When it comes to fashion, most of us spend our time longing for more—more clothes and accessories, and, thus, more money to buy them with. However, recent research indicates that being able to purchase whatever we want is only thrilling from afar—when actually put into practice, it’s much less satisfying. According to researcher Barry Schwartz:
"As the number of options increases, the costs, in time and effort, of gathering the information needed to make a good choice also increase. The level of certainty people have about their choice decreases. And the anticipation that they will regret their choice increases."
So, essentially, people with unlimited funds are much more likely to suffer from shopping angst and indecision. But personal experience has shown me that spending limits are more than just beneficial to our mindset, they can be a boon to our style, as well.
While working as a freelancer, my shopping funds ranged from miniscule to nonexistent, which required that I think long and hard about any non-necessary purchases (i.e. all clothes and accessories). I was forced to curb my habit of shopping on a whim, or for every new event on the horizon. Though this felt frustrating at times, I couldn’t help but notice that my wardrobe felt tighter in a good way. Suddenly I was much closer to the closet of my dreams, which I imagine to be filled only with pieces that I actually wear and love.
However, when I began working as an editor and took a major pay increase, I was thrilled to be able to shop again without all of that overthinking. I turned a blind eye to the fact that all of that forethought had actually been very good for my personal style, and as a result, my wardrobe began feeling very confused. My closet started to fill up with a mix of high-street and designer purchases that I barely touched, most of them purchased impulsively, causing me to step back and reassess my return to old habits.
I realized that having some financial cushion had convinced me that I should own this, this, and that, simply because I could. But that equation had left out whether or not I really wanted these new items, or if they even fit in with my overall style. Most, it turned out, did not, and so they spent more time collecting dust than proving their price tags’ worth.
In the end, I returned what I could, and set a monthly spending limit to avoid this happening in the future. I do occasionally get the itch to overdo it—and, yes, I realize I'm lucky to even have that option—but, so far, ignoring it has helped my style return to a more succinct and sensible place. Where a sartorial identity crisis was starting to brew, there has returned an aesthetic harmony that I wouldn’t give up—it not only makes getting dressed easier, but rids me of any outfit-induced self-doubt when I step out the door.
Scroll down to shop some of my favorite essential items that you can get with a limited income!