Shopping Wish List · Year-Long Shopping List

Avoiding Shopping Fails: Planning Ahead

Following my latest series about shopping failures (part one and part two), I thought I’d share what I’m trying to do to avoid these errors. Having few(er) items in my collection has meant to me that each piece I purchase has to spark joy. It has to fill a gap. I have to want to wear it for many more days to come. No pressure!

I hope that by sharing my plan to avoid shopping mistakes you might be tempted to go on this journey with me, or at least be amused by this process. Either way, let’s discuss it.

Capsule Collection June16 1
My current capsule (esque) wardrobe. Includes two dresses, one tunic, one 3/4 shirt, four t-shirts (plus two more in the laundry), two silk tops, two black legging/pants, four cardigans (fifth not shown), and a large scarf/shawl.

If you are anything like me, you’ve also realized you might be “doing shopping” wrong. For example, if you too have developed unfortunate shopping habits that left you chucking things left and right,  or bought things you didn’t want or need only to realize they didn’t work for you. Really, you and I might be in the same unfortunate boat. I think that things get even more complicated when you try to also limit the amount of wardrobe pieces you own, since each error is sure to stand out.

So, what can you and I do about it?


The Strategic Shopping Plan:

Make an at-a-glance one year shopping list (spreadsheet), with specific items to be purchased each month, while tracking a budget.

You might ask, why must shopping become such a pain in the butt? Why cast the dark shadow of Numbers/Excel/Google Sheets on an activity that should bring you some satisfaction? Why become so nutty about something so simple?

Capsule Collection June16 2
My jeans and lounge t-shirts collection.

My answer revolves around a “zero-sum game”/cost-benefit world view. I have limited funds, which means I need to be selective in what I purchase. Buying something I don’t actually need means I am stuck waiting a while to buy something I actually needed (I use the term “need” loosely here). Compounding this problem, I sometimes end up making impulse purchases that don’t fill any gaps or contribute much to helping me get dressed more easily in the morning.

If you’re with me on this one, here’s how I plan to do it:

1. Evaluate What I Have:

First, I had to figure out what I actually have in my closet. Meaning, if I know what I have it’s easier to think about a yearly plan to fill in gaps as the weather changes or specific needs arise. As a true Numbers (Excel for Mac) nerd, I created a spreadsheet for this. You can also just write in down, or just take a picture of what you have so that you can reflect on it as you make your list.

I highly encourage you not to skip this step, even if it is a pain. Seriously. If you don’t know what you have, how will you know what to get?

2. Set a Budget:

I decided (a while back actually, with my husband) what my monthly budget will be. Setting this budget was part of creating a very very detailed budget with long-term savings goals. I don’t recommend coming up with an arbitrary number because when you make your plan you’ll want to know how to plan for big ticket items.

3. Work on a Year-Long Plan:

Knowing those to parameters, begin working on your list. What do you want to buy, and when? What gaps do you have in your wardrobe, and when should they be filled?

I created a Numbers spreadsheet to track my budget, my reasoning, and my overall plans so that I can easily track and modify my plans as the next year progresses.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 6.54.30 PM

If you want to try using a spreadsheet, but don’t feel like making your own, you can go to this blank copy of my full spreadsheet as a Google Sheet. I left the Sharing setting to “Can Edit” and I ask that if you decide to use it, please make a copy of the file for yourself. To do so,  select: File –  Make a copy – Ok.

Please know that it’s very possible that you will struggle to fill out this list completely. That’s not a problem at all! You can add the things you already know you want and need, and let the rest happen naturally. Don’t forget that you can always go back and edit the list as life throws changes your way or your tastes evolve.

4. Evaluate Shopping Gaps:

This is an important step that didn’t occur to me until I was done filling out my list. I realized that I forgot to mention shoes, for example. I actually don’t have any nice shoes for evening outings (or evening-wear, for that matter), but I would like at least one pair of nice heels. This allowed me to go back through my file and made sure I accounted for it.

Final Thoughts:

I decided to start a series of posts about this list to make sure I stay true to this process until June 2017. I’ll create blog posts about my list each month and update my thoughts about the purchased items and how the list is working for me (File under: Year-Long Shopping List). If you join this journey, please update me on your progress in the comments below.

Let the trial commence!


2 thoughts on “Avoiding Shopping Fails: Planning Ahead

  1. Thank you so much! I wonder how diligent I’m likely to be with my spreadsheet as time progresses, but I have been finding that it helps me with planning ahead and savings. Do you have any tips to share about minimizing purchasing mistakes?


  2. Good post! I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year or so thinking about how to shop in a more conscious way and minimize my “oops” purchases that I never end up wearing. I was using a spreadsheet for a while, which I found very useful, though that fell to the wayside once I finished graduate school and started working.

    I came across your blog randomly while google-searching for something (I think photos of the Uniqlo x Lemaire pieces?) and I really enjoy your blog!


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