Two Years Without Shopping: What I Bought, Donated and Learned to Be True

Two Years Without Shopping: What I Bought, Donated and Learned to Be True

Last week, I celebrated my 31st birthday. I say “celebrated” somewhat loosely, as it was a pretty quiet day. I had breakfast, coffee and dinner dates with friends, with a nap somewhere in the middle of it all, as well as a bubble bath/book and some work before bed. It was almost like any other day – slow and relaxed, even a little anticlimactic – and that’s the same way I would describe the ending of my two-year shopping ban, which also came and went in silence last week.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that my first yearlong shopping ban taught me lessons that changed my life forever. On top of having to break my worst spending habits (books and takeout coffee), the ban forced me to figure out why I always thought consuming something could fix a problem or make life better (it can’t). My goal was to become a more mindful consumer, and I did that. But I decided to extend the ban for one reason: to figure out how much I consume in a year.

The Rules for My Second Yearlong Shopping Ban

The rules for the second year were fairly simple: I was allowed to buy consumable goods, as well as anything essential or that needed to be replaced, and I had to keep track of everything (except for food and gas). Yes, that means I literally kept track of every single toothbrush and tube of toothpaste that I purchased during the last 12 months. If that sounds difficult or time-consuming, I can assure you it was neither – but it did require a system to be put in place, so I wouldn’t forget to track anything.

On top of not being able to buy anything I didn’t need, I took on two more challenges in the second year. First, I wanted to only read the unread books I still owned (that means I made zero trips to the library) and donate many when I was done. Second, I didn’t want the ban to affect my ability to support my friends’ work, so I decided I could purchase things they made but only if I could also afford to donate the same amount I spent to a charity of their choice.

What I Bought From July 7, 2015 – July 6, 2016

After the first year, there was only a short list of things I was able to say I had purchased. From the approved shopping list, I bought: 1 hoodie, 1 pair of workout capris, 1 outfit for weddings, 1 pair of boots and a new bed. I also learned that sometimes you do have to replace things. In my case, those things were: 1 pair of jeans, my car tires and my cell phone. Altogether, that meant I only bought 8 things in a full calendar year… but that’s not accurate, because I hadn’t kept track of toiletries, etc.

When I started the second year, I had no idea how much of any item I consumed in a year. Instead, I had a lot of questions. For example, do we really save money when we buy in bulk? How quickly do we use up those bulk items? If we buy 5 or 10 of something, how many year’s supply is that? (These bulk questions were a bit weird for me, because I almost never buy things in multiples, since I’m single and don’t share with anyone else. But I was curious!) In general, I wanted to answer one question:

Here’s what I bought:

Toiletries/Cleaning Products

2 bottles of shampoo
2 bottles of conditioner
2 bottles of body wash
3 bags of epsom salts
10 razors
2 sticks of deodorant*
4 tubes of toothpaste
2 electric toothbrush heads
1 regular toothbrush (travel)
2 refillable travel containers (left my old ones at a hotel in Squamish *tear*)
1 travel lotion
4 boxes of tampons
1 DivaCup
1 bottle of Advil
2 boxes of Tylenol Cold & Sinus
1 box of Q-tips
1 eyeliner
1 mascara
36 rolls of toilet paper ($20 at Superstore, good for the year)
1 jug of refillable hand soap
2 jugs of laundry detergent
2 bottles of dish soap

From the list of toiletries I purchased, I would say I was most surprised to see that deodorant lasts for approximately 2.4 months (*I already had 3 sticks of deodorant, so I used 5 in total), and that it takes at least 6 months to go through a single bottle of shampoo or conditioner (only wash my hair every other day). This list also highlights the fact that I love taking epsom salt baths, and I almost never wear makeup anymore (except for a touch of eyeliner and mascara, sometimes).

Stuff for My Car

4 litres of oil
2 oil filters
1 battery
1 air filter

Since my car is only 7 years old with 80,000km on it, I can knock on wood and say I’m grateful it only needed a little bit of maintenance this year.

Stuff Related to My Surgery

1 pack of surgical wipes
2 prescriptions for painkillers
4 packs of gauze tape (had to keep basically half my leg covered for 10 days)
1 shower mat (non-slip)
1 bath mat (non-slip)
1 pair of shorts*

I underwent hip arthroscopy in February, which came with a few purchases of its own. I was able to save money by borrowing crutches from Paul and physical therapy bands from my mom, but couldn’t avoid the rest of it. (*My physiotherapist asked me to wear shorts so he could work all the way up my leg, but I didn’t own a pair so I bought a pair in March.)

Other Stuff

And finally, if I hadn’t recorded all the rest, here’s the list of things I would’ve said I purchased in 2016:

1 pair of TOMS*
1 pair of running shoes
2 pairs of sandals
1 long-sleeved shirt
1 tank top
2 t-shirts
6 pairs of socks
1 piece of carry-on luggage*

Aside from the items I was allowed to purchase*, I can honestly say that everything else was something I had to replace, and I used the 1-in-1-out rule to do so. My running shoes were two years old, had countless km’s on them and were starting to make my knees hurt. I had to throw out all my sandals at the end of last summer, but waited until the temperatures warmed up this spring to buy more. And after two years, it’s not surprising that some of my tops (formerly all fast fashion) had worn down.

You could look at these seemingly long lists and tell me I failed at the shopping ban, but you would be wrong for one reason: I didn’t buy anything until I absolutely needed it. I waited until I had just a few days’ worth of a toiletry left before buying another. I waited until my t-shirts literally had to be thrown in the garbage before replacing them. And I had to take care of my health/recovery and my car; there’s simply no getting around that.

For two years, I avoided all mindless and impulse spending decisions. But in a two-year period of time, I also learned you are bound to need some stuff – and that’s ok! What I learned from tracking all my purchases this year is that there is a huge difference between talking yourself into thinking you need to buy something and actually needing to buy something. When you really need to buy something, go out and buy it. Do your research, look for quality/good fit and then buy it.

What I Donated This Year

During the first yearlong shopping ban I completed in 2014-15, I also embraced minimalism, decluttered and got rid of a total of 70% of my belongings. This year, I have continued to donate/toss things I no longer need and would guess I’ve gotten rid of another 5-10% of what I once owned; that means I’m left with just 20-25% of my original belongings. But aside from donating physical objects, I also tried to find other ways I could give / give back in 2015-16.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t want the shopping ban to stop me from being able to support my friends’ work. Whenever a friend launched a new product (physical or digital), if I had the money, I bought it and then donated the same amount to a charity of their choice. I purchased a copy of Chris’ book, gave it to a friend and donated to Camp Quality. I took one of Paul and Jason’s courses and donated to the BC SPCA. I donated 50% of my December earnings from Rockstar Finance to Sundara. And I donated 5% of sales of the Mindful Budgeting 2016 Planner to The Hope Effect.

I’m not sharing this to make it sound like I’m the most charitable person out there – so far from it. But I do believe that since all my needs are being met, it’s important to give back as much and as often as I can. I’m still trying to find a charity *I* am truly passionate about. I’ve given lots of time to the Victoria BC SPCA, and the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation is another favourite… but I’m looking for something that empowers girls and women to take control of their lives and become the people they want to be. Are there any charities you think I should know about? :)

What I Learned to Be True This Year

I have to be honest and say I don’t think I had many revelations during the second year – and that’s ok! In fact, I think that means I learned so much in the first year that this is just a lifestyle for me now. It helped that I had eased up on myself about being able to go for the occasional coffee with friends. And I probably would’ve been tempted to buy more books, if Penguin Random House Canada hadn’t hooked me up with so many. But I truly felt confident in myself all year.

One other thing I can contribute that to, however, was my decision to track every purchase I made. Similar to the way tracking my spending helped me become more aware of where my money was going, and tracking how I felt after eating helped me figure out how certain foods affected me, tracking all my purchases was just another way to learn more about myself as a consumer and figure out how much I need every month or year.

Before, I had no idea how much toothpaste I used, or how much deodorant I went through, or how much shampoo, conditioner or lotion I needed. (I haven’t purchased lotion once in two years, because I seem to have had a lifetime supply.) And maybe it doesn’t matter! Maybe we don’t need to know these things about ourselves. But I think NOT knowing is the reason our bathroom cupboards and linen closets are full of bottles, tubes, creams and sprays of every product imaginable. It’s not just because we like all the new scents or want to try all the new colours or it was on sale (though these are part of what we’re sold on, too); it’s because we don’t know how much of it we actually use.

