The Ultimate Shopping Ban Guide: Part 1

January 18, 2016


Over the past couple of months, I’ve received countless comments, emails, tweets, and messages telling me you’re ready to make 2016 the year of the shopping ban. Whether you’re doing one for 30 days, 90 days, 6 months or 1 year, my first response is always HECK YES!

I just crossed the 18-month mark of my own two-year shopping ban and it’s truly changed the way I think about money and stuff. I am now fully aware of what I value in life, which means I’m wasting less money on stuff I don’t, spending (some of) it on the things I do and keeping more of it in the bank. I went from saving 5-10% of my income each month, to saving 20-30% and still getting to do what I love (travel). I’ve also kicked a few bad spending habits, some of which I’d had for over a decade. And I no longer feel like I’m depriving myself of anything, because I have finally accepted myself for who I am, and know I can’t buy anything that will make me or my life better than it already is.

So, when someone tells me they want to do a shopping ban, I think HECK YES, because I wish everyone could change their spending habits, become conscious consumers, get to do more of what they love and feel the way I do…

Of course, I know that wanting to start a shopping a ban and successfully completing one are two very different things. There are lots of what-if situations to prepare for, personal goals and rules you want to set, and even other people to consider. I get it. You may have job interviews that require a new outfit, kids that seem to grow and change sizes every few months, or a partner who thinks the idea is flat out crazy. I get it. Sure, I’m single and I live alone and don’t have anyone at home to worry about but myself. But I am still a daughter, a big sister, an auntie, a travel partner and a friend. I have other people to consider in all kinds of situations. So yes, I get it.

What I get even more is that no two shopping bans will be the same. The same way I always say that personal finance is personal, every shopping ban will be unique. We all spend money on different things, which means our goals and rules have to be different. However, there is one thing that will always be the same: breaking a bad habit isn’t easy. And when you try to break a bad habit, you will inevitably come up against triggers that will open your eyes and even knock your socks off. You may realize things about yourself that were always present but hid securely behind your spending power. And if you do a ban for long enough, I bet you’ll become more resourceful than you knew you could be.

I want you to get to that point. I don’t want any of the what-if situations to hold you back or cause you to relapse or even give up on your shopping ban altogether. I want you to push through each and every one, so you can discover more about yourself and find creative ways to get through this world without pulling out your credit cards. Your goals might be to spend less, save more money in general, save for something specific, use up the stockpile of stuff you already have or simply become a more conscious consumer. My goal with this two-part series is to help you get organized and push through all the what-if situations, so you can reach your goal – whatever it may be.

In Part 1, I want to help you set yourself up for success. Don’t worry about the what-ifs or the possible distractions, just yet… let’s just focus on how to get started.

How to Start a Shopping Ban

1. Declutter Your Home

Before you embark on a shopping ban for any length of time, I would suggest going through your home and getting rid of as much stuff as you can. Don’t just organize all of your stuff – really analyze it, figure out what you need to keep and let go of all the rest. I’m sure that sounds counterintuitive, to some degree. You’re not going to be allowed to shop for 3 months, 6 months, a year… and you’re also going to get rid of the things you currently have!? But decluttering first can open your eyes to how much stuff you’ve wasted money on in the past, which can serve as motivation to not waste more money during your shopping ban. It’ll also give you a visual reminder of how much stuff you’re keeping…

2. Take Inventory of What You Keep

It’s really easy to forget how much stuff you own, when it lives inside cupboards, drawers, closets and boxes. When you’re done decluttering, I would suggest taking inventory of the items you own the most of. You don’t have to be as exact as I was, where I literally wrote down things like how many pens I owned. Instead, try this.

Step 1: Go through each room of your home and write down the 1-5 items you have the most of. For example, you might have lots of shampoo, conditioner and lotion in your bathroom; t-shirts and pants in your bedroom; and books, magazines, DVDs and games in your living room. To start, write the names of the most popular items.

Step 2: Take inventory of those items. Whether you have 4 bottles of shampoo or 17 t-shirts – add up everything you currently have “in stock” and write the number next to it. These are some of the things you will not be allowed to buy during your shopping ban – at least not until you run out of them and need more.

3. Write Three Lists

While you were decluttering, noticing the types of things you were getting rid of and taking stock of what you were keeping, two things probably started to become clear: there are things in your home you definitely don’t need to buy more of, and there are probably also a few things you will, in fact, need to buy during your shopping ban. At this point, it’s time to write three lists.

#1 – The Essentials List*: One of the most frequently asked questions I get about my own shopping ban is how I decided what I was allowed to buy. The answer is simple: everything you use on a daily basis can be purchased when you run out of it. Groceries, toiletries, gas or bus passes, gardening supplies and other items you use to make things – when you run out, you can buy more. The easiest way to create this list is to walk around your home and look at what you use in each room every day.

#2 – The Non-Essentials List*: When people ask what a shopping ban is, exactly, I say it’s a period of time where you choose not to buy any of the “non-essentials” in life. In my home, that includes things I might think I enjoy and (used to) buy often, but don’t need on a daily basis, like books, magazines, candles, nail polish, artwork and furniture. The non-essentials you like to buy will be different, so write those down – and don’t forget to add the inventory you took stock of, too.

*You’ll notice that I didn’t include any “experience” costs, like dining out or going on a trip. If you want to include that stuff, you can! Remember, your ban will be unique to you. I added takeout coffee to the list of things I wasn’t allowed to buy, because it was definitely my vice and I wasn’t happy about how much money I was spending on it, but I still dine out probably once/week.

#3 – The Approved Shopping List: Finally, one of the things that seems to trip people up the most is my approved shopping list. I’ve written two – one at the beginning of each yearlong shopping ban – and each one included things I knew I was going to need during the next year. The list for Year 1 was based on what I discovered when I was decluttering; like I only owned 1 hoodie and it was full of holes, so I needed to replace it.

When you declutter and take stock of what you own, think of what’s coming up during the timespan of your shopping ban and figure out what you need to add to this list. Note: Don’t include things like a new sweater when you already own 4, or 6 different outfits for the 6 weddings you’re attending. If you have 1-2 of something, that’s often enough. But if you can look ahead and see something will need to be purchased, add it to the list.

4. Unsubscribe From All Store/Coupon Newsletters

Now that you have your three lists of all the things you are and are not allowed to buy, it’s time to remove as many temptations as possible – starting with what gets delivered to your inbox. Before I started my shopping ban, I probably got at least 3 emails/day from stores claiming they were having an incredible sale I couldn’t miss because prices would never be that low again. Guess what? Prices were usually that low again within the next 45 days, but I never noticed. Instead, I saw that the stores I loved buying things from were having sales, went to their websites and made purchases – all within 5 minutes of receiving an email. If you’ve ever been guilty of doing the same, you need to try Unroll.Me.

Unroll.Me lets you unsubscribe from any and all newsletters you’re currently subscribed to with just a few clicks of your mouse. Amazon, Apple, Bath and Body Works, Best Buy, Groupon, clothing stores, etc. etc. etc. – click click click, gone. If you want to take this one step further, I would also suggest unfollowing and unliking all the stores on social media (don’t forget about Instagram!). Don’t feel bad about it, even if you know the person who runs the store. For the next 30 days to 1 year, you are actively choosing to NOT shop, and allowing yourself to see sales and promotional materials will only tempt you. Remember that stores aren’t loyal to you, and their sales aren’t real sales – they are just promotions to lure you into spending money you probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

If you want to take this one extra step further, I’d also suggest deleting ALL the bookmarks you have saved of things you want to buy one day. I used to have at least 50 Amazon pages bookmarked, mostly of books I wanted to read. With two clicks, I selected them all and deleted them. Now, I couldn’t even tell you what 1/10th of them were… out of sight, out of mind, friends.

