Shopping Ban in September

This month my wife and I will not be purchasing anything new. We are working on paying off our debt, we are in the middle of moving to a new apartment and I’m in the middle of school. We wanted to do this experiment to see what it would be like to buy nothing new for an entire month.

First, to answer the burning question that many of you are probably wondering, here’s what we are going to buy:

  • Food (but only what’s necessary)
  • Any gifts if we have upcoming weddings, birthdays, etc.
  • Necessary toiletries (toilet paper, toothpaste, or whatever we run out of)
  • Necessary replacement items (for example, last month our car battery died and we had to replace it)

I doubt that we will need to buy any of these things often, if at all, during September (with the exception of food). Here’s what some examples of things we won’t be buying:

  • New clothes, shoes, etc.
  • Books, notebooks, movies, music (digital and physical)
  • Subscriptions (online and physical, like Spotify, Netflix, etc.)
  • Furniture, household appliances, storage bins, etc.
  • Gadgets, technology, electronics
  • Knickknacks, decorations, holiday items/supplies
  • Basically anything that we don’t absolutely need to survive and get work/schoolwork done.

Why are we doing a shopping ban? We want to find out what we can do with our finances if we avoid all unnecessary purchases. I know that “unnecessary” is a vague term and can mean different things for different people. However, I also think that there are things that are the same across the board. If your current smart phone works great, you don’t need the next greatest phone. If your clothes look and fit great, you don’t need the latest fashion trend. If your TV works great you don’t need a bigger one.

During this month we’re hoping to discover our potential to pay off debt and not spend any money on unnecessary things. My hope is that we continue to do this until we pay off all our debt over the next few years.

Another reason we’re doing this is to be mindful of what is and isn’t necessary in our lives. Often I find myself at the store justifying why something on the shelf is a necessity in my life and why I need to buy it now. Anthony Ongaro started his website, Break the Twitch, about the online shopping twitch and how to break free from a shopping addiction. Cait Flanders, who inspired this month’s challenge, has completed one full year of no shopping and is working on a second year. If you’d like some more detailed guidelines for a shopping ban, I’d recommend checking out her shopping ban page.

I firmly believe that if we can learn to control our urges to shop and buy new things, we can learn to be in control of our finances and our lives. Join me this month for a shopping ban and only buy those things that are necessary. If you don’t think you’re ready to ban shopping this month, at least track your spending in categories, like “bills”, “food”, “fuel” and other similar categories. Track how much you spend on unnecessary purchases. You might be surprised at how much you actually spend. Use these numbers to control and limit future spending.

If we are satisfied with what we have then we have learned one of the secrets to happiness. Being jealous, wanting more, trying to keep up with the Jones, and being deeply in debt are all exhausting, unhappy pursuits. They will lead to anger, more jealousy, stress, arguments, more debt and an unfulfilled life. Enjoy what you have and when it wears out or breaks, replace it with what you need. Spend your time and money on people who you love and experiences that will last a lifetime.

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