Does the shopping juju mellow as we grow up?

I am just back from a two-week staycation, and I have a confession: I shopped. And most was not very satisfying.

Sure, I did get non-fashion/shopping related things done – I painted the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, read two and a half books, visited family in Atlanta and hung out with friends.

But the lack of shopping karma I had when I wasn't on the clock was troublesome. It started when I indulged in a break from my self-imposed painting exile to visit the Prime Outlets in Gaffney, S.C. I rarely get to shop without two children (and often a husband) in tow, so going alone to find accessories for the freshly painted bathroom at the Pottery Barn Outlet would be a treat. Or so I thought.

Selection was lackluster – I couldn't find anything that fit my criteria in style or price. I was undeterred until my experiences at West Elm, Coach and the Gap played out along those same lines.

I was incredulous as I entered Banana Republic – surely this theme couldn't be repeated here, right? The bargain I had been waiting for finally revealed itself – a black microfiber and patent bag, originally $99, was marked down to $37 – and an additional 40 percent off.

That's more like it!

I took all that bad shopping juju as a sign that I needed to refocus on finishing the painting – I was having girlfriends over, and it would be best if they didn't have to step around ladders and paint pans in the kitchen.

Part of those festivities included our first clothing and product swap. I scored a cute, comfy pair of black palazzo pants, an empire waist top, military-style jacket and three pairs of shoes, including an insane pair of faux-snakeskin peep-toe heels, not to mention some very gently used beauty products.

Later that week, as luck would have it, an unplanned family visit took me to Atlanta.

Time to test the retail waters again with a visit to the newly opened H&M at Atlantic Station. As soon as I walked in nursing a peppermint latte, I knew the juju was back.

The store isn't as large as I hoped. It's two floors, and mostly women's clothing, but I was strangely underwhelmed. (That never happens to me at H&M.)

I tried on armloads, but left with only five items, and two of them were a $5 dress and a $5 bathing suit for my daughter.

I love the thrill of the hunt, the victory in scoring a killer deal, the stalking of designer goods, but something changed on my vacation.

The most satisfying shopping experience of those two weeks was one that didn't require me to spend a dime (and as a bonus, included frozen margaritas and laughing with friends).

My husband would beg to differ, but I'm finally starting to take my own advice – I'm shopping smarter.

What was it that made me turn? Is it the economy? That voice in my head that quietly but insistently says, “You don't really need those shoes, do you?”

Is it possible I've finally grown up? That I've realized that it's better to wait and make a mindful purchase, at the best quality my budget will allow, than indulge in an impulsive buy that's almost right? We'll see what happens the next time I find myself in the shoe department.