How to STOP Buying Clothes You Don’t Need

Can’t seem to figure out how to stop buying clothes, even when you already have a ton? Follow this simple but very effective advice to break the habit of compulsive shopping!

When was the last time you emptied your closet? Is there any item there that you haven’t worn in over a year? Is your wardrobe overflowing with clothes but sometimes you have the impression that you have nothing to wear?

We’ve all been there! Buying clothes is fun and for many people, it has become a habit, something they do as a reflex rather than out of necessity. You enter a store, see something you like, and end up buying it without giving it a second thought. We’ve all done it.

Leave this seemingly harmless habit unchecked, however, and you can become addicted to buying clothes, as if it were a toxic relationship you just can’t seem to know how to quit – and that is draining your wallet. Not only that, it’s costing you (and the planet) a lot more than just money. 

The fashion industry is a huge contributor to pollution worldwide, producing 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s the second-largest consumer (and pollutant) of the world’s water supply. For you to have an idea, it will take you two and a half years to drink the water needed to make a single t-shirt.

And not to mention that the working conditions of clothes manufacturers are almost the equivalent of modern slavery, with less than 2% of workers earning a fair living wage. Figuring out how to stop buying fast fashion might seem a little daunting at first, but it’s a firm stand against environmental and social abuse.

Then there’s the emotional factor. While buying clothes can make us feel happy, that sense of contentment when we get a new item is fleeting, a little drop of endorphins that wears off very quickly. 

It’s time to address what these patterns of compulsive shopping are about, and what they’re doing to our lives. So the question is how to stop buying clothes you don’t need, right? Read on, then.

Identify your triggers 

First things first. If you’re wondering how to buy fewer clothes or stop buying clothes altogether, it’s key to understand why you buy them in the first place

Start thinking about what usually happens in the hours or moments before you purchase something. How do you feel? Are you bored? Dissatisfied? Had you been scrolling through social media and fallen into the comparison trap? Do you use shopping as therapy? All these are very common triggers for all of us.

If this sounds too general or abstract, think about the last 3 or 5 items you got. Why did you buy them?

Even though it might look like isolated events, most of our shopping is emotional, so understanding what your triggers are is the first step towards deactivating them and succeeding at buying fewer clothes.

Reassess what you already have

Take ALL your clothes out of the closet and go through them one by one. You’ll probably realize you have a lot more than you thought, finding items you had forgotten about or things you haven’t worn in ages.

The act of buying makes us focus on what we lack, keeping us in a loop of dissatisfaction, but taking a minute to appreciate what you already have is the very source of gratitude and happiness.

Try everything on, deciding what stays and what goes. Sell, donate or dispose of the items you won’t keep. Decluttering is not only useful but also very satisfying, and it saves energy as much as space.

Once you’ve done this, rearrange your clothes in your closet in a way that you can see them all. That way, you’ll always know what you have, and won’t end up buying too many clothes or items you already have.

Understand what clothes you need for your lifestyle 

This will be useful for the previous step. Sometimes we may feel like we have nothing to wear because the clothes we have simply don’t match our lifestyle. 

Do you have high heels but you never go out? Do you have tons of sports items but rarely exercise? 

Understanding the clothes you need for your lifestyle can save you a lot of money, avoiding unnecessary expenses, and making you think twice before buying something. In addition, you can sell the items you never use and recover some of the money you spent on them.

For this step, remember there’s a difference between what you need, what you want, and what you actually enjoy wearing.

Remove temptation 

Now that you have identified your triggers and have a clearer picture of what you have, it’s important to remove those triggers as much as possible

For example, if you want to know how to stop buying clothes online, the first thing to do is unsubscribe from all shopping emails and unfollow influencers whose content you know will make you want to buy things. 

If you have a tendency to buy something any time you enter a store, do not go into the store altogether unless you absolutely need something.

Remember the first advice: not buying clothes starts with removing the triggers.

Build new habits

A good way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a healthier, less expensive one. The good news here is that the options are endless, you just need to find what works for you. 

It could be practicing yoga, taking pottery classes, walking on the beach, literally anything that you enjoy and makes you happy, so you can jump into that whenever you feel the urge to buy clothes, or when you have time off. Also check out the habits and traits of successful people.

This is a win-win: it will make you save money or invest money in something more fulfilling, and at the same time, bring more joy to your days by doing something that can bring lasting happiness.

Mend and borrow

Disposing of something as soon as it has a little issue is such a bad habit we have in capitalist societies. If a piece of clothing is damaged, why not mend it instead of discarding it without a second thought?

Learn how to sew and do other basic fixes, like replacing a zipper or changing a button. I promise it’s easier than you think, and a frugal living tip with a big impact. Check out the many YouTube tutorials and give it a try. You could save the life of your favorite jeans and avoid unnecessary waste in the process. Win-win.

Borrowing clothes is another way to solve the puzzle of how to stop buying clothes you never wear. This is a particularly good idea for special events, like weddings or a fancy company party. Clothing for such events (fancy dresses, smart suits, nice shoes) are usually very expensive and there’s a good chance you’ll only use them once.

Why not borrow from a friend or family member? It will save you a lot of money and give those special items a second life that everyone will appreciate.

Shop smarter 

When the time comes that you actually need to buy clothes, it’s important to think before you buy. Being smarter about your purchases can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. 

Shopping smart can look like:

  • Shopping for your style instead of random items that you will never wear.
  • Following the “One In, One Outrule: buying an item only when something needs to be replaced. 
  • Delaying buying: when you see something you like, don’t buy it right away. Wait at least a week, more if it’s something expensive. When you wait, you usually realize you didn’t really need/want it. It decreases the amount of impulse-spending.
  • Buying second-hand clothes: vintage is the new black. Buying used clothes is all the hype right now! It’s also more environmentally friendly and way more affordable. Check out your local thrift shop, you’ll be surprised at the gems you can find.

Make it Fun 

How about making a little game out of it? Try joining or creating your own “Buying no clothing challenge”. For example, you can make it a goal to stop buying clothes for a year

Document as you go. Write down how you feel every time you have the urge to buy something, what had just happened when the urge appeared (this journaling can, in fact, be a habit to replace the buying), and how much you would have spent on that item or items if you hadn’t set this challenge for yourself. Go back to these notes in a few months and check how much you’ve saved. It will be a huge motivation to go on!

That minute when you really want to buy something can be hard, but thinking about it as a game can actually make it fun! And it will get easier with practice.

Budget for Clothing

Including clothing expenses in your budget plan is a great way to save money and avoid buying clothes you don’t need. If you stay clear of impulse shopping, chances are you won’t need a lot each month.

To budget for clothing, it’s important to go through the clothes you already have. That way, you can assess what you will need, and how much you want to spend on that. 

You could even set up a fund and save money for when you see something you really like (even if you don’t need it). Just remember: it has to be something you will wear often, not a one-time thing.

So now you know. Buying clothes is usually impulsive and emotion-driven. Identifying your triggers and being honest about why you buy are the first steps towards a more healthy relationship with shopping.

Do regular audits of your wardrobe, find ways to upcycle, and spend money on clothes only when you need them. Not only will you save a ton of money, but you will also be helping the environment, and creating more lasting joy and contentment in your life by appreciating what you already have.

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