I’ve finished my 60 Day No Spend Challenge and I wanted to let you know how things went, what I learned, what I need to improve on, and what challenge I will commit to next! The goal of this No Spend Challenge was to refrain from buying any clothing, makeup or accessories from the beginning of May to the beginning of July. Now, truthfully, I didn’t do this perfectly, I had one slip up and two cheeky purchases that bordered on cheating throughout the past 60 days. I bought a cute cloth tote bag at the beginning of June from a store in my neighbourhood. When I bought it, it didn’t even dawn on me that I was sort of breaking the rules of the challenge since it is just a cloth bag. But I do tend to use cloth bags way more than purses when I go out during the day, so in that way it is kind of an accessory. When I got home, James reminded me that I needed to put double the amount of money I paid for it into my savings. Luckily for me, the tote was on sale for $10.00, so I only had to tuck away an extra $20.00. The other instance of semi-cheating was a new T-shirt from the Vancouver Veg Expo at the end of May. You can see the shirt, and the other goodies I picked up in the post 2018 Vancouver Veg Expo Haul. The reason why this was more of a cheat than a breach is because I didn’t pay for it – James bought it for me. And finally, I did buy a pair of shorts just last week. It was in a moment of weakness, I went into one of the boutiques in my neighbourhood and I spotted a pair of shorts that were in my size and on sale (dangerous combination) so I bought them – and I put double the amount in my savings account when I got home. All in all, I think I did pretty well considering where I was starting from.
While shopping for clothes/makeup/accessories has largely been off my radar for the last little few months, the impulse to acquire new things has not. I seem to have replaced impulse clothing shopping with impulse trips to the library and to the grocery store. While these two habits are less overtly irresponsible and financially detrimental than shopping for clothes or makeup, I recognize that it is the same coping mechanism manifesting in slightly different ways. It points to the fact that I still have to work at processing my emotions, and to find different ways of filling my time that don’t involve consumption in one way or another.
You might be wondering, what’s wrong with frequent trips to the library? Seems pretty harmless, right? Well, from where I am sitting at my desk, I can see eight library books on my shelf (and those are just the ones I can count from here). Again, one might think that since I’m not actually buying the books, what’s wrong with borrowing many at a time? Well, I am learning that besides the fact that I don’t have time to read all of them, the sheer number of books that I’ve been taking out is creating more clutter in my apartment, and more importantly, more clutter in my mind. I go through slight decision fatigue trying to decide which one I should start, and then I feel rushed to finish it because I know I have so many others to get through. So while I’m not thrilled that I’ve been hoarding library books, this habit is relatively benign and doesn’t have any financial consequences (besides late fees, haha). So I’ll move onto the habit that does have negative financial consequences.
The other manifestation of the impulse shopping habit is that I’ve been making morre frequent trips to the grocery store. During this “60 Day No Spend Challenge” I’ve actually spent more money on food than I did before the challenge. The irony is not lost on me. This additional spending is totally unnecessary since James and I have had a food shopping system in place for about three years. We do our meal planning for the week and write out a grocery list on Sunday mornings, then we make our trip to the farmer’s market and the grocery store so that we are set for the whole week. By doing our planning and shopping all in one day, we don’t have to figure out what we’re going to eat every single night, and we are less likely to go over budget by buying things throughout the week or by ordering in. However, since starting this challenge and spending more time and money at the grocery store, I’ve been buying more things than we need, and buying things that we don’t need! If you read my last post, you’ll know that I am in the midst of trying to Break Up With Sugar, and these frequent grocery store trips do not bode well for making dietary changes.
While this challenge has had a few negative consequences, there are also a few positive consequences of note. I have de-cluttered and downsized my closet and makeup/skincare collection, leaving my collections more organized and streamlined. Funnily enough, I feel more satisfied with my wardrobe and my makeup collection after getting rid of the excess, and the items I no longer use. Another positive consequence of this challenge is that I have become more aware of my personal style. Over the last few months, I’ve been more cognizant of which items I gravitate toward wearing, and what types of outfits make me feel my best. Since I haven’t been bringing in anything new, I’ve been able to see where the holes are in my wardrobe, and what items I could actually benefit from purchasing in the future. The area that I am lacking the most are semi-formal clothes that I can wear to student recitals, and performances. This became very apparent over the course of the challenge since I had several recitals and found dressing for them more difficult than I had anticipated. As I mentioned, since starting this challenge, I’ve become more aware of what outfits and styles make me feel my best. I do feel better when I am wearing pants and a nice shirt rather than wearing dresses. Although I do have a few nice dresses, I didn’t want to wear them, even for recitals and performances. The dresses, while I do think I will wear them again, somehow feel too formal, or too far away from my everyday casual style, that I just don’t feel like myself in them. Now have a wish-list for items I would like to add to my wardrobe. I am happy to really plan my purchases and make sure that I get items that will last, that I can wear again and again, for semi-formal occasions, and can dress down for more daily wear.
