The Rules for My Yearlong Shopping Ban


Holy cow, I never expected so many comments to pour in after Monday’s post. It seems like many of you have embraced, or at least considered embracing, minimalism in some capacity. Now I’m even more excited to see what the next year holds. Hopefully we’ll have lots to share and learn together!

At the bottom of my last post, I mentioned there were a few ways I wanted to start this journey. First, on the financial side, I’m totally reorganizing the way I write my monthly budgets and subsequent monthly budget posts. I’ll finish July’s the way I normally do, but things are going to look really different in August. As I said, I want to rework my budget so I see how much my living expenses are, then continually try to lower them and save the rest.

The second task is going through my apartment room by-room and getting rid of everything I don’t use/need/love. I tackled clothes/shoes/bags on Monday night and was blown away by the number of items I was willing to bag up for donation. This part needs to be done quickly, otherwise I’ll be spending the next 12 months living in the state of mayhem my bedroom is currently in. So, I’m going to make this my summer project and I’ll share the process of decluttering with you here.

Finally, the biggest piece of this puzzle: my yearlong shopping ban. The ban both excites and terrifies me. I’m excited because I honestly believe it will change the way I make decisions about all purchases in the future, and I hope it will allow me to save the money I need to accomplish bigger dreams and priorities. On the other hand, I’m terrified it’ll leave me feeling like I’m “living without”, and eventually lead to giving in and failing altogether. To stay on track, I made some rules for what I can and cannot buy in the next year.

What I’m allowed to shop for:

  • groceries and basic kitchen supplies (plastic wrap, tin foil, etc.)
  • basic cosmetics (like eyeliner and mascara, but only after I run out)
  • toiletries (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.)
  • cleaning products (namely laundry detergent)
  • a few essential clothing items identified at the beginning of this challenge*
  • gifts for others

What I’m NOT allowed to shop for:

  • “fun” cosmetics (namely nail polish)
  • clothes (except for a few essentials, or if I lose weight and nothing fits)
  • shoes (this will be easy, as I hate buying shoes anyway)
  • books, magazines and notebooks (this will be tough)
  • household items (candles, decor, furniture, etc.)
  • electronics and appliances

As you can see, the list of items I’m allowed to shop for are more or less “the basics” – plus the gifts for others, which is something I’m not willing to give up. Now, even though I’m not technically allowed to shop for clothes, I spent Monday night paring down my wardrobe and realized there would be a couple small purchases* I would have to make at some point this year. I’ll share what they are in Monday’s post, but if you could see the inside of my closet and dresser now, I know you’d “ok” the purchases.

When I look at most of what’s on the list of what I’m not allowed to shop for, I think, “It’s all arbitrary anyway. Who cares?” But I know it won’t be that simple. This section will require two things to happen: (1) I’ll need to avoid malls and ultimately change my shopping habits, and (2) I’ll need to learn to live with what I currently have and be satisfied with that. I know this will be especially tough when the iPhone 6 comes out, as I’d been planning on purchasing one. And no books? Let’s talk about that when I tackle my bookshelf…

Now, even though I said this was going to be a shopping ban and not a consumer fast, I am implementing one more rule: for the next year, I am not allowed to get any takeout coffee. The only time this rule can be broken is when I’m travelling in a city where I won’t have access to a coffeemaker (so I can get takeout coffee in Toronto, but not in Victoria). I had a major aha! moment about my coffee addiction (again, for another post), so I don’t actually think this will be as tough as you’re probably all thinking… but only time will tell.

Ok, I think that covers all the rules! But based on all of your comments, I came up with a couple ideas for how I’d like to track my progress throughout the next year.

I created a Shopping Ban page in the top menu of my blog. There, you’ll find the basic rules for my shopping ban, as well as a couple other lists. Anytime an item really tempts me to break the shopping ban, I’ll write a post about it and link to it there. Throughout the year, I’ll also add any items that I’d like to buy when July 8, 2015 finally gets here (and I’m thinking I’ll probably remove things as time passes, as well). And finally, I’m going to track the number of items I remove from my home. My goal: 250+.

While this might all sound trivial, my ultimate goal is sincere: I want to live a life with more purpose. I’ve made mindful decisions to get out of debt, stop excusing my laziness and cut drinking from my list of hobbies. However, I’m still not the mindful consumer I’d like to be, as already made evident in only the beginning stages of my decluttering. I don’t want to consume for the sake of consuming – I want every item I bring into my home to have a purpose. To become that type of shopper, I need to change some bad habits!

When you look at my two shopping lists, can you see anything that’s missing? There’s still time to change the rules, so let me know! I’m all ears.