5. Setup a Shopping Ban Savings Account

Finally, no matter what your ultimate goal is, you are going to save money by not shopping – I can guarantee it. What you do with that money is up to you, but I would suggest opening a new savings account (or renaming an existing one you don’t use) and making it your dedicated Shopping Ban Savings Account. How much money you decide to put it in each month is up to you. I started by putting $100/month in, because I knew I was saving that by not buying takeout coffee anymore.

shopping-ban-cardholderA better idea might be to transfer over every penny you stop yourself from spending by NOT giving into impulse buys. For example, if you’re tempted to buy a few books, and even find yourself putting them into your online shopping cart, look at the total amount you almost spent and transfer that same amount of cash into your Shopping Ban Savings Account. I had nearly $3,000 in my account, after the first year, and had spent another $700 on a new bed (which was on my approved shopping list).

If you want an extra reminder to not spend money, print off a couple of these shopping ban cardholders (PDF), cut them out and fold them around the cards you use most often, and keep them like this in your wallet. You can write the last day of your shopping ban as the expiry date, and there’s also lots of white space on the back you could use to write down the things you are/are not allowed to buy.

At over 2,200 words, there’s not only a lot to read but a lot to work through here. I’ve intentionally chosen to break up this post into two, so you can look at it more like a course. Decluttering could take you days or even weeks, taking inventory and writing your lists shouldn’t be rushed, and the best way to set yourself up for success is to remove all temptations. Creating a plan for what you’ll do with all the money you save is icing on the cake. On Monday, I’ll share my thoughts on how to deal with the what-if situations that could come up, and how to maneuver your way around them so you can successfully complete your shopping ban.

Are there any specific concerns you want me to address?



  • Reply Suzanne January 18, 2016 at 4:35 am

    You have been an inspiration to me. I have started my 6 month ban to pay off debt that I have and save money for a trip to Europe in July. I have not gone through my clothes but I know that I don’t need to buy any for at least 3 years! I have started de cluttering household items and have put some up for sale. I have put over 500 back in my pocket. I’m hoping to list a few more items over the next few weeks. It’s amazing how many things I get done around the house when I’m not out running around shopping!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:23 am

      Wow, it sounds like you’ve had an incredible start to your ban, Suzanne! Selling stuff for $500 is no joke – keep going going going with that, if you can! And yes, it’ll also be amazing to see how many things you get done, in general, when you have a little less stuff around the house too. :) Good luck! I’m hoping to make it to Europe this year, myself.

  • Reply Sarah January 18, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Thanks Cait! I started a month shopping bam 6 days ago, and am already planning to extend it. I have reorganised my bank accounts, am writing a budget and will move to declutteting next. I have already been surprised by how many times I have ‘almost’ wandered into a shop, just to kill time. I think you’re right about removing temptation by unsubscribing from mailing lists… they’re downright dangerous! I echo Suzanne – you really are inspiring. You have made me confident that I am going to save $15000 this year, instead of the $0 I managed to save last year. I look forward to Part 2 on Monday :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Oh, now I feel like I’M on a mission for us to save that $15,000, Sarah! What’s the plan? Will it all come from your income, are you going to earn some extra and/or even sell some stuff? Let’s do this! haha

  • Reply Rachel January 18, 2016 at 5:42 am

    You are so inspirational with this! Decluttering is a HUGE task for me and I’m starting small. So far I’ve already gotten rid of a decent amount, it’s such a great feeling! Not sure about a complete shopping ban for myself but I definitely want to reign it in!!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Decluttering can definitely be overwhelming, and seem like a monumental task. Start by tackling one room (or even one piece of furniture, like a big dresser) at a home – but do EVERYTHING in that space. I found I needed big momentum to keep moving forward. It’ll feel amazing when you’re done, Rachel! :)

  • Reply Michelle Smith January 18, 2016 at 6:30 am

    I want to start a shopping ban to help me pay off our mortgage in the next 15 months. I’ve been working on this for the last 5 months and have gotten tripped up by unexpected expenses – like our stove dying and needing to be replaced. While I have a plan to pay for that expense it’s not helping me to accomplish my first goal of paying off my mortgage. How do you handle large unexpected expenses, like car repairs or medical expenses or major appliance failure. I do have a small amount in savings and a Christmas Club account I started in November and I’m putting a good amount into my 401k each month, but don’t have the resources yet to handle large setbacks. Any suggestions you can give those of us who are starting out on this path?

    • Reply Lindsay January 18, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      hi Michelle! Obviously I’m not Cait, but I was talking to my boss in relation to this multi million dollar project we completed 10 years ago. At this time the city will have to spend ten million dollars on ungrades, but what they did was put a million dollars away every year for ten years. Thus capturing the true operation cost of the plant that was built. I have also been struggling with repair bills and think this is an excellent idea (on a much smaller scale). For now I’m starting with $100/mo into an incidental account, but eventually it would be great to be able to save an average operating cost of my home/car/etc. Maybe this will help you too?

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:30 am

      So this sounds more like a personal finance question, in general, rather than a shopping ban question – and my answer would be that it’s really important to build an emergency fund, especially when you’re a homeowner. As a renter, I don’t have to worry about things like appliances breaking, because it would be my landlord’s responsibility to fix or replace it. If you don’t feel like you have enough in the bank to cover big expenses like this, set your goals back by a couple of months, and spend those months just boosting your savings. My biggest mistake, back when I was paying down my debt, was that I didn’t want anything to stop me from paying it off in two years… it was so aggressive that I crossed the finish line with basically no savings and really bad savings habits. So that would be my advice, Michelle! Push your goals back slightly, save up so you have more of a cushion, and then get back to your aggressive debt repayment.

  • Reply Miko January 18, 2016 at 7:03 am

    Great ideas Cait,
    I’m not doing a shopping ban, but am doing a ‘low buy’. Thanks for all the great tips. I’m for sure going to print off one of those card holders – even if it’s a planned purchase – it makes you think twice.

    Also – did you delete your message board?

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:33 am

      I did, Miko! Sorry about that. I shared the news with subscribers (on my email list) last week, but I found they weren’t being used (and even I wasn’t using them much), likely because it was a site outside of anything we are used to checking on. I saw too many people write posts that got no responses and it made me feel terrible… so I decided it was a failed experiment, and will continue to grow the community in other ways. :)

  • Reply Toni January 18, 2016 at 7:09 am

    I have been drawn to the idea of the shopping ban for a long time and was very inspired back when you got media coverage around yours in 2015. I know that I buy things with the idea that I am improving my life in some way, but there is usually a step I could have taken toward that life-improvement goal without purchasing the item. The purchase is just the easy–even lazy–way to fulfill the desire. (Ex: a new kitchen gadget to help with healthy cooking, when I could have made healthy meals without it; new clothing or makeup to feel attractive when I could have just spent a little extra time primping at home and felt prettier; a new workout book when I could have followed a free plan online or just done exercises I already know…). I do try to pay attention to the purchases that really make a difference in my life and that I use consistently, like the glass food containers a blogger inspired me to buy in 2010 and I still feel good about and use daily. But in the long run, few purchases are in that category. I think I’ll give this a try, but I know it will be HARD. PS – trying to think of an alternative to buying soy candles, I love them so much!

