A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy

We’ve been sharing news of women who’ve gone a year with buying new clothes for quite a while now, including Judith LevineAlexis Hall and Jill Chivers.  Now, Sarah Lazarovic, a 35 year old Canadian woman has written and illustrated a charming book titled A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, about her particular brand of not buying any new clothes or accessories for a year.

To read more about her, click here.

To buy the book, click here. 

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Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

By Lexi McGlade

In an eye-opening novel entitled, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline, the consequences of “fast fashion” are considered. Fast fashion is a term used to acknowledge the rapidity with which trends move from the runway into stores in accordance with the latest style. Cline interweaves personal anecdotes and historical facts as she provides readers with an understanding of how the fashion industry has changed over the past 50 years. In a culture in which discounted and low price tags are glorified, the fashion industry has lost the potency it once had. No longer is clothing valued for the quality of the materials, the labor that went into its creation, or the individuality of the item. Instead, consumers seek the best deal they can find and stores cater to this craving. This is largely a result of the fast-paced merchandise turnover in the industry today. An item bought in the fall is likely to be out of style by the next year, and therefore individuals avoid investing a lot of money in something they plan to discard in the near future.  On the other hand, the quantitative consumption of clothing has skyrocketed, and individuals justify this with the belief that the underprivileged will benefit from their leftovers. However, Cline asserts that this is false, for there is far more clothing being produced than is necessary.

Cline visited sweatshops and clothing factories across the world, corresponded with a multitude of individuals, and delved into the history of fashion to reach the conclusion that there are simpler ways to reinstate value in the industry. She believes that even an investment in a sewing machine or a trip to a thrift store would be adequate to restore one’s appreciation for clothing. However, Cline maintains that the ultimate remedy will be to return to independently-owned companies and relieve the reliance on Asia for the production of goods.

With these changes implemented, the “fast fashion” industry would likely see prices increase, but this may be necessary to give the American garment industry a fighting chance. A powerful novel that is relevant for all ages, Overdressed sheds light on a potent issue that is currently overlooked.

 

Self-Worth to Net Worth: 12 Keys to Creating Wealth Inside and Out

This wise and comprehensive book begs to be read—and digested—very slowly. In it, Cia Ricco and Belinda Rosenblum have managed to make important and highly sophisticated psychological concepts very, very accessible. From the get-go, they emphasize the importance of personal responsibility, going so far as to ask the reader to sign an agreement to further his or her commitment to a life that works. Ideas like the cost of comfort and the cost of inaction help the reader learn to analyze the cost/benefit ratio of any decision. The authors offer an abundance of user-friendly and effective tools for restructuring non-supportive beliefs into supportive ones, for recognizing and moving beyond non-self-responsible communication, and for expanding the tolerance of joy. Rich discussions and colorful examples illustrate the key concepts; the authors’ stance toward the reader is unwaveringly empathic and compassionate. While psychological and financial skills and strategies are an integral part of this book—while it is, as its title suggests, about the movement to net worth through self-worth—its most powerful contribution lies in its dogged focus on the cultivation of true wealth, those non-financial assets that invigorate and vitalize. To read more, click here. 

Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy

 

Jim Roberts' new publication

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness, just didn’t know where to shop,” my post-it intones. Without shying away from the unpopular truth about overconsumption and happiness being like oil and water, James Roberts encourages us to step back, notice, and yes, even laugh at our obsession with shiny objects. He helps us see how we got here and then takes us on a fascinating tour of the all-that-glitters-is-not-gold-department. Pointing to important research findings and offering practical exercises helps us embrace our goals and values and develop the self-control we need to understand that we can never get enough of what we don’t really need.

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Shop ‘til You Drop: The Crisis of Consumerism

The Media Education Foundation’s film Shop ‘Til You Drop: The Crisis of Consumerism is a refreshingly contemporary and interdisciplinary peek into the machinery of American consumerism and advertising. Though it sees no end in sight to our appetite for overconsumption, it documents an end to the capacity of our planet, with its limited resources, to sustain that appetite.

To set the stage, we hear a dizzying staccato recitation by Juliet Shor, author of Born to Buy—all the objects in a typical middle class home—as we kaleidoscope through stuff.

The first half of the film focuses on the psychological impacts of consumerism: how the media and advertisers bombard us and how their techniques manipulate our desires, making us believe that we need much more than we actually do.

If you play soft music to cows, they give more milk. If you play music to shoppers, they buy more stuff. The many talking heads in the film— professors, authors, mental health professionals, and leaders of the Voluntary Simplicity movement—suggest that we need to step out of the Matrix and learn to make choices for ourselves. Otherwise, even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.

