Last year, I made a vow not to shop for anything unnecessary for an entire year. It was really hard, but I stuck to it, and I managed to save a big chunk of money thanks to being a lot more conscious of my spending habits.
However, as the year came to a close, I began to worry about how I’d manage my spending after my year of no shopping. Would I go nuts and buy everything I’d denied myself last year? Would I need to publicly declare another ‘year of no shopping’ to keep myself accountable?
Well, it’s May now (I know, I haven’t blogged in FIVE months! Yikes…), and I am happy to report that I’m pretty much spending the same way as I was last year. I thought it might be interesting to reflect on what I learned about myself and my relationship with shopping, and what I’ve continued to practice in my day-to-day life, because the ‘no shopping’ challenge really changed the way I look at consuming things. I will never go back to my old spending habits, EVER. So, if you’re curious about how this challenge changed my life, keep reading to see what I learned and what I (try to) practice consistently.
1. Find other (healthy) ways to deal with stress
I think, for me and many others like me, shopping can easily become a way to self-soothe. When I felt like my life was out of my control, it felt good to click, ‘Confirm Purchase’, and look forward to the day my goodies would arrive. In the long run, however, my excessive shopping, diminishing bank account, and increasing pile of stuff I’ve only worn once only contributed to my feelings of stress and anxiety. Like many other bad habits, I realized that shopping was a ‘quick fix’ that was not sustainable in the long run, and now when I shop, I question whether I am buying something because I’m feeling anxious or because I really need it. Usually it’s the former!
2. Avoid online shopping
I used to LOVE online shopping, and, while I did return a lot of what I bought, I accumulated a lot of crap by mindlessly ordering things that I didn’t need. Nowadays, I never shop online. I unsubscribed from all of the newsletters and offer emails cluttering up my inbox (and my mind), cancelled my Amazon Prime membership and have not gone back. As a result, if I want to buy something, I’m forced to go to the actual physical store, and when I am in a store, for some reason, I’m a lot more reasonable about what I do or do not need.
3. Educate yourself about the harmful side of fast fashion and ‘2-day shipping’
In addition to stopping all online shopping, I also took the time to educate myself about the harmful environmental, social, and economic effects that fast fashion and e-commerce giants like Amazon have on the globe. A quick Google search of ‘criticism of Amazon’ will pull up thousands of articles detailing how harmful the company is, but this clip from Hassan Minhaj’s show, Patriot Act, is a good place to start. I also recommend this list from Green America. It kind of sucks because I used to love Amazon, but now that I know what I know, I find it easier to just abstain from shopping at these companies altogether because, in my mind, contributing to their capital is contributing to the problem.
4. Audit yourself frequently.
Another thing that I noticed when I wasn’t shopping was how often I was tempted to buy things that I ALREADY HAD MULTIPLES OF. Does anyone else do this? I think it must be some deep-rooted psychological or biological thing, because I don’t even notice it until I’m looking through my closet and realize I have about 12 blue and white striped shirts, almost all of them identical. To avoid this, I regularly go through my closet (usually during seasonal transitions) to remind myself of what I have and, more importantly, what I do not need any more of.
5. Look at the culture of consumerism in a critical way
Once you stop shopping, you realize how much of your daily media consumption is telling you to BUY, BUY, BUY. I will never, ever, sell things on this blog (not that anyone is offering, but still!) because the truth is, WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE STUFF. Landfills are overflowing, clothing businesses are destroying surplus products because they are producing way more than they are selling, even second-hand stores are being forced to either throw away or sell donated items because they have TOO MUCH STUFF. So, the next time you’re reading a blog post or scrolling through Instagram, pay attention to how often you’re being sold something. It’s unrelentless, and other than food, shelter, water, clothing and medication, there’s very little of what’s being sold to us that we truly, truly need.
So, that’s what I’ve learned. I know it’s a lot of bad news, and it did make me sad to realize that for most of my adult life, I have been a contributor, knowingly or not, to the problem…but I’m trying to change that. I’m definitely not perfect (ha!), and I do succumb to the occasional unnecessary purchase in moments of weakness. I’m sure that I’m making OTHER mistakes that in a few years I’ll regret as I get more educated on the effects of my daily choices, but I’ve found that knowing these things has really, really helped in reducing the initial desire to shop. And when that desire isn’t there, it’s a lot easier to walk into a store and walk out empty-handed (and be perfectly happy about it).
What are your tips for navigating the ‘culture of consumption’? Do you struggle with overspending or an ‘addiction’ to shopping? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