Shopping Ban Update: Day 90

12 Comments

On September 30th, I completed 90 days of no unnecessary spending.

Actually, 92 days, since both July and August were 31-day months. During this time, I did not buy clothes, jewelry, make-up, household decor, or coffee. I didn’t even go out to dinner more than once per week. I did spend on my wedding, but other than that it was an extended dry-spell of no-spend.

Read the journey…

This post has taken me a long time to write. Partly because October has been a whirlwind month for me (will explain later, but follow me on Instagram for more real-time updates!), but also because it’s taken some time to process life-without-the-mindless-buy. I do wish I had gotten this post out sooner, since I’ve definitely had some spendy days as time since the end of the shopping ban has passed, but there’s still a lot to say about it all.

The shopping ban changed me. A lot.

More than I expected. More than I realized. Even since it ended, it’s been hard to shake. The day it ended, I went for coffee with Jaymee of  Smart Woman Blog (who is amazing so please check her out!) then to the drug store where I purchased 2 new nailpolishes and a magazine. That’s all it took for alarm bells to start going off in my head, “Whoa, Bridge, you’ve spent $25 let’s cool it.” I felt like I was cheating on an exam. After 30 days of restriction, it was weird to spend freely.

Since that first week I’ve relented a little. I’ve reloaded my Starbucks card twice, bought some books on my Kindle, purchased a new pair of flats, one tube of lipstick, and pricey moisturizer. Altogether this probably comes to $300. Not cheap by any means, but a far cry from my old spending habits which are typically 4x to 5x that amount.  I keep waiting for the buy-everything-in-sight wave to hit me, but it hasn’t yet.

Before the shopping ban, my want list was lengthly: a new designer bag, a full wardrobe of cosy new sweaters, all the make-up I’ve been putting buying off since July. The list is long and, for the most part, it’s still untouched. That’s not to say I’ll never buy anything ever again, I even have some major purchases coming up (including a new winter jacket and a new phone) but I feel free of needless buying — and I want to hold onto this feeling as long as I can.

I’m afraid once I let my guard down, and buy the jeans/book/whatever, I’ll have to start all over.

I’ve always enjoyed spending money. It’s actually the main reason I’ve insisted I need to earn over $100,000 per year — so I don’t have to worry, so I don’t have to count pennies and agonize about going $50 over budget in one category. It’s only recently occurred to me that this is an unhealthy existence. God knows why I thought it’d be easier to pull in six-figures than it is to simply change my perspective about earning and spending. Sometimes its easier to put in 80-hour work weeks than it is go to battle with your own beliefs.

I’ve been operating from a scarcity mindset, even when I had everything I needed

The things we buy have a way of temporarily reassuring us that how hard we work is worth it. It’s some innate affinity for martyrdom that makes us suffer for the car, the house, the vacations, the early retirement, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle of punishment so we can placate ourselves later.

If I do this, then it’s worth it.

Whether you believe you are “suffering to buy” or “buying to suffer” depends only on in which order you make your purchases.

If you work hard to buy status items with cash, you are suffering to buy, and if you buy things you can’t afford with credit, the work hard to pay off your debts, you are buying to suffer. Unfortunately, suffering is part of both equations.

It’s only recently that I’ve started asking if it’s really worth it, if I need the endgame, if I can choose something different. To work to afford a certain lifestyle is an incorrect way of thinking, even it seems to be the only narrative available. It’s not, but you can’t see that if you’re too deep into it. It’s only over the past few months, thanks to the Shopping Ban, that have I been able to divorce my income from my lifestyle, and find ways to pursue each independently without either hinging on the other (with the exception, obviously, that I must earn a small income in order to afford my most basic needs).

If your needs are small and affordable, you have the freedom to earn whatever income you want, at any time you want.

And that may be the biggest reason to do a shopping ban: to set your baseline as low as possible, to live without the constraints of your job as well as the constraints of your spending, and finally find the life you want.


12 Comments

  1. L

    Hey!

    Interesting post! I’m going to try and do something similar for November and then maybe a longer one in February. I’ll be traveling the better part of December and January so i don’t think a shopping ban will fit in there.