Once upon a time, we consumed conspicuously because we wanted our neighbors to see what we had; the paradigm was local social comparison. Today, the reference frame has expanded. It’s moved from the roughly egalitarian neighborhood of the folks on your block to the national “neighborhood” of televised affluence. There’s rising anxiety in our culture as people continuously compete to live like the wealthy.

The second half of the film swings to a more ecological perspective, straightforwardly addressing the issue of how the consumerist drive of developed nations is using up or harming–even destroying–our most precious resources. In the process, we may well be sowing the seeds of our own destruction.

Shop ‘Til You Drop is more than a useful tool for the overshopper; it’s a much-needed wake-up call for all of us. The film encourages us to see that the habit of “keeping up with the Joneses”—whether they live next door or in the fantasy world of television and other media—misuses our lives and our planet. It offers us some perspective and invites us to step back and reassess our values and goals.


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Crazy About Money: How Emotions Confuse Our Money Choices And What To Do About It

Dr. Maggie Baker’s new book, Crazy About Money: How Emotions Confuse Our Money Choices And What To Do About It, offers a comprehensive look at our complex and variable relationship with money throughout the course of our lives.  Although we tend to view money as an autonomous component of our daily life, Dr. Baker stresses that “money itself is only part of the issue.”  From the moment it becomes ours, money entangles itself with our emotions and beliefs in a complex sequence of knots; Crazy About Money sets out to bring these knots into clearer focus, show us how we got so tangled up in the first place, and, in the process, set out the steps to untie our emotions and beliefs from our financial selves.

The first half of the book focuses on the “cauldron of emotions that seethe around dealing with money.”  Dr. Baker debunks the cultural myth that money is a precise and rational process by outlining its chameleon-like presence in our biological, developmental, and individual selves.  The second half of the book details the particular life circumstances that we might find ourselves in (single, married, recently divorced, etc.) with an emphasis on practical strategies for developing a well-rounded financial self tailored to these particular situations.  Every chapter concludes with a set of exercise questions (including Dr. Baker’s thoughtful responses for herself) that help us become more aware of our money type, our insecurities surrounding finances, and our ability to develop a healthier orientation towards our individual emotions and beliefs surrounding money.

Crazy About Money is an invaluable tool in our struggle to come to terms with how we got into our present financial situation and how we can get out.  In identifying our monetary blind spots, we already become better equipped to withstand the challenges of balancing our finances. With Crazy About Money, Dr. Baker offers us both a wise, holistic take on the manifold ways that we let money affect our lives and a practical guidebook for re-orienting our financial beliefs and strategies.

 

Response to Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

As a reforming bookaholic and bargain shopper, I recently borrowed—borrowed, please note—a fascinating audiobook from the library, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, by Ellen Ruppell Shell. It’s all about consumerism and it focuses particularly on discount stores—which happen to be the site of many of my purchases that I later regret. The book was a revelation. It taught me how carefully, how subtly, how diabolically marketers work to create an artificial feeling of need in consumers likes me.

This new knowledge intensifies my motivation to kick the overshopping habit. I don’t want to be a tool of the marketplace, but rather a sentient being who makes independent choices. Now that I realize how many of my “needs” are in fact merely desires I’ve been manipulated into having, I’m finding myself better able to step away from that process.

The Smartest Way to Save: Why You Can’t Hang on to Money and What to Do About It

Samuel K. Freshman and Heidi E. Clingen’s new book, The Smartest Way to Save: Why You Can’t Hang on to Money and What to Do About It, is so deceptively simple and reader-friendly that you almost don’t notice until you’ve finished how comprehensive it is. Replete with wise and immediately practicable suggestions about how to use money to enhance your life, The Smartest Way to Save is also peppered with meaningful anecdotes and money stories about the authors and those people who helped them shape their money behavior. These stories foster a bond between the writers and their readers, facilitating change.

The book’s three parts encourage a reader to focus on money through three different lenses: in relation to oneself, in relation to others, and in relation to the larger world. This variety of perspectives can’t help but expand the consciousness of someone who doesn’t customarily look at his or her spending and saving habits objectively. In addition, Freshman and Clingen offer up a panoply of tools for managing your money, getting out from under debt, and saving for the future—a richness of resource I’ve rarely seen in other financial self-help books.

Anyone who follows their detailed suggestions for saving money on food, clothing, transportation, travel, and entertainment—and heeds their shrewd advice on protecting oneself from scams and other fraud—should be able to go forth unafraid— ready, willing, and able to move toward financial independence.

SPENT: MEMOIRS OF A SHOPPING ADDICT Why I Wrote Spent by Avis Cardella

For years, I did not speak about my shopping addiction; In fact, I went to great pains to hide it. At the time, I was afraid it wouldn’t be taken seriously, or even laughed at.