- A pair of lightweight fitted trousers in a neutral colour (black, grey, navy)
- A light coloured short-sleeved blouse that I can dress up or down.
- A nice camisole or tank top that I can wear with a blazer and jeans, for meetings or nights out.
- A knee-length or mid-calf length A-line skirt, preferably with bottons down the front. I want it in a light-neutral colour, either blue, grey, camel, tan, or rusty red-orange.
What I’ve learned:
This challenge has taught me that I need to dig deeper to get to the root of my urge to consume. It’s taught me that I need to find more sustainable solutions to fill my time productively, and more importantly, to fulfill my emotional needs. Shopping is the vehicle I tend to use to give myself somewhere to go and something to do. As someone who mostly works from home and teaches in the evenings, I have a lot of free, unstructured time during the day. Obviously this is a luxury in many ways: I can wake up on my own schedule and have relaxed start to my day, with time to work on my own projects or self-care. The downside is that I am on a different schedule than most other people, and I don’t have any co-workers that I see on a regular basis. I only really interact with my partner, my cat, and my students, who are great, but are mostly children. Going out to pick something up, whether that’s clothing, food, or a library book, is a way for me to get outside, connect with others, and connect with my community. It’s a reprieve from the isolation I can feel without the structure of a regular schedule. Having a short conversation, or just a courteous smile from a sales associate, cashier, or barista, is almost as important as the temporary excitement of a new purchase. The personal work I have to do going forward is to find ways that I can cultivate relationships and form community outside of the little excursions I make on a daily basis. Shopping, while it has served a purpose for me, has been a shallow and temporary band-aid for the emotional deficits I have avoided dealing with thus far.
- Fitness classes seems like a great way for me to improve my physical and emotional health. While going to a group class does not appeal to me (it’s out of my comfort zone, and frankly feels intimidating), I know it would be a great way to get me out of the house at a designated time and to be more social. I know that being around others will be beneficial, not only because I will be pushed to work out harder than I do on my own, but I will have to opportunity to chat with others and potentially forge new friendships! (Do people make friends at the gym? Let me know if you’ve ever made a friend at the gym or in a fitness class!)
- Another possible solution is to read outside. I can go to nearby park and read one of the many library books I’ve got sitting on my shelf. The act of doing something peaceful in the presence of others somehow makes me feel more part of my community, even if I’m not actually interacting with anyone else.
- Lastly, I will need to make more of an effort to make plans, and more importantly keep plans, with friends on a regular basis. As I mentioned earlier, I’m on a bit of a weird schedule so it makes socializing a little difficult, so I will have to plan more breakfast dates with friends, or invite them for walks or hikes during the mornings. And now that it’s summer, I can add going to the beach and swimming to the list!
I’m sure there are plenty of other effective solutions to curb a spending or shopping habit. If you’ve come up with any that were useful to you, please share them with me in the comments!
This two month stint of not shopping for clothing, makeup and accessories has taught me a lot about how I spend my time and money, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is not so much what I’m buying, it’s why I’m buying it, and what I’m hoping to get out of shopping. I am employing a shallow solution to avoid the deeper issue. The 60 Day No Spend Challenge was useful in that it gave me perimeters, a goal, and most importantly, a concrete consequence if I did break the challenge. I think 60 days is a great time-frame to use if you’re trying to break a habit because it’s long enough that it really does challenge you to question your motivations and to address the root of the problem, but it’s not so long that it feels impossible. As I said, the past few months have helped me to realize that it is not shopping for clothing but impulse shopping in general that is a problem for me. This leads me to the next challenge I will take on in the months to come – I will be sharing this in my next post, so stay tuned!
Though I was doing this No Spend challenge on my own, I have been lucky enough to hear from family members, friends and other people who stumbled upon the post, who shared their own difficulties with shopping and who’ve done or are doing No Spend Challenges of their own! I really appreciate those of you who have shared your experiences with me, and offered support. Despite the fact that this is a common problem for many people, particularly women, it is hard to admit to yourself, not to mention discussing it with others. Writing and sharing here has been cathartic for me, and has served as a way to process my thoughts and emotions around shopping, finances and how I spend my time. It warms my heart to know that I am not alone in this, and I thank you for reading, sharing and holding me accountable as I continue onto the next challenge!