It’s been 6 months and 20 days since I started my yearlong shopping ban. That’s 204 days of not buying clothes, shoes, books, notebooks, electronics, household items, nail polish… or takeout coffee (other than when I’m travelling). I’ve purchased a few of the things from the approved shopping list I created at the beginning, as well as groceries and toiletries – and that’s it. Even though I’ve only recently crossed the halfway mark in this 365-day journey, I don’t think it’s too soon for me to tell you: it’s changed me forever – and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being the type of consumer I was before.
First, remember that I’ve never identified with being a shopaholic. I recently did an interview for a newspaper in Germany (so cool!) and the reporter asked me repeatedly if I’d racked up my old debt by purchasing lots of new clothes, shoes, etc. “Surely, you have lots of shoes,” she said. Nope! That’s never been my style. I’ve always been someone who paid for experiences, not things. Most of my credit card debt was from dinners and nights out at the bar (mostly nights out at the bar). And even though I stopped drinking a couple years ago, I continued to spend a lot of money on coffee and meals out.
So, if I’m not a shopaholic, why put myself on a shopping ban? Because, over the years, my home still came to be filled with stuff I didn’t use. Some of it I paid for, some of it was gifted… but I held onto it all for the “what if” moments. What if I want to curl up and watch all these DVDs one day? What if I lose 20 lbs. and fit into that dress again? (Note: “What if” never happens, and just thinking about it can make you feel bad.) I was also a mindless consumer. I’d buy a new bottle of lotion, then come home to see I had two under the sink. And I bought any book in sight, simply because I wanted to read it “one day”.
For that reason alone, the shopping ban has been worth it. It took a few months, but I’ve finally rid myself of the 10+ year-old habit of buying every book on my to-read list; that was so deeply engrained in me that I swear I could complete a transaction on Amazon or Kobo in 20 seconds or less. Click, click, click, click, mine – and then they’d sit on my bookshelf for years, before I finally cracked them open. (Truth bomb: Many still remain untouched.) I would say the greatest win of this adventure, so far, is that I memorized my new library card number before my new MasterCard number.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself. For instance, I finally realized that I’ve always been someone who cycles through the same few outfits each week. In fact, would you be surprised if I told you I’ve worn the exact same pair of jeans every single day for the past 204 days? It’s true. My $20 jeans from Old Navy have served me well. And I’ve been this way my whole life. Each week, my wardrobe has consisted of 1-2 pairs of pants, 3-4 shirts and 1-2 pairs of shoes (TOMS or rain boots). Honestly, it’s no wonder it was so easy for me to toss all those bags of clothes… I never wore any of them, and I knew it!
Finally, I’ve discovered which of the items I used to buy (but can’t right now) I actually value. Up until 204 days ago, I would’ve told you I valued books; that I’d collect them forever and build the biggest, baddest library you’d ever seen. What I’ve discovered is that I really just value reading, and I don’t need to buy every book in sight to get the good feeling that comes with it. The Port Moody Public Library is my new best friend. We hangout every few weeks and she lends me a stack of new reading material to get through, before our next scheduled hangout. I love her and value our new relationship.
Of all the things I’m not allowed to shop for, candles are at the top of things I miss and truly value. That probably sounds crazy, right? It’s an object you literally pay to light on fire… and then it disappears. I might as well just take a match to a $5 bill. But I love them. You’ll always find one at my desk, flickering away as I’m writing in the early morning or at night. I mention this because I recently realized that I’ll run out of my beloved vanilla-scented IKEA tealights soon and I’m actually going to miss them. So, I won’t go back to buying books, when this is over… but there will be $3.99 packages of candles, in my future.
Overall, the greatest lesson I’ve learned in the past 204 days is that I don’t need to spend money to be happy. From time-to-time, I’ll feel the pang to buy something new, but the ban forces me to stop and question why I really want to shop. Is it to make myself feel better? Or would I actually be fulfilling a need? The answer is usually that I’m sad or feel gross (hello PMS) and want a pick-me-up. But by not being able to give into those impulse purchases, and later reflecting on them, I can tell you that none of them would’ve made me happy or improved my life in any way.
When I first started this shopping ban, you guys were all supportive, but the general response I received from friends in my real life was that I was crazy. “A YEAR!? That’s sooo long!” In some ways I agreed, but I also thought it might be too easy. The list of things I’ve been allowed to shop for has enabled me to still enjoy many of the daily conveniences I could probably save money on. I think I’ve learned everything I’m going to learn about myself, so far in this journey… which is why it’s time to up the ante, change the rules and push myself even further.
Minimalism vs. Simple Living
When I made the decision to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, my goal was simply to pare down my belongings, until every item in my home had a purpose. After completing my final declutter this past weekend, I can now say that I’ve accomplished that – and I’m left with just 40% of what I once owned. This + the shopping ban have proved that life is better with less. By removing all the external conflicts from my home and my mind, I have more time to give to family, friends and myself, and to do the things I love. I also have a lot more money in the bank, which is just an incredible bonus.