There’s a Maya Angelou quote I’ve kept close to me this year. It’s short and sweet and says it all:

I certainly need much less than I thought I did – and that knowledge is a powerful tool in my financial wallet. Before, I would’ve seen my shampoo on sale and thought, “I’ll never see it at that price again, I should stock up”. Now, I can think, “I still have at least half a bottle at home, I don’t need to buy more for months,” and walk away. The effect: not only do I save money by buying this stuff less often, I also don’t have a cluttered stockpile of products in my home. How’s that for being a mindful consumer. :)

Aside from the fact that we often need much less than we think we need, the other thing I was reminded of in the second year of the ban is that the only constant in life is change – and a lot can change in two years. Specifically, two years ago, I couldn’t have told you that I would become interested in overnight backpacking. And sometimes when your hobbies change, you need to buy a little bit of stuff to go with them. I am still only in the research stage of buying things I need for my upcoming road trip (leave mid-August!) but the experience of the ban helped because I know I won’t make any quick/mindless purchasing decisions.

The Results Are In: Your Shopping Bans

Before I finish this wrap-up of my own ban, I am so excited to share the results of the survey I sent out last month! In it, I asked anyone who had done a shopping ban in the last year to answer some questions and let us know how the experience was for them. Altogether, 379 people completed the survey (but more than 500 of you opened it, so I have to believe more of you did one!). I’ll let the infographic speak for itself, but want to congratulate the 86% who successfully completed their bans!

Shopping Bans Completed Around the World in 2015-16

What’s Next?

The two questions I’ve been asked most in the past couple of weeks are:

  1. Are you going to do it for a third year? (NO!)
  2. What is the first thing you want to buy? (Camping gear!)

The “no!” was an easy answer, not because I want to go on a shopping spree of any kind, but because this has truly become a lifestyle for me. Now that I know how much I need/use in a year, I can’t ever NOT know that information, which means I have no reason to go back to mindlessly consuming things for the sake of consuming them. But I’m still ready for the “ban” part of this experiment to be over, so I can slowly start to piece together the stuff I need for my trip.

Aside from the road trip, which I’ll talk about more soon, the next thing I want to dive deeper into is the zero waste movement. I’m a rock solid composter + recycler, but I know I can reduce my waste so much further. I don’t have an exact experiment mapped out for this yet, but I’ll probably start by doing what I can to reduce waste while on the road, and then get really serious about it when I come home in late-September. So, we will have lots to talk about this year!

For now, I’d leave to hear more about your own shopping bans! If you haven’t started one yet, what’s stopping you?

  • Awesome recap, Cait! I love reading about all of your experiences and lessons learned. They’re always so inspiring and eye opening. Happy Monday!! :D

    P.S. — I was most surprised about the shampoo thing to be honest. The kind I use comes in a 250ml bottle, which is on the small side compared to most bottles. But I think I go through a bottle about every 5-6 weeks… I don’t wash my hair every single day, but I’d say 4-5 times a week. I’m thinking now that I probably use way too much each time. Interesting! I have no idea how some people manage to get away with not using shampoo at all, which is apparently a thing!

    • As someone with a science background, I am/was curious about the size of the bottles too. I usually buy smaller 300 mL while my husband buys the huge 1-2 L bottles. The price per mL used could also be interesting. I swear I use about the same dollar value per month even if I buy more expensive shampoo (example a $3, $10 or $30 bottle) as I baby the expensive shampoo so it lasts much longer.

    • The shampoo and conditioner I use comes in 250mL bottles! I just don’t use much (maybe the size of a nickel) and only put conditioner in the ends of my hair (and not even after every wash).

    • This was really interesting and thought provoking. I am trying to go as plastic free as possible, starting with toiletries rather than everything all at once! I use solid shampoo and conditioner from LUSH, no plastic bottles to throw away. Once block of shampoo lasts for about 4 months, that’s both me and my husband using it, I wash my hair alternate days, my husband daily. I find it a lot more economical that bottles of shampoo and our hair smells and feels great! Worth thinking about….

      • Hi Fiona, My husband uses the Lush solid shampoo bars (one lasts a whole year as he only washes his hair once a week) but the reason I don’t use them is they all contain SLS – which isn’t kind – to oceans, even if people can tolerate it. I emailed Lush about it but they have no plans to discontinue using the SLS in their products. I now use a Dr Organics shampoo from Holland & Barrett (no SLS) but again, back to plastic bottles. Can’t win!

        • Hi Naomi,
          It’s a difficult decision to make. What is the MOST harmful to the oceans plastic or SLS? I think I’m going to keep trying to reduce my plastic usage, but I will look into SLS in other products. As you say, we can’t win!

  • Congrats on finishing year 2! Such a great accomplishment, though I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way to you because it has become such a lifestyle. Still, let’s take a moment and celebrate. Wohooo!! :-)

    I love the idea of knowing how much you consume, and I want to track that for us. I have a general sense, of course, but now I want to get more specific. And though we didn’t do a formal shopping ban, you’ve definitely been influential in helping us consume less generally. So thanks for that!

    I’m so excited to hear about your next adventure, and your plans for travel. Can’t wait until you share more about all of that! :-)

    • Yea, it probably seems silly to know these specifics, but I found it really fascinating. And, like I said, now that I know this info, I can’t NOT know it – so it should be able to help all my purchasing decisions going forward.
      Adventures await! :)

  • Congratulations, Cait. I’m seriously impressed by both your level of discipline and ability to track what you purchased so closely. And that infographic is really interesting! 86% of those surveyed stuck with it? Amazing! I love seeing that 95% of those surveyed are happy with the results. You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished and inspired others to accomplish. Enjoy your camping gear! :)

    • Thanks, Kate! The survey results made me so happy! I loved all the feedback throughout the year, but those results were the icing on the cake. :)

  • Ahhhhh congratulations Cait! So so happy for you, and what a cool recap of what you bought during the year. Right off the bat, I feel like I have too much hair and wash it too frequently, because I probably buy shampoo every other month, if not more than that, haha. Thank you for doing this and for sharing such great details – and what a cool infographic!

    Happy camp-gear-shopping!

  • Hi Cait! This was a great post and I’m really keen to have a go at this next year. I wanted to ask how you kept a track of your spending throughout the year? Did you write everything down in a notebook? I’ve started to keep receipts and use the wallet app on my phone, but it’s really difficult to stick to! Would love to know how you made tracking your spending a part of your routine? xox

    • Do you mean how I tracked the actual dollar amounts I spent (I use my Mindful Budgeting planner) or how I tracked what I purchased (same answer)? Essentially, that means I used a notebook to keep track of everything. I keep receipts in my wallet and go through them every 1-2 weeks. Not sure if that helps!

      • Hi Cait – Yeah that’s what I meant. I’m keeping all my receipts but not finding a lot of time to go through them. I think a notebook would be easier and would suit me more than an app. xox

  • Hi there. I really like your blog and congrats. My only suggestion on the blog is the print is tiny and very difficult to read comfortably! Aside from that, though, you’ve achieved a very big feat and should take some pride in the accomplishment. The beauty of a tiny dose of pride is that you don’t need to pay interest on it or dust it. ;-)

    • Yes, I’m having some weird issues with the CSS and this only seems to be a problem on laptops (font is normal size on my iMac)… I’m not exactly sure what’s going on yet, but hope to fix it this week!

    • I found it a little small so I just held control + scrolled up with the mouse and it zooms everything in and makes it easier to read. Fyi Cait, I am on a desktop PC at work.

    • I love that my first thought re: this comment was that you were mocking me. So everyone else knows, I texted you and said you made me laugh, and you said you were serious! People actually have these discussions. (Now I know I’m not crazy, haha.)

  • Thanks for being an inspiration over the past few years. We have started meal planning (based first on what we have) and using up all of the toiletries we have in the house already. This has really cut down on our weekly spending at the grocery store. Interestingly, we’ve also had more time for our hobbies recently, because we aren’t buying so much stuff!