    • Reply Toni January 18, 2016 at 7:10 am

      PS – I am already sure I’ll have specific questions later on, but too soon to tell what they are. :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:36 am

      Thank you for sharing all the reasons you’ve likely made purchases in the past, Toni. I relate to so many of them. If you’re willing, I’d definitely test this out for even 30 days. If it helps, print off and cut out two of those shopping ban cards, put one in your wallet and tape another to your computer screen (if you’re an online shopper!). As for the candles, I FEEL YOU. I’ve received a few as gifts, since I started the ban, but my goal for this spring/summer is to MAKE SOME. I’ll talk about being more resourceful, in Monday’s post, but I think this is a perfect example of that. :)

  • Reply audrey January 18, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I am so glad I found your blog! I need to cut back my spending. After being on Weight Watchers and losing 90ish pounds over 16 months, I’ve been rebuying clothes left and right, thrilled to be in smaller and smaller sizes. I’m not stabilizing and need to make smart choices and STOP the extra spending. It was very expensive last year and the closet is full. I will follow your advice and see what I have in the house, analyze my spending habits and vow to dramatically cut back the first quarter, eventually going on a total ban after buying summer clothes in a smaller size. (Last summers size will be too large.) Thanks for the motivation we all need!

    • Reply Linda Sand January 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      It might help you to Google “capsule wardrobe”. You can live all season with just 33 pieces as proven in Project 333. I find I can go with even fewer pieces of clothing if I stock up on scarves instead–scarves are one size fits all so can take you through your changing sizes without spending a lot. Plus, as you get smaller you can start tying those scarves around your waist instead of your neck!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:40 am

      Love that Linda chimed in on this, Audrey. (Thank you, Linda!) I would’ve suggested the same: my friend Courtney started Project 333 and is a huge advocate for capsule wardrobes. I can survive all 4 seasons with just 33 things, haha… but we don’t get winter here, and summer isn’t (usually) very hot. Anyway, it could be a great point for you to jump off the shopping bandwagon and start looking at everything you own more intentionally. I would definitely suggest checking out her site! I think you’ll find some great inspiration from it :)

    • Reply Amanda January 19, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Wow, congratulations on the weight loss! When a friend was in the process of losing weight and was [relatively] frequently changing sizes, she purchased a lot of things at thrift stores. That’s not exactly in keeping with the shopping ban topic, but it was much more economical than buying new, and then she just donated them back as her body continued to change, so she didn’t have a closet full of ill-fitting clothes.

    • Reply Bre January 24, 2016 at 11:51 pm

      Audrey, I just had to peek in and say “Congratulations on your amazing weight loss.”

  • Reply AB January 18, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Yay! I’ve been toying with the idea of a shopping ban for several months and I think the time is right. 2015 was full of unplanned giant life changes, and I’m still getting settled in my new reality. I move soon which provides the perfect time to take inventory of what I have and assess what I need. My approved shopping list will be longer than I’d like (everything from a bed to cutlery!), but at least I’ll shop thoughtfully and with intention.

    I’m not a newbie at intentional finances – I’ve tracked every cent spent for nearly 3 years which has totally changed my relationship with money. I put final tweaks on my budget last night (which has always only been a guide) and the process was sobering – kind of like cleaning out a dusty closet you’d rather just keep ignoring – out of sight out of mind. Sure I can pay for the bed within my budget and my emergency fund has been instrumental in riding these waves. But replacing a beloved vitamix – where does that fit in? Does that get the emergency fund stamp of approval too? I’m totally hiding behind my purchasing power and letting myself off the hook because I’ve had a really rough year. I don’t reward myself with a “what a long week, I deserve a [treat]” but maybe that’s exactly what I’m doing on a bigger scale.

    All this to say – thanks for posting this. I’m definitely printing out the pdf card holder to remind myself to be intentional with every single purchase. I’ll echo a comment I made before the holidays – thanks for nudging me again to do the damn thing already!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Moving is the BEST time to analyze and take stock of what you own, AB! And yes, it sounds like you need to buy basically everything… but I would challenge yourself to only buy the very basics (dishes, cutlery, bed, sheets, basic furniture, etc.) and NOT buy all the decorative stuff that we think “makes it feel like home” just yet. I think going through a transitional period is the WORST time to buy things… because you’re not really YOU, in that moment. You’re going to change, learn things about yourself, maybe find new interests, etc. So get the things you need to live and be comfortable day-to-day, but don’t buy pictures, home decor or anything like that yet. Settle into your new home, make lists of things you THINK you want to buy, and just wait on it for a while… every few months, I bet you’ll be able to cross some off, NOT because you bought them but because you decide you don’t need them. I’m so sorry it’s been a challenging year, but I have a very good feeling about 2016 for you. :) <3

      • Reply AB January 19, 2016 at 7:54 am

        I hear you – so easy to get caught up in making the place feel like home by buying cute decor or a new couch that matches something else better. With challenge comes growth – and I think this is a great opportunity to think about a minimalist approach to a new home! It’s very liberating, really. And I completely agree on being careful with decisions during a period of big transitions. Bed first, curtains later, ugly blinds for now. :) Thanks for the reply!

  • Reply Maggie @ Northern Expenditure January 18, 2016 at 8:40 am

    This is so wonderful, Cait! We’re on the decluttering phase. We’re REALLY decluttering for the first time (with all five of us on board… though it’s still difficult with five different people finding joy in lots of different things!) We did our clothes last week. Our books were this weekend (still in the middle of that) but we started with the kids’ books and it’s been wonderful. We got rid of a couple of boxes, reorganized the others and the kids have been solidly reading for two days all the books they forgot about because now they look and feel so much more enticing! I’m starting to get the vision and I can’t wait for post #2!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:47 am

      I like that you guys are tackling things item by item, Maggie! Although I imagine clothes and books are big items to tackle ;) so wonderful to hear your kids are reading books from your own shelves!

  • Reply Bonnie S January 18, 2016 at 10:28 am

    I am seriously curtailing spending out of necessity (husband lost job of 35 years in 2015 and new job pays way less). When I read about your shopping ban I was struck by how many of your problem areas matched mine. I am committed to buying no new clothes, hair products, or nail polish until I actually NEED some (which will be a looooong time). Makeup and beauty items I’m only buying as I use up things. You are very inspiring!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:49 am

      I’m glad you’ve found some inspiration from my experience, Bonnie! Here’s something else I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned: I never wear nail polish now. I used to paint my nails all the time, and now I can’t remember the last time I put it on. Maybe in the summer, for a wedding… but that’s it. I still haven’t thrown out the 4-5 bottles I kept, but imagine it won’t be long before I do! Something to think about :)

      • Reply Eva January 31, 2016 at 1:26 pm

        Cait, we share our nail polish woes! I have about 50 bottles even though I stopped buying. But now I even stopped painting my nails. I did some traveling in the fall and after 2 months of travel when I didn’t want the maintenance, I didn’t come back to it. This is quite weird since I’ve been painting my nails since 13. I think I need to get rid of my collection and keep only 4-5 bottles :) It feels wasteful to throw them out though. Maybe I will ask friends if they want some. Any other ideas? Btw inspired by you, I had my own modified shopping ban and saved over 10k just from not buying clothes and stuff. Thank you!!!!

