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confessions of a shopaholic-in-rehab

27 January 2009

I can pinpoint the exact moment that I bought into (or became a victim of!) the culture of consumerism. It didn’t happen to me up until I was a freshman in college. It was when I opened my first J. Crew catalog in college, circa November 1995. Prior to that, I was a happy, clueless, I-don’t-like-shopping type of a girl.

When I was in high school, I held a part-time job and saved up for things that I wanted. I was very financially responsible. My parents were living in NYC, but I stayed behind in Los Angeles to finish high school. I got a part-time job so that they wouldn’t have to shell out spending money for me. I used this money for my own stuff and it went a long way. This is because I wasn’t into going to the mall; I wasn’t into shopping; nor did I go out to restaurants or bars.

I bought my clothes from thrift shops like Goodwill, and from a lot cool consignment shops lined up on Melrose Ave or La Brea. My shoes of choice were my trusty Doc Martens and I owned probably 2 other black pairs of shoes. That was it. The only times I went out to spend money was to go see bands or movies. We didn’t go out to eat, we stayed in or went to free parties. It was a very, very simple life. I bought what I could afford and that was that. Thus, I always had money whenever I needed it.

That shit flew out the window once I got to college. When I stepped foot at my college gates, I was greeted by workers from Citibank who enticed me to sign up for a credit card along with gifts of a free phone, hamper, binders, and other knickknacks. It was almost like you couldn’t pass through without going through the gauntlet of creditors lined up in front of you! I had no clue about APRs, principals, etc! I just signed up!

And as I made friends and acquaintances in college, that’s when the shit really hit the fan. I was introduced to the world of catalogs! (Remember, this was circa 1995 so the internet still wasn’t big). J. Crew! Delia’s! Nice brown packages would be waiting for me to pick up! I don’t know how I just succumbed. I saw other girls do it, and so I did it myself! Gone were my Docs. Now I suddenly had 7 pairs of shoes to pick and choose from! No more simple, thrift store clothes or clothes from cheap-o stores. I replaced them with duds from J. Crew, Banana, and the like. It was like I just ordered for the sake of ordering, not realizing that I was racking up debt galore! But it didn’t matter. I had to keep up with the Joneses. I had to buy the new “it” bag –I remember my friend Julie showing me her new Kate Spade bag and I had to have one. I remember another friend who had Ralph Lauren stuff so I went out and got me some duds as well. Kate Spade soon gave way to Fendi, Gucci, and Prada. You can say Kate Spade was my gateway drug.

It was sad. I held a part-time job to tide me over, but it was soon apparent that my parents had to step over. So I started sending them the bill. They had a fit but helped me pay. After all, I was just a student at the time.

Law school was when I tried to shut it all down and started to try to live simply again. Try was the operative word. It was a slow process. I studied my credit, read books on finances, became a fan of Suze Orman. It worked so that by the time I graduated, I got my credit card bill down to $500 (from an amount I won’t even tell you) with the help of the cash we got from our wedding and some admonishing by the hubs. And since rockstar baby’s birth, I haven’t really bought anything “designer” on a whim. My favorite store is Target. My favorite purse is a $3.50 tote I bought at Old Navy. I’m really, really trying to curb it. And in 2006, I got my balance back down to a respectable amount before I went out for maternity leave. Unfortunately, it ballooned back up during my maternity leave because I had no money! What can I say, it’s a process.

The balance still goes up and down, but at least now I scrutinize my bill and haggle my APR down to the last percentage point.

Now I know how to use credit cards wisely. And only when I really, really need it.

Like to buy a new Rock Band 2 bundle for my Wii. Hee-hee.

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7 comments

  1. College was the death of me too..as was that kate spade bag. I had a total credit card debt of about $13K…but guess what…I owe nothing now! It took almost 10 years of whittling away at the debt, but I am finally debt free and I still have my original kate spade bag! why don’t you sell Mark’s golf clubs?


  2. It’s a process and you seem to be handling it as best you can. Just keep it up!

    I hope Mina is savvier than I am when it comes to money.


  3. i’m evi and i’m a shopaholic! honestly, who is not? in my case, i like branded commodities but i always look for bargains. i do splurge once in a while.


  4. haha living with a frugal mine like MrG curbs my spending attitude…if not for him, i don’t think i’d have any money left in my bank! LOL!

    C xx


  5. I am still paying debt from college sadly but I can at least manage them. I know what you mean about those damn credit cards. I hate them!!!!


  6. I hate credit cards!!!!!!!!!!!

    Well, good for you and how you’ve handled it over the years! 🙂 That’s really wonderful how you managed your finances.


  7. those credit card companies have no shame no? dati, i had to go through a gauntlet just to get a P5000 (five thousand PESOS) credit limit with HSBC, hehe!

    i have to give props to my hubby too, he intervenes (a lot!) and handles our finances (because if it were up to me, bye bye retirement haha!).



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