Something I’ve come across numerous times, throughout this journey, is the topic of minimalism vs. simple living. Some writers and experts on these topics believe they are one and the same, while others see some big differences. As explained in this article, keywords used to describe minimalism often include: declutter, less is more and anti-consumerism. Simple living, on the other hand, is all about: self-sufficiency, sustainability and simply slowing down. It’s a more holistic approach to living an intentional life… and, at this stage in my journey, I think I’m finally ready for it.
When I was a kid, we grew a lot of our own food. I have vivid memories of running out to the garden to get chives for our baked potatoes, and picking a plum from the tree and eating it in the grass. We canned all the peaches and nectarines from our trees that were tied up against the house, made jam from the berry bushes along the fence and baked apple pies. (There were so many apple pies!) To go along with this, I had a mom who made my clothes and who could sew/stitch anything, and a dad who somehow knew how to do absolutely everything – and if he didn’t know how, he’d learn.
At some point, while growing up in the digital revolution (which many believe is still just getting started) and moving out on my own, I chose to forego that lifestyle and opted for one that was more convenient: if I could buy it, I did. I learned how to cook and bake, but I never learned how to sew, patch a rip in my clothes, fix things around the house… and I know absolutely nothing about gardening. Instead, I spent countless hours of my 20s in front of a television, made the “I’m too busy” excuse for everything and drove my car shorter distances than I’d ever care to admit. And I’m done with it.
I want to be more self-sufficient. I want to grow some of my own food, learn how to sew (or at least mend) my own clothes, and make my own shampoo/conditioner/laundry detergent/cleaning products. I want to embrace sustainable living and reduce my carbon footprint, namely by walking more but also through my diet. I want to reduce the amount of meat I eat and the number of pre-packaged goods I consume. I really want to be conscious of the products I buy, in an attempt to reduce my waste. Overall, I just want to slow down, make the time to live a more conscious life and enjoy every minute of it.
Obviously, this won’t happen overnight; some of it might not even happen in the next five months, or for as long as I’m living in a condo vs. a house with a yard. But let’s talk about how it’s going to change my shopping ban…
The New Rules for My Yearlong Shopping Ban
First, let’s talk about what I’m NOT allowed to shop for, because I’ve moved some things to this list:
- “fun” cosmetics (namely nail polish)
- clothes (except for a few essentials, or if I lose weight and nothing fits)
- accessories (purses, scarves, jewellery, etc.)
- books, magazines and notebooks
- household items (candles, decor, furniture, etc.)
- electronics and appliances
- takeout coffee
- basic kitchen supplies (plastic wrap, tin foil, etc.)
- cleaning products and laundry detergent
What I’m allowed to shop for:
- cosmetics (only basics, like mascara, and only after I run out)
- toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo*, toilet paper, etc.)
- a few essential clothing items identified at the beginning of this challenge
- gifts for others
- gardening supplies
- ingredients for shampoo/conditioner/cleaning products/laundry detergent
*I highlighted shampoo because I have enough to last for a couple months, but if this experiment goes south then I’m not going to forbid myself from buying the sulfate-free stuff I currently use.
As you can see from the two lists above, I want to spend the rest of this time trying to make more of the things I use, so I can consume less. It’s not just about saving money. In fact, to get started, I imagine it’ll cost more to do it this way (although I’ll be looking at ways to save, and am all ears if you have suggestions). I just want to become even more conscious about what I consume, try to produce more myself and take pride in whatever I make. It also won’t hurt for me to switch to more natural ingredients, especially per hair and cleaning products.
Now, here’s where I’ll admit that I have no idea if this’ll stick. I might make laundry detergent once and decide it’s the most annoying thing ever. But I at least want to try, before I make that assumption. I’ll also admit that I currently have enough for the next 1-2 months, so I won’t be blogging about this just yet. Where I plan to start this next leg of the ban is by researching when I should plant vegetables in BC, what types of containers I should use (and which will fit on my deck), and look for ways to save on supplies. After that, I’m going to ask my mom for a sewing lesson. And maybe I’ll try to make candles!
Oh, and I’ve been putting $100/month into a savings account this whole time, and have decided to up it to $200. Since I currently have $900 in there, I’ll add an extra $100 on payday this week, then save $200/month for the next five months; that’ll leave me with $2,000 to shop with, when this is over. I still have no idea what I’m going to buy. There’s no goal here. I’m saving to prove that it’s possible to cut back and still be happy. So far, though, my best guess is I’ll replace my 3-year-old iPhone, maybe buy a bike and consider getting an espresso machine. Or maybe I’ll just go on a trip! We’ll see.
I have 161 days to go. That also means I have 161 days left in my 20s, before the big 3-0 arrives… yikes! If I can grow something without killing it, make some of my own products and stitch a button on a shirt, I’ll feel a lot better about entering a new decade. But even if I fail, at least I’ll be able to say I tried.
Have any tips as I enter this next stage of the ban? I’m all ears, friends!