Back at the beginning of 2021, I decided to do something shocking and attempt a no-buy year. I list the reasons why I wanted to attempt a no shopping challenge in this post, but I wanted to provide an update for those at home following along. I’ll start with the month of January and (hopefully) try to sneak in and provide updates regularly throughout the year.
My no-buy year recap: January
Honestly, I started out the first few weeks of 2021 super strong. It also didn’t hurt that many of the things I bought during after-Christmas sales were delayed in shipment so I had my usual treats rolling in throughout the first and second week of January.
Back in January, I did set up some ground rules for myself:
- If something I use gets ruined, I can replace it.
- I can buy refills on make-up and skincare but only when I run out.
- I can shop for things with gift cards, Poshmark credit, or free swaps with friends, I just can’t use cash.
- One shopping exception is a new computer for my business (I need an upgrade from my 2015 Macbook as it is on the fritz.)
- I can still go to the salon and enjoy my beauty treatments. These are services, not goods.
But you’ll see in the list below of all the things I did buy how murky some of these rules became.
Everything I bought in January 2021
- $22 of clothes for the baby on Poshmark
- $100 of stamps and stationery from Etsy. I put this on my business credit card as I count it as a business expense, but who are we kidding. I’ve also realized sending cards and notes in the mail is one of the few ways I’m coping with how disconnected I feel during COVID-19, and I do support small businesses via Etsy while I’m doing it. I don’t feel guilty about this purchase, but did I need it? No.
- $17 for a new face mask (also didn’t need)
- $28 on a baby gift for a friend.
- $49 on Amazon for mascara and sheet masks, both of which I ran out of.
- $15 on dumb I-phone games
- $19 on a new MacBook cover (another “business” expense, possibly more legitimate this time than $100 in stationery.)
- $149 on a leather Macbook carrying case. To be fair, I’ve had my eye on this particular one for over four years now, but the argument could be made since I’m not going many places, why did I need to buy this right now.
- $6 on necklace extenders off Amazon.
And the purchases listed above are just ones I made with my pocket money. I still bought all month long: countless other amazon purchases for the baby, Old navy shoes for the baby, more clothes from Poshmark (which don’t cost us anything because I’ve sold so many clothes there but still). I also ordered our 2nd-wedding anniversary present (Boll & Branch sheets that I finally ordered), and materials for my second flip house like tile, doorknobs, light fixtures, etc.
January no-buy year observations
These were the big “wins” for me.
- I know it doesn’t seem like it, but for every purchase on the list above, there were at least three other times when I consciously made the decision not to shop. I would catch myself looking at another matching sweatsuit and tell myself “no, we’re not doing that right now.”
- I unsubscribed from every retailer email I got in my inbox.
- I even took my mother-in-law shopping (in a store, no less!) and managed to only buy a gift for a friend and a mask that I needed.
I also watched the documentary from The Minimalists in January and it inspired me to get rid of even more stuff in my home. I got rid of so much stuff, and sold a good bit of it too, that I even made enough to pay for everything I bought.
Which would be great if I was doing this no-buy year purely to save money, but I’m not.
I’m doing this because I’m at the point where the amount of things I own is beginning to exhaust me emotionally and spiritually.
At one point I even scribbled in my journal, “when will I ever be done getting rid of stuff in my home?” because I was so frustrated by how much “junk” I kept finding. In the end, I got rid of over 300 items, and I still don’t think I’m done. Nevertheless, I do feel close to having every “extra” thing out of our house and that does feel really, really good. I believe I’m only another 2-3 good cleanouts away and I’ll have it done.
But it will only get better if I become as mindful about what comes into the house as what goes out.
Here’s why this month didn’t go so well
As I sit here detailing out everything I bought in January, I realize that while I made good on my promise to not buy clothes and makeup for myself, I’m still constantly purchasing and consuming: I bought for my son, gifts for our friends, sneaky purchases for my “business”, and containers for a big pantry organization project.
I bought so much that sometimes I begin to wonder even if I purchase sustainably, ethically, even if I am fiscally responsible if I’ll always just be a person who consumes, consumes, consumes. I’m trying not to be hard on myself (it’s one of my core money values, after all) but if I bought this much stuff in the first month, can it really get any better from here?
- I vowed to try a no-shopping challenge this year.
- I did well in some areas and not so well in others.
- I’m off to a rocky start but hope things get better for me in the months ahead.