    • That’s how I meal plan too, Danielle! My cupboards/fridge/freezer are constantly being emptied out. And I’m not surprised about your hobbies, as I’ve experienced the same. All that’s happened is we’ve realized what we’d rather spend our time doing. :)

  • Congrats Cait! I was waiting for this post :) I seriously laughed out loud when you said ‘Before, I would’ve seen my shampoo on sale and thought, “I’ll never see it at that price again, I should stock up”. ‘ I would have said the EXACT same thing before becoming a much more conscious consumer! I used to go to the drugstore and browse. Who browses at the drugstore?!

    I think it’s also a fear of being ‘without’ an item and our level of comfort — for some reason we are scared that something horrible will happen if we run out of a certain product. Or that our favourite brand won’t be on sale, and god forbid, we’ll have to pay full price! While everyone loves a good deal and finding your fav product on sale feels like you won the lottery, I’ve been learning that sometimes you just have to be ok with paying a couple extra dollars. And also remembering, that you don’t need to buy 5 sets of shampoo and conditioner. One bottle of each until you use it up will be just fine!
    I am an avid camper and can’t wait to hear more about your adventures and road trip!! Keep the updates coming :)

    • Yes! to your point about sometimes having to be ok with paying a few extra dollars here and there. But to add to that, I would say: we often buy things because we fear they will never be on sale again, and I can pretty much guarantee that things are going to be on sale 4 out of the 5 times you look for them!

      • Hi Cait,

        I really enjoyed this post. You educated yourself and are passing the lessons on to us. So important to have a critical perspective about the choices we make. Consumption is such a habit, seldom based on good (moral/ethical/budgetary) decisions. Such a eye-opener comparing needs vs. wants (often empty gratification). Do you keep a price book to track prices/sales/differences between stores you shop at? I notice huge differences and fluctuation between various stores. Although price is only one (small) factor in a purchasing decision – fast fashion that you mention, for example.

        Once you have an understanding of what you use/need, etc. it’s much easier to plan. Also, one less thing that needs active management – more time for more important things. I like your comments on stocking up (especially for singles/small families). Seldom worth stashing multiples – things expire, tastes/needs change, managing more ‘stuff’.

        Like they say, knowledge is power. Advertisers and big business would rather us be passive consumers – buying what they tell us we can’t live without.


        • Nope, I don’t keep track of prices. I’m sure that would further add to the interesting data, but I’m less worried about spending an extra $0.50 here or there, as I am about buying things I don’t actually need (or buy too soon and could expire).

  • Thanks for such a comprehensive breakdown Cait! Not learning much knew isn’t a surprise when it becomes who you are I think. I need to go back and read about your surgery. I had hip arthroscopy too – 2 years ago. Wow was it a long recovery – 4 months on crutches and more months of PT! But you are young – so hopefully you bounced back faster! The zero waste is huge and something we all need to focus more on.

    • Oh my gosh, that’s a long recovery! I almost feel bad saying mine was much shorter (less than a month on crutches, only 4 months of PT). I’m still not 100% and don’t think I ever will be… but I’m definitely better than I was before the surgery! Hope the same is true for you. :)

  • Congrats on the true mind-shift. We are currently cleaning out my in-law’s house – they’ve lived here since 1964, mom passed away 12 years ago and dad a few weeks ago. SO much stuff, so much waste (despite us trying to donate as much as we can, so much is not donatable/sellable, etc). So many duplicates / triplicates, etc. I am sure he always thought “oh, I need some sugar when I’m at the shops” and then bought more despite having bags of it in almost every single cupboard. I think my husband (who tracks more like his parents) has had a huge eye-opener on what happens when we try to keep everything…. At least I hope so. Living internationally (we are an Aussie/Canadian couple) has also helped force us to keep our belonging fewer… or that’s the theory anyways.

    • I’ve been guilty of buying what I already have because I couldn’t remember if I already had some or not, lol! My daughter has as well. A while back, she realized that she had seven jars of mayonnaise in the pantry! It was a family joke for some time. A week ago, she called to ask if I had an extra jar of mayonnaise……we almost killed ourselves laughing!

      The hubs and I were quite broke for the first 15 years or so that we were married. There were times we ran out of essentials and did without until the next paycheck rolled around. That led to something akin to a hoarding mentality with me. It’s a difficult mindset to break free from. To keep my anxiety at bay, I generally have two of most things…..the one I’m currently using and the extra. When I finish one (deodorant, for example) and take out the extra, that item goes on the list to be purchased during my once a week shopping trip. I keep a running list on a notepad that lives on the side of the refrigerator. It’s a system that works well for us. I never have to run into town on a non-shopping day because I ran out of something but I also no longer have nine bottles of shampoo cluttering up my cupboard…..just the one extra!

      We don’t buy a lot of stuff any more. Shoes and undergarments as they wear out are bought new but most of my clothes are thrifted and I don’t buy clothes that often anymore. We’ve purchased a couple of small appliances in the last year… electric pressure cooker, a bread machine and an ice cream maker……that we use all of the time. Eating out is quite rare for us and we get together and play cards and watch movies and cook so we don’t spend much on entertainment. Our hobbies cost very little…… I’m still using the used sewing machine that I bought 25 years ago and the hubs builds his own remote controlled planes. Once the initial motors, etc were bought, the cost has been minimal.

      I think that once you internalize the difference between”I want” and “I need” it becomes easier to break the shopping habit.

      • I work on the same system Kim. My husband worked at seasonal jobs when we were first married so we would stock up when he was working for the rest of the year. My mother came from a home where necessities were often scarce and food short so she was (is!) a hoarder. Given those two factors I had to learn, as our circumstances and work changed, I didn’t need eight of anything! We live in the country now so popping to the shop to pick up an item is cost-prohibitive! One in use and a spare in the cupboard serves me with almost everything in the house – food, towels and linens!

    • I can only imagine how difficult it would be to go through your in-law’s home, Annet. While I’m all for taking big steps in decluttering, and certainly believe you probably don’t need much that’s inside their home, give yourself (and your husband) the time you need to tackle such a big project. It’s a lot to sift through, emotionally too. Thinking of you!

  • This is sooo impressive. I don’t think I’m at the point where I could achieve any advanced life-ninja mastery like this, especially because of my biggest weakness – my kids, but having significantly reduced my non-essential spending in the last 6-8 months, I can only imagine how freeing and satisfying this must feel. What an accomplishment. Bravo!

    • Reducing spending also = reducing waste (of both money and stuff), so you’re doing great. :)

  • I’ve been excited to read this post! I’m still on a somewhat shopping ban/no eating out. I did pick up sushi because I failed my first glucose test and spent a half day at the hospital getting re-tested and my nerves were shot and I was starving. But I gave myself some grace since I’m 30 weeks pregnant. I still haven’t bought myself any clothes for the past 3 months so I’m pretty proud of myself for making my stuff work. However, I have almost 2 months left in this pregnancy and I may need to break down and buy another skirt and shirt as my belly grows.

    I’m so excited to follow along with your zero waste journey. I’m a huge fan of Bea Johnson but it’s been an area that’s really hard for us to incorporate at home. Since we are trying to pay off student loans and van, we are shopping at Aldi for groceries because it saves us so much money. The environment really is important to me, but being debt free right now is more important. I did try buying from the bulk aisle at whole foods for a little while but it is still double the price at least versus Aldi. All in baby steps I guess. Congrats on a successful shopping ban! You have encouraged and inspired me and so many others! What a blessing you are!

    • I think the keyword in your comment is that you’ll NEED another skirt/shirt to finish this pregnancy off, and that’s totally fine! Make sure it’s one you feel good in :) and I’m going to go slow with the zero waste stuff, as I really need to do some research around what’s available in terms of bulk/low-waste shopping in my city, etc. But I’m excited for that part!

  • Congratulations!
    While I didn’t formally join a shopping ban, I have definitely become a more mindful consumer. I think carefully about every purchase but make sure to have some room for fun. For example: We purchased a new to us kayak, but sprung on brand new life jackets (safety first) and we wanted to take advantage of the lake we live on! I hadn’t planned on buying anything for my niece’s visit, but the coldest July day in 7 years (and a rainy one) meant a trip to the dollar store for a colouring book and crayons. Changing your mindset does change your life. thank you for continuing to be inspiring!

