My No-Buy Year

On January 1,  I will begin a year long project – 2020 will be my no-buy year. The task sounds daunting and exciting, This post is to set forth my reasons and my rules for the year ahead.

I’ll start with the basics – the rules I’ve set for myself for the next 12 months.

I will not be purchasing any products in the following categories outside of replacements for products I completely use up and have no alternatives for that particular category.

The categories:

Clothing (includes shoes and accessories)

Beauty (includes skincare and toiletries)

Homeware  (decor, candles, books, pots, pans, etc)

Drive-thru fast food. This one is just extra embarrassing and I definitely didn’t want to include this for all the world to see but even though I’ve given up eating animal products I could (happily) live on french fries.

The rules:

Am I allowed to buy new makeup, skincare, clothing, or homeware? No.

Am I allowed to replace things that break? Yes but only if I don’t own any other item that will suffice.

Am I allowed to replenish products that get used up? Yes but with the same caveat as above. I have a couple of deodorants and a travel size one. When My favorite deodorant runs out I can’t replace it until every single deodorant is used up. THEN I can repurchase my favorite.

Am I allowed to buy gifts for others? Yes. I love buying gifts.

Am I allowed to receive gifts? Yes.

Am I allowed to receive gift cards? Yes, but they will be treated as money and will have to spent in line with my rules. (or saved until next year I guess.)

Am I allowed to go to Burger King and get Beyond Beef burger with a friend? Yes, but no drive-thru’s. I have to go inside.

The exceptions:

Health. If I moved to Antarctica this year I’m allowed to buy snow gear. If my current sunscreen goes bad before it’s gone I can repurchase a new sunscreen and not use the bad one. If I sit on my glasses I can buy a new pair. If one of my lipsticks goes bad before I use it up I cannot replace and will have to use one of the other lipsticks I already own.

Work. I’m in the process of looking for a new job and if that new job requires black pants I’m allowed to buy a pair of black pants. I am not allowed to buy a whole new wardrobe.

My Scentsy auto-ship. This one is tricky but for now this is staying. I have an auto shipment that comes every 3 months and that will be allowed to continue. I cannot add to what I already have in my order.

What is NOT included in the no-buy:

Food. I can eat in 2020! I can buy my favorite pickles and fancy blueberry preserves. I can treat myself to a diet coke.

Experiences. I can go out to eat, I can go to movies or concerts or plays, I can fly home to California and I can get facials and manicures.

All of these exceptions will stay within reason- I don’t want to buy stuff and I’m not looking for loopholes.

Why am I doing this?

The first and biggest reason is to change old habits that no longer serve me and the life I want. Aside from actual shopping I don’t love the amount of time I spend engaging in “shopping behavior” – browsing, scrolling, adding things to my cart then taking them out again, looking for things to want to buy. I want to stop using shopping as a distraction. It’s been an easy and convenient distraction from dealing with my mental health, family situations and future unknowns. I’ve lost touch with what I can afford, what I want, what makes me happy and what I’ll actually get use out of. These habits are something I’m no longer comfortable with. Not just the amount of money but the amount of time, brain power and energy I spend on these behaviorsis something I want to change.

I didn’t use to be a shopper but like I’ve mentioned above somewhere over the last few years I started shopping when I’m procrastinating, when I’m bored, when I’m lonely, when I want to cheer myself up. Things really took a turn after the 2016 election. And it’s so easy. I live alone, There’s no one to comment or judge when a package arrives or when I come home with another candle. There’s no one to say anything when I spent too much time reading product reviews on Sephora. It’s hard to admit this but shopping has become a hobby and almost like a nervous tick…. and I’m very uncomfortable with that.

An obvious response at this point would be to just shop less and my answer is I’ve TRIED. I need drastic measures, clear cut rules and going cold turkey. THis is what has worked best for me in the past and what I feel is best for me now. Couldn’t I just do a no-buy month? Yes, but my aim is lasting change and a month doesn’t seem like enough. I feel like I”ll get through the month and then treat myself for getting through. I do think short term no-buys or even low-buys can be helpful and effective for a lot of people but it doesn’t feel right for me.

The second why is money.

It feels sort of weird and wrong to talk about money on the internet but the whole reason for this project is already a little bit vulnerable so I’m just going to be really honest. I work full time and make enough to sustain myself. But sustaining myself and having extra money for things I don’t need aren’t the same and I’ve been spending more than I’m comfortable with. I have have future goals that keep getting pushed aside little by little by a lipstick here, and a throw pillow there. I will say that I’ve never let myself go into to debt with shopping (thank goodness) but I’m also not getting where I want to be. The feeling of not being comfortably prepared for the future will never be overcome by the excitement of a new eye shadow palette. I want to flip the joy of acquiring beautiful, new things for the peace and comfort of being more financially secure.

One of the things I’ve always told myself as I’ve justified my shopping habit is that shopping is my right. I work hard and it’s my money, so why shouldn’t I have the things I want? But (and I say this with a big sigh) it’s just not worth it any more. I’ve felt this way for awhile but I haven’t had the strength or will power to do anything about it. I’m tired of the little tinge of guilt that follows every unnecessary purchase. I’m tired of the feeling of knowing that I really can’t afford the thing I just bought. I’m tired of being afraid to check my bank account and be reminded of my unnecessary spending. I’m tired of realizing that I don’t have enough money for the things I really do want. And the dumb thing is I’m working enough and making enough that I should feel like I’m solvent… as long as I’m not spending all my money on things I don’t need.

What it all comes down to:

The other reason why I’m doing this is that I want to enjoy what I already have. And I have so much. Shopping as a hobby has created the habit of always looking for something new, something more and so I overlook what I already own. It devalues what I already have. One of my greatest hopes for this year is that it will help me look inward and find joy is what is already around me and to truly feel like I have enough. I know that my possessions do not reflect my value as a person but sometimes I forget. I don’t want to always need to find something new or different to feel happy.

So that’s it. I don’t think I’ve left anything out. I’m not trying to make myself miserable. I want to get to know myself better without always defaulting to unhealthy behavior. I want to stop using browsing and shopping as a way to distract myself from anxiety and depression. And I want to focus my time and energy on appreciating getting use out of the beautiful things I already have.

This is what it all comes down to: I still want to fill my life with beauty. But I want to focus on cherishing beauty that isn’t about “things” – relationships, spiritual practices, experiences and even myself.

Why am I sharing this project? Because even though I’m doing this to myself it’s still a little daunting. It will be a challenge and I want to be accountable. I’m excited but also a little freaked and I could use some cheerleaders. I know I’ll be so much less likely to fail if I’m accountable to even one person that’s following along.

One thought on “My No-Buy Year

  1. I love this idea! I don’t think I’ll try it out myself, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind next time I’m mindlessly browsing Amazon for something to buy out of boredom :-)

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