The Rules for My Second Yearlong Shopping Ban

Originally published on July 13, 2015.

I never could have imagined the type of response I got from last week’s post. (And, oddly enough, that’s exactly how I started the post that outlined the rules to my first yearlong shopping ban.) I’ve been away at a conference since Wednesday, so I’m still trying to catch up on your comments and emails (sorry!), but I’ve read them all and have to say… I am so excited for round two.

As I was nearing the end of the first year, I went through all the posts I’d written about it and asked myself one question: are you happy with the results? The answer was yes. Halfway through the first year, this experiment became about so much more than just the goal to not spend money on stuff I didn’t need, and the results of that continue to appreciate. However, there’s one thing I regret not doing:

Tracking everything I did buy.

I’m not talking about the one pair of jeans I replaced or the dress I bought for those weddings. No, I’m talking about the toothpaste, shampoo, and soap I bought throughout the year; all those basic necessities you actually need. As July 6th approached, I kept thinking, I wonder how many things I actually bought? I wish I’d kept track! That regret stuck with me and is the reason why I want to do this for another year.

See, the rules for my second yearlong shopping ban are essentially going to remain the same.

I’m allowed to shop for:

  • groceries
  • gardening supplies
  • cosmetics (only basics, like mascara, and only after I run out)
  • toiletries (toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.)
  • ingredients for shampoo/conditioner/cleaning products/laundry detergent
  • gifts for others
  • business expenses (notebooks, software, etc.)

And I’m NOT allowed to shop for:

  • “fun” cosmetics (namely nail polish)
  • clothes (unless I lose weight and nothing fits)
  • shoes and accessories
  • books and magazines
  • household items (candles, decor, furniture, etc.)
  • basic kitchen supplies, cleaning products and laundry detergent
  • electronics and appliances
  • takeout coffee

See? It’s basically the same set of rules – and I don’t foresee this being very difficult, per se. I have more than enough unread books to get me through the next year (which is going to be another challenge of its own), all the clothes I need to wear and no more daily takeout coffee habit; this is a lifestyle now, where I’ll only buy things that need to be replaced (and toss/donate the old items I’m replacing).

My challenge for Year 2 is that I want to keep track of every single item I buy and use. Like the box of tampons I bought yesterday (sorry, fellas) and the travel-size bottle of ibuprofen that went along with it. I’m genuinely curious to know how much a person needs to consume in a year, so I’m going to document what I buy/use and share the results here with all of you.

We’re so quick to stockpile toiletries, like toothpaste, lotions and soaps, but how much do we actually use up in a year? Of course, the answers would vary, depending on how many times you brushed your teeth, showered and lathered up each day. But I think I’m a fairly average consumer, in that I use a little bit of everything, so hopefully the data will show how much the average (female) consumer needs.

At the end of each month, in my budget recap posts, I’m going to list what I bought as well as keep track of it all in a spreadsheet. When July 6th, 2016 comes around, I’ll add up the total number of items I bought and share it in the final recap post – and I think the list will be shorter than any of us could have imagined. (And if I’m wrong, that will be eye-opening for me, too!)

Two Other Challenges

On top of tracking all the things I buy in the next 12 months, there are two other challenges I want to take on:

  1. “Shop” my bookshelf – This past year, I borrowed and read so many books from the library, but I barely made a dent in the stacks of unread books I currently own. For this next year, I want to skip the library altogether and just read what’s already on my bookshelf. (One exception will be made for Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, which I cannot wait to borrow and read.) When I’m done each book, I’m going to donate it to my local library, as I did last year.
  1. Support my friends and a charity of their choice – I have a number of friends who work for themselves, and who make a living by selling books and products through their sites – and not being able to support them this past year made me feel awful. To make up for it, this year, when a friend launches a new book or product, I’m going to buy it so I can support their work and careers, and I’m also going to donate the same amount of money to a charity of their choice.

That’s three challenges in total, all of which should make for a very interesting – and hopefully more giving – year. I will also include any progress reports on these two other challenges, in my monthly budget recap posts, to make the second yearlong shopping ban even more transparent than the first.

My hope for this second year is that it will not only inspire more of you to stop making some impulse purchases, as well as try shopping bans of your own, but it will make you think about how much you consume overall – and maybe inspire you to cut back and try to shrink your carbon footprint even a teeny tiny bit, or find ways to do good things (like give back more) with your money.