Back in 2009, I watched a film called “Confessions of a Shopaholic” (film was based on the Shopaholic novels by Sophie Kinsella).
If you’ve never seen it, breakdown:
It’s about a girl named Rebecca Bloomwood, who’s a writer and because of her shopaholic ways ends up thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt. Not to mention she starts writing articles for a financial magazine about being responsible about your finances and wellllll ohhh the irony seeing that she is flooded with never ending debt.
Basically my life story without the designer wardrobe, less accumulated debt, or the handsome Hugh Dancy.
While I did absolutely enjoy the film, I at the time of the films release could not possibly relate. Actually, I just absolutely refused to relate. My spending wasn’t that out of hand. I had an absolute handle on my finances. Sure I didn’t have money. Sure I spent every paycheck on unnecessary things, but I wasn’t spending $325 a check on various handbags or shoes. I was in control of my money, in control of my life. The only thing I absolutely learned from that movie, wasn’t to save money. No. Not at all. What I learned was that I needed to step my wardrobe game up.
At the time of the film’s release I was 27, recently getting over a broken heart and you guessed it broke. I had a very good job, making really great money (great money that I knew how to spend). I worked literally 5 minutes away from my home and I should have been content. I should have been fine with the cards I had before me. Sadly once you start the process into your late 20s you become disillusioned with your current state and start thinking of the past. At least thats what I did. Processing a broken heart is a long process to begin with, processing a broken spirit can take a lifetime. I was in the middle of both problems. I was unhappy with my life, unhappy with the state of my solitude and started a downward spiral of spending.
Here was my situation:
While making money is great (Honestly who doesn’t like making money), my job wasn’t my ideal job. For the past 12 years, I had worked more than 10 different jobs and never felt any of those jobs fit who I was. I had been working non-stop since I was 14, I needed a change. What a normal motivated individual my age would have done was figured out a way out of that slump. Either finding work in a different industry or just figuring some aspect of a plan. Had I been in a right state of mind I would have done that. Since I was still completely heartbroken, I found myself drowning myself in work and trying as much as I could to occupy my time. Work helped with the forgetting but it also made my life miserable. Honestly I didn’t know what I wanted as a career. I was finding some amusement keeping with a blog but nothing too spectacular. I loved photography but honestly I had grown tired of taking everyone’s picture. I was burnt out. I had been a nanny, telemarketer, admin assistant, executive assistant, personal assistant, receptionist, claims specialist, hostess, sales assistant, general store clerk, and all before the age of 27. I needed a new beginning. I needed a different change of pace. I also needed a new wardrobe in order to go into my new life.
Somewhere I had heard that to start fresh you need to get rid of the old and start purchasing the new. Purge yourself of your old life and make way for a crisp clean new beginning. Here I wanted a new life, something to get me out of this slump I was in. I wanted something that would make my outsides look fabulous that would in turn make my insides feel good. Equipped with various subscriptions to different varieties of magazines (Elle, Vogue, W) for inspiration and a new spending account, I was well on my way to a new start. Therefore I started with the first place I would get the most notice, my wardrobe.
My average paycheck from my employer at the time was around $1225 bi-weekly. I was making roughly around $612.50 a week. Coming from working at jobs where I was averaging $300 a week from temping, seeing $1225 on my check was good money. While I had always had a passion for fashion, I could never really afford the beautiful luxuries I loved in the magazines. Sure I’d splurge on a great pair of designer sunglasses (Dior “Glossy” $325, Marc Jacobs “Terry” $325, Dior “AviaDior” $425, etc), but owning a pair of Louboutins was just ridiculous. With the help of the wonderful world of Ebay, Ebay helped me obtain all my designers needs for a fraction of the cost. Then you have to put into account that a lot of H&M’s were opening up in shopping malls near me, the complete access of online shopping, on top of the Ebaying, that’s how it all began. Since I was convinced that owning new things would be the first start to changing my well being, I had a spending no-holds-bar-free-for-all. Lets break this down to the theory of emotions. A majority of everything I buy is based on emotions, during this excess spending there was no exception.
With a large collection of monthly magazine subscriptions, I started reading various articles of ways to get over a broken heart. One of them happened to be: “To get over a past relationship, rid yourself of anything that reminds you of your past relationship“. The article went into detail about things you should keep, things you shouldn’t keep and a variety of those items of course had to do with wardrobe. Since I was extremely broken hearted, I got rid of anything that reminded me of the past. Instead of getting rid of it, in the way of donations I found ways to make a profit of my heartbreaking items. I started selling everything. Craigslist became a huge factor and when items wouldn’t sell on craigslist I would sell on ebay. I didn’t care if I made my money back, I just wanted to get rid of things that reminded me of the past. Anything that was a memory of a sad time in my life, I wanted completely out of my house. I didn’t need this bad juju going into my new start, my fresh beginning. With the profits of my sellings, I started buying new things. Things that were going to improve my well being, my new fresh start.
