My first true test came early Friday morning. I sat at my computer with my morning coffee and contemplated how my 401k contributions could improve stared at Buzzfeed. Then it happened. The email that on any normal day would have made my day. Reformation is having a sale. My first thoughts were a slew of swears aimed at myself for taking on a task so silly as “not buying clothes”. Then I realized that while I’m not “addicted” to shopping, I do fall for nearly every trick and treat retailers sell. SEMI-ANNUAL SALE! ONE WEEKEND ONLY! FLASH SALE! FREE SHIPPING! 50% OFF CLEARANCE!
It is so easy to think you are getting a good deal when in reality, you’re getting 50% off a bunch of stuff that no one wanted in the first place. This practice doesn’t stop at clothes – I’m entirely sure that if I had an eye for interior design I would be all over sales at Pottery Barn. Sales are designed to get rid of stock that has not sold, and/or to make room for new stock in general. This is why “End of Season” sales always have the twinge of desperation to them.
Remember that top that was $98? Well now it’s $24! That may sound like a steal, but think about what that means. That means that so many people didn’t want that top that the stock can be sold for a quarter of the original cost. That also means that the top wasn’t even worth that much in the first place.
“End of Season” sales are my own personal kryptonite. They fall into the first category of shopping: The Pieces. A sparkly tank here, a pair of yellow jeans there, rain boots. These are pieces bought on their own with no concept in mind. These are the things that we may actually need – my fiancee is forever in search of good black t-shirts. They are his staple, his go-to. He buys this piece because he needs it and wants it and knows it will look good and function. In my case – the piece I always buy – the sundress calls to me. I am a sucker for something light, flirty, fun, and totally work inappropriate. But I will buy this piece without a specific purpose in mind, and I will buy more than one when they all miraculously drop to fifty percent off.
The other kind of sale we see is the “Everyday Value” sale. Oh, these jeans are always buy-one-get-one half off because of their value! Macy’s pulls this kind of trick every single day. “Oh, you got a $10 off coupon in the mail? Well you can’t use it on ninety percent of the store and definitely not on shoes because those are priced low everyday.” That particular one drives my dad nuts.
“Everyday Value” is what traditionally leads me to the second category of shopping: The Purpose. I go out looking for a dress for an event, or I see an outfit on a model (or now, a random Instagrammer) and try to recreate it. I go seeking that pair of white jeans and chambray shirt because I like the concept as a whole. To use my fiancee as an example once more; we attended a wedding over the summer that had a dress code for the male guests: White button down, khaki linen bottoms, boat shoes. We found the linen pants (and a pair of shorts just in case the heat was too much), he had an army of white button downs from which to choose, and I made a beeline for the Sperry’s store. We had an outfit to buy, prices be damned. (As an aside, can I just say how amazing all the men looked at that wedding? The dress code worked and the outfit looked good on everyone. End aside)
Autumn is the best time to Shop With a Purpose. Fall fashion is always given the best spreads in magazines (think about the size of Vogue‘s September issue) because it is forever linked with the start to the school year – the “real” new year if you will. It’s the time when parents and students stock up on new clothes meant to last the rest of the year. Those button downs bought in September lasted you through the school year, so it stands to reason that the ones you buy in adulthood will do the same. We are taught this from a young age and in my case it truly stuck. I spend more every September than I do the rest of the year, no matter the sale. But a September sale? Forget it. I’m a goner.
So when I go to Reformation’s website and pick out the three dresses and one skirt that I had my eyes on four months ago, now nearly half the original cost, I have to fight the urge to add them to my basket. I know the plaid dress looks like it was made for me in every single way, but won’t that still be the case in a few months? Won’t some other store have something similar enough, that will look good enough, in January? After all, January is the end of one season and the beginning of another – at least according to the fashion world. Who knows, maybe then enough people will not have added it to their baskets that it will suddenly be ninety percent off, and then I can get nine of them.