    • There definitely has to be room in your budget to enjoy life, Kristen! Sounds like you’ve found what will make you happy – and one-time purchases, like a kayak, are great! :)

  • I appreciate your comment, “If you need something, buy it.” In the words of Gretchen Rubin, don’t be an under-buyer. If you need toilet paper, or pens, or tape, or a new tee shirt, or a pair of shorts, buy them. And, don’t create unnecessary angst in your life by running out of essentials like light bulbs or toothpaste!

    • Yes, exactly! Don’t live without something you need, just to make a statement, if the result is unpleasant. Go get it. Just don’t add 5 more unnecessary things to your basket, before you hit the check-out!

  • Congrats Cait! And happy belated birthday. I hope you enjoy going zero waste, I think it’s awesome and I hardly ever have to take out the trash, which is my favorite part. Let me know if you have any questions about it. Look into a safety razor for sure, that’ll make that 10 razors in a year number go down to 0!

  • I love reading about all that you’ve done. There is a lot to be gleaned from your post and it is truly inspiring…I want to start a shopping ban just need to get my rules and list in place :)

    I did have one question and that is have thought about making your own deodorant or laundry soap? I use a 50/50 mix of baking soda and baby powder (probably $2 for the ingredients) and I have deodorant for at least a year. I also make my own laundry soap (ingredients cost about $5) but it allows me to do laundry (for a family of 5) for a year.

    I realize we can’t do everything…but maybe creating some of your own products could be the next step in your minimalist journey.

    • I haven’t tried anything like this yet, only because everything I read seemed like too much work and/or waste. Well, that’s how I felt about the laundry soap recipes I was finding, anyway… but I definitely need to do more research! Thanks for the suggestions :)

  • Wow, congratulations! It’s so interesting to see what the bare essentials are and how long certain things truly last.

    I love the infographic too, especially seeing what categories people targeted in the ban, what they missed and what they didn’t.

    Question for you: you said at the front of the post that you put a system in place to make sure you tracked everything you bought. Could you explain the system a little bit? I’d like to try tracking.

    • It was pretty simple! If I bought something, I just added a note in my phone while I was out, then made sure I wrote it down in my Mindful Budgeting planner (but any notebook would work). I only bought a handful of things each month (and some months bought nothing) so it was easier than you might think. :)

  • Your such a inspiration I have just started my 3 month shopping ban and have started to get rid of stuff I no longer want or use by hosting a yard sale with my mom which netted me over 500.00 I was shocked since I didn’t think it was stuff I wanted to let go because I would miss it. I also donated half my wardrobe to charity and let me tell u so much easier to get dressed in the morning.

    We have one more sale for the summer where both my parents (who are downsizing) and my aunt are going to all go in together and I was so excited that it’s all mind over matter and u really don’t need as much and frankly u don’t miss it. By the end of next year this time I hope to be debt free and not feel the need to buy something just because.

    You have really changed my life for the better and I am so glad that I was told about your blog from a great friend. Love all of your posts and insite.

    • Selling stuff and putting some of that money back in your pocket is a great idea, Jenn! I made ~$500 from selling things then donated the rest. And since moving back to Victoria, I’ve been helping my family declutter, donate/sell some things too (which feels even more rewarding than getting rid of my own stuff). So glad you’ve found some inspiration from the blog :)

  • Great post. I am so considering this but……………the hubby won’t be on board so some things will be purchased less instead of not at all. Having said that.

    Can I share this on my blog? I think it’s great food for thought.

  • I follow many types of frugal blogs. Some are strictly frugal, some are from a Christian worldview etc……Several of the blogs I follow also practice stocking their pantries with food that was purchased at great prices. I’m not talking about hoarders just stocking their pantries. Many of the ladies have witnessed to the fact that having a stocked pantry has saved them during times of sickness and unemployment. So I guess my question is how do you feel about that? Buying only what you need vs buying what you need in multiples to have on hand in case something happens?


    • I guess I can understand that, but I would think having money in savings is a better emergency plan than stocking up on food that could potentially go bad and need to get thrown out. Does that make sense?

  • Congratulations! The second year was actually more interesting to me than the first because it is more of a sustainable lifestyle change in many ways than a ban. I may try to do something similar.
    While the local humane group is one of my absolutely favorite charities, you might want to check out Thistle Farms for a group that empowers women. They are awesome! Also, we give to Kiva and Kiva USA and target some of our loans to empower women. We treat the loans like charitable donations (just do not try to take them off on your taxes!) and reinvest any repayments. We have had a few loans go into default but, because we think of it as a donation, not a loan, this is not stressful. I would be interested in hearing what you decide and also about any fabulous charities that you find out about even if they do not end up being your final choice. Again, congratulations on your achievement!

    • Those are great suggestions, Debbi! I keep hearing about Kiva and have yet to look into it, so I’ll do that soon. Thank you! :)

  • Excellent! Thanks for the update and all the statistics. I heart numbers.

    My wife just finished (and I just started) reading Not Buying It, a nearly 10-year old memoir of a pretty hardcore year-long shopping ban.

    The Amazon reviews of the book aren’t very good, but I think so many people pick and choose things they don’t like about the author or story, rather than gleaning a few points that they could very well apply to their own lives. I’m not exactly a liberal feminist like Judith Levine, but I can appreciate her perspective.

    We’re not on a shopping ban, but we’re consciously choosing to buy less, and give more.


  • I’m so excited you’re going to explore the zero waste movement. I’ve found some inspiring zero wasters on instagram. I just got my first Klean Kanteen. I’ve also transitioned to reusable produce bags & totes, stainless steel straws, homemade deodorant and laundry detergent.

    • Ooo, can you share some of these Instagram accounts!? I’m going to email you, in case you don’t see this :)

      • Just found you through No Sidebar and LOVE this. Starting my shopping ban today (just spent $225 on a camera…good timing). I stumbled on Trash is for Tossers on Instagram – she’s seriously zero waste. I’ll also add a vote for Kiva: you can read the stories and pick the individual you want to donate to. Best wishes on your newest challenge! (And your new found interest in backpacking!) Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Congratulations, Cait! … and Happy Birthday! As I’ve written before, your honesty is such an inspiration and I, for one, am so appreciative. We are a work in progress at our house. Things *helping* us move – not there yet – to a zero waste lifestyle: Liggetts bar shampoo [takes some getting used to, but I love the ‘no plastic look’ in the showers at our house!], t-shirts turned into rags, taking old plates/silverware on camping trips, rms cosmetics because most containers – alas, not mascara – are recyclable, bees wrap instead of foil or plastic wrap, binchotan charcoal bars vs. britta filters. Have a great trip!

    • Yes, I should be clear that I don’t ever imagine I’ll ever create absolutely zero-zip-no waste at all… but I want to start cutting back and finding alternatives, where possible. You’ve mentioned a couple here I hadn’t even thought of! Thanks, Emilie :)

  • Hi Cait,
    Congratulations and great post. You have inspired me to re-evaluated my things since last year. Although I find it hard to do shopping ban, i don’t actively shop for sport. Last year I went through all my stuff; clothes, jewelry, books, winter apparel, bathroom supplies etc and had a garage sale. I made 470$ and donated it all! i don’t really even miss that money because if you asked me what I sold it was all useless items to me! I laughed out loud at your “endless supply of moisturizer” claim. Its so true. Have you ever thought about putting a sustainability spin on some of your posts? buying less and re-use is a great way to reduce your footprint. You can even use online calculators to understand your “footprint” on the environment.

    • Yes, I definitely see that being part of future posts, Chelsea! I didn’t know there were online calculators, that could be a great tool to share :) congrats on downsizing (and making a little money, in the process)!

  • Hi Cait,

    This post has great timing and inspiration for me. Four months ago I cleaned out my linen closet and found three sets of shampoo and conditioner I haven’t used yet. Although I wash my hair everyday it’s very short so I use a dime sized drop. It will take me a long, long time to use it up. I also found lotions and such. I made a pledge to myself to use them all up before buying more. It’s tough as I am a bit of a cosmetic junkie and do like to check out what’s new. I do still shop occasionally, but it’s window shopping now. I walk away with the intention of buying what appealed to me but only when it’s time to replace what I used up, haven”t bought anything in four months!) Seeing all that was a wake-up call and your post has reinforced my desire to stay on track. I want to save more money as well and this will certainly help.

