I'm a consumer. There is no way to deny it. I certainly use Freecycle as much as I can, and Craigslist and consignment sales, but I also get into cycles where buying stuff online is so appealing, it honestly makes me feel accomplished to click until my shopping cart's item count hits double-digits.
As a very petite woman, I waste a whole lot of time shopping in stores trying on sizes that don't even come close to fitting me. I gained a full 35 lbs. during pregnancy, and still most of my clothes were XXS and pants size 2 Ankle from The Gap.
Now I have 1) a two-year-old and and 2) few clothes that fit right or look like they weren't from a year with a 19 in front of it. So I am loath to give up whatever childcare time I've cobbled together on shopping that would have been frustrating even if I weren't paying so dearly for it. And I don't really consider taking my son with me an option for more than a quick trip I have reason to believe will be reasonably successful.
So, today, after I'd worn the same stained capris to music class that I'd already worn twice this week, I followed a message in my In Box to J. Jill. I spent $600 even after the 15% off -- most of which I fully expect to return. I can't get the stuff in the store even if I had the patience; they just don't stock my size.
But this is just one example of how I rationalize big purchases. It's saving me so much time to order the toddler garden gloves and watering can online! Of course these will work better than whatever I might randomly find at the store, if I could even get there, and we can't have the boy drowning the rosemary with the hose again! The neat hardware stores aren't near any other errands, and I need to keep my my in-and-out of car transfers to a minimum or I have to wrestle a slab of granite into his Britax! If I go instead to Target I can get a lot done in one place, but then I get, well, a lot.
When I went to the Green Festival, I made the conscious decision that I would buy whatever I liked that fit because it was there, it was organic, and the people who made it were selling it to me. We did find some stuff; just today I wore a black t-shirt and EJ wore some $5 organic pants that we got at the festival. His size, though also petite, is less of a hassle than mine, so I could certainly buy more organic, free-trade stuff for him if I spent more time. But how much time do I really want to spend figuring out where to spend my money. I want to support green businesses, but I get sucked by the spend-a-lot bug no matter where I go, and it's certainly going to hurt my Mastercard a lot more to go crazy at those retailers than at a consignment sale or store, which I've also done. The fact that he gets his shirts so dirty so fast only feeds my fire.
I hope that in my J.Jill bounty I find a few pairs of pants that fit. Maybe before E's organic short johns (on sale now!) and all the other random stuff I bought from Hanna Anderson come I will get out to Marshall's or a garage sale and find the same things for super cheap. The closing twisted aspect of my spending frenzies is that when I do return things that didn't work out, I get an additional kick, feeling like I just earned money. I was glad to read at http://chefdruck.blogspot.com/2008/05/finding-euphoria-in-all-right-places.html that people actually study the euphoric feeling that can come from shopping. Glad to know I'm not alone!