s time to face facts: It is possible for retail-as-necessity (and, fine, retail-as-leisure) to take a backseat to retail-as-compulsion. While most of us aren’t necessarily addicted to shopping, there is a chance our buying behavior could be considered unhealthy in a number of ways—for our bank account, for our personal space, for our mental well-being.
So, how do you know if your shopping habits are unhealthy? Read on for 12 signs that’ll help you figure it out.
1. You buy the same thing over and over.
Obviously, we all have our staples and we gravitate toward the same types of items when we shop—it’s called having taste. However, if you find yourself quite literally buying a new Breton striped shirt every single time you shop, it might be time to cut back. Not only does that mean you’re not satisfied with the shirts crammed into your closet, but it’s a known fact that the more you own, the less you wear.
If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect Breton stripe shirt (or black button down, white jeans, Chelsea boots, or whatever you buy over and over), take all the versions you own out and give them a good, hard look. Donate or sell the ones you’re not in love with, and take some time to hunt down the perfect one.
2. You splurge on expensive things, then buy a million cheaper versions.
We have no right to condemn you for shopping often for things you probably don’t need—we’re totally guilty—but we will say that when comes to spending on an investment piece, you might want to think about whether you’re still going to want other items in the same fashion family.
For example: If you buy yourself a $2,500 Chanel bag, do you foresee yourself not buying any other bags—no matter how cheap or trendy—for the foreseeable future? When someone buys a new car or a new house, they don’t buy a bunch of smaller, cheaper houses and cars a few months later, right? We like to use the mentality for fashion items. If you know you’re someone who likes to own a huge variety of bags, shoes, jeans, or coats, maybe buying a super-pricey one isn’t the right move.
3. You buy items that might cause problems for you down the line.
Meaning: It can be extremely unhealthy to start buying things—whether it’s one designer piece or 25 pieces at Zara—that set you back far enough that your phone bill, rent, 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!)
4: You don’t love the item, but you love the label.
As fashion lovers, it’s a given that our inner Sybarite will occasionally emerge. Nothing shameful about that—most designer items are beautiful and are meant to be coveted—but if you’re buying simply for a label and the item isn’t really your taste, well, isn’t that silly?
5. You always forget to return.
Yeah, life gets busy, but if you’re just so busy that you can’t make it to the post office to return that $100 jacket that doesn’t fit, or make it back to the store to get your money back for the $50 top you decided you didn’t like, well, you’re literally taking money, throwing it up in the air, and walking away.
6. You shop for Instagram.
We hate to assume you’d buy anything simply so people know you own it, but alas, this is the world in which we live. Are you buying that Balenciaga bag because you really, really love it, or because you want others to know you have it?
If you buy those designer shoes, will you be able to truly enjoy them without posting them to social media? If the answer is no, you might have some thinking to do about your shopping habits.
8. You shop to keep up with the [fill in blogger/street style star/fashion It girl here]
Any street style or Instagram addict knows that there are certain personalities that simply kill it every time they’re photographed. However, just because you saw Miroslava Duma, or your favorite fashion blogger draped in Céline, Miu Miu, or Valentino—or because you’ll be in New York during Fashion Week and want to get snapped by a street style photographer—isn’t a healthy 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.
9. You buy for mundane occasions.
If you’ll use literally any excuse to shop—a casual dinner for an old friend, a trip to the beach when you already own 30 bathing suits—you might be using retail as a substitute for feeling 100% confident about your plans. A black-tie wedding or a huge first date? Go for it. A casual happy hour with co-workers on Thursday? Not a reason to buy a new dress.
10. You don’t know what you have.
You know what’s not healthy? Buying things, taking them home, and forgetting about them, only to buy the exact same thing a month later. If you find yourself doing this often, take an entire day and empty out every single drawer, closet, and shelf and go through every single garment one by one. Knowing what you have is the key to always having something to wear, and not spending senseless money.
11. You pay for everything with a credit card.
It’s very easy to lose track of what you’re spending when you put everything on your Amex. It seems harmless in the moment, until you get a $3,000 bill and wonder “how did this happen.” If you’re looking to build your credit, buy one small thing a month and pay your bill on time. For impulsive shopping trips, use your debit card (you wouldn’t swipe knowing there’s not enough in your account, right?), or pay cash.
12. You always look like you’re dressed as ‘Fashion’ for Halloween
Meaning: You’re a walking advertisement for trends and/or labels to the point where it looks like you have no point of view of your own. Before blogs, before street style, and before Fashion Week became a competition for who has the most attention-grabbing labels, young women shopped for themselves, their lifestyle, and what looked best on them.
Next time you’re shopping, really look at each item and decide if you really love it, or you’re supposed to love it this season.