    I also like that you gave to charity as part of your plan. It helps to keep ones’ needs in perspective and it feels great to help someone. I would recommend Heifer International. They have a gift section dedicated to empowering women and girls by making then self sufficient through opportunities and education. My mom is a teacher and at Christmas I make a donation in her honor to help educate girls. She taught us that education is crucial for growth and self-sufficiency and I want to share her lesson with other girls who may not have that chance due to economic constraints.

    • Congrats on not buying anything for four months, Annie! I’m sure both your closets and your wallet are happier for it, too :) thank you so much for suggesting Heifer! I’ll take a good look at it, when I go through the list of all the ones I’ve received. I just wanted to add that I love that your gifts = donating money. I love when people do the same for my bday/Christmas :)

  • Woo hoo! Congratulations, Cait. So inspiring and so FUN to read all your lists of what you bought and toiletries used. Does that make me a minimalist nerd? Hope so. :)

  • Pro-woman and girl charities to consider: Big Sisters, which does a great job of linking at-risk girls to mentors. Femme International, a Canadian charity working in East Africa to provide menstrual cups to girls and education about sex and puberty to both girls and boys. YWCA – has a strong focus on providing services to women and children and getting them moving in a direction of self sufficiency and success.

    Thanks for the post – I’m moving further into minimalism and more conscious consuming, and it’s a super interesting thing to explore and experience.

  • This is very enlightening, & inspiring. I struggle with the idea of a shopping ban because of being a mom to 2 kids & a wife, so things I buy aren’t only for me. But it would be interesting to track everything we buy and see what that looks like- I’m sure our list would be much longer! On a side note, I thought it was interesting you only purchased 1 tube of mascara- only because I’ve learned that after its opened & used, mascara is only safe to use for about 3 months before it expires. Pencil eyeliner can last up to 2 years though, from what I’ve read. Do you consider product expiration dates/time lengths in your purchases?

    • Ahhh no, I don’t follow those rules, haha. Maybe I should!? But it seems wasteful. My mascara bottle says it’s good for 6 months, and I’ve had it open for probably 9… but I only wear it a couple times/week, so it’s still pretty full and looks great! I can’t imagine throwing it out right now.

  • This is great, congratulations! Although I must admit I’m a bit sad it’s ‘over’, because I really enjoyed your updates! They served like regular reminders to me and I enjoyed reading them very much.

    For the zero-waste thing, you might be interested to check out Michelle’s blog Minimalist Beauty. She went down a similar path from debt to minimalism to zero waste and thrifting, and has posted all kinds of DIYs to reduce her egological footprint.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Jasmijn! And maybe my future updates will just be zero waste-related, instead :)

    • Amazing! Joshua mentioned my ban ever-so-briefly in that book :) how’s it going so far, Maria!?

  • Cait, so inspiring. Your blog has really kept me motivated, when I read it I feel as if I am spending time with like minded people. My husband and I are both committed to minimalizing spending, maximizing our savings, minimalizing the things we own, maximizing doing what we love. Our next area of focus is to do a spending ban on food bought anywhere besides markets and grocery stores. Our minimalist journey has helped us identify many areas of our life where we can improve the quality. Thank you.

    • It sounds like you guys have been on quite a journey so far, Suz! Cutting out takeout food will be great, even if only for your body/waistline! :)

  • Thanks for sharing all you consumed in the past year–that type of thing really fascinates me but I’ve never taken the time to track it. I also love that you’ve included creative ways to be generous throughout. It’s such an important aspect of recognizing our needs are met. I recommend funding micro loans for women in poverty. The vocational and business training they receive is awesome–and when they repay the loan the money funds one for another person, so it’s a powerful cycle to set in motion.

    • Do you do this through Kiva, Kalie? If you don’t see this, I’ll email you to ask :)

  • Hi Cait!

    Thanks for the update on your end of year-2 ban! I must say, it picked at my curiosity from the get-go, however, I find that my general lifestyle has been changing so much over the past 2 years that I’m waiting for it to seem ‘stable’ in order to determine what I’d really like to change. For instance, I used to buy a $5 coffee-house latte about once or twice per week. Ever since I’m at my current job (9 months now), there’s no coffee shop nearby, therefore much less of a temptation, and it’s even shifted the way I think about takeout coffee when I’m in proximity to them now (I just don’t get them).

    • Yes yes yes, I’m with you on that, Annya! A few weeks ago, a friend gifted me a $20 Starbucks gift card and I still haven’t used it, because I want to save it for when it’ll really be a treat. I definitely don’t enjoy picking up $5 lattes when I’m by myself anymore (but did for MANY years). It feels like such a waste, when I know I could make something good at home. Very cool to hear your mindset has shifted, too!

  • Congrats on giving away 70% of your possessions Cait! I gave away about 90% of mine to travel the world this past year and haven’t really missed anything. I think the 1 in 1 out rule is critical for keeping clutter from ruling your life. Unfortunately, my dad has never followed this rule and now he has 5 of everything. Can’t let your stuff rule your life.

  • Yeah, I’ve been on a total print book No Buy since Jan 2015 and a cosmetic one except needed replacement items for the same time. Craft supplies ban came in late last year and is also still in place (except things needed to finish projects).

    I don’t count regular use items like shampoo etc, but I keep a shopping record now and publish it each year on my blog.

    I seriously neeed replacement clothes now, but we have v limited funds, so I’m still in the land of ‘make do and mend’.

    • Sounds like you’ve got this system down pat, Elizabeth. When you can, try to replace just one thing at a time. Even being able to replace that 1 tank top felt so good, because the other was so ill-fitting.

  • Your blog has definitely inspired me to cut my spending. Though I haven’t done a formal ban, I haven’t purchased new clothing for 1 yr (avoiding malls was a big help), and a semi-ban on starbucks (I only go when I’m with friends and we hang out there for hours).
    It’s interesting the amount of toiletries actually used vs how much we buy. By the way, have you tried something other than deodorant? Depending on what you use, it can be bad for your clothes. My tip is to use something that helps kill the bacteria that causes the odour (alcohol, vinegar, etc). I just use hand sanitizer because I always have it in my bag.

    • Huh! I hadn’t thought about using something else like that… I do some sort of exercise almost every day, so I definitely wouldn’t want to smell – but living alone, I could experiment, for sure! Thanks for the suggestion :)

  • Love that you’re going to start Zero Waste! When reading your posts it reminded me of a Zero Waste lifestyle when you talked about paring back, making do with less and being less materialistic. Zero Waste is fun and sometimes challenging, but well worth it. A lot of your toiletries can be hand made or purchased package free! Good luck on your journey and keep inspiring people! x

    • Thanks, Cait! Sounds like you have some experience with this. I’ll need your expertise, soon :)

  • I’m curious why you decided not to track food? Did you feel like you were already a bare-bones/conscious consumer when it comes to grocery shopping, or did you think it would just be too overwhelming to go minimalist there, too? I’m glad your ban worked out so well for you! I thought it was super interesting to read through your list, as everyone has different ideas about what is essential and what isn’t. (I, for one, would need a lot more than 10 razors to get through a year!)

    • Oh, I think that would’ve been wayyy too overwhelming. I almost never throw food out (always only buy what I need for 3-4 days, don’t shop again until I’ve eaten it all up) so I’m not worried about “minimizing” that area of my life at all. And yes, I totally agree that this list isn’t necessarily a guideline for anyone to live by – we are all different! But it does show what’s possible. :)

  • Wow! I am impressed that you went 2 years. It is not easy to stop shopping for unnecessary stuff. I am a wannabe minimalist, but lack will power. Have cut back a lot though, which makes me happy.

  • You inspired me to start my own shopping ban 15 days ago. I helped my boyfriend clean out his closet, and we made $150 reselling. I’d say he got rid of 60% of what he owned. The rest will be donated. He isn’t on a shopping ban, but he is a very thoughtful shopper. He doesn’t buy much. We both want to be minimalists. I’m going to be doing the same thing. My goal is to rid myself of half I own and sell everything on Poshmark to add to add to my emergency fund and buy a few pieces of clothing that I actually need. I just made my own mosquito spray and my mom makes her own makeup remover. Let me know if you need the recipes!

