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Gone Shopping!

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Not one week after happily exclaiming that I’m allowing myself to go shopping again….I get into some trouble!

Last weekend I went to the mall on a mission to find some black pants. It was over the Labor Day weekend and there were sales, galore! My first stop was Macy’s. I didn’t find any black pants I liked but I did find a beautiful dress that I just had to snag! It’s appropriate for both work and church and was marked down from over a hundred dollars down to just $9.99!!! Truly! I snapped a picture as proof!

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Happy with myself for my awesome deal of a find, I set out for Banana Republic. I’d scored an awesome deal on navy pants last time I was there and I was hoping for a big sale. Struck out. It’s okay, Express is right down the way and I love their Editor pants. I head in that direction hoping to find something black. But on the way I pass Bath and Body Works. They have a big 50% off sale sign up in the front of the store. I have not bought an item from B&BW in literal years – since before I started blogging here. I miss it. I LOVE their scented candles and nothing at the regular grocery store compares. They might smell good, but they aren’t as potent as B&BW candles. They smell nice if you’re in the immediate vicinity but they don’t make the whole house smell like B&BW candles do. And I’m also convinced they burn faster, too (is that possible? Like B&BW uses some additive that makes the candles slower-burning???). For the most part we just haven’t had candles at all. It’s a superfluous luxury we’ve just simply cut from our budget.

But I was on a shopping high, having just scored an awesome deal at Macys! I see the 50% off signs. And…I’m feeling indulgent.

About 15 minutes and 115 dollars later, I walk out of the store.

When she rung me up and I saw my total, I knew I’d messed up big time. I handed over my debit card and typed in my pin and silently walked out of the store as though I’d just seen a ghost. I wasn’t on the same shopping high I’d been on when I walked out of Macys. This time, I just felt sick.

I debated for maybe 5 seconds whether to continue on to Express. I still hadn’t found the black pants I’d been searching for (the entire point of my trip to the mall to begin with). I decided against it. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight. I was like an alcoholic who’d just had a drink after months of sobriety. I knew the options were (1) go home now, or (2) get drunk as a skunk go on a shopping bender. Thankfully I had my wits about me enough to know I needed to leave.

On my way home I’d already resolved that I needed to return much of my Bath and Body Works haul. I simply couldn’t allow myself to have spent that much money on candles and body spray. It was insane!

So the following day I convinced hubs to come back to the mall with me, kids in tow, to return a bunch of the items I’d purchased. I kept 3 candles and a wallflower plug for my office (which I’d already opened), but ALL of the lotions, body spray, and body wash would be returned.

It was tough, y’all. I’m terrible at returning things to begin with. I don’t like the hassle of it and I rarely follow-through. But this was just way too much money to miss out on.

I nearly cried when we approached the front of the store and I saw the signs! In addition to the 50% off sign they’d had the day before, they now also had a $12 3-wick candle one day sale going on! It took every ounce of strength and will power to walk straight to the cash register rather than raiding their candle table.

I waited patiently in line while staring straight ahead (afraid the pumpkin table would pull me away if I dared glance in its direction).  When I got to the front I set my giant bag on the table and explained that I’d gotten carried away and needed to return a bunch of items. I also asked about a price adjustment for one of the candles I’d bought (2 were already half-price, but 1 had been full price). I was told that the adjustment could only happen if I had the candle with me. I was disappointed but said okay and waited while the cashier processed my return.

Only…..while I was waiting, I glanced down and saw their own store policies, taped to the counter top. Right there in black and white, it read that price adjustments could be done only within 14 days of purchase and only with an original receipt. NOTHING about needing to physically have the product with you. I pointed to the policy and commented, “This policy only says I need the original receipt. Sooooo????” (the question just hung in the air). She was obviously annoyed, but I met both of the requirements listed (it was a very recent purchase and I had the receipt with me). She had no other option but to refund me with the difference in cost between the full-price candle and the price advertised during their one-day sale.

After the refund from the return of 6 items and price adjustment on the candle, the total amount I actually spent was $50. Still a lot of money for candles and a wallflower (a type of air freshener). But a price I was much more comfortable with and a level of indulgence that our budget could withstand.

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I still never got my black pants. I think I just need to take an ice shower to get over the “high” from the shopping and Labor Day sales. Or better yet, maybe I’ll reinstate use of actual cash (a throw back to when I did the envelope system) to eliminate the possibility of going on an unchecked shopping spree. It will be an easy way to control my spending and make sure I don’t veer off course as I start incorporating little shopping trips back into my budget after so long with very minimal shopping. I definitely don’t want another Bath and Body Works experience at any other stores, either! But I think this was a good little learning experience.  I am capable of sticking to a very strict budget (been doing it for 18 months!). But gradually adding shopping experiences back into the budget can be a tricky thing. It almost requires even more will-power than simply not shopping at all. This is because when you’re simply NOT shopping, then you aren’t even at the mall! There’s no in-your-face temptation like when you’re in the mall with the intention of spending money, and walking by all the stores seeing their big sale signs standing tall. At least for me, I’ve found that I’m an easy target for a well placed advertisement and a good sale price. I have to keep reminding myself what I’m really there for and to try to stick strictly to the shopping list.

Black pants, I’m on a mission to find you now! (just….maybe not until next weekend).

Have you ever had a shopping bender you’ve really regretted? How do you feel about returns (am I the only one who HATES returning things??)?

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30 Comments

  • Reply Bertine |

    I also love Bath and Body Works, mostly for their bubble bath. Every year, around Thanksgiving time, they have huge sales and send out coupons. I save up around $50 and splurge on enough bubble bath for the whole year.

    This way I never feel bad about it, it is something I use all the time, and I feel like I got a good deal because I watched the sales.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s a good way to do it. I loaded up the first time because they were having a sale (buy 3 get 3), but it was all pointless stuff. I think its different if you’re planning for it and already have in mind items you need/want. Mine was a total impulse purchase!

  • Reply Kim |

    My husband and I get carried away spending money on our daughter. Neither of us have an ounce of self control. It is cute; she NEEDS it. Enter the mamaroo, a $250+ swing that was supposed to work miracles. Ha! Our baby who is rarely fussy, hated it. I thought she will like it when she is older, blah blah blah. Every time I walked by it I would be frustrated at the waste. I sucked it up months later and thought I would try to return it. She had used it less than 10 times for maybe a total of 30 minutes. It was brand new basically. I took it back to Buy Buy Baby and got every penny back. It was embarrassing but then exhilarating. Sometimes returning something is the best for rectifying a big mistake!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yes! Kids are hard! I think I’ve got more self-control than my hubs does, but I’m also the one who does the majority of child-related shopping. It’s funny, though. They had a Daddy-daughter day on Labor Day so I could work and when I got home they had all kinds of crud from Walgreens that hubs got them – candy, necklaces, etc. Just junk, but I had to laugh. They’ve got their daddy around their little finger(s)!

  • Reply Alyssa |

    You just have to keep telling yourself that sales are meaningless. Items are marked up so much that even at 50% off, they’re still making a massive profit off you. Don’t be a sucker: ignore the advertising and determine what you are willing to pay for something, whether or not it’s a “good deal” (because it’s not). I’m glad you returned your stash, because you’re right, spending $100+ on candles and lotions when you’re deeply in debt is downright insane.

  • Reply Mysti |

    What would have happened if you just changed your mind at the register and said “oh I got carried away with your great sale, but I will need to put a few things back.”? Would have saved you the 2nd trip, the guilt. It is ok to say no. The people behind you will get over it. No reason to put yourself through all of this!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Absolutely nothing, I know! And it would have been less hassle for everyone involved! I think I was just in shock. I was just on autopilot as she rang up the total and it felt like I couldn’t even breathe when I saw the full amount. Very silly and would’ve been much easier just to say something then but I almost felt paralyzed. It’s hard to describe.

  • Reply Sheila |

    Thank you so much for keeping it real! I have the same problem…especially with the awesome sales. I usually order online so I have been forcing myself to note order and go make sure I need the items before submitting the order with a 5 minute “time out” So far it is working!

  • Reply Brandy |

    Great job returning some of your haul AND for keeping the sales associate accountable with regards to the store policy.

    I have a work pants recommendation – have you tried any of J. Crew’s office- appropriate lines? I recommend trying on in store and then ordering online from store or factory. I can scoop them up for as low as $25 depending on the sale and they have literally lasted me for several years. If you aren’t going to be purchasing clothes often, go for quality is my moto.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I haven’t, but I will give it a try! Thanks for the tip! And I agree on trying to find good quality pieces!

  • Reply catherine |

    I used to do that now I shop online. I find it much less tempting I also put all of my spare money into a savings account on payday after amounts for bills etc taken off and have a seperate account with a debit card where I transfer very specific amounts of money up to the amount I am willing to spend on whatever Item I need and this stops me from splurging.

  • Reply Ashley |

    I soooo feel for you! Shopping is my kyptonite too. I go crazy around Christmas time. I think it’s all or nothing with me- I hardly go to the mall for that reason. Nice job returning! I am on a major budget (less than $4000 away from being debt free!!!) and I can’t wait to buy myself fancy soaps again!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Oh my goodness! SOOOO close to the finish line!!! Keep up the hard work, it will pay off soon!

