Three Months Without Shopping or Takeout Coffee

As of today, I’m one quarter of the way through my yearlong shopping ban, and let me tell you: it’s been a roller coaster. One day, I feel happy and content, proud of the time that has passed so far and confident I can stay on track for the next nine months. The next day, I’m writing a list of things I want, and trying to shut up the inner voice that’s telling me I could technically buy anything I want and just not tell you guys. I’ve beat the voice every time, so far, but she still comes around… more often than I’d like.

I started this challenge thinking it would be a great way to save money. One month in, I felt accomplished already, and began to see how it might inspire others to take on similar (albeit probably shorter) challenges themselves. Now that I’m three months in, however, I have to tell you that a ban like this will not come without a lot of external challenges; things that you can’t foresee but which will test your resolve, beyond just having to break old habits and wanting to give into cravings. Here’s where I’m at in this journey:

Takeout Coffee Update

In August, I shared how my first month without takeout coffee went. At the time, I’d found that the most challenging thing was simply paying attention to the triggers for my cravings, and understanding that I would have to change behaviours and thought patterns I’d learned over nearly 15 years. As of right now, I think I can say I’ve been successful and am now done with that part, as I very rarely crave takeout coffee anymore. In fact, one of the best parts of my day is waking up and realizing it’s time to fill my French press. I’m practically drooling, just thinking about it.

Part of me wonders how successful I’ve really been, though, since I actually drank a lot of takeout coffee in August and September. If you remember, my rule was that I couldn’t have takeout coffee in Vancouver or Victoria, but I’m still allowed to have it when I’m travelling – and I have done plenty of that. I will still stand by my statement about not craving it, though, as I’ve been home for two weeks and can’t remember craving it once in that time. But I think the real test will be when I’m home for 6-8 weeks from mid-October to December; not only because that’s a long stretch of time for me to be at home, but because the cooler weather comes with fewer opportunities to invite friends to go for walks or hikes. What do people typically do then? Go out for a warm drink to fill their bellies. I may need to invite people over more often, instead.

Shopping Ban Update

As for the shopping ban itself, I’ll start by saying that books continue to be an issue for me – well, now it’s mostly e-books. When I see that a book I want to read has been traditionally published, I get sad for a few minutes, then remember the huge stack of unread books I have at home and the very little time I find to read anyway. If I really want to read them, I add myself to the waitlist at the library. As it turns out, I’m still waiting for all of them, so this has worked in my budget’s favour. When I read the description of an e-book I want, however, and see they are just $0.99-2.99, I still have internal temper tantrums.

The one time I really struggled with the shopping ban, though, was after that breakup. I’m fortunate to have amazing friends who supported me through it, but there are those first few nights where you go to bed alone and can physically feel the emptiness seep into your bones… ugh, I don’t wish that feeling on anyone. It was in those first few days that I realized I do have a trigger that makes me want to shop: loneliness. I also think that because the situation was out of my control, I wanted to do something that was in my control, which was to buy myself whatever would make me feel better. I dreamed about giving up on the ban, and buying some new clothes and an iPhone 6. I even went to reserve one on my cell phone provider’s site and nearly completed the form. But I knew I shouldn’t (and the bill for it would’ve sucked).

Even though I was mad I couldn’t shop at the time, I’m now so grateful I had the shopping ban looming over me. Seriously, can you imagine what I might’ve done if the ban wasn’t in place? Five years ago, old me would’ve put all brand new furniture + way too many nights at the bar on her credit card, and financed a brand new car. I know, because I did that. This relationship wasn’t long enough to spur that kind of damage, but I definitely would’ve bought myself a new iPhone. According to the Loneliness Loop, this means my level of materialism is acquisition as a source of happiness: “These materialists buy things because they feel an emotional deficit in their life that they want to fill with stuff. They have a very clear idea that something will make them happier.” Fortunately, I’m learning how to recognize and push past that.