  • Oh, a big congrats! Every time I want something, I read your blog or listen to Budgets & Cents. It reminds me of the big picture. Honestly, I’ve felt so relieved the last few times I didn’t buy something I want.

  • Awesome and super informative post! I am looking forward to doing a spending ban once I get back from a road trip and busy summer. Your progress is so inspiring and I hope to see the same in myself. Have an amazing trip!

  • Best backpacking purchase ever–Thermarest mattress. Insulates and cushions but rolls up small. How I miss the days when we were young and able to haul all our gear into backpacking campsites. I hope you enjoy that as much as we did.

    Newest packing gear I would check out–packing cubes. Meant to go into your suitcase but no reason they couldn’t go into a pack. The mesh ones let you see what you have much better than the old stuff sacks we used.

  • I was surprised too when I actually decided to stop ‘stocking up’ on toiletries on special and use up what we had! We really don’t need all that much! Thanks for a great read.

    Also on the charity point, I support ActionAid Australia as they have a strong focus on empowering women and girls in the developing world. I’m not sure whether there are other ActionAid organisations in other countries, but I am always really thrilled to hear how they are helping women gain rights.

    • Isn’t it also crazy how long it takes to use up what we have!? Like the lotion! I’m going to need some finally soon, but that’s after TWO YEARS of using what I already had. … Thanks for the charity suggestion!

      • Very inspiring post, Cait! Before buying more lotion, check out the benefits/many uses of coconut oil. I’ve been using it for over two years now for cooking as well as for lotion, moisturizer, makeup remover, add to baths, mix with sea salt or coffee grounds for scrubs. My daughter uses it for deep conditioning her hair. I love having one go to product that replaces so many others. Enjoy your trip:)!

  • It’s been so eye opening to read about your journey the past two years. It’s so easy to become a mindless consumer and to come out of it and transform into a deliberate mindful consumer is no easy feat. Very admirable and inspirational :) I’m hoping to implement my own shopping ban very soon.

    In terms of charities, I prefer to donate my time rather than my money and I’m actively involved in Girl Guides of Canada which welcomes donations beyond the cookie purchases. You can donate to the national organization ( If the organization is something you’re comfortable supporting (I know all too well there are personal reasons not to give to certain organizations), what might make it more personal for you would be to locate a local unit or district or area, and donate directly to them. Oftentimes, there are girls who want to participate but, for whatever reason, they can’t. There are methods set-up to accommodate girls both within and outside the organization, such as JumpStart, but not all the units/districts/areas have enough to cover the costs on an internal scale and JumpStart is dependent on community donations and is used for a whole host of other activities. Between registration, the uniform and camp, things add up quickly for the girls. GGC is also introducing new programs and one of them is a finance oriented module. Our units always try and get guest speakers so if sharing your knowledge and lessons is also something you’d be like to do, the units/districts/areas in BC might be interested in having you speak to the girls. Just a couple of suggestions :)

    • Thank you so much for all the info about GGC, Susan! I didn’t do GG but I was in Brownies when I was 7/8 and remember loving it. I’ll definitely consider it – and especially the local options! :)

  • Wow, this is super interesting! If you only need 2 shampoo bottles a year then I definitely don’t need 5 bottles of hair straightener and other such products!
    Thanks :)

    • Well if you use them, you need them! That’s really what I learned in the second year. If you truly need something, go buy it. Don’t ban yourself from something, if it’s an essential to YOU.

  • Awesome! I would love to see a post on how much money you saved total in 2 years. Thanks for inspiring us weekly!

    • I saved ~$17,000 in the first year! It’s a bit difficult to determine how much I saved in Year 2, because it was lower throughout the year (earned less working for myself), but then I got an almost $8,500 boost because I had saved too much for my taxes and got to keep that money instead.

  • Global Fund for Women out of San Francisco might be a charity that resonates with your interest in making sure women can be all they can be – all around the world.

  • Congrats, Cait! I’m a planner, so it’s hard to get down to the last bottle/tube of something and not immediately buy another, but you’re right that sometimes I still have months left before I’ll run out. Thanks for the reminder!
    Do you have Darn Tough hiking socks for your trip yet? They’re the best. I also have two hiking posts on my blog with a packing list and recommendations at the end. Feel free to email if you have any specific questions. We can usually get really good deals on lightly used gear on ebay.

    • Thanks, Julie! I don’t have those socks, specifically, but do have a few good pairs of hiking socks.

  • Happy belated birthday!
    Congrats on finishing that 2nd year of The Shopping Ban (insert dramatic music!). I had started a shopping ban of my own that was supposed to last a year, and after a couple of months I fell of the wagon. Result : I’m still pilling on some stuff I already have more than enought, just because “it’s on sale” ((Like, seriously, which family needs 10 tubes of toothpaste, 12 bottles of shampoo, 22 soaps, 21 toothbrushes, etc!??)). Time for me to revisit the shopping ban idea! I also have to apply this to food, because I have overflowing freezers and pantry…. oops!

    • Soap is actually a tough one to NOT stock up on, if you use it, because it’s much cheaper to buy multiple bars vs. just 1-3. So don’t feel bad about that – but definitely don’t buy more, until you’re down to your last couple!

  • A great charity for women & girls is the “because I’m a girl” campaign. They focus on here + abroad, and always highlight education as a key to growth. :)

  • Love your story Cait. I think you can graduate to the Frugalwoods practice of frugal-autopilot.

  • Thanx for the recap Cait – congratulations! you have done well for yourself and have inspired many others. you have been a joy to follow and show discipline as a fun thing to do. have a great trip in Aug and look forward to your zero waste blogs

    • Thanks, Bernadette! I’m so excited to write about both the trip and the new zero waste challenges. :)

  • Please know passing on your lessons learned has helped many people. Even though many of us didn’t do a complete shopping ban it has certainly made me think a lot more about what I buy. I am also looking at all my “stuff” with fresh eyes to see what I really need and what I can get rid of. It’s a slow process but I’m working at it. Also, my suggestions for charitable donations are “For the Love of Africa” which is based out of Victoria. I’ve been to Africa with them 5 times and we are currently building a trade school. One of the first classes will be a sewing/tailoring class for women. Also, similar to Sundara, there is a local organization called Disaster Aid that collects soap and toiletries from the hotels up and down Vancouver Island. They process it all in their warehouse and then supply local homeless shelters as well as shipping it to disaster zones around the world.

    • Janice, I am so grateful for the local recommendations! And to know there is a local reader – that makes me happy. :) I’d never heard of anything like Sundara before (or Disaster Aid) but it’s such a fantastic idea. Take waste and do something good with it. Love love love. Thanks again :)

  • The idea of a shopping ban is terrifying but I am inspired to try, even for a week, or just thinking more about what I buy (I buy too much of everything). Your recap is awesome, congratulations.

    • Thanks, Emma. And yes, I don’t think anyone has to ban themselves from everything or do it for as long as I did. If I could make a suggestion, it would be to cut out your “vice” (whatever it may be) for 1-3 months and see how you feel about it after. In changing a habit, you could learn a lot about yourself and what you value. Good luck!

      • Thanks for that suggestion, Cait! I’ve become pretty minimalist in the last 4-5 years. but I still have a couple of “vices” that I just haven’t been able to get a handle on (coffee and books). I’m inspired to try a 30 day ban on coffee, and a ban on new books till the end of 2016. Thanks for sharing your experiences — you’ve been very inspirational. Wish me luck!

  • Love this recap. I am doing a ban. I live in an expensive apt in Vancouver and i want to keep living near the beach, so everything else is cooking at home, no buying unnecessaries, etc. I love walking around the beach and bike riding. My new thing is realizing that all these people are leaving their beer cans and wine bottles in our underground recycling. I’ve been making gas and some food money just from taking these bottles back! The recycling depot is close by and cheap groceries are too.
    You’re totally right about the toiletries. I’ve been on the same body wash for a year b/c my skin is sensitive so I don’t use much. And white vinegar for laundry and house cleaning. Keep going!

    • Nicely done, Cathleen! One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – or in this case, free money!