  • Reply Meghan H. January 18, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Great suggestions. I’ve been on a major declutter and started my own spending ban in Jan. I have to say, my ban is really more in line with your mindful spending. I’ve bought a couple of ‘forbidden items’ but they were things I thought long about at don’t regret so I’m ok with it :). Overall much less waste (grocery, unnecessary clothing items, kids stuff etc) and no morning Tim/Starbucks or running out for lunch when I could bring my own. That’s a big win in my books! :) Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:51 am

      No takeout coffee is HUGE, Meghan! Do you know how long it took for me to kick that bad habit? Months. It was months and months and months before the urges stopped. The habit was so engrained in me! Anyway, I’m glad to hear you’ve done without it, so far this year! The stuff you make at home starts to taste better and better, as time goes on :)

  • Reply serenity January 18, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I discover you when you were featured in one of Farnoosh’s podcasts. I’m not really on a shopping ban, but I vow to not buy anything that I don’t need this year. I must say, it’s a very liberating experience. I feel free.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:52 am

      That’s essentially the same thing, Serenity! I buy things when I need them (toothpaste, soap, etc.) but that’s it. If you can do that all year, I guarantee your consumerism tendencies will be changed forever. :)

  • Reply Cat S. January 18, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Thanks for doing this, Cait! The part about taking stock of what you own the most of (and those things being what you should ban) is so simple, but is an excellent point that was enlightening for me. I realized I have a lot of office supplies, notebooks, stationery, makeup, earrings and blankets.

    I started my shopping ban at the beginning of December and plan to do it until the end of this December. My goal is to have more money to spend on experiences, like travel, rather than keeping it as a dream, because I spent my money on stuff! It’s a liberating feeling not getting caught up in the possibility of spending money on my ‘vices’. Since those items are not an option, it’s a surprising sense of relief knowing I don’t have to worry about what else I’ll bring home.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 7:54 am

      I love that, Cat! I spent way more money than I used to on travel, during my first year of the ban… and I don’t regret a penny of it! I made amazing memories with friends, saw new cities, and can feel myself grow with every trip I go on – we can’t say that about “stuff”, can we? ;) I’m so excited to follow your journey, this year!

  • Reply Lia January 18, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I don’t have any debt, I never had it and I’ve managed to save quite a lot, but still, last November I’ve suddenly realized I was just spending too much of my money on superfluous things, so I decided to take a break from such a habit, a break with no end date (yet). Just a few days later I’ve stumbled upon this blog (via an article in The Guardian) and it was illuminating, refreshing, eye-opening and a great support in my newborn deision to step off the buying carousel.

    Strange as it may seem, but tracking down all my expenses, writing down my very first budget and not buying unnecessary things gives me not only a vibrant sense of freedom – it also helps me to have a different, better attitude towards life in general.
    So, my kudos to this blog, I’m very, very glad I’ve found it.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:08 am

      It doesn’t seem strange at all to me, Lia. A new budget always feels like a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. But maybe we are just kindred budgeting spirits ;) I’m glad you found me, too!

  • Reply Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor January 18, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    While I’m not a huge fan of bans for myself–because I’m such a natural tightwad & they make me too uptight–I think they are a super useful tool for rethinking one’s money habits. And I love your ideas to unsubscribe from coupon and shopping emails, and to funnel your savings into a special account (or any savings account). Great tips!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:10 am

      Thanks, Kalie! :)

  • Reply Ashlee Michelle January 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    What a great idea – I’ve told myself before that I will do a shopping ban and then BOOM my favorite store has a sale and it all goes down the drain. But I do have those moments, oh so wonderful moments, when I find myself not even looking at things that I’d want to buy and next then I know, a month as gone by and I haven’t got anything new. It’s always refreshing!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:15 am

      I can’t remember the last time I looked at things I wanted to buy… except maybe snow pants! Which probably sounds weird, haha, but would’ve been necessary if I couldn’t have borrowed some from a friend. It DOES feel good to not feel like you “need” anything, and know that life is good exactly as it is. Here’s to many more of those months, Ashlee :)

  • Reply Rose January 18, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I have just begun my quest of a year without spending! As my husband and I near retirement I realized this fashionista is going to have to curtail shopping. So-no shopping for clothes,shoes, make-up, handbags, jewelry for 2016. Looking forward to the journey and am blogging along the way!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:16 am

      Yay! If you’re comfortable sharing the link, I’d love to check out your blog, Rose :)

  • Reply Daisy @ Simplicity Relished January 18, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    This is excellent! So many people say, “I really need to start saving money,” but have no idea where to start. I love how your first step is actually decluttering– we only realize how much we already have when we’re struggling to give it away or get rid of it!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:17 am

      That’s what I told myself for years, yet had no idea how much money I was wasting on silly little $5 and $10 purchases.

  • Reply Alyssa @ Generation YRA January 18, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    De-cluttering!! This is next on my list. I just finished The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I’m not going to lie, there a couple of things listed straight in that book I was guilty of (I mean, I thought it was convenient/beneficial to stock up all the travel toiletries I could grab on trips?!). I also know when I was going through donating/selling clothes (articles of clothing I have grasped on to since middle school), I clearly had an accurate picture of what items I bought, literally wore once, and never touched again because they made it to the ‘shadow land’ of my closet. I still need to take on a shopping ban challenge – but I guess one of the most difficult parts I face is treating others (donations, gifts, fronting costs, etc.). I am so gung-ho about taking care of the people I love, that sometimes I do not even associate how much I am spending when doing so in a month. Luckily for me, my own expenses are fairly low, and my savings are automated, that spending on others is one thing I go for all-out. I’m fairly methodical about what I treat people to (not just random items that I know will not get much use), but how do you approach these certain expenses (especially because we’re aunties!)? Thanks for your help, Cait!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:40 am

      Oh yes, I’ll definitely be talking about how to approach gift-giving during a ban! It sounds like you have the right idea, though: to buy things you know will be used. I’ve found that, in itself, has drastically lowered my costs. I’ve also spent a lot more time with my niece/nephew, which is invaluable. (Or at least I think it is, when they see me, yell “auntie” and I melt, haha.)

  • Reply Abbey Abbott January 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    I would also add “Don’t watch haul videos on YouTube” to the Unsubscribe list above! Those are triggers for me. :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:41 am

      What’s a haul video? Haha

      • Reply Leigh January 20, 2016 at 8:25 am

        I’ve discovered during maternity leave – breastfeeding can get a bit dull! “Haul” videos are when a person goes shopping and just shows everything they bought. It can also be fore when things arrive in mail, or presents. It’s less informative than an “unboxing” video (when someone shows what is included in a package for a phone, or other object). The make-up world has “empties” videos where someone keeps their beauty and make-up products for the full month and films a one sentence review as they toss them.
        I don’t really understand “Haul” or “Empties” but I find the number of views and followers they get fascinating. And I would agree watching haul videos can result in feeling like what you have isn’t enough, especially as the person has never used the item and I suspect often raves about it during the video, then puts it down until it’s too old to use. But as a watcher you only see the excited part, and have no idea of their personal finances/amount of things they have and use other than what the youtuber presents to you.

