Closet 101 Style

Reader Question: Limiting Purchases

Today I will be giving my best attempt at answering a reader question. This time, it’s from the lovely Lynette, who posted a question that I thought was very interesting and definitely worthy of some thought:

Do you have any advice or thoughts on how to fight the urge to buying everything, meaning learning to say no and not buy so much?  Of course money is the first barrier for many (including me) but let’s say that wasn’t – how do you control the desire to not want more, and just be happy?  Some people are good at not wanting so much, and a couple pieces satisfies them.  For me, I have loved Hermes for at least a decade and bought a decent number of their handbags. If had loads of money maybe my collection might be the size of Jamie Chua.

It  seems you are able to control the urge to overbuy and not own so many of a single style or buy every style they have available. You seem to do it thoughtfully and in a controlled manner. Recently, I finally purchased my first Van Cleef pieces. I am so excited and I already feel an itch to collect so many of their other pieces which is a feeling I never thought I would have since I am not a jewelry buyer. So before I make any buying mistakes I would love to hear what you think.

Too much Hermes...or not enough? It's all relative!

Too much Hermes…or not enough? It’s all relative!

This is a great question and a topic that I would say is consistently in the back of my head whenever I shop for clothes and accessories. I love a beautiful item (and boy are there lots of them out there), but I really loathe items not being regularly used in my closet. I like to be using everything that I have, no matter how precious. And my ideal closet size actually isn’t excessively large (at least in my mind). I like to have a certain number of items, and if I start to go too far over that amount, I get antsy and start getting rid of items. So it’s always been important for me to limit my purchasing. Here are some thoughts that have helped me.

1. Put a real limit on it. By real, I mean an actual number. At work, I get judged on my success in many areas by whether or not I meet certain numeric based targets. To keep my closet under control, I do the same thing – I give myself a target! Some of you may remember that I gave myself a resolution of only 25 new items added to my wardrobe for 2014. That’s the best way I’ve found to limit myself…and it helps that I have an idea of what I added in years earlier, so I have a relative sense of how feasible my targets are given my shopping proclivities.

A few readers commented that my resolution of 25 items didn’t have a budget limit, just a quantity. That’s what has specifically worked for me in the past – but someone else might want to use a dollar figure, or say only X pairs of shoes, etc. You should know yourself best!

2. Look at your past “multiples”. I have quite a few “multiples” of items in my wardrobes. I even did a post about some of them about two years ago! Some of them I love and adore, and am so glad that I bought several of. Some, I wish I had just stopped at one. Or to be honest, none. Those are the items which just ended up being caught up in the glow of a happy purchase. I thought I would love the sweater, or dress, or jeans, forever – so why not buy more?

If you look at your past multiple purchases however, you may be able to find some lessons about yourself. For example – for me, I generally have never regretted purchasing multiples of casual items, since I wear them often and they tend to get worn out faster. 5 inch tall Jimmy Choo pumps on the other hand? Maybe I didn’t need multiples of them…I only wear each of them once a year!

3. Remember why you bought your special items. I can remember when I bought my first Hermes bag (a Birkin) close to ten years ago, I said to myself that this was it. I had the king of bags, I could stop now and just wear this one forever.

It’s funny to hear how many other women have had this exact thought…and well, you know how that went, at least for me. You end up wanting another…and then another sounds good, too. When I’m in this situation, especially with an expensive item, I try to think back to the existing special items in my closet, and what made them so. Were they for a certain occasion, or to celebrate a certain accomplishment? Often, I remember the occasion and how excited I was when I got a certain item…and the desire for another wears off. I try to separate the thrill of acquisition, with the desire for the actual item itself.


Finally, my last piece of advice would be – don’t obsess, and sleep on it. There will always be beautiful items out there, tempting you to purchase them. Take some time to think about what you would like to add…and if it’s still singing to you days later, maybe it was meant to be! I can say that if you do end up passing on an item…chances are, you probably won’t regret it, especially if you’ve put some thought into the decision.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Lynette’s question? How do you manage your spending, and the number of items in your closet?

You Might Also Like

  • E
    June 30, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Great post!

    What helped me to control my urge to buy was to make a list of my wardrobe including accessories, shoes and clothing and visit my list every so often to see if I am wearing the clothing regularly or not.

    It is also good to see how much you spend on your weekend clothing and weekday clothing and look at your lifestyle. My mistake was that I spend a lot of money on my weekend and after work outfits and a very little amount on my professional outfits yet I go to work 5 days out of week.

    • Katherine
      June 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Great point about weekend versus weekday. I think a lot of us spend more on our “after work going out” than we should versus our actual work wear 🙂

  • Mod
    June 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I second E- this was a great post.

    I wholeheartedly agree that for most things, if you pass it up, you won’t regret it. I wanted my VCA pendant for such a long time and when it came time to buy it, it didn’t even cross my mind to pass it up. On the other hand, I’ve had many occasions at Nordstrom Rack where I had to remind myself that I would probably forget about the item a day or two later.

    Also- I know from experience that it’s crazy to buy “investment” pieces. I used to work in the fashion industry when I was in college and justified many outrageous purchases by telling myself that it was an “investment piece” and that it would come in so handy when x y or z happened. Needless to say, some of those xyz moments never came or when they did come, my tastes had changed. Now I remind myself that if I don’t have an occasion to use something within the foreseeable future (ie a couple months) I don’t need it.