Anyway, despite having to face that emotional trigger to shop, I’m still happy with the results I’ve seen in the past three months. Every time I log into my online banking, I can’t believe how much money is in my chequing account. (We’re not talking thousands, but I’m never down to $20 before payday, like I was for so many years before.) I’m only spending money on what matters to me (the basics + travel), versus wasting it on things that don’t, and I’m finally meeting my savings goals. I don’t think another nine months of this will be easy, but I feel armed and ready for whatever is next.

Can you remember a time when you wanted to shop because you were upset?

  • A year long shopping ban would be hell for me. I love to shop. Well, I mostly love to bargain shop. It sounds like you are doing great, even with your ups and downs. Those are to be expected. Keep going!

    • Yep, I’m on an up right now, so it all feels fine. Going into one of my favourite stores to shop for a gift yesterday was tough, though… so many cute/fun things! But I don’t need ’em.

  • Great job Cait! Battling that inner voice is a big challenge for me too. I get past it by starting to list all the priorities I have, like buying a house, Retirement, travelling and it usually makes “her” go away. Not always though…
    Headed over to that link for the Loneliness Loop…I think I’m a mix of A and C. Loneliness and boredom are my biggest downfalls.
    Surprisingly I don’t shop when I’m angry, I workout like a maniac. I only shop if I’m sad, depressed or feeling lonely. One thing I’ve tried to figure out is I never shop when I travel to Hawaii…maybe it’s all the sunshine or I’m extremely happy. Scratch that…it is because I’m extremely happy.
    Keep up the great work! You’re one of the inspirations for trying a shopping ban again :)

    • YES! I was angry today and hit the gym for a solid workout. Now I’m kinda blah again and wish something could fix it. I’m always here for you, if you need to push through any of those emotions!

      And now I’m daydreaming of Hawaii, haha. It’s on my travel list for 2015, but we’ll see where the year takes me.

  • Keep it up Cait! My wallet has been bleeding money and I am trying very hard to get it under control. I realised I didn’t plan as best as I could have for the two weddings I had this fall, one I was in and involved a trip to Halifax/Newfoundland and the other has a bachelorette party in Montreal. One thing that I’ve come to realise is that not every month can be amazing Savings months. With the help of your recent monthly posts I’ve come to realise this is normal. Hopefully in November things will slow down and I can save more for Christmas!

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more about it!


    • Thanks, L! And yes, I think it’s normal for our budgets to fluctuate each month; that’s partially why I like to create annual savings goals first, so that I’m still always striving towards a bigger number, and not just feeling bad about not always reaching my monthly goals. So I know I’ll hit my Emergency Fund goal, even though I had a few expensive months where my money had to go elsewhere. Here’s to a good/cheap fall!

  • Wow that is great that you were able to resist that temptation – I know I wouldn’t have been able to. My thing when I’m upset is food – which is just as bad as shopping. I gravitate towards unhealthy comfort food when I’m upset, which never makes me feel better, it just upsets my stomach.

    Good luck on the next nine months of your shopping ban!

    • We’re definitely opposites on this one. Being upset usually takes away my appetite. I’ve forced myself to eat well and exercise a lot more the past few weeks (thank goodness).

  • “Can you remember a time when you wanted to shop because you were upset?”

    Actually Cait – never! During those times when I’ve been upset (either at work in the past or at home perhaps), I’ve tended to do things to take my mind elsewhere – have a drink (or two – lol), go for a run or a walk (regardless of the weather), or lose myself in a good adventure novel. Counting to 10 tends to help at times as well! :-)

  • Even for me being a non shopper something like a breakup would trigger a desire to get a fabulous new wardrobe or some other “upgrade” to my life. Congrats on working through those emotions in a positive way!

