my no buy month

Sunday, April 6, 2014

unrelated photos from our wander through Wendy Whiteley's garden

Way back in December, I went on one of my annual de-cluttering sprees. I even managed to get my husband on board, and between the two of us we donated more than a carload of things to our local thrift shop. It's truly amazing how much we have managed to accumulate in the 5 and a half years we've been living together, especially considering that I moved here in 2009 with just two suitcases.

Of course, I know that all the de-cluttering in the world is just a temporary solution. I started thinking that to really make a difference, we had to get to the root of the problem: buying stuff. So I decided to spend the month of February buying nothing but the essentials, which I deemed to be food, petrol, and basic household necessities like toilet paper. Now, I wasn't overly strict with myself. As a mum to a baby, most of my social life revolves around catching up with friends over coffee or tea, so I let myself spend money at cafes. I also had to cheat once; my husband's birthday is in February and I figured he wouldn't be thrilled to hear, "Surprise! It's no-buy month so I didn't get you anything!"

But other than that, my project went surprisingly well. One of the things I noticed is that because I knew I couldn't buy anything, I never went into shops (not even thrift shops) and as a result, I saved time and money. I normally have a running list of things I'm on the hunt for and I'll often let myself buy something from my list if I find it on sale. In February I found a pair of sandals that I loved, and they were a steal. I didn't buy them thanks to my commitment to no buy month, and in March, when I could buy them, I resisted. I learned that when I want something, I should write it down and wait, and wait… Often, the urge to buy just goes away. Other times, I'll find what I want for very little money at a thrift shop, which is what happened this month. A candleholder was one of the things on my list, and I spent all of March looking for the perfect one. Eventually I found what I wanted at Vinnie's for $3; it took me over a month but it was worth it.

The no buy month also made me evaluate the difference between wants and needs. About halfway through the month I ran out of one of my moisturisers. I had been using two kinds - extravagant, I know - one for day, one for night. There was a brief moment when I thought I'd just go out and replace it, surely that would count as an essential… But I knew it wasn't essential (not even close) and two months later, I'm still using the one kind.

The other thing I've discovered is the power of the internet to make me want to consume. I had to unsubscribe from all of the newsletters I had subscribed to over the years; if I don't know that Anthropologie is having a sale then I'm not tempted to buy anything. So simple. But I also have to beware of blogs, particularly home and design blogs. Our home is a pretty funky mismatch of furniture we have been given over the years. Until recently we were still using my husband's great-grandmother's couch! It's certainly not a magazine worthy home, but it's comfortable and I think we've done well to make it us while spending very little money. There is a part of me though, that pines for my dream couch and is tempted to spend money whenever I see a beautiful home tour. So I'm staying away from all those beautiful design blogs for now. Call it a breather, good for my sanity and our wallets.

Have you ever done a no buy month? I'd highly recommend it.

19 comments:

  1. Oh I'm so inspired by you! I remember saying I was going to give it a shot with you. Here's my progress: A COMPLETE FAIL. I am definitely going to try this out though. Tell me the next time you're having another no-buy month. I need the motivation of someone else! Good on you, Gaby! x

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  2. I love these challenges! Last year we made a commitment to no new clothes for 6bmonths. Although we did need to purchase some essentials along the way (I forgot to pack underwear for a weekend away #fail!) it was terribly liberating and I too was surprised that those thing which I had lusted over were no longer as tempting or necessary. I have made a commitment this year to purchasing organic and/or ethically produced clothing where possible. I'm sure I'll be tempted by many things, and perhaps have to compromise, but the journey of discovery and growth is worth it.

    Sar xx

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  3. Such a good challenge! We are moving to Canada in a few months and so not only do I not need to buy anything but I need to rid us of almost everything. Its actually pretty exhilarating! I am hoping that when we arrive with just a handful of suitcases that we can be very considerate of what we choose to buy instead of just filling a new apartment with things we think are necessary.

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  4. I quit my job in January because Uni was too stressful and I haven't worked since then (starting the new job next week yey!) ... I had quite a few savings, otherwise I wouldn't have quit without having a new job for sure - but I have to say, these past three months were a lot easier than I thought they would be. Whenever I was out in town or online shopping, as soon as it came to the point where I had to pay, I just asked myself "Do I need this in my life? Or would everything be just as fine as it is if I don't buy it?" and I didn't spend half as much money as I usually do during a month. It's amazing. Now that I start earning money again, I am absolutely going to have no-buy-months. It's just so inspiring that other people think that way too!

