Cutting through the mall a couple of days ago on my way to the bank, I spotted a cute fleece hoodie in a great shade of blue. I was in a rush, but intended to go back and check it out before heading home.
Walking at a pretty fast pace, I caught myself. Come on, Debbie. Do you really need another jacket?
And truthfully, I had to admit that the answer was no. I own a hoodie, two lightweight fleece jackets, and a heavy winter coat with a hood. That’s enough to keep me warm, match all my clothes and get me through the relatively short winter season in Israel. The colors aren’t vibrant and exciting. Just neutral navy and black. And they go with everything!
One of the jackets is a hand-me-up from my daughter, who wore it for a couple of years in high school. I’ve practically lived in that jacket for the last ten or so winters. At some point, I even replaced the zipper. The hoodie is a hand-me-up from one of my boys. I wear it when I go spinning and for some extra warmth when I work at home. I save my stylish black fleece to wear when I go out and want to look more put together.
So to answer my rhetorical question, no I don’t really need another jacket. Looking back, I realize it’s something I wanted because a friend of mine had gotten something similar earlier in the season. And there I was, in the mall surrounded by shoppers, window displays, and year-end-sales signs. That underlying, niggling desire for more took on a layer of urgency.
On my way back from the bank, I decided to walk around, rather than through, the mall. (Good choice!) I spent the drive home thinking about the culture of consumerism, advertising, and how much I’m affected by it. And I came to the conclusion that I was finally ready to commit – to being more intentional with my spending by committing to a yearlong shopping ban in 2019.
The idea of a shopping ban isn’t new to me. I first considered the idea of a no-shopping-month over five years ago to mark my 50th birthday. Since my birthday is in July, I vaguely remember that there was something summery I wanted that year, so I chickened out and dropped the idea.
But recently, I’ve been toying with the idea again. I’ve noticed some extra, unnecessary spending creeping into my life and I don’t like what I see.
For inspiration, I’ve been reading posts from Not Another Thing and Tread Lightly Retire Early, among others. These women committed to a yearlong shopping ban – or more. They made do with the clothes/shoes/bags they already owned, culling the ones they didn’t like and which didn’t fit. And in the process, they gained deeper awareness about themselves, broke free from consumerism and became happier. I find that pretty compelling.
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Lifestyle creep is real
One of the reasons I decided to commit to a shopping ban is that I’ve noticed some lifestyle creep creeping into my life. Last summer when I went hiking in Yosemite, I discovered the perfect T-shirt. I bought two and they were everything I’d ever wanted and needed in a summer tee, including sun protection.
So I bought six more in different colors.
Honestly, I don’t regret my purchases one iota. I wore those t-shirts all summer during the long hot days in Israel. They’re incredibly comfortable and I don’t feel sticky. And even now, in the winter, I wear them under my sweaters and when I go hiking. Sometimes, I even wear them to sleep at night! That’s great value for money!
But when I started thinking about ordering another two shirts in another two colors, I caught myself. You have enough. Even more than enough. You shouldn’t be thinking about buying more t-shirts. How many t-shirts does someone need?!
Too many books
Lifestyle creep has worked its way onto my bookshelves, too. I have at least ten books that I’ve purchased in the last year or so that I haven’t finished reading. And some of them, I haven’t even started reading. I purchased several of them used, which might help ease my pang of conscience. But honestly, an unread book is still an unread book, and there’s no reason for me to buy more.
Here and there I’ve also purchased a new necklace, a new lip gloss, or a new purse. I’m not talking about expensive items. And I love and use everything I’ve bought.
The question is simply how much is enough? Where do I draw the line? How much do I need? And when do I say stop?
Gaining deeper awareness and discovering the answers to those questions is what I intend to do this year. I’ll wear what I own, use up what I have, make do and make it work.
My husband is on board
I discussed the idea of a shopping ban with my husband. I was sure he would think that I was a little nuts. But I’m excited and pleasantly surprised that he’s on board. He jokingly said we should quickly go shopping and buy lots of new things. I’m glad we’re starting with good humor.
Having a partner and an accountability buddy will make it more fun and easier, I’m sure. I look forward to having meaningful money conversations as we explore what we really do and don’t need this year.
And mostly, I’m curious to see what I discover about myself. And to be honest, I’m a little nervous, too. Twelve months is a long time to go without buying clothes – even though it is common practice in Judaism to refrain from buying new clothes and other items that bring you joy during the year of mourning after a parent dies. The year my mom passed away, I didn’t buy anything new.
My simple guidelines for my yearlong shopping ban
No clothes, shoes, books or make-up. Honestly, I have more than enough of everything. I shouldn’t need anything.
What the shopping ban doesn’t include
Clothes for the kids – because they keep growing. My five boys pass down their clothes from one to the next which helps keep our clothing expenses down.
Standard home maintenance – it’s been seven years since we last painted the house, and it shows.
A new laptop (maybe) – because my current one is 8 or 10 years old and it’s as slow as molasses. But I’m not rushing out to buy one yet.
Spinning and strength training classes – because taking care of my health is intentional spending.
Dyeing my hair – because I haven’t yet come to terms with going grey.
- 5 Ways to Save Money in 2018
- 13 Ways to Save Money Every Month
- 5 Things Your Mother Never Taught You About Savings
- 36 things you can quit buying now to save more money (and get out of debt faster)
I was excited to get started and even wrote a whole blog post in my head the morning of December 31st. I got to the part about my son’s wedding next month, in February. I’m wearing the same dress that I wore for the weddings of three of my daughters. I look forward to wearing it because the dress is gorgeous and I love it.
But the shoes…
The gold flats that I wore to my daughter’s wedding in 2017 are a scuffed up since I wear them all the time. I hemmed and hawed and convinced myself that since my dress goes to the floor no one will really see the shoes.
And then guess what? Since it was still December 31st my yearlong shopping ban had technically still not started. I searched for the shoes online and bought them. Quickly.
I could justify my purchase if I wanted to – it’s for the wedding. If not for this special occasion, I wouldn’t have bought anything. And in reality, I could have made do without new shoes. After the wedding, I’ll put them away and keep them for special occasions.
I also bought my husband a sweater at a second-hand store that same morning. Since the zip on one of his winter sweaters broke recently and the sleeves on his second sweater are looking raggedy and frayed, we upgraded his wardrobe just in the nick of time.
Now that it’s January, I look forward to being intentional with my spending and maintaining my yearlong shopping ban in 2019.
Nothing happens in a vacuum
Since nothing happens in a vacuum, here’s a short list of some of the bloggers who’ve inspired me with their money choices, their no-spend challenges, and their search for living with greater intention and greater purpose.
- Zen Habits – Leo Babauta has been blogging about mindfulness and simplicity for more than a decade.
- Cait Flanders – Completed a two-year-long shopping ban. I reviewed her book The Year of Less
- Mrs. Frugalwoods
- Tread Lightly Retire Early
- Not Another Thing
Big hairy audacious goals
It seems a little audacious resolving to stick to a yearlong shopping ban in 2019 since less than 10% of people ever achieve their New Year’s resolutions and break free from their bad habits.
I don’t think it will be easy. But I’m sure that having my husband on board with me, telling everyone I know and sharing my goal with the world will do wonders to help me stay the course. Thank you for sharing my journey with me.
Do you have any big hairy audacious goals for 2019? I’d love to hear about them. Let me know about them in the comments below.
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