    • Thanks, Tonya! And yea, I’m honestly not a huge shopper either – that’s why I thought the ban would be easy breezy, and why I was REALLY surprised the breakup made me want to buy ALL THE THINGS! Ahhh well. It’s a new month :)

  • Congratulations on being 1/4 done the shopping ban and managing to stay so strong! Quite the feat.

    I don’t think I could/would want to do a year-long ban. Much like you, I already don’t have a ton of stuff and don’t tend to purchase a lot frequently. We tend to spend money more on experiences than things, I find. However, I’m sure I could do a lot better at avoiding spending small amounts of cash here and there – like my nemesis, poutine, for dinner last night!

  • After my September Spending Fast, I can’t even come close to this — but I’m far more weak-willed than you ;)

    I think you’re doing a really great job. After 30 days of reigning in my own spending (and not even fully succeeding) I can appreciate how challenging this is… and how some days you don’t even know/care about it because it’s so natural not to spend, and others when its so restrictive you ask yourself why you ever committed to something so dumb.


    And definitely don’t buy something and just not tell us because we will know, Cait. We will know.

  • You are doing great, Cait! Keep up the good work :)

    As a recovering emotional shopper, I know how hard it is to resist the temptation to shop. You are pushing through and coming out the stronger for it :)

    • Thanks, Mackenzie! I guess I just didn’t realize I was an emotional shopper until now… more breakthroughs, I suppose!

  • The last time I wanted to shop (and did) because I was upset was shortly after my ex and I broke up a year ago. I was mad at him and just wanted a fresh and fancy new start. A new bag and sunglasses later (both fabulous, neither cheap) the angry energy was spent but so was my money and I felt like a moron for giving in like that. I’ve been a lot more aware of those emotional triggers ever since.

    • Ahhh, I love when we “get” each other, Sara! Thanks for sharing that memory/purchase, I really appreciate it. The question now is: do you still have either item?

  • I want to shop when I am stressed. I have found online window shopping works for me. I look, add things to wish lists but don’t buy. I find it helps and it doesn’t cut into my bottom line.

    I have used inspiration from your ban and am really limiting the extras. After my closet clean out I knew I needed a few items and have replaced them. Now for clothing I am only replacing items that need to be replaced. (Like when the bra comes apart I can get a new one lol). I am more careful about household items and am buying only what I need. I am likely saving $500 or more and that makes me happy.

    • $500 total or $500/month? Either way, that’s amazing, Kristen! And I don’t know if I’m strong enough to window shop and not buy, but I have so much respect for those (like you!) that do.

  • Great job, Cait! Keep up the good work :) I’ve tried shopping bans a couple of times and have been less than successful so I know it can be a huge struggle.

    I find boredom to be a bigger shopping trigger for me than sadness/loneliness, and like Jordann I turn to food in those times :(

    • Aww. I mean, the only good thing is that food probably isn’t expensive… but whenever I get big cravings for bad food, I try to remind myself how crappy I feel after I eat it. I know it’s tough to push past that, though! (I think I’ll always struggle with chocolate.)

  • That’s a really powerful description of the psychological principles at work in your own head there Cait. It’s amazing that you’ve been successful slaying those thoughts repeatedly for 3 months. I know I give into my own temptations and cravings (mostly food like Jordann) when things get rough much more easily than you’ve described.

    Keep up the good work and I admire you for creating such an amazing stretch goal for yourself!

    • Thanks, Stephen! I’ve become a little obsessed with paying attention to my cravings for coffee/shopping and trying to figure out what causes them. I feel like once you work through that, and push past it, you can make a lot more conscious decisions going forward.

  • Oh my gosh, I totally get it. I broke up with a boyfriend once and decided that was the day I was going to remodel my kitchen. I planned on doing it, but I hadn’t planned on putting it on a 0% card for 12 months, to the tune of $12,000. Yeah. Kitchen looked good when we got back together!

    I wonder why people don’t invite friends over more often? We always must meet up at a restaurant or coffee shop when we could easily just sit on one of our couches.