Flickr: b-tal

  • I really like your idea of writing a post of the things you want to buy. I guess it’s a way of talking yourself out of it or if by the end you still want to buy it, then you really want it. Weeds out the impulse purchases.

  • This all sounds great! I really need to work on my wants vs. needs. I have a running list of basic essentials for my wardrobe that need replacing but for some reason I just end up buying other clothes that are not on that list. I’m going to work on only buying what I need and stay away from wants. Looking forward to reading about your progress :)

  • Hi Cait. You say:
    “books, magazines and notebooks (this will be tough)”

    Ever since our daughter bought me a kindle e-reader some years back, I have not set foot in a bookstore (and I used to haunt those places almost every other day). Instead I’ve found sites on the net which has tons of free reading material – and, yes, that also includes Amazon. All I did was google search for free books to get some links – which in turn led to other links. So, that said, during my past year of de-cluttering I donated over 25 large boxes of softcover / hardcover books to our local church book sale. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    • 25 boxes!? Holy cow. I’ll explain it more in the post re: my books later, but I honestly have more books on my shelves that I haven’t read than ones I have. This year, I’m going to try to get through those and borrow from the library if there’s something new out I want to read.

      • BC Libraries all have access to Libraries2Go ( with your local card information. P.M Library might also have ebook borrowing available. Generally speaking BCLibrary won’t let you borrow an ebook that your local library already has ebook access to any more.
        It’s often a much shorter waitlist than physical books, and people are more likely to return them as soon as they’re done so you get it even faster.

  • This is awesome! I’m going to follow along as you do this, I’ve been trying in vain to do a shopping ban and it never works. I always end up spending and overspending. I highly recommend taking your clothes to a consignment shop instead of donating it all, it’s a great way to recover some cash for items that are still in good condition.
    For books, magazines and movies I use the library so my spending has gone to $0 in that category, recommend using the library. You pay taxes for it so why not? Not sure how it is in BC but in Ontario they have all new movies, books, ebooks and if they don’t have a book, you can request that they buy it and be first in line for it! How awesome is that?
    Best of luck and I’m going to join in on your challenge :)

    • All great suggestions. And I’ll have to ask the library about that – I don’t know if it works like that out here, but that’s pretty awesome for people in Ontario!

  • Those all seem like sensible rules that are livable with (I’ve seen a few attempts at similar projects where the rules have doomed it to failure, alas) and I might make off with some of them myself – have definitely felt a bit of income/spending creep recently and as lovely and amazing as my trip to Vancouver was, I could do with replacing what I used from my savings!

    Good luck, Cait – I’m looking forward to reading your future posts on this project!

    • I knew if I didn’t write somewhat easy rules that I’d immediately fail and I don’t want that. I’m happy you noticed! And thanks for the luck – I’ll probably need it. :)

  • I wish I had been as responsible at your age. I’m nearly a decade older and doing this now. GOOD LUCK and I’ll be working on this with you – in action and spirit!

  • I’m in the process of a shopping ban for the summer. I attempted a year long shopping ban before and I didn’t succeed. But I figure if I can try for shorter non-shopping sprints, maybe I’ll be able to do one for a year as well. I will be following your progress and cheering you on. Good luck! :)

  • I love this idea! I never went on an official shopping ban, but I did make the conscious decision to stop buying clothes (unless absolutely needed), and makeup (beyond the basics, and after I run out) a little over a year ago. My spending definitely decreased, and I’ve stopped caring so much about what others are buying. Learning to be happy with what you have is key. Good luck!

  • Good luck :) I’m definitely down with the purging and de-cluttering. I’m in the process of doing that myself. Last night I took another garbage bag of things out of my closet (for donation) and it is still packed. Ahhh, why do I have so much crap!?!?

    • Because we accumulate more often than we declutter. It’s such a simple concept but we don’t consciously think about it. I have sooo many bags of stuff to get rid of, already, it’s crazy!

  • This is awesome! I think your rules are completely manageable and realistic. It’ a great idea to take inventory of your closet now and write down the items you’re allowed to buy over the next year. That way, you won’t be torn between wearing work-appropriate attire or breaking your rules.

    What happens if an appliance or clothing breaks? Will you replace or try to do without?

    You will find so many ways to be resourceful in the face of this shopping ban — like using the library instead of buying books? And seeing how happy you are without buying stuff. Bravo!

    • Good questions. If something broke, I’d probably try to do without. But if I REALLY needed it, maybe I’d just dip into the money I’ve set aside for Shopping 2015, so it’s not coming out of my budget?

  • Good luck Cait! I’m rooting for you!