  • Reply Tyler January 18, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Since starting to use your mindful budget program I discovered where most if not all my money is going. And to be honest it is a really easy fix. My vice is what I consume at work. I go through drink after drink and food item after food item and had no idea I was spending so much on it until I started writing down my expenses everyday. I think if I’m going to do a shopping ban it would only have to be on no extra purchases at work and I could easily save 50 to 150 a week…

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:43 am

      It’s wonderful you’re aware of it now, Tyler! But that’ll definitely be a tough habit to break, I’m sure. I think I remember you saying you went through the drive-thru a lot… if that’s true, maybe start by packing more snacks. :)

  • Reply Formative Fortunes January 18, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Love the shopping ban idea, it seems like a great way to save money and to realize what is important and what isnt in our lives. Makes us stay away from those harmful little expenses!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:43 am

      They add up fast!

  • Reply Lindsey @ Cents, Sense & Sensibility January 18, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Hey Kait, Oooh, this is good stuff! I’ve already decluttered most of my house because we are planning to move out of country. I love buying coffee, books, and technology so really this ban could be any or all of those things.

    I think my only concern about a shopping ban is feeling deprived. It makes me feel really boxed in and trapped and that’s never worked out really well for me. But maybe that goes back to what you were talking about – that I could learn something about myself. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:45 am

      It’s a concern worth addressing, Lindsey… I’ll be sure to talk about it in Monday’s post! I know I felt like I was being deprived back when I was paying off my debt and basically giving myself no fun money. That’s where I think decluttering at the beginning of a shopping ban can help. The only time I sometimes feel like I’m deprived is not being allowed to buy books, but decluttering showed me how many I already owned that I hadn’t even read!

  • Reply Lovelle January 18, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    This is so good Cait! Thank you for your tips!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:46 am

      You’re welcome! (And beautiful name!)

  • Reply Ilana January 19, 2016 at 2:58 am

    Hi Cait. I have been looking forward to this post even though I have already started my ban on the 1st of Jan – my first new year’s resolution lol. My ban is mostly on books and cosmetics as they are my biggest impulse spend items. And I have started tracking my grocery spending, because although I don’t mind spending a little extra on food I still want to make sure I’m not wasting money. I have also been steadily decluttering my place for a year now and the other day I realised that my wardrobe is Project 333 ready! So, I’m not new to minimalism and the rest, but I felt I needed refining and I must say your blog a helped a lot! It’s very inspirational, so thanks :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:54 am

      I’m so glad, Ilana! And it does sound like you know your way around this minimalism block. :) I agree about grocery budgets, and it’s also not easy to lower it when costs keep going up (here anyway). But banning books and cosmetics is great! I’ve learned the most about myself from banning books and takeout coffee alone.

      • Reply Ilana January 24, 2016 at 11:27 pm

        In South Africa we have a low cost of living, but even so, buying good quality food can still end up costing a lot of money. Add to that our terrible exchange rate, drought struggles, etc. and our food costs are constantly going up as well. My biggest food issue is indulging unnecessarily and buying for convenience, because I’m single and living alone I don’t have to cook for anyone, so it’s easier to get away with being lazy. And the summer here has been rough, so I don’t want to use the stove or oven if I don’t have too. But hot/sweaty/lazy = more money.

  • Reply Elle January 19, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Thank you Cait! I went through a one and a half year shopping ban because I had to save for my wedding. After the wedding, I went on a shopping binge. I had zero control of the little savings I had left. So I’m very very very thankful to have come across your blog and have now start tracking my expenses daily. I am afraid to go on a shopping ban again, fearing I will go on a bigger shopping binge. But I’m very determined to make better choices now. Looking forward to your plans for this year!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:58 am

      My guess is the difference between that ban (necessary) and this one (somewhat unnecessary) is that you won’t feel like you’re being deprived, IF you remind yourself that you’re trying to change some of your habits FOR LIFE. I’ll also talk about this more on Monday, but one of the things that has helped me is a) really trying to enjoy and find value in the things I already own and b) becoming more resourceful about fixing/making things, which has helped me grow and find some new hobbies. But really, it all comes down to what we tell ourselves. If you tell yourself “ugh I can’t buy it, this sucks” then you’ll probably end up going on another binge. But if you tell yourself “I truly don’t need that thing” and walk away from it, my guess is you’ll never go back to it. :)

  • Reply Laura January 19, 2016 at 7:16 am

    I’ve unconsciously been doing the spending ban since I read about yours. I’ve bought one jumper in six months. I think I haven’t bought anything non-essential since July! And I sold, chucked away or donated a lot of my stuff when I packed up. Now everything is in three suitcases at my boyfriends for me to move across continents in the next month. I think I’m going to be on a permanent ban for the foreseeable future. Although I need to quit the takeout coffee!!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Wow, that’s incredible progress, Laura! And congrats on a huge and exciting move! Where are you off to? Feed my wanderlust :D

  • Reply LITTERLESS January 19, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Hooray! I’ve been pondering what this will look like for me this year – simplicity and economy are such constant, intertwined goals for me. I think I’ve settled on a “buy only 25 things” rule (which, really, ends up being similar to an approved items shopping list). In practical terms, that means I look around and really consider before purchasing things (because I don’t want to use up those numbers prematurely!). Recently, when I lost my locker lock, I found a friend with an extra instead of purchasing. Cheers to another simple, frugal year! Love reading about how you and others approach this.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 19, 2016 at 9:03 am

      YES! That’s something I’ll include in Monday’s post, as well… when you know you’re only allowed to buy what’s on the approved shopping list ONCE, you won’t make an impulse buy because you want it to be perfect. I think I tried on 20+ hoodies before I finally bought one that fit right, and now I wear it all the time because it still fits me well. I’ve also borrowed a lot more things from friends, rather than buy new, and try to offer the same whenever I have something (mostly books haha). Here’s to another frugal year for us both!

  • Reply Jessie's Money January 19, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I think starting small would be the way to get my husband on board with a shopping ban. I’m thinking I might talk to him about a no-eating out ban in February or March and see how that goes for a start.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      That’s a great idea, Jessie! Also HI! :)

  • Reply Shelly January 19, 2016 at 9:26 am

    I definitely need to declutter and take stock of what we have. I’m not sure if I can go full shopping ban with a husband and two kids, but I do plan on paying more attention to the things I purchase. My 11 yr old(birthday was last week) daughter told me this week that she doesn’t really play with toys anymore and she didn’t ask for any “toy” gifts this past Christmas. So I’m happy and sad at the same time. She is growing up!! My other daughter will be 15 in a few months. Oh my. She has a doctor appointment 2 hours away this coming Monday, so we are staying in town the night before at a hotel that has a pool and free breakfast. We are also going to a movie and doing some shopping. I’m making a list before I go so that I’m not purchasing things I don’t really need. We are going to Costco and our membership needs to be renewed so that it an extra expense. I have a Keurig machine and I LOVE coffee!! My husband is a tea drinker. I have those refill pods for my machine so that I don’t have to use the Kcups all the time and just buy small bags of coffee to use intead. I usually buy a big box of Kcups when we go to Costco though, but I’m thinking this time I will skip them to save some money. I’m not putting them on my list!! Also, our movie should be pretty cheap because we have $60 in Cineplex gift cards to use!! YAY!! If I can keep that up, there should be less clutter in our lives and more money in the bank!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      It’s pretty cool to hear that your daughter said she doesn’t want toys anymore, Shelly! Maybe not to you, as her mama – but just neat to know that kids can reach that stage. Sounds like you have things ready for a fairly frugal trip. Hope the appointment goes well!

