A simple way to save money in 2018? Stop shopping

Want to save money in 2018? Cut back on shopping for unnecessary things.
Want to save money in 2018? Cut back on shopping for unnecessary things. Getty Images

Stop shopping for a year? Easier said than done.

No shopping challenges have been around for years, and although they tend to be different for every individual, the core of it is the same: avoid spending money on unnecessary things. For the purpose of this challenge, we have focused on cutting back on new clothes, makeup and accessories.


“The reality is shopping is fun,” says money and travel expert Barry Choi of Toronto. “There is something about spending money and getting new things or following fashion trends that give people an emotional rush.”

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Choi adds while shopping is often harmless, it can be a problem if you run into a debt or if you aren’t able to save any money on the side.

“I don’t have a problem with people spending, as long as they are saving first.”

He adds while an item on sale, for example, may seem like a cheap purchase, like a $25 sweater, if you’re still in credit card debt, this is only adding more interest to your account. And in the long run, you end up paying more than $25 for a sweater.

This year, I challenged myself to not shop for eight months — a challenge I’ve done versions of in the past and even failed in 2017. This means no new clothing, accessories or makeup for eight months in 2018.

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The only exceptions I have set for myself include replacing everyday makeup items, and buying South Asian outfits for upcoming weddings. And of course, allowing myself to shop if I want to, the four remaining months of the year.

READ MORE: The average Canadian could save $360 more a month without noticing: CIBC


The challenge takes time, commitment and a lot of willpower for someone who loves to shop. It will help you question why you love to spend money on things like shoes, makeup and clothes in the first place.

Here are some tips to consider if you want to take on a shopping cleanse.

Lay out your goals

The first thing to do before you start your journey (and again, you can do it over any timeline you want), you have to make sure you can see the problem. Lay out all of your clothes, accessories or cosmetics or even print out your last credit bill.

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Often, when people have a shopping habit, they don’t look at how much stuff their homes accumulate or how often they’re spending money at their favourite stores. Even if this means laying out all of your favourite handbags and calculating the price in your head — often, the total amount will scare you.

Choi says if you jump into a challenge without planning ahead or having a good understanding of what your goals are, chances are you will fail.

“I would have people track their spending for a month and find out where their money is going … literally, write everything down,” he says. “When [the next month] rolls around, you can adjust your spending.”

Shop your closet

If you have a shopping addiction, your closet is probably already overflowing. If you’re the type of person who has more than one closet space or a suitcase full of seasonal clothes, it’s time to dig into your inventory. Start by picking out pieces you love and wear on the regular and other ones that may have slipped through the cracks.

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If you have an upcoming event, pick out an outfit you haven’t worn in a long time or play around with different accessories. Planning ahead will help you develop a habit and this way, you’re not frustrated on the night before an event.

Trends are repetitive

Trends move in cycles and not shopping for a year won’t make that big of a difference. If you’ve always had a shopping addiction, you likely already own that specific trend you’re seeing in a storefront window.

Once you have a better idea of what you actually have in your closet, you will also have a better idea of which pieces are still in style.

This will also help you figure out which pieces you’ve bought in the past that are classic (and can be worn year after year), and which ones are simply trends you can no longer wear.

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Quality vs. quantity

One of the biggest lessons you can learn from going on a “no shopping cleanse” is the value of quality vs. quantity. In my over-excessive shopping days, I would spend hundreds of dollars on cheap things on sale for the sake of having more, instead of focusing on items I really needed.

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Set yourself rules

A no shopping challenge doesn’t have to last an entire year.

Start small. If you think a year of no clothes, makeup and accessories is excessive, start with three or six months.

You should also create a set of rules that cater to your lifestyle. If you love to shop during bargain months like November (Black Friday) and December (Boxing Day), allow yourself to shop those months.

Find support

“If you are sharing your challenge for the right reasons and you want to encourage people and hold yourself accountable, it makes sense,” Choi says.

Tell your partner, a close group of friends or co-workers about your challenge and how you plan on taking it seriously. You can also post your challenge on social media accounts like Twitter (like I did), Facebook or Instagram to see if others will join your movement.

“You’re going to get people criticizing a lot of these challenges and how you spend your money, so beware of the trolls,” Choi continues.

READ MORE: 3 easy tips for saving money each week

Dig deeper into your habit

Sure, shopping is fun and a good way to relieve stress, but when you aren’t shopping, it’s a good idea to understand what drives your habit, Choi adds.

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“If you’re shopping for the sake of shopping, you need to find another hobby,” he says.

He says when your spending habits change (and for some people, not shopping will change their finances dramatically), it’s also a good idea to look at your overall spending habits.

How often are you eating out, buying alcohol or spending money for breakfast? Choi adds if you are taking part in a challenge like this one, it’s a good time to educate yourself about finances.

He suggests giving yourself a weekly allowance, investing your money, switching to cash only and as a number 1 priority, cutting down on whatever debt you owe in the first place. He also suggests taking the money you are saving from not shopping and putting it towards another smaller goal.

Don’t be hard on yourself

A challenge like this one isn’t easy. You may fail along the way, and Choi says this is OK.

“Don’t beat yourself up. It’s easy to say this and everyone goes through a [spending] phase, but if you can get through half of your goal and build from there, you’re going to be just fine.”

READ MORE: These 5 tips can help you save money on groceries

Treat yourself

And because this is a challenge, there is no harm in treating yourself at the end.

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I will admit when I first tried doing this challenge for five months, I spent a lot of money in the first month I was allowed to spend. But over the years, I have learned to move away from this habit and focus on setting myself smaller goals like a long vacation or concert tickets.

Choi agrees and says as motivation, you should have another savings goal in mind.

“Let’s say you cut out $200 a month from your day-to-day shopping, that’s $2,400 at the end of the year for something else.”

If you want to join this no shopping challenge for 2018, join national online journalist Arti Patel on Twitter with the hashtag #noshopping2018.