My no shopping month

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It’s July 30 and my month of trying not to spend any money is coming to a close. Andrew is the one that does our family budget (and does so wonderfully) so I don’t know how much money I saved. But I do know what the experience was like for me, what I learned, and what I have to consider going forward.

First, how I did. I wasn’t diligent about writing down the things I ended up spending money on but from memory here are the things I did buy:

  • 3 cups of coffee. I don’t have a space to work from home if other people are there, so in order to work I must leave the house. Sometimes my only option is a coffee shop (library doesn’t open until 10). $9.00
  • A pair of shoes for a child. Tom came home from band camp early in the first week with the sole of his shoe dangling by a thread. The whole sole had come off his 4 month old pair of Vans he bought with his own money! Off to the store we went.  $55.00
  • Out to lunch with Andrew for a day date after a work-related event.  $30.00
  • Library fines….50 cents
  • Used books for school. Alex needed two books to read for school before next week and the hold line was too long at the library. I found them used on Amazon and together they were $11.00.
  • Overage on a gift card purchase. I bought two lamps for our bedroom with a gift card but ended up still owing $9.00.
  • Three greeting cards. One for a sick family member and two to fulfill volunteer duties for the marching band (I could get reimbursed for these but I choose to absorb the cost myself). $5.00

Total: $114.50

Also, I did some spending that we had previously budgeted for related to housing expenses. Since the money is already set aside for this, I don’t count it as going against the spirit of this challenge. And in that same vein, we signed our new house contract but the money already existed for that. In fact, I think the lack of shopping gave me more time to focus on house projects. I repainted all of our kitchen cabinets, bought a new front door and scheduled it’s installation this month. I also sold a boatload of exercise equipment and cleaned out the garage.

What it was like.

Well, not hard. At times I wished I could take Jack out to eat or pop into Starbucks. It’s not like I’m normally spending big bucks on discretionary items but I do buy my fair share of used clothing and books. Even if I’m only spending $10.00 at Goodwill, it adds up. And honestly it wasn’t hard because I wasn’t being strict. As you can see, I did end up spending money on things when I felt it necessary. What I mostly eliminated was discretionary shopping purchases I might normally make on clothes, books, eating out, and things that jump in your cart mysteriously at Target.

Thoughts on the experiment:

I read a book yesterday called A Year Without a Purchase and one subject that I found particularly relevant to me was the link between consumerism/shopping and food consumption. The author made a mention of how he gained weight when he stopped buying things, as if he had traded the soothing from retail therapy for the soothing from eating. I can totally relate to that! Breaking up with one vice can often make another one intensify, so you aren’t really any better off. And all of this reminds me that these habits of eating poorly and consumerism are both attempts to resolve some level of anxiety or unhappiness we might be feeling. It takes work, hard work, to make your way through these issues and let go of the things that soothe but don’t improve us.

For years I told all my fitness clients that you can’t be healthy in this culture and be normal. Normal in the US right now is fat, on medication, depressed, and in debt. For those of us that don’t want to stand out and be weird it can be a long journey to embracing weirdness in the eyes of our friends and family in order to be healthy and financial secure, and you might lose some folks along the way. How many times a day (hundreds) will I see advertisements for junk foods or things to buy and have to remind myself that those aren’t for me anymore? The temporary boost in mood that comes from shopping or ice cream will have to come from somewhere else. Somewhere real and lasting, like exercise, giving, being with friends and family, and creative expression. I’m planning to continue this experiment for another month, to embrace the weird, because I think the journey is worth it. I’ll have some new rules, which I will share later, but the bottom line is I think a life without shopping is worth pursuing for more than one month!