The Rules for My Yearlong Shopping Ban

Originally published on July 9, 2014.

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

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

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

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

What I’m allowed to shop for:

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

What I’m NOT allowed to shop for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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