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5 Shopping Mistakes We All Make…and How to Stop

October 17, 2018

Since I began writing this style blog in March, I’ve been shopping a lot more than in the past. And really, out of necessity, shopping for clothing has become somewhat of a science for me. Even though I return a lot of what I preview for you here at Dressed for My Day, I still try to shop smart. And because this is now my job, I have a little more time to dedicate to shopping than I did before, too.

5 Shopping Mistakes

In fact, I’ve realized that I’d been making some mistakes in my shopping strategy – or lack thereof – before. So I thought I’d share with you today 5 shopping mistakes I’d been making and how I’ve corrected them. See if you’ve ever made the same mistakes.

Shopping Mistake #1 – Not Shopping Strategically

This is undoubtedly the mistake I have made the most often. Why? Because at the root of it all, I just love pretty clothes. I really do. I used to be ashamed of that fact. It felt so worldly and frivolous to have an affinity for pretty clothes and accessories. But I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that loving pretty clothes is no worse than my dad loving antique cars or my husband loving college football or my mom loving pretty dishes. What is shameful is loving them so much that I think I then have to own them all. Ha!

So I’ve taught myself to say, out loud if necessary, “That is a gorgeous dress, but I do not need to own it in order to appreciate it.” And that has saved me from some hasty purchases. But that little mantra is not enough.

Optimally, I need to have two things to help me shop strategically instead of just buying things I fall in love with. I need a style aesthetic and a list of essentials.

First, I need to know my style aesthetic. I need to decide if I want to dress in a way that is classic or sporty or romantic or professional or cute or relaxed or you name it. And I don’t have to limit my decision to one word, but I do need to have a basic description of my personal style under my belt so that I can stay within those boundary lines – even if the lines are drawn really wide! – when I’m shopping for new pieces to add to my wardrobe.

Second, I need to have a list of wardrobe essentials that keeps me within those boundaries. For my subscribers I have created two lists of wardrobe essentials (one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter) that we can keep and follow, so that we know what we have in our closet and what we need to add. We can mark out things we don’t need because of where or how we live, but these essentials serve as a framework for a wardrobe that functions beautifully.

Bottom line? When I shop according to my personal style aesthetic and my wardrobe essentials list, I won’t buy duplicates or unnecessary items that don’t fit my lifestyle.

(If you’d like to receive my Fall/Winter & Spring/Summer Wardrobe Essentials Lists, I invite you to subscribe to my email list. You can learn more here. Subscribers, you may use your password and access the lists at the Freebies for Subscribers Page.)

Shopping Mistake #2 – Catching Sale Fever

There’s a difference between catching a sale and catching sale fever. My bet is you know that and that you’ve fallen victim to the latter before, too. After all, retailers are pros at creating a viral buzz when it comes to their sales. They know how to make you feel left out if you don’t cash in.

But just because there’s a big sale doesn’t mean I need to buy big. In the past, catching sale fever has led me to buy items I didn’t really need or even want just because they were marked down so low. But just because something is a good buy doesn’t mean that I need to buy it. When you add together a lot of “great buys” that don’t really contribute anything to my own style aesthetic it all adds up to one big waste of money.

The solution? Keep a list of your style essentials – the items that you find to be essential for your own lifestyle and fashion aesthetic – and know if you need to update or replace something. For instance, I know that a denim jacket is one of my style essentials. I’ve worn one for years and I love to pair it with both casual and dressier pieces. But at one time a few years ago I ended up with three of them in my closet because two of them were “a great buy.” That was a mistake. Now I only have my original Levi’s jacket in my closet again and I don’t even look at others…regardless of how much they may be marked down.

Second, know the current trends and decide how much you want to invest in them. So if you want to incorporate some leopard print into your wardrobe, for instance, decide how much you’re willing to buy into that trend ahead of time. And stop there.

For instance, tomorrow I’m posting about two ways to wear camouflage this fall and winter. But I’ve already returned one of the pieces I’m featuring. I don’t need more than one camo piece in my wardrobe, and you better believe I only purchased it when it was marked down 50%. So even though the other piece was a steal at Steinmart, I returned it.

Bottom line? Shop strategically and avoid sale fever.

Shopping Mistake #3 – Buying One-and-Dones

One-and-dones are those articles of clothing or accessories that you can only wear one way or with one other piece in your closet. My mother raised me to steer clear of such purchases, but I’ve veered away from her advice more than once, I’m sorry to say.

I remember last year I fell in love with a pair of suede fuchsia loafers at Talbots. I just had to have them. Ahem. So I purchased them along with a Talbots novelty sweater that featured a tiny bit of the same color of fuchsia in the print. Of course, I figured I’d have other things in my closet to wear with the loafers, too. But I was wrong. In fact, I tired of the novelty sweater quickly and I hardly wore those bright fuchsia shoes at all. I still have them in my closet and I will wear them, dadgumit, but they were not a wise purchase.

