How To Stop Buying Crap You Don’t Actually Need

One of the best nuggets of wisdom given by sartorial old hands to men early in their journey is “slow down”. Once you’re armed with some knowledge and start to get a bead on what you like, it’s tempting to go out and start buying up everything you feel you’re missing. We have all been there. It can feel like an avalanche. You think “I bought a sport coat, but now I need some trousers. And I need a nicer pair of shoes. And my shirts need upgrading. And this old tie simply won’t do. And now I need an overcoat.” And on and on until you’re in the poorhouse. The point of “slow down” is not only will you burn through your money quickly, but you probably won’t even like or use most of that stuff a few years down the line when you REALLY start to understand what works for you.

Unfortunately, the willy-nilly purchases don’t necessarily stop once you have some experience under your belt. As stylish men you’re all probably past that initial whirlwind phase and have settled comfortably into your own sense of what looks good on you.

But I bet you’re still wasting your money on crap you don’t need. Buying different variations of things you already have. One more of this. Another of that. It all feels a little empty. I do the same thing from time to time but I have found a pretty good way of curbing that impulse.

The key is to identify a hole in your wardrobe. If a certain thing fills that hole, then buy it. If not, let it go. The trick here is to make sure there IS actually a vacant area of your wardrobe and THAT is the hardest part. Here is an example…

Let’s say that while I am browsing a menswear site like Brooks Brothers, Spier and Mackay, or Poszetka, I stumble across a blue Donegal tweed sport coat that catches my eye. I’ll think to myself “Well, I don’t have a blue Donegal tweed sport coat and that one looks good”. You COULD say that I identified a hole in my wardrobe and would be justified in purchasing that sport coat.

But is that really a hole in my wardrobe? I already own a handful of tweed sport coats, although none of them are blue Donegal. Any of my other tweed sport coats could be worn in the exact same circumstances as the blue Donegal. It would simply be another option in my rotation of jackets. Is that really filling a hole? Do I really need that new sport coat? No, I don’t. I just saved a few hundred dollars.

This is what I mean about identifying an ACTUAL hole in your wardrobe.

Recently, I have identified that I would like to have a pair of boots that is rugged enough for everyday wear but can be cleaned up nicely to be worn with business casual (tweed jacket, OCBD, sweater, chinos). Something like an Alden wingtip boot. Boots are more practical than dress shoes for where I live (where it gets muddy and snowy) and the boots I currently own are very casual (think work boots) and don’t play as well with smarter tailoring. This is an example of doing it right. It’s not like I am buying a pair of Chelsea boots, or something, because I don’t currently own a pair of Chelsea boots. I might buy a pair of water-resistant Chelsea boots with a more aggressive sole because I need to slog to the office and my dress shoes won’t cut it. See the difference?

It sounds silly but this thought exercise has helped me save a lot of money. I track all my spending and my yearly spend on personal things (mostly clothes) has gone down dramatically over the past couple years. I don’t just look at purchases as “I don’t have that. I want it. I will buy it.” (if I can afford it, obviously), I really examine what this potential new purchase will bring to the table. Nine out of ten times I own something already that does the exact same job. It might just be folded up in the back of the closet and doesn’t have the sex appeal of a new purchase.

Because the more stuff I accumulate, the less satisfied I am with it. That’s why being as ruthless as possible when it comes to new purchases is especially satisfying. Once I determine that the item in question isn’t filling any sort of hole, I immediately stop wanting it.

This tactic also helps me be less reactive and less receptive to sales and marketing efforts. In the past I would open the emails from certain companies just to “see what they have”. Not anymore. Unless I know specifically that I am on the lookout for such-and-such an item I know a company probably carries, I won’t even bother looking at their email. Why would I? I don’t actually NEED anything from them. And I am not going to let THEM tell ME what I need, thank you very much.

Armed with this mindset, I actively identify what I need, seek it out, get it, and use it. That’s pretty much the polar opposite of mindlessly browsing, having something pique my interest, deciding I kind of want it, and then adding it to the pile of unnecessary junk I already own.

It’s actually very relaxing to not always be on the hunt for the next thing. I imagine most of you are past that early stage where you need to remind yourself to “slow down”. But we are all always in danger of falling prey to the “just a little bit more” mentality. You already know this, but that recent purchase probably won’t make you feel happy for very long. You have kids and that money can be much more thoughtfully spent. Not to say that you shouldn’t indulge now and then. You work hard and should treat yourself occasionally. I just think we should all just relax and realize what we actually “need” is pretty limited.

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply