Sunday, February 27, 2011

"The Shopping Diet" by Phillip Bloch

I liked this book.  Ms. Kathryn Finney's book showed me "How To Be A Budget Fashionista" and this book showed me how to curb my spending habits.

The two books were similar in some ways - both showed how to use shopping strategies in order to save money.  Both had information about sample sales, shopping the big department stores and designer boutiques, and how to save money in each venue.

There were some differences in philosophy:  Ms. Finney completely eschews the concept of buying bags and other "designer" goods off the street, because it degrades the original product, besides which, it's illegal in NYC.  Mr. Bloch said no one would be able to tell the difference if the "designer" bag you bought off the street is original or not.  I think people can, but that's neither here nor there.  In NYC, it's illegal to sell designer knock-offs.

That was one issue I had with Mr. Bloch's book.  The other issue, and for me it's a big one, is that he uses language that stigmatizes the mentally ill.  He refers to indecisiveness in one's shopping goals as being "schizophrenic" and there are references to "maniacs."  Based on things he said elsewhere in the book, I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess that he's no stranger to mental illness, either in his personal life or among fellow fashion professionals, so maybe that's the root of his use of language.  I couldn't say.  Also, I can't find fault with him alone:  the use of language that stigmatizes individuals with mental illness is rampant.  Still, somehow Ms. Finney managed to avoid this trap.

Plus-size women may also be offended.  He gives scant coverage to plus-size women's fashion issues.  He does mention, and in "The Shopping Diet Directory" he mentions Lane Bryant, Marina Rinaldi, and some other plus-size retailers.  He also draws parallels between "gluttony" and overspending.  I don't think there's necessarily a connection.  Some plus-size women have a very good fashion sense and don't shop 'til they drop, making all their purchases count and work for them; some thinner women show poor judgment when they shop and buy things they don't need on impulse.  I don't think it's possible to generalize about someone's reasons for overspending based on their appearance.

Those were my reservations.  Overall, the book is well-written, informative and thoroughly covers its topic, which is Mr. Bloch's concept of "The Shopping Diet" which will help you spend less and more fully enjoy your life and your style.

The book is broken down into three parts, covering ten steps.  Part One covers Steps One through Three and is titled "Digest This:  Weigh the Past for a Beautiful Future" and takes a 12-Step approach in that Step One is where you admit to overspending.  It has a questionnaire to help you determine your three biggest spending sprees and what triggered them.  Step Two is "Commit to the Diet" and features a contract for you to sign, to keep you honest.  Step Three teaches you how to determine what your style is, which he bases on celebrities and fashion icons:  The Classic, The Icon, The Trend Addict, and so on, using examples of stars and celebrities who fall into each category to help you determine which style category best fits you.

Part Two is titled "Battle of the Bulge: The Closet Cleanse" and covers Steps Four through Eight.  It's all about how to clean out your closet, let go of what no longer is appropriate, what no longer fits, etc.  Then he gives you a list of all the items which he thinks should be in a woman's closet.  Everyone seems to have their Top Ten or 25 or 100 items that should be in a woman's closet.  I have to say I agreed with his list, because I have most of those items in my closet.  He also covers what items are never appropriate to wear in a professional environment.

Part Three is titled "The Ultimate Indulgence: Your Super Self" and it's about how to practice "safe, responsible shopping" (Step Nine) and how to "make The Diet a way of life" (Step Ten).  What I liked best about Step Ten was that it focused on getting out and doing other things besides shopping, such as going to a movie, hanging out with friends, going for a bike ride or a walk ... non-consumer oriented activities.

I also really liked how he wrote about shoes.  Seriously, when this guy talks about shoes, he turns into a poet.  His imagination takes flight, and he takes you along with him.  This guy's got you covered, from flats to sneakers to platforms and dress sandals.

I would recommend this book for somebody who is looking to rein in their spending habits in a sane and rational way, while nurturing a responsible, selective method of shopping.  While it covers much of the same material as "How To Be A Budget Fashionista," his approach to the material is different, as are some of his solutions to spending problems.  He also encourages you to get to the core reasons as to why you are spending so much time and money shopping, which is useful if you want to have insight into your behavior.  Personally I would rather have insight into my behavior; then I can tackle the root cause and work from there.  I would say this is a useful addition to the well-informed consumer's library.