Image: Paramount Pictures

Image: Paramount Pictures

There comes a time in every woman’s life when you must sit back, look at your credit card statement, and reassess your everything about how you spend money. For me, the revelation that I spend entirely too much money on things that I really don’t need came just around the holidays. On gloomy winter days, it just seemed fitting to spend the day inside a department store, where the warm florescent lights buzzed above my head and the makeup counter called my name.

And why not, right? I had a little extra cash and the holiday sales were just so good. 50% off shoes here, an extra 20% there… surely all of this was worth it. Even worse was when I headed for my favorite discount retailers, like DSW — somehow I had deluded myself into thinking that I needed two new pairs of black heels, plus one of the pairs in blue velvet, and then the pair of booties I was coveting, too.

What I apparently forgot about was that when you drop a decent amount of cash on a few pairs of discounted shoes, you are still spending money on shoes.

While I’d like to blame my shopping binge on the excessive consumerism that comes around the holidays, the truth is that this is a recurring pattern for me. I’m notoriously bad at controlling my impulses — of the buying variety, at least. Online shopping is the worst — particularly when there’s a supposedly great sale going on. You have no idea how many times I have dropped $50 on a few dresses, thinking that I got a made out like a sale shopping bandit, only to realize that I completely hate the dresses once they arrive in the mail (if they fit at all, that is.) Oh, and surprise! The stuff you order on super clearance is rarely refundable.

I’m making my way into adulthood and I really, really want to take control of my finances. It’s not that I’m completely irresponsible and spending beyond my means, but that doesn’t mean that the money I spend can’t go to a better place. Sure, maybe I can afford the pair of shoes I have been lusting after, but at what cost? Ultimately I know it’s more important to throw more money into my savings account — an account that I really need to buff up if I want to have financial security in the future.

So, under the encouragement of nearly everyone that I know, I decided to go on a shopping freeze. That means no more new stuff — or, rather, new stuff that I don’t need. I know that I have enough shoes and clothes to last me a long time. In fact, I have way, way too many clothes. There’s no reason that a person with the ability to clean her clothes needs to have so much stuff. I know that, logically, I’ve become a bit of a cog in the consumerism machine by giving in to my shopping habit, and I think it might be nice to see what life is like when I take myself out of it.

All of this was going fairly smoothly until I hit the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual sale.

Like I said, I’m impulsive. I had convinced myself that I needed lounging sweats and two new bras and also a V-neck tee shirt because I didn’t have any V-neck tees. I cracked my own self-made pact for loungewear. The price? Just about $50. A steal.

Normally, I would be thrilled by the concept of getting such a great sale. This time was different. I am keeping the clothes (I’m 99% sure they aren’t refundable) but the experience did make me realize that this shopping freeze is going to take a lot more discipline than I had geared up for. And it’s time that I took it seriously.

If it’s really important for me to save money, then I need to stop slipping up whenever I see a sale or a really gorgeous top. I’m not made of money, and what I spend it on reflects my priorities. It makes me a little sick to think that I am okay with throwing around money to satisfy my immediate impulses. I don’t want to be that person. If I continue on the path I’m down right now, I know that I’ll buy another pair of cute shoes or a dress that I’ll like even better than the one I bought before it. As much as I hate to admit it, I feel guilty for being so wasteful.

When I think of my shopping freeze this way, it makes me realize that, hard as it is, this freeze is worth it. Yes, I still get a bit of a rush whenever I see a red tag sale, or when I see that the spies over at Google have strategically placed ads for sales at Sephora in my browser. Truthfully, I do think that I’m missing a “chip” that controls some of my impulses (it’s why I really, really don’t want to get involved in gambling, as silly as that sounds). but it’s no longer an excuse — it just means that I need to make a more conscious effort to be financially responsible.

The shopping freeze is basically a way to force myself to look at my priorities. I know that I want to be financially independent and secure. I know that I want to feel in control of myself. And, yes, I still want to be able to live life to the fullest. That’s why, rather than spending money on material things, I’m going to spend any “fun” money that I put away into experiences that matter to me — experiences that I can share with friends and family and feel good about after they are over. I’d much rather grab dinner with friends and be able to laugh and talk than spend the extra money I make deep in an eBay bidding war over a pair of Michael Kors sandals (I lost, thank God).

The world keeps telling us to buy, buy, buy. I think I’m excited to finally say “No, thanks.”