  • After 15 years in our apt. we needed to replace our carpets. This was the perfect time to start getting rid of everything we didn’t need. After the carpets were replaced we saw there was a flaw in it, so again we got rid of much more needless stuff. Now the newest carpets are down and our place is clutter free.

  • Congrats Cait, you0ve done a great job and you gave me a lot of savvy ideas and tips so thank!!!And yes after 2 year of shopping ban you have a minimalist lifestyle -infact you bought things when was necessary and not because you wanted-so isn’t necessary to have another shopping ban. I’m sure you’ll do a good work also into the zero waste movement

  • Have you looked at the Because I Am A Girl program through Plan Canada? Amazing empowerment for women and girls around the world.

  • This is a great read, Cait. I enjoyed it. I realized the other day that while I do not over spend, I tend to get an idea I want something and it gradually becomes a need. Only to buy it, it is too harsh for my skin and I have to throw it away – and that was $40 worth of stuff. In my head I purchased drug-store brands to save money. Well, I ended up losing $40. Lesson. Learned. :) I don’t have a ton of products but I’ve really noticed that wants becomes needs in my mind very quickly. I loved what you wrote on that topic. Could you write a post on how you mentally got through those moments? I’m sure it wasn’t “Shopping ban! Yay!” So for example, how did you talk yourself out of the wants when the brain says NEED!

    • Honestly, it just took multiple experiences of talking myself out of things and realizing how powerful our inner monologue is. The inventory I took of my belongings at the beginning of Year 1 helped, though, as did keeping track of everything I bought this year. When you know what you have/know how much you use, it’s easier to talk yourself out of stuff you know you don’t truly need.

  • Congrats, Cait! I can’t believe it’s already been a year since you finished your first time around. I remember reading that post, and all the lessons that I had learned from it and from you. It’s really interesting that your second year didn’t have quite the same impact as your first. But I guess it had become second nature to you?

    P.S. I was one (or two) of those people that opened the survey but didn’t finish it. Haha. Sorry! I didn’t finish it because I wasn’t on a shopping ban in the sense that I thought you were looking for. I was still on my “forced” shopping ban due to lack of a full-time job, and I didn’t want to skew your results.

    • It’s all good! Lots of people don’t finish surveys (myself included) so I don’t mind. :)

  • Cool experiment! We have gone through different shopping ban phases, right now my wife is not buying any new clothes. She is also going through what she had in the closet, and if she doesn’t wear it within a year donating it. But the keeping track of all your consumables is some really nice data! We are guilty of buying 5 bottles of detergent one year – at least we had enough detergent for the next 2 years!

  • This was so interesting to read. I haven’t taken the challenge yet, but I am already very conscious of the things I buy (I wasn’t always!). After reading this I now have the urge to do a huge purge of the items I own and just get rid of it all. There are too many emotions tied to the most inanimate objects.

    • Ooo, I love the decluttering process, Jennifer – probably because I know how amazing it feels to walk into a space after it’s done. Good luck!

  • Congrats again Cait!! I love your survey graphics! If only I was a wise as you are when I was your age. Well, it’s never to late to start, right!! I am getting better than I was, and now that my girls are a bit older (11 and 15), they don’t play with toys anymore. I will never be a minimalist, by minimalist’s standards, but I am very conscious of my spending. I look around my house and I can easily see things that need to go and don’t have a place here. I got rid of stuff (aka junk) from mine and my husband’s bedroom to make room for a cabinet that belonged to my paternal grandparents and will use to house my camera gear and extra quilts. Trust me when I say that here in Newfoundland, we can use quilts every month of the year. I know I can. LOL Wouldn’t you know it, my two Aunt’s (only surviving siblings on my mom’s side of the family) gifted me with some quilts that belonged to my maternal grandmother a few days ago, along with a bible(approx. 50 yrs old) that belonged to my great grandmother! I am making room in my home for the things that matter. Things that have happy memories. My husband, kids and I are spending our summer doing things, not buying things. Well except for books to read while we are camping. We went to Cape Spear last Friday and are going camping this weekend for two nights. We also have two full weeks off this summer, besides the weekends, to do some sightseeing in our beautiful province, and other activities when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Family fun, whether the kids like it or not!! LOL

  • Inspiring, really! Will there be a 2017 version of the mindful bugeting tracker? Looking forward to hearing more….

  • I use a bar of shampoo from LUSH. I can’t even remember when I bought it… Must have been more than a year ago. But my hair is fairly short and I only wash it every two or three days

  • Ok, I am astounded by the toilet paper! My family of four, uses a roll of TP every day. That would be 365 rolls divided by 4, which is roughly 90 rolls a year vs. your 36. My deodorant last way longer though as I generally only use it during the hot summer months, maybe a couple of years.

  • I don’t know how anyone could look at your lists and think you were a failure! What you spent in a year could be a single shopping trip for other people. Awesome job and so inspiring!

  • I just loved your blog. I cant remember how I stumbled upon it. But happy I did. My father (grhs) used to write with a felt pen on bottles and boxes of products to keep track of how long he had something. I used to think it was quirky….but…now I do it too. He was a pioneer minimalist, recyler and composter… He came from a VERY poor family in occupied Denmark. He really knew the value of a nickel. Because of him I have always questioned myself on…. Do I NEED it, or do I just WANT it. I will admit to having times of silly spending, but in general am trying to keep it simple. I admire your resolve and focus. I could be more specific for sure. I am passing all of your thoughts on to my daughters who are a bit younger than you and are caught up in the city life. They wont listen to me… what do I know. Perhaps they will listen to someone more contemporary.

  • Nice infographic! I don’t consume much in the way of clothes or toiletries – but I tend to accumulate a lot of those things. I have this hoarder mentality when it comes to potentially practical things. And being in NYC, there are so many opportunities for freebies. I have a suitcase full of travel sized toiletries I’ve gotten for free that I just can’t seem to let go of. But, at least I didn’t spend money on them :)

  • Love the tip within a comment to use a nickel-size amount of shampoo and conditioner just on the ends (genius!)

    My husband and I generally do a big Wal-mart run 3-4 times a year, We stock up on deodorant, toothpaste, wipes (once your bum’s tried it, it can’t unlearn the awesomeness), paper towel and other toiletries.

    We do it thinking “alright, we’re here anyways, might as well stock up so we don’t have to buy these again” but I’m starting to think we need to stockpile less and just purchase when needed. The habit started when I was pregnant with our first (and admittedly, it was very difficult to get out when she was little) – but now that our 2nd is almost 1 year, I think we can ease up on the marathon shopping trips.

    Thanks for sharing your findings – now *I* can’t unlearn that you only needed 2 shampoo bottles in a year!

    Enjoy your travels this summer! We’re heading to Vancouver (but not enough time to visit Victoria) in a couple of weeks & looking forward to enjoying some of the mountain air. :)

    Best wishes,

  • I was in a bad habit of hoarding necessities like deodorant, but realized I always seemed to have a stockpile of 6 or 8 and never seemed to move through it. I read an article about how we tend to use more, (obviously BUY more) when we buy in bulk at warehouses. I decided to go with the JIT inventory (Just In Time) model popular in many businesses. Why invest that money in a product that will sit there when it could be going to another use? I’ve realized we don’t go through things as quickly as I had thought. Tracking is key! Congrats on your lifestyle change, mine is a work in progress, but progress is all we can hope for in life!

  • I love, love, love this! I’m trying to simplify our life and finances right now and there’s something very appealing about the Compact–not buying anything new for a year or so. It’s harder to make do with this method if all you have is cheap or low-quality items (specifically clothing).

    But I really do think this is doable and I’m sure it saves a ridiculous amount of money. It’s a great lesson in what we truly can and can’t live without.

  • Great post! For me, not shopping has become the norm. It isn’t hard or a sacrifice it just is the new normal. I get a big kick out of saving and investing instead of buying something that I would likely toss or donate within a year.

  • What a great read and its great that iys turned into a lifestyle.

    I am sooo on board about bathroom cupboard.. I am working on my zero waste and minimalism by using up everything that has accumulated over the years. We haven’t purchased any hand soap or shampoo the whole year. We are a family of 4. And I don’t think we will purchase conditioner for years ( we mostly don’t even use it anymore and have a full bottle)

    Great read . :) I am also working on books I own but haven’t read yet.