The Spending Breakdown:
My monthly income: $2450
My monthly expenses (phone, insurance, credit card bills, gas): $382
Miscellaneous expenses (going out, restaurants, coffee): $344
Just my expenses alone: $726 a month
My “New beginning” spending income: $1724
Sales from Ebay/Craigslist monthly: $300 +
Neiman Marcus: $375
Urban Outfitters: $100
Total Left over from Spending: $124
My monthly expenses allowed me to have a spending cushion of about $1724, to which I used to my advantage. Problem with that spending cushion was that I wasn’t budgeting any of that. I wasn’t putting more money to my minimum payment on either of my credit cards. I wasn’t even properly saving money. How I saw my check bi-weekly was $1225, the lump sum of the week where I had endless possibilities. Instead of budgeting my expenses or cutting costs in items I didn’t need, I spent more. On top of the need to change for my new beginning, more excess spending started happening. Upon reading all these “life changing” articles in various magazines, I found myself spending even more. A few items from Urban Outfitters, A few designer dresses from Ebay, unlimited amounts of new products from Sephora. My room started to look like a UPS shipping center. Items were coming in and leaving just the same. For every one thing I sold, I bought two items in it’s place. If I sold a Marc by Marc Jacobs dress (purchased for $325, sold for $100), I bought 2 more dresses (Ebay find: Marc by Marc Jacobs Dress $100, BCBG Dress $295). While I saw income coming in, none of it was making any profit. Since I was spending the money before I had any chance of making a profit, I was left more broke then when I started. Somehow I didn’t care. I was so completely numb from heart break that I didn’t realize that my $1225 dollar paycheck was leaving me only $100 until my next paycheck. Instead of saving that $100 dollars, I did what any irresponsible person would do. I spent it. I went from having a $1225 dollar paycheck to having only $100 dollars for two weeks. All in the name of a broken spirit and new beginnings. No matter how many times my parents told me to save my money. The countless times I had to ask for a handout to get me out of my overdraft hell, I couldn’t stop spending. The spending like much of my life was completely out of control. Yet somehow I wasn’t Rebecca Bloomwood status. I was still keeping up with all my payments and even if that meant my account would overdraft, all of my personal expenses were always paid on time. I didn’t have any bill collectors calling about my debts. While I did have debts, I paid just enough to cover my expenses. Yet never enough to fully be out of the hole.
Left to Right: BCBG Sequined Dress $295, H&M Dress $29.95,Topshop dress $59.90, Robert Rodriguez Dress $99, H&M Dress $34.95.
Budgeting was a word that did not exist in my vocabulary. I was looking great. I had great clothes, great accessories, therefore people started to take notice. My once conservative way of dressing, turned into a more colorful approach to fashion. My wardrobe went from only a few key pieces to an assortment of stylish must haves. The more people complimented my ensemble, the more I felt the need to buy. It got to the point where I stopped finding the need to get rid of items and started to keep them. I state that I’m an emotional shopper because while I was purchasing things for my new start/new beginnings I was still miserable. I wanted to fill the void of my unhappiness that I found myself spending more money to obtain this happiness. The only time I had ever felt a pure sense of happiness was buying something. Because buying beautiful things meant something big was around the corner. With every new purchase I found myself wearing only a fraction of what I bought. For every 7 things I bought, 2 would be worn religiously. 3 would be kept for “special occasion” purposes, still with tags. The remaining 2 items would never be worn and just be hidden in the closet until I do my yearly donations, and still with the price tags. The $300 dollars or so I would spend at the store and wear only about $60 dollars worth of the purchase. I would be left $240 shoppers defeat and $240 dollars out of my account and deeper in the hole. It was this need for the luxurious things that will make my life better. So I thought. When you start maxing out your credit cards all for the “love” of fashion your realize that something eventually has to give. In the course of that time I had managed to spend a little over $3,000 in the course of 4 months. 4 months! If I wasn’t going out every weekend or buying everything I could get my hands on, I was paying off debts and finding ways to make more money.
What I should have done was asked for help. I should have talked to someone the moment any or all of this emotional bullshit was happening. I didn’t, I thought this was a problem I needed to solve myself. The only way I could resolve any issue I had, was with spending thousands of dollars on bullshit purchases. It was more than just the spending, it was this emotional void that I thought I was filling with buying beautiful things. Looking at that part of my life as the person I am now, I just wondered why no one shook me and said what I was doing was wrong. Nothing I was feeling internally could be solved throwing money at a problem. No matter how much a bag, scarf, jacket, or sunglasses cost, while beautiful it may be was never going to ever make my insides feel better. While my spending has since downscaled since the Shopaholic Storm of 07. I can’t help but look at a lot of the items from that time period and think “Man I spent 400 bucks on this?”.
While I may not have had the supreme spending power as Rebecca Bloomwood, I did feel the void she did. Just that notion that all of our saddest darkest moments could be solved with a credit card and a shopping spree at Bendel’s. Thousands of dollars in debt later we both realized that, none of that was healthy. No amount of beautiful items will ever make us happy (as much as we didn’t want to believe it). The temporary happiness we get from buying things can never silence how we feel on the inside. While it took Rebecca Bloomwood about midway through the film to realize her mistakes (probably longer in the books), it has taken me a few years to realize my wrong doing. I get it. We live, we learn, and we save up money to pay off our debts. We all have to grown up sometime. While I may not have been vocal about my problems in the past, it’s good to get a handle of my emotional needs now a days. I know I am not perfect, I never pretended to be. Eventually we all find ways to bring our happiness back with out the need of material things. At the end of the film Rebecca eventually found a way to be happy and debt free. Soon, so will I.