  • Reply Melanie January 19, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Thanks to you and Bridget E., I am now in the midst of a 90 day shopping ban that started January 1. Like you, I have kept dining out as part of the allowable expenses! A friend of mine at work joined me and we are laughing at how boring we are now because we stay in at lunch and read, or walk instead of heading to the mall to shop. But I love looking at my budget spreadsheet and anticipating how much extra $$ I will have at the end of the month. I’m hoping to save enough this year to finish part of our basement which will feel great when it’s all done! In the meantime I am also decluttering and have sold a few things, which also helps with the savings portion of my spending ban!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      I can feel the love for your budget! Maybe because I know exactly what you’re describing :) and it’s so awesome you’ve already sold some things! I’ve been helping my dad do that for a few months now and he’s made at least $500. Even if you think you’ll only get $5 or $10 for stuff, it’s worth listing – all adds up! Good luck, Melanie :)

  • Reply Susan January 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Cait,

    I recently got your budget planner and am really excited to be using it. One thing I would love to see for next year’s planner would be a section for purchases I could have made but had the willpower not to (maybe a page for each month otherwise it might bulk up the planner?). If I can write that down and see visually the amounts I saved, I think that would help me mentally. I think you mentioned actually transferring the money into a separate savings account but for me this little extra in the planner would be helpful. Thanks for listening and thanks for all the work you do, it’s really inspiring.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      Ahhh, that’s a good idea, Susan! I guess I didn’t want to focus it too much around shopping, per se… but that would be really easy to include! I’ll definitely think about that for next year. Glad you’re enjoying it, so far! :)

  • Reply Rina January 19, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    I’m not doing the shopping ban per se, but I’ve been living pretty frugally paying off my college loan for over 6 months now. The hardest part of it for me is what this lifestyle is doing to my social life. I sometimes feel missed out on so many things because I don’t dine out as much now. I know it’s totally reasonable, I
    realized how much I used to spend on dining out and especially on drinks and I just don’t want to keep on doing this to my budget. But as I am single and live alone all my social life used to be centered around dinners/cocktails with my friends and I miss that a lot. You and Carrie mentioned a couple alternatives in the 2nd episode of your podcast like home dinner parties, bbq in the yard, etc. And it’s really very helpful. But I don’t really know how to deal with visitors who come over for a weekend and want to go everywhere and only eat out and go to fancy bars. Telling them I can’t afford it seems like I’d be spoiling their weekend a little. What’s your take on that?

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      That’s certainly tough, Rina. Does it happen often? Or is that just one scenario you’re worried about? It’s not very often that I have friends come visit Victoria, but if they did I know I’d go out for a couple meals, for sure. That being said, I typically only take people places where their bill will be $10-20 for a meal – and you can probably find lots of great restaurants in cities that offer food at that price point. I don’t drink, which also saves me a lot of money. You could opt not to drink or only have 1 drink of something that’s on special. And if everyone really wants to drink, suggest doing that at home first and then going out.

      I’d say that the biggest problem I see with this situation is the idea that you think you’d be spoiling their weekend by saying you can’t to certain things. If you can’t afford to go out (or don’t even WANT to spend the money), you shouldn’t. I’m not saying it’s easy… Not drinking, for example, has certainly changed a few of my relationships. I don’t hangout with some of the people I used to drink with, and sometimes I feel like I miss out on things by not partying anymore. But in its place, I now spend a lot more time with people who like to go hiking and do stuff outdoors. Not only do we spend less money, but we’ve built solid relationships… and made memories we can actually remember!

      One of the things Carrie and I are going to talk about in an upcoming episode is awkward money conversations and how to deal with them. I’ll make sure I ask Carrie how she’d approach this, so we can have a good discussion about it on the show.

    • Reply AB January 22, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Hey Rina, I also struggle with being frugal while socializing (in a big city). I recently ended up at an overpriced and underwhelming restaurant that friends seem to frequent for the cocktails. While my meal was still way more than I would’ve normally spent, I stuck with a single beer, which lasted the whole meal, while my friends quickly sipped two much more expensive cocktails. My meal was a veggie dish – still overpriced for what it was, but a fraction of the fish special my friend got.

      My suggestions – stick with a simple drink that’ll last you longer than an expensive cocktail, and make sure you keep drinking water, so you don’t guzzle your drink just because you’re thirsty. Or skip the alcohol entirely sometimes. For meals, an option is eating before hand so you can get away with a smaller plate, or splitting something like nachos, which are cheaper than getting an entree. Hope this helps!

    • Reply Ilana January 24, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      I don’t have advice about people staying over and wanting to go out, but when it comes to going out with friends generally I have a tip. In my case it’s work-related team lunches…we have them frequently and it really adds up, so I sometimes eat before and then go to the restaurant and just order something to drink. That way I am still part of the team activity, but I don’t have to spend extra, and people don’t make a fuss about it. I just tell them it’s not in my budget and I already ate.

  • Reply Saskia January 19, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    I actually think that whether you’re single or partnered, completing a successful shopping ban is similar in that it requires intrinsic willpower/determination/motivation. It might be hard to do a shopping ban if your partner isn’t wholly on board (there can definitely be a weird vibe of “but s/he gets to spend money on something frivolous, I deserve to too” going on, at least in my relationship), but it can also be hard to do it by yourself (no one to see what you buy or hold you accountable). Both cases, you are the only one that can make it work/not work.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Oh, I 100% agree, Saskia! I do think it can be difficult if you have a partner who spends a lot of money… but if you continue to lead by example, you’re at least moving things forward in the direction you want them to go!

  • Reply Emilie January 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Cait, this is a terrific post! I so appreciate the way you are setting us up to succeed, and …. all the help you are giving people! I am learning so much. As I’ve written, we’ve imposed new, much lower limits on several budget items. Food, Miscellaneous and Clothes are three areas. Its interesting how this really slows me down when I am considering something I think I ‘need’. In fact, I’m realizing just how simply we can live, — and am starting to think that fewer choices are making me more creative.

    That said ….. when it comes to our Food budget this month …. ugh, and some new insights about why the food budget has been high. We work at a University and frequently a student needs a bed during a month long internship or a weekend before an apt. opens up. We enjoy kids that age, and while we’re happy to have someone in an extra bedroom. And while we say, “your on your own for food”, the reality is we invite them to join us for a meal here and there, too. We’re putting up two students this month, and a couple of times a week we’ve shared our meal with them, even ordered out pizza …. and, while we enjoy getting to know them, its blown our food budget. So — thinking we will either plan ahead better and make an inexpensive casserole to share, or we might set up an “extra student” monthly budget item. That way, when we do have extras, there will be money to use.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      I think the extra budget line item is a great idea, Emilie! If you know it will be a recurring expense, always allocate say $50 or $75 or whatever you need. If you don’t use it all, that’s great! But if you do, at least you knew to expect it and then don’t feel bad about going over another line item. <--- That's the key thing about this budgeting thing - to be prepared, so you don't feel bad! We shouldn't feel bad about our spending, and planning for it is the best way to avoid that. :)

  • Reply Lisa January 19, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Hi Cait! The information you provide is priceless! Thank you for your willingness to be so open about your finances and lifestyle. My main question is about Costco or bulk buying. I typically shop there and only there for groceries/household plus other things like gifts and kids clothes. I try my best to only buy when we need but also buy when an item is on sale and I know we’d use the item before it spoils etc. Any suggestions how to use Costco more effectively? Would bulk buying be a shopping ban no-no? Thanks! Keep the fantastic content coming!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Hmm, bulk buying isn’t a no-no! I get my dad to pick up things like toilet paper, laundry detergent, batteries and whole bean coffee, when he goes… but I’d definitely encourage you to avoid looking at the SALES. Walk in with a list, get that stuff and walk out. I know it’s not easy! Sometimes I hate walking into Costco for that exact reason. But if it’s not on the list, you probably don’t NEED it…

  • Reply Cara January 20, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Great post and can I just say I LOVE the card sleeves! I am going to have to print a few out.

