One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to do absolutely no shopping for one year. My decision to make this resolution is partly due to the realisation that I had way, WAY more clothes than I was actually wearing (thank you, moving) and partly thanks to this article by Ann Patchett. I decided that, for one entire year, I would not buy anything that was not consumable or something that I absolutely needed.
Things I could buy included:
- Groceries/cleaning supplies
- Items of clothing that I can’t live without (e.g., if something breaks, or weather is extreme)
- Gifts for others (I don’t buy a lot of gifts, but since I am not keeping the items and I rarely ever go overboard, I thought this was ok)
- Experiences (trips, going to restaurants, going to cinema, etc.)
Things I could not buy included:
- Clothes (sob)
- Shoes (sob)
- Bags (sob)
- Makeup and beauty products (only replacing essentials if empty) (sob)
- House decor/tchotchkes, household items that are not essential
Now, I know it is only March but I am very proud to say that I have been sticking to my resolution quite well! The only item of clothing I’ve bought is a winter parka that I found at a second hand shop for 40 dollars, and I really, really needed one (I swear!). But that’s it! And I bought a few items for our new place, but really nothing other than the essentials (which, by the way, was bloody TORTURE. Word to the wise: don’t go to IKEA when trying not to shop for a year).
I was thinking about this the other day, and I think if I boil it all down I can attribute my success to a few key factors:
1. Set yourself up for success. For me, this meant blocking certain retail websites (I use Block Site) and unsubscribing from store/brand newsletters, because online shopping is my weakness. I also unfollow certain accounts on Instagram, such as those of my favorite clothing brands, for example.
2. Avoid shopping ‘triggers’. In addition to blocking certain sites, I also try to avoid going to shops in general. Or, if I do, I take a friend or my husband and have them interrogate me if I consider purchasing something.
3. Try stuff on and save receipts. Part of shopping less is making sure that you buy quality items that will stand the test of time. I’d say that about 80% of the time, something I see that is cute and cheap on a rack usually looks just ‘ok’ when I try it on in the changing room. That’s not to say that I have low self-esteem (debatable), but just that by doing this I avoid buying stuff that I don’t absolutely LOVE. I also save all my receipts and return anything that I buy that doesn’t work, doesn’t fit, or that I don’t need.
4. Plan purchases carefully. Because I’m buying much less, and much less impulsively, I now take the time to really think about my next purchase, whether it’s groceries, or a coat, or an appliance I need. I also do extensive research online about the item (esp. if it is a more expensive purchase) to find the best deal, look at reviews, compare features, etc. Knowing that you really thought about a purchase makes handing over the money (or, more likely, clicking ‘Buy now’) much less scary and out of control.
5. Find other ways to cope with stress or anxiety. I noticed that a lot of my shopping was usually done because I was either a) feeling bored, b) anxious about something, c) both, or d) when I was procrastinating doing something important. Shopping made me zone out for a little while and clicking ‘buy’ or handing over my credit card felt like I had accomplished something. Since I knew this was probably not a very healthy or financially sound coping mechanism, I decided I need some other ways to soothe myself in times of duress. I’m still working on this, but some things I have found worked include:
- Painting my nails or something else indulgent, like applying a face mask
- Taking a shower
- Going for a walk with Winston
- Cooking or baking something
- Getting coffee with a friend or colleague
- Calling my mom (lol)
6. Remind yourself why you are doing this. The other week, C and I popped into an H&M downtown, and as I looked at the racks and racks of clothes, all I could think about was how mass-produced everything was, and how most of these items would probably end up sitting in landfills. The other shoppers looked like hungry animals, searching desperately for bargains, to buy more, more, more stuff, and I didn’t want to count myself as one of them. I’m not saying that stuff is inherently bad, or that buying things is bad, but for that moment I could see the absurdity of it all really clearly, and it threw me back on track with my goal. So, we turned around and walked out empty-handed.
If you’ve ever done a no-shopping year (or month, or week), please let me know if you found anything else that helps you stick with it. My biggest weakness right now is shopping when I travel, since I can always rationalise that I ‘…might not visit again so I better buy that scarf/necklace/bag/pair of shoes now, while I can’. So far, I’ve combatted this by only buying consumables while I travel, like a local liquor or delicacy, to enjoy when I’m back home. It’s been working pretty well!
Also, if anyone wants to try some Polish bison grass vodka (aka Żubrówka), hit me up. I have a few bottles to try out 🙂