Living with credit

Don’t buy it if you don’t love it

Emily Crone

As I’ve previously confessed, I am an impulse shopper. While I don’t shop very often, whenever I’m at Target, I can’t help but buy a few cute tops. When I go to Barnes & Noble to buy one book, I leave with three. When I’m at CVS to get a bottle of shampoo, I somehow always leave with a basketful of crap. I’m dangerous. Or, I was.

I recently discovered my need for an emergency fund to reduce reliance on credit cards. I also realized how much I want to be able to travel, and how little money I have to do that. So I’ve begun a financial overhaul.  I’m attempting to curb the impulse buys and focus on saving while selling some of the purchases I shouldn’t have made that are cluttering my apartment. Especially because I just learned that clutter makes you fat. I thought I would also make some money back in the decluttering process, but boy was I wrong.

Unless it’s made by Balenciaga or includes a diamond, I’ve learned the hard way that trying to make money from selling your stuff is not lucrative — even if the tags are still attached. My advice to prevent the frustration I’ve recently experienced: leave the credit card at home and don’t buy things you don’t need or like in the first place, or if you slip up and buy them, return them immediately.

I’ll give you some examples as to why this is good advice. I bought a funky button-up shirt from Target a few months ago that seemed like a great purchase at the time.  The problem was that the only one remaining at the store was a bit too big, so I ordered a smaller size online. When it came and I tried it on, it fit a little funny, but I figured I’d eventually wear it.

Nope; never did. A few months later, it was still hanging in my closet with tags on, too late to return it. Fed up with my decision, this past weekend I brought it, along with a bag full of other clothes I never wear but failed to sell on eBay (people there don’t always want your crap, either), to Buffalo Exchange.

For those who have never been, it’s a hipster’s paradise where you can buy previously worn clothes/shoes/accessories, or sell your stuff to them for cash or store credit. I went in there with my bag of what I thought was nice clothes, including a cute skirt with tags still on, but the snooty “buying expert” with too many piercings only wanted one thing: the Target button-up shirt. Even with the tag hanging from the sleeve indicating its price of almost $20, she wrote on the slip that its value there was $9. My options were $3 cash or $4 store credit. I wanted to shoot myself in the foot for not returning the shirt to Target the moment I realized it didn’t fit. What made me think I’d ever wear it?

I previously tried to sell an expensive, bulky, hand-knit Express sweater on eBay for very cheap, but nobody wanted it. It makes me wonder why I wanted it. Who wants to look like a huge pink marshmallow? Not me –especially in Texas. I have successfully sold a few clothes on eBay, but when you’re only making a few bucks, the onslaught of fees eat up most of the profit, rendering it nearly no better than donating it to Goodwill for a tax deduction.

While I don’t have an excessive amount of reading material, I did have a decent amount of textbooks that my university’s bookstore wouldn’t buy back, and some older books I’d never read again that were just taking up space. I brought a whole moving box of literature to one of my local Half Price Books stores a few months ago, thinking I’d walk away with a nice wad of cash and more space at home.

I was mistaken about the cash part. I left with $3. I wouldn’t have been much worse off had I just donated the books. I’ve sold used CDs in the past, and those don’t usually sell for much, either.

Here is what I’ve learned: Before you buy something, if you hear that little voice in your head say, “If I don’t like it, I can always sell it on eBay (or Buffalo Exchange, or wherever),” DON’T BUY IT. Most items are like cars — as soon as they’re bought new, their value plummets. The unworn skirt I tried to sell at Buffalo Exchange was worth $18. That item was attractive and brand new but I couldn’t find anything to match it, so I figured I’d be able to sell it since the tags were still on. But neither eBay shoppers nor Buffalo Exchange buyers wanted it. I could have saved $18 if I’d never bought it in the first place, or returned it immediately after I realized I had no shirts that would match it.

I’ve reformed. Impulse shopping is a handicap I can overcome.  I will no longer buy something I just kind of like. I won’t buy clothing if it doesn’t fit quite right, because I won’t ever wear it. I no longer have the assurance that I can just sell something elsewhere if I forget to return it in time. I’ve lost tons of money every time I’ve tried it. I will stick to my shopping list. If I ever forget this and feel my impulse shopping tendencies bubble back up to the surface, it’s time to leave the credit cards at home.

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  • Impulse buying can be the downfall of every careful budgeter… similar to impulse eating. The Oprah story you linked to was very interesting – though de-cluttering seems insurmountable, broken down by room, it’s not that bad.