    I did a minor purge yesterday…went through the shoe rack and got rid of all the old worn out shoes and into the garbage they went (it was garbage day). I would have donated them but they were not fit for anyone to wear and now they’re out of the house. And the shoe area looks a lot nicer now!

    • Nice work, Nadia! I threw 6 pairs into bags on Monday, as well. The closet looks a lot…more empty, haha.

  • Books! Assuming you have a kindle or ipad you can get free books through Overdrive, from the library without even having to go to the library. The Oyster app will also let you use it for month free, so that would be free books as long as you unsubscribe before they charge you.

  • I won’t necessiarly be implementing as full a shopping ban as you are but I am tightening up my own spending. It got a little bit out of control the last few months and I need to bring it back in line. Your project will be a big help.

    No coffee???? I would seriously hurt people. And I know it’s a not a full coffee ban it’s a buying expesnive coffee out ban but if I couldn’t go to Timmy’s I think I might not be responsible for my actions. My weakness isn’t coffee but buying lunches out is another story. I can’t do a full embargo, but I plan to limit lunches out to once every 2 or 3 weeks. That way I still get my sushi and my bank account has more cash.

    • Yep, no takeout coffee – it just has to happen. But I’m going to have a small restaurant budget still, so that sushi would be ok for me too. :)

  • I think you’ll find that you don’t miss takeout coffee too much. I was a total Starbucks addict & gave it up in January. It was hard at first, but now I don’t think of going to Starbucks anymore (which has saved me tons of cash).

    Watch out for online shopping! That is my weakness. I never go to the stores, but I can shop up a storm on my computer. Good luck with your challenge :-)

    • Oh, Tre – you get me. The first thing I did this week was go through my bookmarks and delete anything I had saved to buy later – it’s ALL gone. Out of sight, out of mind. Now I just need to avoid the sites!

  • Cait! This is awesome. I’m so excited to read about your experience over the next year. I’ve been living a mustachian lifestyle since January and it’s allowed me to hit my financial goals much faster than ever before. One thing that’s really made a difference is buying used appliances, clothes and furniture. I’m still working on defeating my consumer urges, explaining this lifestyle choice to my spendy friends and saying no to things that don’t contribute to my overall happiness – but we can talk about this on the 24th at Tangerine. Looking forward to it!

  • I’m not on a total shopping freeze, but I have slowed way, WAY down! I posted about what I’d bought so far this year a couple months ago (non-essentials) and I was amazed when I added it all up, I’d spent about $300 at that point. Though this seemed high to me, it’s still way less than in years past. I’ve bought a couple more things since then, but nothing major. I plan to do an update of that post a couple more times this year. :) Tracking is how you make your goals happen.

    • “Tracking is how you make your goals happen.” Ain’t that the truth, Kayla!

    • I don’t drink alcohol, so no need for bar money! But I will have a small restaurant budget each month (I’m thinking $75 to start, then see if I can get it down in the fall). The whole point of this isn’t to limit all of my spending – it’s just to make sure I’m living within a more reasonable budget and only consuming what I really need. I will be asking friends to do more free activities (yay hiking!), but I do enjoy dining out as well and want to be able to do so at least a few times.

  • Your post the other day totally inspired me and I went on a bit of an apartment purge last night- I had two boxes FULL of stuff within an hour (shows you how much crap I’ve kept around!!) I feel amazing already and can’t wait to keep going!

    I put myself on a bit of a “no takeout” coffee ban and it’s been great (4 months strong!). I found that buying really nice coffee beans and grinding fresh every morning totally does the trick – it’s WAY better coffee than the takeout I was getting. A 1/2lb usually lasts the BF and I about a week and a half :)

    Good luck!!

    • Wow, it’s so great to hear from people who have cut out takeout coffee and survived to tell me about it, haha. I know I’ll feel weak in the fall (pumpkin spice) and Christmas, but I can also find ways to create flavours at home and make those treats for myself…IF I really want them, that is. :)

      • You can always ask for a pumpkin spice latte as a holiday gift! :) Then you don’t technically buy it, and you might get a nice afternoon with a good friend over a warm beverage. It’s a nice present at a reasonable cost and doesn’t add clutter ;)

        (and yes, I make/offer this request with my friends during pumpkin spice season, better known as Christmas time)

  • Yay rules! I’m not a materialistic person by any means, I’d much rather devote my spare money to travel than things but it’s surprising how much random stuff I find in my house even though we de-clutter quite often. Last month we decided to do a year without travel and save up instead since that’s my biggest vice (especially booking flights impulsively) so hope we can both keep it up! I’ll be checking out your shopping ban page for motivation to keep me going as well!