Therefore, it may seem strange that I managed to pluck up the courage to write a memoir about my fifteen-year compulsive buying habit and ultimate recovery. But that’s exactly what I did—with some trepidation—yet always with the hope that my story would help bring this addiction out of the closet, and offer some assistance to others who are struggling with it.

In the past two months since the publication of my memoir, I have received many emails from readers. Surprisingly, there have been almost as many emails from men as from women. Many thank me for having written Spent, and almost all tell me something about their own compulsive shopping stories. All are heartfelt, poignant, and sincere.

One in particular, which I found especially touching, was from a young man who wrote, “your book changed my life.” I was taken aback when I read this in the subject box of his email. A much as I wished my story to aid readers, I don’t think I was prepared for such a declaration.

He explained in his email that at the age of twenty-four he was already on a compulsive shopping downward spiral, deep in debt and caught in the tap dance of trying to hide it all from everybody.

He went on to explain that after a day of hard shopping, he landed in a bookstore where he found, and bought, a copy of Spent. After reading it in one hungry gulp, he felt “changed” and inspired enough to cut up his credit cards, tell his father about his financial situation, and begin to analyze the reasons why he was shopping himself toward ruin.

One of his biggest challenges, he writes, was that he had a mother who also shopped compulsively, and he had come to relate to shopping as a viable coping mechanism.

Another was that he now understood that he had been using shopping to placate a terrible loneliness and emptiness he felt inside.

Without exception, every compulsive shopper I have been in contact with has expressed this sentiment: they relate to over shopping as a desire to fill a void. As cliché as this may sound, it rings true and raises other questions: Why do so many people feel such a void? Why do we gravitate toward things to fill this void? Does shopping and surrounding ourselves with things give us a sense of permanence in a world that seems to be moving too fast?

There have been a few readers who have complained that Spent is not like Confessions of a Shopaholic. They have described my story as not as much “fun” as that popular novel. Indeed, I can attest, being a shopping addict was never all that much fun. Any shopping addict reading this right now will probably be nodding in agreement.

Still, in my discussions and signings, most readers have been interested in the realities of shopping addiction, not in a portrayal that reinforces stereotypes and fantasies. Their questions and comments have been overwhelmingly thoughtful and earnest.

This is rewarding, since I wrote Spent as a cautionary story and a recovery story. I wrote this book to help others who, like myself, have been confused, frightened or ashamed by their compulsive shopping behavior. I also wrote it as a story that highlights some of the social and economic structures that supported my shopping addiction over the past decades.

As I discovered on my journey, understanding the forces that surround me, the society and culture that presents shopping as a form of entertainment and consumption as a symbol of a better life, is an important part of understanding why shopping could become an addictive behavior.

As I explain in Spent, by trying to build a sense of self primarily based on images presented in the media or what I bought, and trying to “keep up appearances,” I risked annihilating a more central and essential self. Ultimately, the key to understanding why I was shopping compulsively meant identifying with that essential “self.”

This identification lead to change. I do hope this is the “change” that my young male reader was referring to as well. Experiencing it has ended up being one of the great comforts and luxuries of my life. Ironically, it is a luxury that can’t be bought.

Shoptimism

Lee Eisenberg’s Shoptimism is a journey into the psychology of shopping from two sides of the cash register, the buy side and the sell side. It could easily be the upbeat textbook for Retail 101, exploring in its first half the buy side—why we consumers shop—and in its second half the sell side, how different retailers target different demographic groups.

To gain insight into the sell side, for example, Eisenberg visits a professional “snoop” company that works with retailers to spy on shoppers and observe their behavior patterns. The company uses the data to keep track of what customers like, what store layouts work best to promote buying, and what repels customers from buying. The snoopers notice, for example, that customers pick up store fliers more often when they’re placed ten feet from the entrance than when they’re directly at the entrance. To better understand the buy side, the psychology behind shopping, Eisenberg talks with a Carnegie Mellon professor about a research study that monitors brain functions during shopping. Turning the relationship between the two sides over and over, as one might a snow globe, Eisenberg delves into the intricacies, drive, and effects of each.

Like a huge department store, this content-rich book has the potential to be dense and overwhelming. But Eisenberg’s infusions of humor from his own personal shopping jaunts as well as his capacity to present a great deal of information in an everyday, shopper-friendly way keep it buoyant and interesting. Information from economics, psychology, and sociology gurus offers us a rare, multi-dimensional perspective on the shopping world—where there’s lots more going on than meets either the eye or the credit card.

Shoptimism is definitely worth shopping for, even if you’re a compulsive buyer. By helping you understand what’s triggering your behavior—and how those triggers have been constructed—the book makes it more likely that you’ll think twice the next time you see that silky new blouse or flatscreen TV that you’ve been programmed to believe is an absolute must.

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