    Quick question, did your husband take part in the shopping ban as well? If not did you find it hard to be doing it on your own? If so, do you think that helped?

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      My husband is naturally super cheap haha. He didn’t set any rules for a shopping ban himself, but more or less adhered to it for the most part just because he’s not a particularly spendy guy. This definitely helped though, I think it would have been infinitely harder if I had a partner that always wanted to shop or go out to dinner.

  2. Such fantastic insights here. I’ve never really done a spending ban or a shopping challenge because I’m not sure what I’d cut out now (goodness knows I needed to do one a few years ago!). I suppose I could give up highlights? But since I realized how much stuff I have, I just stopped going shopping. Until I get rid of all my unnecessary crap, I’m already not buying any more. The change in mindset is incredible. I tagged along with my mom to the store the other day and was kind of uncomfortable. There were things that I really thought were cute, but when I started thinking about where to put them, I got really anxious. I love your point about keeping your needs small to afford yourself freedom!

  3. Nice work, Bridget! I’m really looking forward to reading more about what you’ve been up to. Your social media posts have piqued my curiosity! 🙂

    I need to put myself on a restaurant and bar ban. It’s consistently the most challenging line in my budget every month. And I’ve been making even more excuses lately with the slow-carb diet. Plus, some of my co-workers want to eat lunch out several days a week.

    • Markita

      I have an issue with dining out as well. Small little take out here and there adds up! lol.

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      haha I’ve got some cool stuff.. or at least some cool plans. Can’t wait to put it all into motion!

      I found limiting myself to going out once per week was good enough for me… I feel so old & married now that I say that but it really was enough!

  4. Congrats, Bridget! It’s amazing how one exercise can change your whole perspective on everything, even when you’re least expecting it. I haven’t taken on a full on shopping ban (I do horrible when I completely eliminate something), but maybe I should consider it. What I do exercise is I continuously evaluate all my purchases whether it will add value to my life (or someone else’s), and also practice going shopping without actually buying anything. The more I’ve down this, the more the trend perpetuates where I do not spend as much. It provides more money for savings, donating, and taking care of my friends & family. Here’s another book recommendation since you mentioned it above! Check out “Scarcity: Why Having So Little Means So Much” by Eldar Shafir.

  5. SP

    “God knows why I thought it’d be easier to pull in six-figures than it is to simply change my perspective about earning and spending. ”

    The really powerful thing is that it isn’t either-or. Once you free yourself from consumption, you have the freedom to evaluate your earnings for what they are. You can make quick headway in savings, or you can chose a different lifestyle, or you can invest in your education. You free yourself from an obligation to earn a top-10% (?) salary.

    It also helps if you aren’t surrounded by consumption and can keep advertising from infiltrating your life too much.

  6. Thanks for this post. I think your comment about setting our baseline low is really insightful. There are lots of paths to feeling content, happy, at peace, whatever you want to call it. And we DO have the power to change the path we’re traveling on to get to that happiness. Maybe having a lot of shoes or a nice car is one path to happiness (maybe?), but finding joy and contentment in having less and appreciating what you have is another path. And, all other things being equal, we may as well choose a path that is sustainable, and that leads us away from debt and away from its emotional ramifications.

  7. It’s amazing to hear that buying stuff as a bandaid is a scarcity mindset.

    But I totally hear you on the suffering to buy. Right now I am suffering to buy myself some extra time. Since I’m going to take a year away from corporate I just keep thinking of that to push me along and go suffer at work until the time is right.

  8. One really nice feature of earning far more than your lifestyle is that it separates your income from your spending. I’ve maintained a lifestyle of $40,000 to $50,000 per year since graduating from college, no matter how much my income has gone up or down. And that’s really freeing.

    I’ve never had this feeling: “It’s some innate affinity for martyrdom that makes us suffer for the car, the house, the vacations, the early retirement, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle of punishment so we can placate ourselves later.” I don’t associate how hard I work with how much I earn.

  9. The idea of a shopping ban is a great idea for those who struggle. You nailed it when you said that you felt guilty to spend money. I don’t think budgeting or simply being frugal is meant to make someone feel guilty when they spend BUT they certainly become mindful of the spending. This in turn helps them to control those urges as you found out. Good for you with your journey.