    • Between you and me, a huge reason I’m doing this is because I want to travel next year. And it’ll never happen if I keep spending my money on stupid, useless stuff. :)

  • I have faith in you Cait! I did pretty similar in 2012, but granted I both worked and lived in the burbs at the time so not much temptation. Be a lot harder this year now I work in the CBD again.

    • Yea, I’m technically living in the burbs and working from home… but I’m still surrounded by restaurants, stores, etc. I’ll have to put my blinders on!

  • This is so well planned and thought out. My first thought (after this is really awesome) was I hope she allows the purchase of medication. That made me laugh, because of all the information you shared, that was my first concern as a stranger.

    In the last year I gave up the buying tea out habit. I have one exception too. I drive a lot for work, so if I am consulting 2 hours or more from my house, and want to pick a tea up (after I have finished the one I took from home and usually on the way back), I can stop and get one. I use it as my reward for driving 600 km in a day!

    I need to take my own closet on. I have vacation coming soon and it is on my to do list.

    I can’t wait to follow this journey and use it to inspire my own changes.

    • Hehe, yes, there’s always going to be a budget for vitamins + prescriptions! I’m sure you could guess that, but thought I’d clarify.

      I think that’s a fair exception to your challenge. Good luck tackling your closet!

  • Make sure you take before – and – after pictures to share with us! I’m such a good de-clutter-er. Too much stuff makes me feel suffocated. I’m moving to Europe this fall and trying make good decisions about what comes with us and what doesn’t!

    • I thought about this AFTER I finished my bedroom closet! But I can still take the “after” picture + a picture of the 8 bags of clothes I put together.

      And congrats on the move! I’d love to hear more about that.

      • I’m so nervous!! My husband got transferred, so off we go to London.

        ps. Long time reader, first time commenter :) Love the work you do – it’s so helpful!

  • As far as books go, I just rekindled my love for the library in an effort to save money on books – I’m such a book-purchaser, but I remembered again how easy it is to just pop into the library and grab a few things to read! If I really want to purchase books I will either keep my eyes peeled for something specific at the thrift shop, or purge my bookshelf and trade them in for a store credit at a used bookstore! :)


    • I love that, Megan! Are you in Victoria? Russell’s is my favourite bookstore to shop in. I’ll have to avoid it for the next year, but it’s seriously one of my favourite places in the whole city.

  • You’re on the right path!

    I was a HUGE spender; clothes, handbags, shoes, coffee (especially iced coffee), books, magazines and hair/makeup products. Then, I got divorced and had to become frugal (I’m still fairly new to this journey) and I now buy quality, brand name clothing at thrift stores, threw out or donated most of my handbags, got rid of uncomfortable but “cute” shoes and sold things I never used.

    I love saving now as much as I used to love spending! Almost…. ;-)

    I still purchase too much coffee though…..I need to work on that!

    Best of Luck ~

  • Oh, gosh, I really love this! I put myself on somewhat of a spending freeze for the summer and it’s going well in not spending money on stuff for myself, but my eating out budget is OUT OF CONTROL. That’s my #1 area of struggle. But I like this yearlong ban idea, and I like the thought of writing up a post when you want to buy something you’ve banned! That’s a good way to think through the process and figure out WHY you think you need said item. I’m really intrigued by your decision to do this and I can’t wait to hear more throughout the months!

    • Giiiirl, you and me both. I’m still going to keep a small restaurant budget ($75 to start) so I can enjoy a few meals out, but no coffee. No no no.

  • As a fellow book worm, I can especially relate to the part about books, but it will save you a lot of money and you can still get your literary fix in other ways. Since I’m a writer, there was a period where a lot of my writer friends had books coming out and I felt obligated to buy their books as a show of support. This cost a lot of money and I wound up with tons of heavy books to move from apartment to apartment. About a year and a half before we moved to BC (I didn’t know at the time we would be moving 4k miles but I’m glad I started paring down well in advance), I vowed to stop buying hard copies of books and instead check out books from the library or buy ebooks since those are generally cheaper and don’t take up any space. Since I had a bunch of credits on, I also let myself request books through that since it’s not spending actual money and I could remooch them or donate them aftewards. There are SO many places you can find ebooks for free or under $5. Many email newsletters are devoted to this, and of course BC libraries are fantastic. They just leant me a book I’d wanted to read through an inter-library loan with another province.