    My big issue is I think I’m addicted to bargain hunting. This comes from my mom who used to come home from the mall and show off all the deals she got on clothes. She’d say, “This was originally $45, but it was marked down to $22.50 and there was an additional 70% off markdowns, plus I had a coupon, so I only paid $4!” And my dad would quip, “I could have saved you $4.”

    Which is so true, right? It’s not a deal if you don’t need it. I’m trying really hard to internalize this. I think I shop (especially online) because I need a mindless, no-stress time-waster once in a while so I end up looking at deal sites and getting tempted to buy junk I don’t need. Does anyone have suggestions for alternatives?

    My husband and I are talking about selling our house and moving to a bigger city, maybe as soon as next year, so I really want to downsize (or at least not ADD a bunch of stuff). Your ban is really inspiring.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      So I’d say the keyword to pull from everything you’ve said is that you’re “addicted” to bargain hunting. The only way to break a really bad habit is to pay attention to the triggers you feel and come up with a good habit to replace it with. I did this with takeout coffee. Every time I felt like going to Starbucks, I made a cup of coffee or tea at home instead and usually drank it on my deck (to enjoy the view). Let’s say you decide to read a book instead of shop. Every time you get the urge to shop, you should walk away from the environment you’re in, pick up a book and read in a new space. Or maybe you decide to exercise or knit or pick up another hobby. Pick something you enjoy doing, and make sure you do it every single time you feel the urge to shop, so you can break the habit. It could take months – I won’t lie! But paying attention to your triggers and replacing your bad habit will be the only way to truly change it. I know you can do it, Cara!

  • Reply Emily January 20, 2016 at 7:31 am

    I can never get over how much I love your blog! I’ve been away for a month, but am heading home and itching for a declutter. I always find that having to live out of a suitcase for an extended period of time is a great reminder of how little I need. I’m looking forward to setting my budget for the year, and a shopping ban is most definitely going to make an appearance in my 2016 financial goals. I am aiming to save $16,000 as a kick start to moving continents and a future wedding!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      You’re totally right about the suitcase thing, Emily! I think travelling so much the past couple years really helped me see how little I need… Good luck with your savings goals! :D

  • Reply Mrs. Mad Money Monster January 20, 2016 at 9:56 am

    I have recently jumped on the clothes-buying ban bandwagon. I’m setting a seemingly easy goal of no clothes shopping in 2016. Since I rarely buy clothes, this probably needs to be extended into 2017. Baby steps. I’m starting with 2016 and I’ll extend into 2017 after hitting the first goal. Clearing out clutter is also on my minimalist list! It’s nice to know there are other people in the PF community dedicated to not shopping. Go Team!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:11 pm

      Sounds like you know exactly what you need to do! Go Team, indeed! :D

  • Reply Mrs. Frugalwoods January 20, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Love this! I did the de-clutter step in the fall as part of my pre-baby prep and it’s amazing how much it made me realize I don’t need to buy things. Like you said, seems counterintuitive, but it illuminated for me just how much junk we had. Getting rid of bags and bags of stuff felt awesome and I now want to be more conscious about the things I allow into my life going forward. I don’t want to feel owned by my stuff!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Heck no, let it all go! (I was singing that, as I typed it, hehe…)

  • Reply Suz January 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Cait. I’ve been reading your blog for the past 6 months. I started purging a couple of years ago when we moved from a huge 4 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom home. Since then I’ve old given away or thrown out 60% of our belongings. It was a difficult though liberating process. I have become much more conscious of my purchases, and take time to decide on what I need. Just moved again, and here is what I m struggling with…because I too value frugality, I am finding myself holding on to items, worried that if I let them go I will have to re purchase. It’s disappointing that this far in my progress I still wrestle with this. I am in the process of designing my own shopping ban, and still this decluttering (especially with clothes) is stalling me.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      Ahh, you’re not alone with that struggle, Suz! I didn’t really experience it, but I know MANY people do. The best piece of advice is something I actually read on the Minimalists’ blog. Every time you look at an item and feel like “I should keep this just in case” or “what if I need it later”, consider the 20/20 rule: if you can replace it for $20 and within 20 minutes from your home, get rid of it. I know, it sounds weird for me to tell you you might have to spend money later… but I haven’t needed to buy ANYTHING I got rid of, so far. So try the rule with a few items and see how it makes you feel. It might be just the thing to help you move forward:

  • Reply Sophia January 20, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Suz, I feel your pain! I’m also on a mission to downsize our belongings in anticipation of moving out of our 4 bedroom home into something much, much smaller. I’ve always been a sucker for a sale and now I’m having a hard time getting rid of things that I “might” need down the road, especially when I remember what a “bargain” it was when I bought it! Now I regret all that wasted money on things I really, really didn’t need.
    I’ve been trying to put a shopping ban into place but haven’t been very successful at making the mental shift yet. Doing the de-cluttering in anticipation of the shopping ban is a good move even if I didn’t make the decision to do so consciously.
    Cait, you are an inspiration to keep at it! Thank you for setting the steps out so clearly!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      Just in case you don’t see my reply to Suz, I wanted to make sure I shared this link with you too, Sophia! Hope it helps with at least a few items :)

  • Reply Rochelle January 21, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I’m thinking I need to try this for February (a short month!). I gave birth in the beginning of December and ended up losing much of the weight quickly, so I bought more clothes than I had in a long time in December and January. I wrote out a budget for January for the first time since having any kids at all–let alone two of them!–and HUGELY underestimated (so far I’ve spent nearly triple my budget) the amount I spent on baby items. Which ended up including more than my max budget just to get the newborn’s room painted… Plus diapers for both kids from Costco.

    My goal is to take stock of how many diapers we have left and how much formula we go through by the end of January, stock up on them, and not spend ANYTHING on baby items or clothing for myself during February. Since my husband and I celebrate Valentine’s Day on the anniversary of when we officially started dating–which is January 24th–I should be able to cut our “eating out” budget to zero or near-zero as well. I’m trying to pay off the used car we bought last year and rebuild our savings after the outrageous medical bills that come with a U.S. hospital birth.

    Hopefully, between my husband’s extra January paycheck and a shopping ban, I can make February an excellent month for meeting those goals.

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Taking stock of how many things you actually use is a GREAT idea, Rochelle – for future budgeting purposes, too! And don’t feel too bad about blowing your last budget. I consider each budget to be somewhat of a test; if you fail, don’t give up – just learn from it and write it again the next month. Dec/Jan saw huge changes for you. Settle into life, write the budget that you think will work and stick to your goals. Happy anniversary :)

      • Reply Rochelle January 22, 2016 at 7:59 pm

        Thanks, Cait! I definitely haven’t beat myself up over the budget mishap. It’s been funny how much I grossly underestimated things, but I know now and can prepare a little better. :) Plus, with only one more shopping day left this month, we’ve spent just over half what I thought we would spend on groceries, and we’re under in my estimate for gas, too!

