The first time I gave up shopping for a year (2010), everyone in my circle thought I was on a different planet. And I don’t blame them. Over the years Ross, Target and DSW had become my best friends and I don’t say that lightly.
When I was happy, I shopped. When I was sad, I shopped. When I was bored, I shopped. You see the pattern. I was doing some serious retail therapy. And the kicker; I was doing all of this AFTER I had paid off $30,000 in credit card debt that I carelessly racked up by the age of 23 (It is not lost on me the privilege that is baked into that story).
So at 30, it seemed I hadn’t learned my lesson right? More like, I didn’t learn the right lessons. Like, how your emotions are driving pretty much all of your spending behaviors.
We use debt as an indicator of financial health, but it isn’t the whole picture and I was an example of that. Although I didn’t have any credit card debt and a great credit score, I had a serious shopping problem. And when my husband was laid off, reality struck that my habits hadn’t set us up for the best transition. I knew I had to do something drastic, so I gave up shopping cold turkey…for a year.
I expected to save money (we put $20,000 in the bank), but I didn’t expect to experience so many amazing benefits during my financial diet that would change my life.
1. You Will Have A Lot Of Free Time
No joke. You will be surprised how much time we give to shopping in our daily lives. For me, I went shopping when I felt bored or I needed to feel accomplishment and since I’m a goal oriented person…that was a lot. Eliminating shopping meant I had a lot of time to put towards things that…well…mattered.
2. Decisions Are Easier
Especially clothing decisions. Many of our decisions actually revolve around purchasing something (at least for me) and when you take that away…life gets easier. NO, you don’t have to stress about a new cocktail dress for a party because you can’t go shopping, So, you actually use what is in your closet because newsflash, we barely scratch the surface. In fact, this study said most women have $500 of unused clothing hanging in there…woof.
3. You Become Really Creative And Resourceful
You will start hearing yourself say: “I can just use this” or “Yes! Look what I found!” Buying something new is often the “go to” solution for many things in our lives. We buy even if we don’t have a true need because it is convenient. When shopping is off the table, you get really creative with what you do have and usually, it works just fine.
4. Your Bank Account Looks Healthier
Small actions will make a big impact. We underestimate how much we spend on unnecessary items. I mean, avoiding the Target $1 bin alone will do amazing things. Seeing more money in your bank account will be incredibly motivating.
5. You See Possibility In Your Financial Goals.
The minute you start seeing your bank account change, you will have a shift and that shift is important. Many think that in order to change our financial state we have to move mountains when in fact, we just need to see movement. This is the momentum you need. When you see more money in your checking account, being debt free or actually going on a vacation become real possibilities.
6. You Pay Attention To Life
This was a big one. I always considered myself someone who enjoyed life, but I quickly realized what I was enjoying was the high of the purchase or the “thing”, not the actual moment. My shopping had become a convenient avoidance tool for life (how I unpacked that is another story in itself) aka retail therapy (Except in this therapy you don’t actually make progress).
7. Your Priorities Become Clear
There is something magical that happens when you strip away the sparkle of “things” and are forced to just “be”. Because you have time to think you begin pondering what is valuable to you and you start to recognize the goals you want to achieve. Before, you could say you wanted to pay off a credit card or save for a vacation, but your actions said otherwise because you didn’t have a clear vision of your why.
8. You Actually Start Making Progress On Your Debt Or Savings
Because those priorities become crystal clear, you actually start making progress on those goals you began to see as a possibility in benefit #5. And this movement keeps you motivated.
9. You Will Inspire Others
Yes, it’s a total conversation starter to say you aren’t shopping for a year. But, I began getting tons of questions and when I would talk about my savings and what we were doing. It began inspiring those around me. And that feels good.
10. You Realize You Have Enough
When we had to make a significant financial change, our income had decreased by half! And we were scared. But you make shifts and you decide what is not valuable to you, and you start being drawn to quality time and appreciating what you have and then all of a sudden you’re like, “What the heck did I need all of that stuff for?”. THAT is what closes the loop on your money and emotions. THAT is what will always see you through a tough time. You have a lot of privilege and you have enough.
You help the environment. We consume LOTS of things that actually don’t last more than 3 years…wowza.
Now, I’m 38 years old and I’m a little over 3 months away from completing my third year of no shopping. Not because I “needed” to, but because the benefits are that good.