    Lastly, I will always remember the interview you had with Belle in which she said:

    “So, even though I have two beautiful daughters, I do not buy my jewelry thinking I can pass it down to them. I know that it is very likely that they won’t be interested in my collection. So I just buy the pieces I love and that I think I will love in 10 years. If my daughters end up loving them too, then that’s just an added bonus.”

    Such a great reminder and a piece of common sense that we can overlook when shopping.

    • Katherine
      June 30, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Thank you! I feel the same way about Van Cleef…maybe they are more expensive so we think a little more about them. Good insight about the investment pieces and Belle is one of my favorites! She is a super lovely woman and very wise, I ask her about a lot of my jewelry purchases, lol.

  • cate
    June 30, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    This is a great post! Thanks for sharing your strategies for limiting purchases. I’ve been trying to figure this out for myself and right now I’m on a one-item-per-month limit (with no price limit). It’s not working out so great, so I’ll have to think about whether I should set a limit for the year instead. But definitely, just having a limit at all makes me think about a purchase so much more! And I am a total “multiples” buyer too.

    I like E’s idea of making a list of her wardrobe. Seeing it in writing is different than having inventory in my head. I also agree with Mod about changing tastes. Sometimes I have bought two of the same item (justification usually being a massive sale), and then find that a year or two down the road I don’t like that style any longer.

    BTW – on last Friday’s post I totally loved the Halogen Utility Vest…thought about it over the weekend and pulled the trigger this morning. Umm, it might be my July purchase. 🙂

    • Katherine
      July 2, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Cate! A list is a great idea…and I hope you like the vest, please share your experience!

  • Ammu
    July 1, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Such good advice. My top tip is to never buy in a hurry – I don’t always follow this advice, but it would have saved me some bad buying decisions. Luckily I never buy expensive items in haste, so the total cost of bad decisions doesn’t add up to a ton, but I still wish I had been smarter. If nothing else, I could have given that money to charity instead and the pay-off would have been so much better!

    • Katherine
      July 2, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Great point about charity and I feel the same way!

  • Kelly
    July 1, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Hi Katherine,

    Very timely post as we are in sales season! I like your suggestions as well as other readers’. My question is, I have tried putting a monthly limit on my wardrobe both item and cost wise, but I find myself doing lots of trades: returning something because I found something else I like more and cannot afford to/don’t want to keep both. The people at my local post office, FedEx, and UPS stores know me because I’m always shipping returns from there. Any ideas on how to break out of this cycle? Not browsing is not an option : )


    • Katherine
      July 2, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Oh dear. I understanding sometimes “trading” – I’m currently going through that right now with sale season, deciding what I like most. I guess I would say try and learn over time what just doesn’t work for you…there’s probably items you are ordering that you probably suspect wouldn’t work that you are trying to make work anyway 🙂

  • Anna
    July 1, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I was dead set on curbing my spending, but when I looked through my purchase list this is what I saw: 2 pairs of Jimmy Choo boots, a pair of Bottega Veneta heels, and a pair of Vince boots. Since June 1st.

    So much for that… Smh.

    Thank goodness your post came around.

    • Katherine
      July 2, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      That’s what sale season does! It’s been a bad month for me too 🙂

  • Sarah
    July 2, 2014 at 4:52 am

    What a fun post! Though I would have thought- the photo alone would be enough to get me limiting purchases…:-)

  • Abby
    July 2, 2014 at 7:31 am

    I find that being specific about what I need is a big help when I shop, i.e., more work tops with sleeves, weekend wear, etc. I try to match my purchases to my lifestyle (if I spend 50% of my time at work, 50% of the items I buy should be appropriate for work). I track it in excel, which has helped balance my closet and keeps me from buying lots of less useful items.

    I also focus on budget. I have a certain slush amount that I can devote to my wardrobe and if I notice things getting out of hand, I cool off for a while.

    • Katherine
      July 2, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      That’s a great way to think of it – and the slush fund idea is great.

  • Ava Lon
    July 2, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Dear Katherine,
    What a very thought-provoking post! I put my limit much the same way you do; I think about the real reason I want it and for how long I have wanted it and WHY I want it. Many friends and colleagues “want” items only to post it on their IG feed. Personally, that does nothing for me. I have also realized that once I obtain these coveted items, for some of them I don’t wear them as much as I THINK I would (e.g. LOVE bracelets and those screws to get them on and off).

    Create a bank account (or just use a jam jar as a piggy bank) where you sock away “spending money” for the remainder of the year. It’s July now, you’ve got about 6 months until the new year, put a cap on what that maximum is while considering what you plan to spend on personal travel and presents for the holidays. All this “output” should be something you are comfortable with and can financially manage.

    Simultaneously, really think about what it is you want. How often would you wear the item you want. Would the cost-per-wear at the current price really make it worth it or is it an item you just want to have and wear maybe once a year? Is that really worth it to you and can you afford it? Or would you rather spend that money on a great trip to a new locale?

    Lastly, something my close friends and I do is borrow. We all have similar tastes and while we might not agree on spending habits, e.g. a friend might want to spend money on a bag but not a coat and another vice versa, they can borrow or swap for a day providing size is not an issue. Hopefully this helps!

    ps-I am sure your readers would agree with me here — we would love to see what you got from the recent Chanel sale (if only to live vicariously!) 😀

    • Katherine
      July 2, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Ava thanks for the nice comment as always. I should set more of a budget with my spending – I do have an internal meter where I know not to go overboard although lately I’ve been pushing it 🙂 Borrowing is a great idea!

      I’ll try and post some photos of my sale items, maybe I will include some of the duds as well 🙂