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    1. It is amazing, the answer to "do I need this?" is almost always "no!" It's just saying no that's the hard part ;)

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  5. I've never done this and i think it's a great idea. I'm afraid I wouldn't have the self control to admit that something really isn't a necessity. I might give this a try soon; I'll make a list of what's truly essential (and that means no easter candy either!). Thanks for the suggestion!

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  6. Martin & I are currently on a spending diet. We still have a small budget for clothes and entertainment but we've drastically cut our spending in half and are using our money for other things. Savings, debts and charity. I too have been steering clear of shops and some blogs. As a result, I'm finding that I'm happier with what I already have and taking the time to appreciate it... instead of rushing out to buy the next thing. Loved this post, Gaby!! xoxo

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    1. It really does make you appreciate what you already own, such a good point! x

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  7. We do these kind of months often... including eating out, etc. It's somehow easier when it's a challenge and it is amazing to see what you can do without buying things... as you said, you often don't need them.

    K

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  8. What an awesome challenge and real eye opener! My husband and I need to do this :)

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  9. This post came at a perfect time! I've been a SAHM for over a year now, and even though I'm not a fan of shopping, and don't think my consumerism levels are high when compared to average person, I'm always amazed to discover what I can live without. I love de-cluttering but I still manage to hold on to little pockets of "stuff" here and there. I think now I'm going to attack those areas and really clean up. I really, really, do feel physically and mentally better when I get rid of things. My only indulgence is food. I love grocery shopping, and I love buying the good stuff. Sometimes though, I don't get to some of my nice fresh food in time, and it goes to waste. So this month, I've actually been trying to grocery shop on less money--with not mid-week grocery/market runs to teach myself to meal-plan and get what I'm really going to use. If I can't get it one week I'll wait to see if I still want it next week, and just like you, sometimes the need disappears. I love how it's going so far, look forward to seeing how it goes for you.

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    1. It's so true about the pockets of stuff! Even though we've been trying to declutter, we still have cupboards filled with things. We especially struggle with our gear cupboard; I don't want to give up all our climbing/camping gear but it sure does take up a lot of space!

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  10. yes, yes, yes! i did this for a month as well. it's so good to learn not to give in to our every desire...no matter how good of a "deal" it may seem like. it's refreshing to learn to live on less.

    good for you! :) you may have inspired me to try it again!

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  11. Such a great idea, yes! I think what's important about it is that it changes habits- a month of not going into stores makes you re-evaluate how you want to spend that time. I know when I had my first baby a little over 6 years ago, it also meant a complete lifestyle change for me; I stopped working and stayed home with my baby instead. But I am a busy person by nature, so I filled a lot of bored hours browsing shops, which evidently lead to buying things. I have since broken that pattern. I rarely go into shops and even less frequently malls, as I know I will be tempted. I am so much more satisfied when I don't buy. So interesting!

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  12. This is seriously needed in my house. I get all those emails and am the EASIEST to convince that since there's a sale I NEED to get something that I've been wanting. The worst for me is clothing because as of lately I've been so unhappy with my figure that I feel the only thing that makes me happy is something new to dress myself with. But since the majority of these purchases happen online; most of them don't end up looking quite right once I put it on and then it's a total waste.
    My other difficult part is buying just for the sake of a nice package in the mail to open. It's silly because I KNOW what's inside so not sure why I get so excited but yes... it is my weakness to have something fun in the mail to break up the constant bills. I need to challenge myself to do not just this but also pay down those credit cards!
    Thanks girl!

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  13. I did a 6 month op shop challenge which was interesting. What actually proved the most difficult was that if I made a passing comment about something that had taken my fancy, my best friend or my Mum would go off and buy it for me to "help me with my challenge" hehe. Very sweet of them but it did make the whole thing a little bit redundant! I'd be curious to see how a no buy month would go... I might try it sometime soon :)

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  14. This is so inspiring! We have been thinking of doing a no buy month for a little while now and we've decided May is it! Really looking forward to the challenge and it's been fascinating to read about your experience. xxx

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  15. We have Grandma Wheeler's couch which is actually my brother-in-law's Grandma and it has a 1970s pink & red rose print all over it. I wish there were lots more photo shoots of houses like ours-- that are in the dream-making stage....the saving money so that we can afford to have open doors & fridges for our kids & their friends when they are teenagers kind of homes.

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