Here’s how I shop. I go into a chic, expensive store in Los Angeles or New York. I try on a small selection of items, then walk out. I wait a few days, sometimes weeks, and see what haunts me. If I can’t stop thinking about a certain piece, I go back and buy it.
And so all my clothes are ghosts. I am host to dozens of garment-souls who won me over, not by unconscious force, but by alignment with my psyche, by working their way under my skin, until I felt called to make them mine. My closet is full of the magic of almighty capitalism.
Buying stuff. Spending money. For some, it’s the ultimate rush. Dopamine floods the brain, washing it clean of consideration and concern. Others hate shopping. They drag their feet to part with their funds and never appreciate what they bought as much as having the money they bought it with. On both ends of the spectrum, there’s a misunderstanding about what is happening when money and goods change hands.
Money is a story. The things you acquire with your own wealth, earned or not, are part of your lifestyle, the collection of objects and conditions resulting from a series of choices you made about how to exchange energy with the world.
Those transactions are not trivial. They are flashes of creativity, a story you are making up as you go. The things in your life reveal so much—the places you feel insecure, the things you feel great about, how you grew up and who you left behind, your social status, your moon sign, your wildest dreams. All of this spiritual data is bursting out of us when we spend money—or not.
If you recognize that your spending power is a reflection of your personal power, then you will see that money is a story with infinite aspects.
If you buy a pair of Givenchy shoes, you are asking for your feet to carry you to a world of elegance and taste, deeply rooted in 20th century French glamour. What kind of handbag does your soul crave? In what kind of vessel would you like to hold your wallet, your lipsticks, the keys to your home? What brand of eyewear do you put on your face to give clarity to the way you see the world and the way it sees you? What timepiece do you choose to clasp to your wrist and keep track of the precious moments of your life? What fragrance wafts in as you enter a room?
Seemingly superficial purchases are almost always revelations of our deep inner monologue.
If you buy an Hermés scarf with a prominent logo, you are creating a connection between yourself, the meaning of that logo and the eyes of those around you, including your own. You are tethering yourself to a tradition of taste and craftsmanship. If that’s what you value, your purchase will feel amazing.
People like to act righteous around the cult of designer fashion. They say it’s bullshit. It isn’t. It’s magic. That a designer or fashion house could create such divine desire for an object that mortals will surrender their earthly security to possess it? What do you call it when you save up your paychecks for months to walk into a Chanel boutique and buy a quilted flap bag? I call it epic.
What if, instead of emptying your wallet at Chanel, you contribute money to your friend’s fund to pay for her infant son’s cancer treatment? What are you buying then? Nothing, you might say. I am helping my friend and her helpless child. Yes, but you are buying the story of your friend’s child getting healthy, and you having aided in that outcome, you having foregone the luxury handbag to save a child’s life.
It’s not necessarily something you would do for status or to get something in return. You could contribute anonymously and you would still enjoy the priceless feeling of having done the thing that felt right with your money, which is simply energy you created.
Gen X hipsters understood this very well. Much more self-aware than their Baby Boomer parents, they recognized themselves as constituents of capitalism and co-opted the concept in service of their own individuality. Instead of buying the stuff at the mall, they turned to vintage stores and tattoo shops. They carefully curated their lives with objects from the corporations they supported: Apple, Volkswagen, Epic Records. They wanted to be different and they used their money to do it.
And that’s what you’re doing when you go shopping. You’re expressing yourself with your wealth. You’re making your own meaning by transferring the value you’ve created in the world.
Make good choices with your money. Shopping beautifully is part of living beautifully.