shopping ban

No Buy January

I am now more than halfway through my ‘No Buy January’ endeavour. ‘No Buy January’ is a pretty common thing across the web – it’s a challenge not to buy anything unnecessary for the entire month. A lot of people (myself included) use it to reset after the expensive months leading up to Christmas. It also helps you get some perspective to what you are spending your money on and why. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past twenty days:

  • I can be very good when it comes to buying things, but not so much when it comes to spending money on “experiences”: While I walked away from books, stayed away from clothing stores, and worked hard to use up my stores of toiletries instead of purchasing new items when they ran out, I still spent a fair bit of money on going to restaurants, cafes, and drinks with friends. I have definitely stayed in on more Fridays than not. I don’t make much at my part-time job and am trying to be choosy with what I do spend money on, but I could definitely do better. Of course, going out with friends and spending money on experiences is inherently better than spending money on things, but I would still like to save a bit more in that area. For example, if I know I’m going to a concert in Boston on a Saturday night, then I’ll stay in on Friday to balance out the spending.
  • Western culture revolves around shopping: During the weekends I am often at a loss at what to do that does not involve going to a store and buying something. So much of my adolescence was spent at the mall on weekends and during the summer that I am realizing that it’s a bit difficult not to pop out to the stores when I’m bored and need something to do. I love window shopping as much as the next person, but with this ‘No Buy January’ I also tried to refrain from participating in anything related to consumer culture. This is part of my goal to lead a more conscious lifestyle. Instead I am trying to blog, journal, read, and meet up with friends in restaurants or cafes.
  • Learning to not beat myself up over necessary purchases: Because I don’t make a lot of money at the moment, I’ve been finding this a bit difficult. I pride myself over being able to say ‘no’ to books and clothing but then punish myself for having to spend money on things I actually need. For example, I ran out of my all-time favorite moisturizer. I stood in the aisle of Whole Foods for probably 5 minutes debating whether to repurchase. This was silly because I NEEDED the moisturizer (it is currently the middle of winter in New England and I have perpetually dry skin so yes, moisturizer is a NEED). I also spent a lot of money on a pair of prescription sunglasses, another thing I needed since a late-entry New Years resolution of mine is to wear my glasses more. I need sunglasses to drive so I really did need to buy them. It didn’t stop me from feeling insanely guilty and like I’d failed the whole point of ‘No Buy January’, but in hindsight I am realizing that there’s no way to avoid purchases like these. I can avoid buying books because I have so many currently unread on my shelf and I can avoid clothes shopping because my closet is currently full with items that I love, but I can’t avoid some purchases no matter how hard I try and that’s okay.
  • Overall I’m learning that less is definitely more: This whole process is actually teaching me a lot about myself.  I don’t need things to define who I am. I am just as content (if not more so) sitting in a coffee shop with friends or a book than I am out shopping. I’m going to try and buy only what I absolutely need going forward. Sometimes I won’t need anything and sometimes I’ll need lots of things and that’s okay because every purchase I make will be a conscious one. I never want to clean out my closet or bathroom cabinet and throw away unworn shirts or unused products because I bought them in the moment without really thinking of their value.

I’m planning on continuing my ‘No Buy’ experiment into February. It’s the shortest month of the year so if you’re interested but don’t think you can do a whole 31 days then I recommend trying to give it a go next month. I also recommend downloading a money tracking app. At the start if the month I just searched for “money tracking” in the App Store and found Fudget, which is the most basic app on the planet, but it’s really helping me see exactly where my money is going and how small and unnecessary purchases can add up very quickly.

I recommend trying to instill a ‘No Buy’ even for a week to see how much stuff you can actually survive without. If you find yourself still wanting it at the end of the week/month/YEAR then by all means go for it!

Has anyone else ever done a ‘No Buy’ for a set period time? What did you like about it? What did you find the hardest? Let me know your thoughts!