Recently, when I purchased the plaid pants and pink cashmere sweater I featured in this post, I was oh so tempted to buy the pink suede pumps paired with the same outfit in the catalog. But, fortunately, they were sold out in my size and I bought the navy ones instead. I was saved from making another huge mistake. Those pink pumps would have been one-and-dones for sure.

Bottom line? When purchasing a new item – pants, top, shoes, jewelry, scarf, etc. – ask yourself if you have at least three items you can wear with it. If you are planning on strategically buying two items to wear with it and you already have one at home, that’s fine. But just make sure you can wear it with more than one thing in your closet.

Shopping Mistake # 4 – Not Shopping Online

It took me a while to get used to shopping online. It felt risky at first. So I stuck with shopping at brick and mortar shops.

But here are some important facts to consider about online shopping. For the most part, online shopping is completely safe now. You do need to be careful to change passwords occasionally and of course you need to stick with reputable retailers. But major stores have as much at stake as you do, and they’re very careful to protect your credit card information.

Second, retailers often offer sale days that are exclusively online. Third, many retailers that I enjoy shopping, including Talbots, Chico’s and Ann Taylor, offer certain items or colors of items only online. They’re listed as online exclusives.

And fourth, and perhaps most importantly, when I shop online I’m actually more thoughtful about the process. In the store I sometimes feel rushed or I give in to the pressure from a sales person to buy things I don’t need or really want. When I’m shopping from my computer I can put things in my “shopping cart,” walk away from it, come back the next day and decide then if I really need the items. Almost every time I shop online I delete at least half of what I originally added to my order, and often I delete it all. So I’m really more intentional and wiser when I shop online.

The bottom line? Shopping online gives me more options, but it also provides a measure of accountability that helps me shop more strategically.

Shopping Mistake #5 – Waiting Until the Last Minute

If I’m going on a trip for which I need special walking shoes, a heavier coat than I normally wear, a swimsuit or a special occasion dress, I’m wise to shop early as possible. When I wait until the last minute to make an out-of-the-ordinary purchase, I’m stuck with buying something too expensive or something that doesn’t really thrill me. Then I get less wear out of it.

I’m sure I have plenty of examples of falling prey to this common mistake. But this time let me share an example of when I actually got it right. Last year I had a fall wedding to attend. While I had plenty of dresses in my closet, I didn’t really have one suitable for a semi-formal wedding, so I knew I wanted a new dress for the occasion.

For once I was smart. Although the wedding was scheduled for October, I decided to look for a dress in March that would be suitable for both Easter and the autumn wedding. I found this gorgeous royal blue lace sheath dress that worked perfectly for both occasions, and, to top it off, it was on sale. Win! (I featured that dress in this post, and the dress is available again this year, too, and in several shades.)

The bottom line? When I know I have a unique purchase ahead of me, I need to begin shopping for it early so that I have more to select from and can potentially even hit a sale.

Wrapping it up

Have you made any of these shopping mistakes? Or am I the only one who has made, not one, but all of them? Ha! Well, let’s do our best to shop smart, ladies. Let’s be good stewards of what we’ve been blessed with and make wise choices. Yes, let’s have and wear some beautiful clothes that make us feel pretty and influential and smart. But let’s keep out of our closet those one-and-dones, those hasty purchases and those things that don’t really fit our style aesthetic.

Which tip do you need to incorporate right away? And do you have additional tips you’d like to add for our benefit? I’d love to hear from you!

And if you enjoyed today’s post or gained anything from it, I hope you’ll pin it to one of your Pinterest boards and share it on Facebook. Thanks so much for spending time here today. Have a great day!

Blessed for My Day

Lord, help us to be good stewards of the money you have helped us to earn. Help us to appreciate the pretty things we see, both in the stores and on others. But help us to resist the notion that we need to own everything we love. Help us to shop smart, so that we are able to dress beautifully, but we’re also left with resources to contribute to our churches, to help others, to give generously, to save for a rainy day and to enjoy the world you’ve created.

She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future. ~ Proverbs 31:20-25

I have used some affiliate links in the post above for your shopping ease and so that I may earn a commission if you purchase items through them, but at no cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting my work here and my effort to help women in their 50s and beyond to dress for their day – staying stylish, relevant and influential – so they can contribute positively to the world around them.

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xoxo, Kay
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20 thoughts on “5 Shopping Mistakes We All Make…and How to Stop

  1. Of course, I’ve done these all. i think that’s why I like getting older, because I’ve already made the mistakes, and I’m learning from them. Of course I still get impulsive at times!!!
    Great breakdown, Kay.
    I hope you’re feeling better?? I had a headache these last two days too. I just returned from the chiropractor, so hopefully it’ll get better!

