Imagine giving up shopping for a year (or at least, most of it).
In late 2017, I asked Global News readers to join me on a no-shopping challenge for the new year, essentially giving up buying new clothes, accessories or unnecessary beauty products for a number amount of months in the year.
On Twitter, a new hashtag was born and readers shared their own rules on how they planned on cutting down their spending habits. For many of us, myself included, the challenge has been tough, but for those of us who stuck to it (even with hiccups along the way), the rewards have been eye-opening.
In my version of the challenge, I told myself I wouldn’t buy any new clothes, accessories or make-up for nine months in 2018. My only exception was buying an outfit for a wedding or replacing a beauty product that had run out. I also determined three months (June, September and December) when I was allowed to shop, and as of August, I can say I’ve only failed once — I bought a necklace for a charity event I was attending this month.
Taking the challenge
Mithila Karnik-Adarkar, a student recruitment specialist in Vancouver, decided to take our challenge because she knew she had been an impulsive shopper.
For Karnik-Adarkar, the biggest takeaway was understanding how to control her impulses. “Controlling my impulses effectively led me to do all the math in my head and figure out if what I want is what I really ‘need.'”
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She did have one shopping spree while on vacation in Portland, she added, taking advantage of shopping tax-free. She also bought a lipstick during a promotional deal.
“Considering in B.C., we pay a hefty 12 per cent on all our purchases, going absolutely tax-free was not an opportunity I wanted to miss,” she continued.
Roadblocks and hard lessons
Kate St. Louis, a social-media manager based in Toronto, said she initially took on the challenge after getting engaged. “The reality of how much a wedding was going to cost was really overwhelming, so cutting expenses where I could, to save money, seemed like a good idea.”
St. Louis set out the following rules: no new clothes, accessories, make-up and stationery. She also constantly asked herself if she really needed the item, instead of just buying it.
“The no-shopping challenge lasted from January to April. My husband and I eloped in April, which meant a bit of shopping for rings, outfits, and such, which effectively broke my willpower,” she continued.
“The challenge really held me accountable because whenever I did want to buy something, I had to confront myself and determine what my motivation was. Most times, my desire to buy stuff wasn’t coming from a place of necessity or practicality.”
And this is quite common, experts say, and often, impulsive shopping has been linked to anxiety, unhappiness and having a sense of control, Psychology Today reports. Some people like to shop for fun because they find pleasure in having new items, while others value the idea of ownership.
And any type of shopping challenge, big or small, can really change your point-of-view on how you spend your money altogether. “I have to give the shopping challenge a lot of credit for the way I look at shopping now. In a short four months, it showed me that I was doing too much unnecessary shopping,” St. Louis said.
“We’re moving into a new apartment in September, and have to purchase quite a bit of furniture. It’d be easy to go overboard, especially prior to the challenge, but I’m finding that now, my husband and I are making more practical decisions about what we actually need, versus what would be cool to have.”
Karnik-Adarkar said she has learned how to give up her shopping urges as well as experiment with what she already owns.
“I am being more innovative with the clothes that I own,” she explained. “I hadn’t worn so many of them more than once, simply because I would always just keep buying more. I think I am now more of a peaceful shopper, even a window shopper. I wasn’t that before. If I walked into a store, I would have to buy something.”
And in the long-run, she hopes she can take lessons from this challenge and apply it to other parts of her life.
“I want to fully implement this challenge for a little bit longer before thinking of expanding into other spending habits. If I know I have it fully under control, adapting it to other areas would be that much easier.”
It’s still not too late to save. If you want to join this no-shopping challenge for 2018, join national online journalist Arti Patel on Twitter with the hashtag #noshopping2018.