How Shopping For Stories Can Change Your Spending

During the summer, it can get a little tricky to exercise self-control. I'm not even talking about all the ice cream trucks and open patio bars — that's a whole other topic entirely. I'm thinking more about how shopping for summer clothes can be an activity that can wildly (terrifyingly) snowball on you if you let it. And temptation is everywhere. Girls with floppy hats and cateye sunglasses pass you by on the street. Women with jumpsuits and minimalist sandals push shopping carts ahead of you, sit underneath patio umbrellas next to you. Girls with maxi dresses the colors of strawberries and kiwis race past you up the subway steps and their long, sheer hems catch your eye as you push through revolving doors into work. Summer brings a world of sartorial goodness, and it can seem like every woman in every city has the killer instincts of Anna Wintour when getting dressed in the morning and stepping out into the May sun.

And you want to join in. Man oh man how you want to join in. As you lay out the beginning stages of your Summer of Debt 2015 plan, your wallet takes its cue to begin silently weeping. It can be super hard to learn how to exercise self-control with shopping once summer hits, and I used to be right there with you with my nose pressed up against the pretty display windows. I was willing to take any dress back home that called me pretty, and anything with a flirty hem and a mess of flowers had every right to my heart.

But as you can imagine, that got to be a little rough after a while. After a short while. My closet was overflowing with pieces that I’d only wear once during the season or, worse, not at all. I’d have dresses that were cute but didn’t feel special, I had maxis that seemed to resemble other midis hanging right next to them, and I had a whole lot of options without a whole lot of excitement behind them.

I had stuff, and only stuff.

After choosing to put on yet another striped shift dress I felt indifferent about, that’s when I decided to change things around. I’ll always have a love for pretty things, and I’ll always sigh wistfully when I see a beautiful woman in a beautiful dress. But that doesn’t mean I have to own said dress, does it? Instead, I began to contemplate what exactly it is about a great dress that pulls at my heart. What about it can make my hands itchy enough to hand over the bulk of my grocery money? What about it makes me fall into a little love affair? And after a while, I discovered that it wasn’t so much the happy colors or the playful patterns. It was the part it played in my story.

When I put a dress on, it’s hard not to think of the story I could have while in it. We never think, “Oh, this would be just perfect to pump gas in,” because no, we like to fill our lives with living poetry and sweet daydreams. Instead I think, Would I wear this to a beach picnic with my friend and his dog, sneaking champagne inside of soda cans? The pastel stripes would look just like the pushpops we’d eat as we’d bury our toes in the hot sand. Or, Would this be perfect to wear to get a dinner of desserts on the patio at that one restaurant — the one with the fairy lights crisscrossing to make a roof against the Tuesday night sky? Better yet, Would this be just what I need to spend an afternoon in the bookstore, taking in the dust and the thoughts that sit quietly on top of book cases, carefully deciding which lives to jump into for an afternoon?

When getting ready, we always choose a piece that will fit the mood of the day we're about to have — one dress is just perfect for a drink at the Gatsby-esque Drake Hotel, and another fits like a glove for a dinner ordering from a food truck and eating tacos on the curb. Everything is a scene, a chapter, and you write it. And when you shop with stories in mind, you find yourself being pickier as to what fits your story.

Simple floral dresses will no longer do because they don't add much oomph to how you feel in the middle of the scene. The same striped top you own five times over has lost its appeal. That skater skirt won’t really do the trick to bring the moment to perfection. You get particular because you only want to invite the most special into your life.

And by keeping these beautiful life moments in mind, you don't shop to fill a void or just to pass the time — you shop to enhance or add to the beauty of those scenarios. The physical items don't matter as much — the moment of you sitting there, smiling there, enjoying your time there — is what takes importance. Your outlook changes and you no longer crave beauty so much in the physical; you don't want to own things just to own them. You crave the beauty in you and what you could create for yourself.

So create with intention, and pick only that which will add color to your memories. You'll be happier for it.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy