Shopping for clothing, shoes, and accessories can be incredibly fun and rewarding ... but it can also be hazardous to your health. Your mental health, emotional health, financial health, ALL of your healths can be menaced by the mall. Because when you shop, you become vulnerable: Influenced by ads and marketing, nudged by sales associates or friends-in-tow, convinced by your own inner voices that you absolutely do need orange platform sandals that are half a size too small. Or yet another black cardigan. And while I am just as vulnerable as you are while shopping - both in person and online - I also have accumulated some tips and techniques for avoiding and combating the most common pitfalls. Each potential threat can be neutralized by forcing yourself to walk through a simple checklist. Read on for details!

Buying something that almost fits

Bottom line: Just don't. Shop for your today-body, dress that body fabulously right now so that you can respect and celebrate yourself just as you are, and avoid any clothes that fail to make you look and feel amazing. But since your head can get a bit foggy when those barely-buttonable jeans are on clearance, here's your checklist:

  • Ask yourself: Do I want this because my body is currently in flux? If so, won't there be something equally awesome once I've leveled out or reached my goal?
  • Ask yourself: Can it be altered easily to fit properly? Figuring in the cost of alterations, is it worth it?
  • Ask yourself: Are there workarounds? Is it a button-down shirt that won't button, but can be worn over a tank top? If so, make sure there are at LEAST three possible outfits in your closet that can utilize this piece.

Buying something you already own

Those of you who possess the lauded "small, well-edited wardrobe" probably don't have this problem. But if you're a clothing collector like me, every shopping trip generates a risk of snapping up an item with a twin already living in your closet. Here's your checklist:

  • Before you shop, take inventory. Make a habit of it.
  • Ask yourself: How similar is this to my other _______s? (Insert item: Dresses, boots, blazers, etc.) If it has three or more features in common, skip it.
  • Ask yourself: Do I love this because it's perfectly "me" or because it's incredibly familiar?

Buying something just because it's on sale

This is the doozy, am I right? The, "Would I pay full price for this?" test is great in theory, but we all know that it fails in practice. So try this instead:

  • Ask yourself: What will happen if I don't buy this? Will I remember that I wanted it in two weeks?
  • Ask yourself: What about this item thrills me?
  • Ask yourself: Can I envision at least three outfits that will work with this?

Buying something that you can't return

You always check return policies before shelling out, RIGHT? Of course you do. So if you're about to splurge on something marked, "final sale," run through this checklist:

  • Ask yourself: Is it completely free of flaws? Does it fit perfectly? Do I love it to pieces?
  • Have a backup plan: Consignment, a good friend or relative who wears your size, eBay.
  • Ask yourself: If this fails to work for me, will I feel OK about trying to earn some of my money back or passing it along to someone else for free?

Buying something for a single use

You can buy your wedding dress and never wear it again. I'll give you that. But buying a dress for that cocktail party coming up next week? THAT dress should be a multiple-use garment. Here's your checklist:

  • Ask yourself: Can I envision at least three outfits that will work with this? (I KNOW, but it's a good habit to cultivate!)
  • Ask yourself: Will this work layered? For multiple seasons?
  • Ask yourself: Can this be dressed up or down?

Buying something to make yourself feel better

I'm guilty of this one, and often: Shopping to fill an emotional hole. Which, of course, somehow never gets plugged up no matter how many thrifted dresses I throw into it ... but I've curbed my habit in recent years, and here's how:

  • Ask yourself: Am I hungry, angry/anxious, lonely, or tired? (HALT, an acronym for emotions that will always cloud judgment)
  • Ask yourself: Will I want this item as much in a week as I do right now? Can I wait to purchase it?
  • Ask yourself: If I regret this purchase, can I return it?

Which of these pitfalls trip YOU up when you shop? Do you run through any of these questions when you feel like you might be making a questionable purchase? Any others to add?

Image via weheartit.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image.

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Shopping Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

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