No Spend Challenge

Yes, you read the title right – I am embarking on a buying ban! Doesn’t that just sound completely insane? Don’t give up on me just yet, read on and I promise it’ll all become clear.

One of the things I find most difficult about being an adult is finances. As an aspiring adult, I regularly feel insecure and incompetent financially. I know that I don’t know enough about how my bank accounts work, how to optimize the use of my credit card or how I should be making my money work for me.

Debt is another area in which I feel inferior as well as budgeting. For me, I think the “what to spend, what to save” ratio has always been daunting because I am terrified of tracking my spending. Knowing where I spend my money and what I spend it on is a great source of anxiety for me since I have always felt like I didn’t have much money, never enough and yet I also know that I’m overspending what money I do have.

Recently, in my quest to be a ‘real’ adult, I called to figure out how many months/years I have left on my student loan. In the interest of full disclosure, I have four years left (well, just shy of four years) but I would absolutely love to pay it off in less, since part of the money I would be paying is interest. Two years would be my goal but, how does a person with limited financial sense make that happen?

All of this research into financial information has helped me realize that, in order to meet my money goals, I need to look more into what I’m spending and spend way less on stupid shit. I am tired of working just to pay off debt and buy ‘necessary’ things. Many of the things that I deem ‘necessary’ are wants, not needs. I in no way need more things.

I have been trying to live more minimally and yet I am still purchasing things just for the sake of it. I deeply hate clutter and have been trying to buy more consciously but there are a few areas where this doesn’t seem to be taking effect: books, kitchen accessories, and second hand clothes. I need to stop. Just stop. No more shopping. No more purchasing things I don’t need or already have similar items too. This is where the buying ban comes in.

What is a buying ban, exactly?

Many people call these ‘shopping bans’ or choose to do shopping bans for specific items. For me, I chose the words ‘buying ban’ because I do not want to buy anything that isn’t an absolute necessity. For that reason, I’ve made a list of what I can and cannot purchase in order to keep myself accountable.

What I want to get out of this experience:

My main goal for this experience is to become more accountable and aware of where I am spending my money and what I am spending that money on.

My other goal for this buying ban is to save enough money to pay a large chunk onto my student loan. I want to have the financial freedom to travel more and that won’t come for me until I am debt free.

I regularly feel stressed about money and anxious when bill payment time comes around, even though I have never not had money for bills. I would like to feel comfortable about my monetary situation and gain some financial security.

I want to enjoy life through experiences, not belongings. Advertisements are everywhere and are constantly influencing us to believe that we need things to be happy. Hopefully by shopping less, by banning myself from buying unnecessary things, I can open myself up to more experiences and disconnect myself from all of the consumer-minded influences in my life.

I also love the idea of buying completely sustainable although it may cost more, it’s better in the long run. Hopefully this buying ban will give me perspective to be able to purchase more responsibly and make better purchasing decisions.

What I CAN buy:

– groceries
– gas
– refills of toiletries and cleaning supplies
– medications
– experiences

These are all necessary items, except experiences and, while you may not see experiences as a “need”, they are what I would prefer to spend my money on. I live in a remote area where I do not have a lot of options for fun life experiences so when I have the option to do something fun and spend time with my friends to go somewhere, I think it’s worthwhile.

With regards to toiletries and cleaning supplies, they are to be bought only when I run out of them. I will not be allowed to purchase these in excess.

What I CANNOT buy:

– clothes
– shoes
– makeup
– bags/purses
– jewelry
– scarves
– books
– kitchen things
– unnecessary knickknacks

I have long since been a believer in the greatness of thrifted items. I like buying second hand, previously loved items. A few years ago, after researching fast fashion and the pollution and other consequences produced by the fashion and textile industry, I have made a solid effort to buy more sustainable clothing, whether that be thrifted or from sustainable brands. The problem I’ve run into is that clothing is so cheap at the thrift store that I end up buying items that I do not need.

I’ve drastically reduced my shoe and makeup collections to the point that they are no longer really a shopping problem for me however I placed them on the list because they are definitely not a necessary item. The same goes for bags or purses.

Jewelry and scarves are similar in that these are items that I do not buy much anymore however I used to buy both of them quite a lot, for that reason they are on the ‘cannot buy’ list.

Books are a big problem for me. I used to have three large under-the-bed containers as well as several piles. I love books. The problem is that my book collection was beautiful but largely unread and this did not stop me from buying more. I am happy to say that I have managed to get my book collection down to approximately 56 books. 28 novels and 6 poetry books that I have not read and my hope is that the buying ban will allow me to continuously check off and reduce the books I own already.

Kitchen things and unnecessary knickknacks are things that seem to just add up quickly and quietly without my noticing. They tend to be cheap and easy to buy but they’re not so cheap when you buy them often. Unnecessary knickknacks for me includes household decor items. I love my new apartment and am trying to make it more cozy so this may be more difficult than it appears. These are things I look at a lot but don’t buy often however they are things I had intended to purchase, even though they weren’t necessities.

The Exceptions:

There are just two exceptions to this manifesto of sorts: a bridesmaid’s dress and a nightstand. Simply put, my best friend is getting married in the fall and I am her maid of honour, therefore I’ll need a dress which is an expense that I may need to swallow. As for a nightstand, I have been in my apartment for four months and still haven’t found that’s I like and am noticing the need for one more and more.

Should something break or come up:

If something should break, my goal is to first try to repair it and, if a replacement is necessary, shop second hand first then from local and sustainable brands.

If something comes up unexpectedly then that’s all I can do and I will deal with it accordingly.

But for how long?

While I am so inspired by those who take on a year-long shopping ban, I feel a little daunted by such a long challenge. I know that, for me, if I become overwhelmed, I will end up abandoning it altogether and so I want to start simply, with a three month challenge. If, after three months, I want to continue, I will extend it another three months and so on. I will hopefully achieve a minimum of six months as a buying ban but three months would be a great achievement too!

I am not looking to go extreme with this but I am definitely looking to change the way I look at money. Wish me luck!

What are your money goals for 2018? 

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