    Now, about the clothes … I went on a donation rampage just before I moved because I thought I could be one of those women who are happy with two pairs of jeans, a few tops and an otherwise minimalist wardrobe. But then one of those tops shrunk in the wash and a pair of jeans wore out and I started to hate rotating the same half dozen outfits every week (I’m using a bit of hyperbole but a tired-looking outfit really can drag you down even if you work from home as I do). I think it’s smart not to buy new clothes but I wouldn’t go TOO crazy donating things you might later miss. I’m torn about this because I admire minimalism but it can be taken to extremes.

    • Everything I bagged up and (already) donated was stuff I hadn’t worn in years – literally. I rotate the same outfits all the time, and have been that way my entire life, so I don’t think the clothing part will be a huge issue. But I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and concerns!

  • That is all really interesting and I will be following your progress. There was a really good show on BBC 2 last night called ‘the men who made us spend’ I think you would enjoy it if you can get BBC 2 where you are. It is a series and explores why we feel we need to keep spending.

  • I’m in the middle of a similar challenge. I moved in March and still have boxes to go through and I have so much stuff I haven’t even looked at in probably YEARS. Like for real I have a box of CDs that are probably all in my iTunes account that I need to just get rid of.

    I’m in a 40 Bags in 40 Days facebook group that is year long decluttering that has been really helpful to me.

    I once heard on the radio an interview with a guy that would buy a lot of his “essentials” in bulk for a year like toiletries. One point he made that I always found interesting was well how many times do you go to the store for toilet paper and end up buying $50 worth of stuff? If you had a years worth of toilet paper on hand you wouldn’t end up doing that…although nowadays I find it cheapest to buy tp on amazon so I do avoid that :)

    Looking forward to following your challenge!

    • Ooo, so all your stuff has to be out within 40 days, I assume!? That sounds good to me! And you can buy toilet paper on Amazon!? That must not be available in Canada yet, haha – hilarious.

      • Yeah a lot of people will do it during Lent the 40 days before Easter (anytime between February and April). I know some people that started then and they just kept going.

        Yeah in the United States you can buy all sorts of household goods on amazon – toilet paper, paper towels, groceries, etc.

  • Wow – I’m so impressed by your challenge and your overall goal. Good luck!! I look forward to reading the updates.

  • Awesome ban you are putting on yourself. Imagine if you keep this up for 20years how great you’re future will be then! Good luck to you!

    • Yea, I don’t like to look into the future too much, but this could definitely change my thought processes for life. Thanks, Davey!

  • Wow, good luck with the shopping ban! I can go for a couple of months not buying anything except essentials but you’ve got a mega task ahead of you – all the best!

  • Congrats on the goal to not only not buy but to purge. I think you will find the 250 items to be a breeze. I was SHOCKED at how easy it was to shed 500 items in 31 days. You will SOOO blast through that goal.

    Good luck to you. I have a pretty strong feeling you will ace this challenge overall. 3-2-1…GO!

    • I’m already at over 120, so I think you’re right! But we’ll have to wait and see. Thanks!

  • I’ve been thinking the same thing and coincidentally I also planned to start my plan on August 1. I’m 68 years old and have been going through my 91 year-old mother’s things cause she is now sadly and permanently in a nursing home. Going through boxes of countless photos/albums, tons of books, boxes of greeting cards and stationery, clothes with price tags still on them, realized we are all hoarders and mindless shoppers. I’ve decided that I need to sort out all my stuff. I have countless framed and unframed pictures of my kids so those I’m going to pass on to them. I’ve always gone through my closets twice a year, once in spring and then in winter, and purged out what I haven’t worn in the last 2 years. These I’ve donated and haven’t missed any of them. So the plan is after August 1, 2014, no more shopping just to shop or buying stuff I don’t need. Like you, I won’t give up gifting to family and friends but I will get gift cards instead of stuff they may or may not like. So thanks for your blog….this commits me to my plan. I hope to pay off my 2 credit cards and live more simply.

  • I like how you have lists for what you can and can’t buy! I’m going to make ones for myself, to see if I can stick to it.
    My lists would look similar except for clothes. As someone going through a weightloss (for health reasons), I’d have to put that on what I can buy list – but ONLY if it’s a couple sizes smaller than what I have now, nothing that is a current size (if that makes sense!)

  • Hey,I’m glad you are doing this.I’ve been doing it to since april and the only time i failed was a month ago because i went to a concert and needed a black blazer (the one i had had stains and I love blazers) and also bought a pair of booties but,that money I’m counting it towards the money I plan to spend for the whole next year..I’m still 5 months away from reaching my goal but I cant wait for it to end,I’m running out of underwear and clothes overall,that’s the good thing though,I’m really using everything I have and I plan on buying less but higher quality! You go for it,You can do it!

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