  • Reply Laura Guyot January 21, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration! You, the Frugalwoods and Joshua Becker have inspired my husband and I this last year. We purged our house, and we’re still purging. I imagine this process for us, with kids, could take some time, and that’s ok. We’ve made big progress. In December 2015, with the stress of the Holidays, I felt overwhelmed by finances and money and thought we’d never get out from under our $15,000 + credit card debt. I was fed up with living paycheck to paycheck and something clicked and I flew into action. For months now we’ve been only grocery shopping once a week, and I pack my husbands lunch and work snacks (huge savings there). And I believe those two things gave us the boost we needed. Then I read the post “You can choose to want less” on in December and that flipped a switch in me. To sum it up quickly, a financial advisor gave the advice that one could a. work more, b. save more or c. want less. This hit home for me. I thought, YES, I can want less. I’ve spent the last year decluttering and I DON’T WANT TO WORK MORE. I was super motivated and I payed $800 toward a credit card between early December and early January. I’ve since paid the total off that credit card and with a vengeance I’m on to the next credit card with a goal of paying our full credit card debt off by the end of the year. So, thank you, thank you, thank you! I love getting updates from you! Keep on inspiring, you are really good at it!

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      Wasn’t that a fantastic post, Laura!? I shared it here a few weeks ago, and over on Rockstar Finance too. So cool to read how much it inspired you! I’ll be rooting for you all the way to the end of the year :) good luck!

  • Reply Frugal Desperado January 21, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Thank you for always being such a constant motivator and role model! I’ve started my ban on January 1st, and although I haven’t bought any “things,” it’s hard to navigate through a Toronto winter with spending as little “socializing” money as possible – I’m sure you experienced the general rule here that if you want to have any human interaction, you have to go out and blow all sorts of money on food and/or drinks (have you experienced the ‘ummm, you’re kidding, right?’ look when suggesting frugal fun to a Torontonian?? I sure do!) It’s comforting knowing you were able to live the Toronto life and still come out a frugal paragon! Definitely gives me hope :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders January 21, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      Haha, yes, I did get a lot of those looks and questions from people in Toronto… it’s certainly work hard/play hard/own the best of everything there! So I get it. No matter where you live though, I think it’s extremely important to set goals / know your beliefs and stick to them no matter what. You’ll feel better, personally, when you can stick to your guns and live the life that’s best for you. :)

  • Reply Jaymee January 22, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I plan to do a decluttering process when my partner and I move out of our parents’ homes. I’m pretty excited about that!

    For now, just hearing about people around me doing shopping bans (Bridget for example :D) is making me more conscious about the stuff I buy and surround myself with. Any time I “need” to purchase something (e.g. Snowboarding gear) I evaluate whether it’s a smart purchase or if I have other alternatives. Will be following this Cait!!

  • Reply giulia January 23, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Agree, for the moment I am into decluttering my home, tracking notes of daily expenses but I am going to have a sort of shopping ban, maybe not as your but trying to have more frugal lifestyle still having good social life…

  • Reply NDQ January 24, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Your shopping ban might be the best idea of the year. Earlier last year, I stopped stocking up on household or personal items. Until a product was completely used up, I didn’t buy the next one. I have found that I don’t need to buy items as often as I thought. Even if something is on sale, I don’t buy more than what I will use in a year. I know how long products last (I write dates on containers), so I know if I use only one or two a year. It cuts down on storage and saves money.

    I also cut out commercial TV by getting rid of the satellite service to save money. A side-effect of that decision is that by not having commercials in my life on a daily basis, it cuts out the desire to try new products or just go shopping. It has been an amazing change.


  • Reply ladyfrufru January 24, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    I’m doing a year of frugal challenges in 2016–each month is a different challenge. I’m trying the Shopping Ban/Uber-Frugal Month in March. I can’t wait. Pursuing a frugal lifestyle is like unpeeling layers of an onion–there are always new things to learn and old tricks to fine-tune. I love your blog and find so much inspiration here.

  • Reply Ashlee @ SMD! January 25, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    What I love about this article (other than everything) is that it has something for me (LISTS!) and for the husband (me unsubscribing from store/coupon newsletters — I receive more than a few)!

    Great post, Cait!

  • Reply Steve Miller January 31, 2016 at 5:45 am

    Great guide to starting a shopping ban. You’ve inspired us ever since you started yours over a year ago.

  • Reply Jen @ Frugal Millennial January 31, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Love this! I have been on a shopping ban for the past six months (the ban will end in 2.5 years when my student loan debt is paid off). I am including “experience” type things like eating out, etc. just because my debt load is so high. Once the debt is paid off, I probably will continue to limit buying “stuff”, but I do miss purchasing certain “experiences” and will probably allow that again.

  • Reply imogen February 5, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Hi Cait, My 17-year-old son tipped me off to your blog! He’s an econ & math major at Northwestern and got his thriftiness from his mom. So many thoughts to share…as a mom to three teenagers my challenges for not spending are a bit different from yours but nonetheless, your writing has helped to push me over the edge into a personal (non)spending practice I’ve been mere inches from for some time now. Thanks so much for that. One of the truly disappointing things about social media, for me at least, is that sooooo much of it is driven by commerce. My favorite bloggers might not be sellers, but their sponsors are! As such, I’ve peeled waaaaaaay back on blogs I read. (It’s my own personal revolt! both because I HATE advertising and also because I want to better use my time.) Why do we shop? It’s the American #1 pastime! No kidding. As Barbara Kruger’s ism goes, “I shop, therefore I am.” Things are how people define themselves, sadly enough. I think we shop because we want someone (but who exactly?) to validate our choices/tastes…as if selecting something “tasteful” is going to give it and us additional value. It doesn’t. It’s a money suck…but more than that…it’s a time and energy suck. I was a designer way back when, so I do appreciate clothes and good design in general. But I realized that I was more an artist than designer and that my time and energy was worth more than a stuffed closet (or encouraging others to have a stuffed closet). We shop because it’s what the culture supports/promotes. With two of my kids now out of the house, it’s my job to sort, discard, recycle, sell, store…that’s a LOT of decisions. And for me, that’s the real burden. Not spending is the easy part. Thanks so much for your writing and for helping others to re-prioritize so that the focus is on living/doing instead of having/cleaning/storing/managing stuff. Oh, and in terms of personal vices? I don’t eat out or purchase coffee out. But I do enjoy wine (red in particular). I’m on a 100 day ban just for kicks.

  • Reply Karen Golden February 13, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    How do you handle eating out? Every meal I eat is either restaurant food that I’ve picked up to-go or fast food because I hate cooking and preparing food and don’t know much about how to do either. I’m vegan, so I’m always tempted by vegan restaurants as well. Vegan food is always so expensive as well, even ingredients from a grocery store. Any advice? How often do you eat out? What do you eat at other times? Thank you for your blog.

  • Reply Lydia February 15, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    This is so interesting to me!

    I write about budgeting and managing money and I’ve heard of this idea but the way you break it down makes me think more.

    It’s not just about “not spending money” but learning to live with less. Which is a belief I totally subscribe to! This is awesome and I love your tip about unsubscribing to store newsletters! Something I would have never thought of!

  • Reply debi k July 5, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Your article was awesome. I have 2 question. What do you do with the stuff you no longer need or want in your house. Also what kind of items do you get rid of as I have never done this but need to do it.

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