    • Ohhhh man, that’s quite the story! Thank you so much for sharing it, Meghan. And I’m not sure about the never-hangout-at-home thing. Personally, since I work from home all day, I know I like to get out of the house. But I do miss having people over for dinners and movie nights. Something to think about :)

  • Awesome job! I would definitely have a hard time with coffee, but I am trying to curb it by budgeting a set amount every month and I think I have done great so far.

    • That’s awesome! I always tried to do that, but could never stick to it. Now I’m wondering what I’ll do when the year is up…

  • Well done, you are doing so well and are an inspiration! I don’t think I would be able to do a complete shopping ban but I’m seriously considering a no clothes/shoes ban for 2015…need to check out my wardrobe first to make sure all occasions are covered! Keep up the great work!

    • That’s an awesome idea, Weenie! I will say, I can already tell I’ll need some new clothes when this is all over and done with… but I’m fine with what I have right now. Empty out your drawers/closets, before you go shopping – you never know what’ll be in there!

  • Good job!! Keep up the good work & u are inspiring!! Side note.. Maturing & growth however u obtain it mostly hurts doesn’t it?? Ugh!!

  • When I first decided to majorly scale back my shopping habits (but not eliminate entirely–you are possibly some type of god-human, like Hercules to be doing what you’re doing), I was terrified of how hard and awful it would be, but I agree with you that it feels much better to have more money for things I value more, like traveling. Keep up the resolve! It’s impressive and inspiring!!!

    • Thanks, Brittany. I still get to buy all the basics (toiletries, basic cosmetics, etc.) but no clothes, shoes, books, decor, etc. So I still spend money! Just nowhere near as much. It’s definitely all been going to travel, so far… but I can’t complain about that. :)

  • Wow that is great. My current work shoes have holes in the bottom but I don’t want to get new ones. My wife is begging me to let her buy new shoes and I just say that no one see’s the bottom of my shoes except when I take them off at home.

    My problem is going by myself. We do really well when my wife and I shop together because we talk ourselves out of everything. But if I go alone, an extra bag of tortilla chips always seems to sneak in. They are my downfall.

    • At least you recognize that though! Knowing you, I’m sure you’ll actually enjoy saving more money in October. ;)

  • I love reading your updates Cait! I decided to go on a post-wedding shopping ban for October and it’s going pretty well so far, might keep it going until x-mas if I can. My struggle has been with invites to go out and gifts. I haven’t given in yet and have been baking for gifts. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration!

    • I still have entertainment and gift categories in my budget, Catherine! They are just smaller now. The shopping ban just stops me from spending money on buying “things” for myself. Good luck trying to keep it going until Christmas! Your bank accounts will thank you, for as long as you can do it. :)

  • Way to go! I used to use some retail therapy years ago as a way of dealing with problems. Now, I don’t and rarely go shopping as I have most of what I need. This, however, does not mean that I do not want to go shopping every once in a while. My fix for this? I go to the mall, look around, try some clothes/shoes on and then go back home without buying anything. This works for me every time.

  • I’ve spent $5 per day on coffee the past two weeks. The atmosphere at a certain coffee shop is one reason I like going. After reading your article, it might be time for me to invest in a french press.

    I thought I’d let you know about Oyster, a digital book app. I usually buy $10 paperbacks, and the subscription is $10 per month so it works for me!

  • I fully understand being drawn to the coffee shop or into shopping for ‘stuff’ – its as if all sense and logic flies out the window and in the end the coffee didn’t taste that great or what I bought wasn’t really necessary but too late alas the money was spent. One forgets so easily that it was money wasted and the cycle repeats – its like any addiction or stress outlet but the marketers out there must account for their devious ways of drawing us in too. The ban is a great idea and from your and your bloggers’ comments its clearly therapeutic albeit not always easy but shows us what a lost feeling contentment is. I love your blog, thank you, its refreshing and honest …. AND kudos on your award!

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