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Marie Kondo your wardrobe: How adopting a 'daily uniform' helped this man pay off his credit card debt

Alex English paid off his credit card debt and got his spending under control by embracing a minimalist wardrobe.
Image: Men's clothing
Alex English says adopting a daily uniform makes life easier and less expensive. Grosescu Alberto Mihai / iStockphoto/Getty Images

There was a time when Alex English didn’t think twice about overspending on a new pair of shoes or a Prada bag he didn’t need. But the former fashion addict has slimmed down his closet and his credit card debt by adopting a simpler wardrobe.

Image: Alex English
Alex English got his shopping addiction under control by adopting what he calls a "uniform."Alex English

English, who at one time owned 25 pairs of shoes, says his shopping addiction reached its zenith after he moved to Milan, Italy in 2016 to attend business school. He estimates he racked up about $500 on his credit card every month.

English, 31, says he’s always been a shopaholic, but his spending habits worsened after his mother passed away right before he moved to Italy.

“I just needed that instant gratification in that moment,” English tells NBC News BETTER.

English, who now lives in San Francisco, decided to change his ways in early 2017. A credit card company had been sending him “nasty gram” emails, he recalls, and reality sank in.

“That was probably when I realized I needed to scrutinize purchases a bit more and really take a critical look at things,” he says.

Here’s how English slimmed down his closet and got his shopping sprees under control.

He sold any clothes he didn’t wear on a regular basis

English made an inventory of his wardrobe. He removed all the clothes he didn’t regularly wear and sold them through online retailers.

“Ebay, Grailed and Vestiaire Collective tended to be the quickest, the easiest,” he recalls. “They all had mobile apps where you can take pictures on your phone, and you can immediately create the listing on your phone.”

He says the sales, which consisted of mostly high-end brands, fetched him about $4,500, and helped him pay back some of the money he owed.

He embraced a “uniform” rule

English got his shopping addiction under control by adopting what he calls a daily “uniform.”

The concept is simple, he says. He only buys clothes he needs and that fit into his personal aesthetic. For instance, he figured out that he tends to only wear pants on a regular basis that are black, charcoal, or olive, and shirts that are white, black, or gray.

Based on these preferences, English developed a simple “uniform” style. While shopping, he only buys clothing that fits within this style — if they don’t, he leaves them on the rack no matter how much he wants to buy them, he explains.

“You think to yourself ‘Ok, what do I already have, what am I used to? What colors do I feel like pop on me or look good and jive well with my skin or whatever?’ and try to work within that,” he says.

The uniform also makes life easier, he says. He doesn’t waste time in the morning deciding what to wear, he says, because all his clothes go together.

“I do think that the uniform idea, or at least the idea of having some general looks and aesthetics that you know look good and you feel comfortable in, just makes it easy,” he says.

Compared to his old shopping habits, English estimates he’s saved thousands of dollars. What’s more, he still gets to look good while spending less.

“I actually get more commentary and compliments than I did before,” English says.

How to slim down your closet and your spending:

  • Sell anything you don’t regularly wear: Do an inventory of your closet and remove anything you don’t wear on a regular basis. If the clothing is from a high-end brand and/or is still in good condition, you may be able to fetch a good price for it through websites like Ebay. If the clothing is not worth much, you can donate it to the Goodwill or give it to a friend.
  • Adopt a “uniform” rule: While going through your wardrobe, make a note of the clothing you always wear vs the clothes that tend to sit in your closet. What are the colors, patterns, designs, and styles you tend to wear most? Create a uniform based on those preferences. The next time you go shopping, only make purchases that match your uniform.

NEXT: How to build a work uniform on a budget

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