  • I love this so much! I almost never purchase non consumable items (other than kids clothes), mostly because I hate having to go through and get rid of things I paid money for! I would love to not by them clothes either, but with 5 little kids it’s a constant flow of clothing in and out of our closets. =) I’ve started just swapping kids clothes with friends. It saves me the work of buying and selling them. I’ll admit I looked with a bit of longing at your list. We just bought another Costco 7 pack of toothpaste. =) When I finish the 2x 500 dryer sheet pack, I never know if I feel victorious or a bit defeated. Another 1000 loads of laundry under my belt. =)

  • That’s awesome you’ve learned a lot from the shopping ban!

    If you want more books to read you can sign up and request some digital copies for free from Netgalley as long as you don’t mind leaving a review.

    There’s also lots of free reads online.

    Between using the library, NetGalley, and reading free stories online I don’t buy books anymore unless they’re one of my favorites that I will re-read over and over again.

  • Congratulations on taking control of your expenditures and interesting discussion. Just curious about how gifting fits into your shopping ban/budget and that of others? What do you do about family birthdays, weddings, showers, invitations to dinner, etc.? What about invitations to socialize that require spending to participate?

  • Great job! I swore off buying anything new this year, but was still hitting up the thrift stores. While I did find things I was specifically looking for, I also bright home done things I didn’t know I needed until I saw them. ;-) So I declared a No Buy July to break the habit. That triggered a bout of decluttering. The back of my Jeep is now full of donations to be dropped off later today. :-) I’ve doing as zero waste as possible this year as well. Once you get in the habit and figure it your options, it’s not too horrible to stick to. It takes commitment, but knowing your why makes it easier. Thanks for sharing your experiences of not shopping. Good luck on your new adventure!

  • Cait,
    Love this ambitious two-year plan. Regarding looking for opportunities for supporting girls and women, I suggest looking into Girl Scouts and Girl Guides. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. From donations to volunteering time supporting girls, it’s a great worldwide organization to engage at a local level. Disclaimer-I work for Girl Scouts and I was a Girl Scout.
    Keep up the good work with your quest for minimalism!

  • Wow! That was a great challenge to take. The beauty part of it is that it worked for you. Yeah, we surely need much less than we think we need. Thanks for sharing.

  • Awesome recap, really interesting. For an interesting nonprofit that empowers girls, check out girls on the run not sure if they have it in Canada but it’s an amazing organization in the US.

  • I’m also a single woman, but I can’t imagine the small amounts of some things you’re using. Only 36 rolls of toilet paper for a year? But this does really help me to see what and how much someone else uses, so I can gauge my consumption. I’m definitely on the simple living bandwagon. Just found your blog and will look forward to hearing more of your journey.

  • I really love that you’ve done this. I have a weakness for homewares, and I just can’t help but upgrade things when I find something better or which I think would improve my life in some way (but does it really?). Problem is, I’m studying Interior Design at the moment, so it’s a constant battle! Anyway I think I need to make some rules about what comes in. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi! I’ve just found your blog and this article is great. Love everething you went through. I definitely will follow u)) I adore everything connected with minimal / eco/ vegan lifestyle. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hello Cait. I am reading your blogg for the first time, and I hope that my english is not so bad so you cant read this, I must tell you I think this is so great, I have not made this kind of ban you are talking about, but I try to not buy or spend money on things I dont need . That is a kind of experiement, But I know that I always have money left every month on my account . And I agree about the thing that it is so important to know how much we spend, and start thinking about what we buy. Also what kind of signals we sending out to our kids … Christina,,, Stockholm Sweden

  • Hi Cait, great post. I shared it on my blog today because I’ve been doing a No-Spend challenge all summer. I’ve done these in the past in an attempt to meet a money goal or just reset my habits. This time, my husband and I are working on saving a down payment for our first home. Thanks for sharing.

    I too have been tracking my spending, every penny, for a very long time. It’s so important to do this when one is trying to change their relationship with money.

  • Interested to know how you handeled gift-giving. Give consumables? It’s always someone’s birthday :) thanks!

  • What a great post! I found your site from the Becoming Minimalist Weekend Reads. You mentioned wanting to know about a charity that is working to make a difference in girls’ education. I would highly recommend checking out This is a non-profit grassroots organization that works to build schools and sponsor children in Niger, Africa, the poorest nation in the world. We are particularly passionate about helping girls to receive an education and break the cycle of poverty and childhood marriages in their country. Check it out!

  • Really loved your post. I track expenses and work with budgets but hadn’t thought about seeing how much I needed in a year. I have a thought for you on something to empower girls. Here’s a link in our paper about people going there to observe the conditions:

    I volunteer and sew weekly for this group. My local chapter has connections with clergy who can get these kits into the extremely impoverished parts of Africa. It helps keep girls in schools and helps them keep their jobs.

  • What a wonderful summary of your journey!

    I’m normally very good about keeping things minimal and watching my finances, but lately I find myself suddenly wanting to buy things. All the time!

    I think it is a combination of my increasing unhappiness with my job (they’re unofficially promoting me, which means I no longer get to do much of the things I LIKE about my job, and instead have to be in a leadership role, which is…really not what I want.) Probably my recent switch in hobbies is also not helping. I’ve been knitting constantly for about six years, but lately I find myself more interested in drawing. I have two drawers full of yarn and not enough paper/art supplies/I want all the art supplies.

    So I think I am going to take a page out of your book and give myself a shopping ban for August and September. :) Thanks for the inspiration!

  • One of my favourite charities is “Days for Girls”. They provide reusable (washable) sanitary supplies for girls in countries where it’s hard to get. Not having access to tampons/pads means that girls have to miss a week of school every month, which obviously impacts their education and their lives.
    Such a basic thing, and so life-changing!

    check it out:

  • Amazing effort and amazing blog posts! I discovered your blog four days ago through the Be More with Less blog, linking to your post at the very start of your 2 year shopping ban – and just had to follow your journey through to the milestone (I didn’t want to say ‘the end’, as it doesn’t sound like you’re planning on stopping any time soon!). I’ve already started a declutter, clothes already done (like you I tend to stick to a uniform of jeans & hoodie), so now it’s on to the house ‘stuff’ and crafting supplies (that one will be the hardest!), and hoping I can bring my husband along for the ride!
    One organisation you might like to check out is The Aspire Foundation – they work to match women working in non-profits and charities that make a difference to women & girls with a (usually female) mentor in the business or commercial sector…
    I hope you have an amazing time on your hiking road trips – good luck!

  • Amazing effort that you have put in for not spending.
    Now that I start to look at my spending, there are A LOT of transaction for junks that I just don’t need.
    I am all for shopping ban and I am going to start today! [not too sure how long will I hold but hopefully still stand after you have many hiking road trips]

  • Look into the charity Days for Girls
    It provides women and girls with reusable cloth sanitary pads so that they are able to go to school, and not miss several days each month due to their periods.

  • I must admit I have mixed feelings about your way of doing things, but your heart shines through your words and from that perspective I think we could be allies in doing good for this crazy world we live in. I very much want to change how our food goes from farm to table and how we reconnect (or don’t) with all that is…a being I like to call God, but respect we all have our own unique opinions on what that word means.

  • I’ve just ended my first year without shopping!!!))) And I did it because of you! You are my inspiration)) and I’m so proud of myself)))
    And you know what? I’ve just started my second year))
    Thank you!
    I’m from Russia, and if your idea works here, it means it became popular and interesting all over the world almost)

  • I donate time and products to local domestic violence refuges. Whilst most of them keep locations secret (for obvious reasons) there is usually an office you can drop things off to. In the UK I work for a local authority so I do it through my colleagues there. Toiletries and food for women and children who often arrive with very little are always welcome. Or you could look to provide free copies of your budget planner and maybe an advice session or two to women leaving the shelter and setting up on their own.

  • I loved reading about your shopping ban and found it really interesting to see the breakdown of what you actually buy in a year. Very inspiring. I am on a mini shopping ban for the next 2 months. Still working on the kinks but am feeling much less stressed!

    A great charity in Victoria for woman is the Cridge Transition House and Big Brothers/Big Sisters Go Girls mentoring program which aims to empower young girls.

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