  • Reply Kili |

    Well done on returning some of the stuff.
    I feel you. I could also spend a fortune at Bath & Body Works…

    Like a previous commenter said, don’t feel ashamed or embarrased to leave some of the stuff you picked up at the counter with them once you’ve realized it’s more than you wanted to spend. Happens to me every now and then as well… when i was shopping the sales this summer I also found the marked down stuff so tempting,so i picked up a lot of dresses, skirts etc. and realized at the counter the total is way more than I’d wanted to spend, I just asked them to please have a skirt and dress removed from my bill and left those at the store.

    and another idea: even if you don’t go by the enevelope system in day-to-day life, wouldn’t those mall visits be something where it would actually work? so maybe having a 30$ envelope for a blouse, a $50 envelope for pants and $20 envelope for undies… you can still allow yourself some wiggle room and buy a more expensive blouse, but then have to go with the cheaper pants. maybe seeing it right in front of you, rather than it being plastic money (paying debit), it’s more tangible?

    • Reply Ashley |

      Absolutely! I’m definitely going to be using this modified money system idea for clothes shopping in the future!

  • Reply Mrs. Crackin' the Whip |

    I couldn’t help but laugh! Congrats on returning the items! We haven’t eaten out in months and within a week of me writing about how I was so over it on my blog, I found myself at White Castle! Um, yeah….and there’s no returning food!

  • Reply Kerstin |

    Totally. Yes. If you know a style and brand of pants you like I would just order ONE pair on line and see what you think. They come to your house, you only have one thing to think about and then one thing to return (but hubby can do it). I think I mentioned how great the Worthington Modern Fit Trouser pants are. Buy a couple pairs of though and have them sent to your house, then hubby can return. It works well for me. 🙂 JCP always has great sales online. Then once you know what fits you it’s easier to avoid temptation in the stores I find. I will sometimes bookend a shopping trip with someone, saying I’m only going to buy X, and if I get tempted I’ll call that person! Or set a strict time limit so I can’t get lost wandering all starry eyed! Its really hard to add shopping back when you’ve been off it for a long time….at least for me. Luckily I’m not a scents/ candle person, but jewelry is another story…..we all have the thing we love!

  • Reply Connie |

    I’m really big on putting all kinds of stuff in my cart, then browsing through all the racks, looking at all the sale items, accessories, etc. and then putting it all back. Occasionally I will buy something, but the cooling off period between putting it in the cart and actually paying for it often does the trick of making me feel as though I “owned” it without ever taking it home. When I do get home with a total impulse buy I generally return it after realizing that I really didn’t need it.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s a great idea to continue browsing – a bit of a “cool off” period to really think things over first!

  • Reply Mary |

    Oh, I feel your pain! Good for you for returning done of it. I wouldn’t give them any explanation next time; just return it and move on.

    I find Costco the hardest myself. I go there once a month for the same three items but then they’ll have flowers, mums, tulip bulbs for fall plantings coming up, or some nice home stuff (didn’t buy any btw). Most of the time I can get out of there without a purchase but once in a while I’ll indulge. Christmas decor is coming up, yikes! I feel like I need to put blinders on when I go in that store! I even give myself a pep talk before I go in now, lol. I run all of my errands one day a week and am pretty good about sticking to my list but every once in a while I’ll slip. I stick pretty tightly to my budget and have my budget done through December already so that I am ready for Christmas.

    Overall, you’re doing a pretty good job. Hang in there.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yes! Costco can definitely be that way! The other issue I have with their seasonal stuff is that they usually operate on the have-it-till-it-runs-out motto. So if I see something that I decide not to buy, but then upon further thought and budget examination I decide I want I may try to go back and now its all gone! One example is around Christmas last year they had dog beds for sale for $50 each. I thought it was too much and didn’t buy. Then in January I decided I wanted one – they’re really good quality and after looking around I realized the price is pretty good too (we have a very large dog, so we need a large sized dog bed), but then they were gone! I haven’t seen them again since that time! Boo!

  • Reply Mary |

    That second sentence should read, “Good for you for returning “some” of it.” This voice to text is awful on this phone.

  • Reply Jenna |

    Thanks for sharing. This was a very interesting post. I def see parts of this dynamic in my own shopping. I have started a new job and am justifying a lot of purchases as necessary for the new role. The line between need and want can be relatively fine.

    One strategy I have heard is to put one thing back from your order before you check out. Helps you take a look and see what you’re willing to part with.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’ve never heard that before, but I like it! Really makes you take a second look at everything!

So, what do you think ?