    1. Hi Jodie, Yes I’m feeling much better today. I think the headache was probably weather related. And the clouds we had yesterday have moved on out. Thanks so much!

  2. Great advice, Kay. I have also made all of those mistakes. More than once! I think finding your personal style and sticking with that makes it easier (#1 above). Keep these coming!!

    1. I agree, Becky. I just sometimes get in a store, surrounded by all the pretty things, and I completely forget to shop for my own style aesthetic. Suddenly I want to wear all the things! Romantic, classical, relaxed and natural, you name it! Ha! But I’m really working at trying to stay in my own lane these days. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Today’s post is particularly helpful to me. Having an essential list and knowing my style will help to keep me from buying things I will not wear. Your posts do not ever make me feel like I need to have a bigger clothing budget than I do, and I enjoy seeing you wear the same items in different ways. Thank you!

    1. Oh, I’m so glad to hear these things, Patty. Thanks so much for sharing and providing some positive feedback. I really appreciate it!

  4. Hi, Kay. I’m interested in your wardrobe essentials lists but don’t see them under what shows up after I enter the password. Can you please clue me in? Thanks so mch!

    1. Hi Jena, The lists are at the very bottom of the Freebies page. It’s just links; there are no graphic images of the pages. But if you click on the links, you’ll pull up the pages in another tab. Hope that helps.

  5. Really great post Kay. I’ve learned from all these mistakes too. Now that I’m retired from banking, i dont need to buy work clothes. I’m on a quest to shop my closet first and find different ways to wear my items. I get so many ideas on how to put outfits together from looking at the catalogs i get in the mail. EX. TALBOTS. I see their outfit modeled and i say ” I have those similar pants, I never thought of wearing “a top or jacket like that with it. ” Also, sometimes just pinning items on my Pinterest boards makes me feel like I just went shopping without buying.

    1. Yes, I get great ideas just from looking at the sale catalogs, too, Cindi. That’s a great point. We have to be careful not to lust after everything we see, but see it as an example and a tool instead. So wise. And I think it’s cool that just pinning an outfit to your Pinterest board is satisfying to you. One of the little tricks I’ve used is this blogging venture. When I really want to keep something…like the dress I featured Tuesday…but I don’t really need it, I just tell myself, “well you got to wear it for a few minutes and have your picture taken in it. What more do you need?” And that seems to suffice! He, hee!

  6. I find your posts to be so helpful. I have made all of those mistakes, and some recently. I love your encouragement and down to earth advice. I never feel like I am missing out if I don’t immediately buy what you are styling that day, but more that you are giving me ideas for myself. I especially appreciate your BFMD. Thank you so much for all of the work you put into your posts. It shows

    1. Oh, I’m so glad to hear this. You know, I really want this blog to be a warm and encouraging community for women. We don’t need anything else that makes us feel less than or behind. So I’m glad to hear that you feel encouraged and equipped after visiting and reading. That is so affirming to me. Bless you!

  7. Helpful tips! I’ve certainly gotten smarter about shopping the last few years, but I did make a mistake in the spring this year. It was in April and I went shopping for a dress to wear to a summer wedding in Texas in June. The problem is, I live in Austria, and even a lot of the spring and summer dresses tend to be made of a heavier material because it doesn’t usually get that hot here. I bought a beautiful dress that would have been appropriate for a wedding in Austria, but for an outdoor (!) wedding in Texas, it was just too heavy, so when I arrived in Texas 3 days before the wedding, I went shopping again for a lighter-weight dress. Fortunately, the one I found was only $20!

    1. Well yay for a save-the-day sale! That’s a good story, Alison. Because we do have to do a little research every now and then. Yes, I went on vacation to the Pacific Northwest coast this summer and was completely under dressed. And I’ve been there before many times, so I should have known better. But I froze! And I had to borrow and wear my daughter’s clothing the entire time I was there. So I can certainly relate to your story!

  8. Thanks for these reminders. I have one to add. If it doesn’t fit properly, don’t buy it no matter how much you want it. I am 5’10” and bought things that were too short or purchased a bigger size trying to get extra length. I always regret it. Fit is essential!

    1. Yes, Vicky! That is so true. I’ve done the same thing. I’ve especially run into this with shoes. I’ve bought size 10s or 9s when I always only wear a 9.5, and I’ve regretted it later. Fit is so important! Thanks for mentioning that.

  9. Yes Kay done each mistake you list. My challenge is to dress for retiree lifestyle after wearing classics for decades. Dislike sloppy dressing, but must continually remind myself to not dress ‘high end’ either. Appreciated your prayer.

    1. I hear you, Cimmie. I actually love office clothing, but don’t really need it since I work from home. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that! 🙂