I Tried a Month-Long Shopping Ban and This is What I Learned

Lessons from a month long shopping ban
Image via The Creative Library

I’ve always enjoyed shopping and for most of my adult life, I didn’t think it was a problematic habit for me. But when I started analyzing my expenses around late last year, I realized that over the course of time, I’d let my shopping habits become out of control. To the extent that I think I’ve bought more clothes in the last 2 years than I have for most of my adult life.

WHY WAS I SHOPPING SO MUCH?

In the case of clothes, part of it was about becoming more aware of fashion and styles and wanting to dress better, but if I am being brutally honest, most of it was because of my weight. I kept putting on weight, and despite not caring too much about it for a long time, it started getting to me when the clothes didn’t fit (as well) anymore. In my own ways, I tried to get better about losing weight – a little bit of exercise, and some (mostly half-hearted) attempts at controlling my diet. Clearly that didn’t too much good. So buying new clothes was my not-so-ideal way of dealing with my changing body.

Shopping also acted as a release for me when I was unmotivated to do anything else, or just a way to kill time when I was bored.

I started to realise that I was shopping so much more because I was running away from something else; the problem never really started with the shopping, but with my repeated reinforcements of shopping being a response to a bad day (with my body, at work, at home, or whatever else), I soon made a once pleasurable activity into a bit of a problematic mindless habit, and that can never be a good thing.

MY PROPOSED SOLUTION – A SHOPPING BAN

Given all these heavy realizations, I knew I had to get my shopping habits under control before I got to the point of no return. I’d seen a lot of people talking about trying out shopping bans in a quest to practice minimalism. I decided to give it a try – not so much for the sake of minimalism but rather, for gaining some sense of control over my finances.

With all that in mind, I made it one of my things on my 101 in 1001 list. And I figured that this past February would be as good a month as any other to try this out.

My no-shopping list was fairly simple. These things below are my major problem points, the ones that tempt me the most:

  • Clothes
  • Fashion accessories (shoes, bags, jewellery)
  • Books
  • Ecourses/ebooks
  • Skincare/cosmetics

And guess what you guys, I did it! I went through a whole month (plus some days) without buying anything from my “no shopping list”. It wasn’t that hard, to be honest, and after the first couple of days, I was kinda amazed at the amount of free time I had.

Also, weirdly, I felt a sense of relief – about spending less money, about breaking that cycle of buying and then returning things that I didn’t like, about not being constantly on the lookout for the next best thing.

THE LESSONS I LEARNED

During this one month of my self-imposed shopping ban, it’s not like I had some earth-shattering epiphanies, but there were a few things that I did learn from the process, and I wanted to share them with you.

1| It’s BETTER to say “no” NOW than to live with lifelong consequences

One random purchase of a $50/INR 3,500 blouse will not blow up your life. But multiply that $50/INR 3,500 with months and months of such random/impulsive purchases, and you know you’ve got a problem on hand.

The easy availability of online shopping options and all the free shipping and free returns offers just makes the problem worse if you’re already an impulsive/compulsive shopper. Compulsive shopping can quickly become a slippery slope to unsustainable debt and it’s critical to check that habit while it’s still manageable.

2| Mindless shopping is usually just a way to fill the void

Like I said earlier, shopping for me was a way to deal with bad days. It was a matter of pure, solid retail therapy. But in resorting to all that shopping, I wasn’t really dealing with the underlying issues.

I was buying all the clothes because I wasn’t doing enough to get back in shape. I was buying all the new books and skincare products because of FOMO – I couldn’t not be reading what my favourite bloggers were reading or using. I was using shopping as therapy of sorts, albeit an unsustainable and money sucking one!

A better solution would be to dig a little deeper and identify what was it that was bothering you so much and try to tackle the underlying issue rather than numbing yourself by shopping mindlessly.

3| I have enough

I know I do, and I think if you stare at your closet (or your life) long enough, you’ll probably feel the same. My closet has more than enough clothes and shoes and I own enough books to start a library of my own. And yet, I just couldn’t stop wanting all the new things.

I get it, part of it is just normal human excitement over new things, and that’s fine, as long as you’re not hankering for something new every single day. Hitting pause on my shopping just made me so much more aware of my possessions (and really, also all my blessings!) and forced me to be a little more creative if I wanted something “new”. Like wearing a slightly more casual blouse to work on a Friday, instead of relegating it for only the weekends. Or actually reading a book that I already owned but had never read.

4| Shopping takes up a lot of time

With no need to hunt for a “just because” casual blouse, or the big chunky earrings that I would probably wear just one time in a year, I found myself with a fair bit of time on my hands. It’s no joke how much time shopping takes up, whether you’re shopping online or going to a brick-and-mortar store.

You could well use this time to take up creative hobbies or actively do something for your personal growth.

5| You should plan for exceptions, especially if you’re planning a shopping ban for a longer period

A month is really not that long a time for a shopping ban, so you can get away with a stricter “no shopping” list, but if you’re planning to go on a shopping ban for a longer period, I’d highly recommend that you plan for some exceptions, otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

These exceptions could be different things for different people, but I’d recommend that you keep at least one or two things that you really enjoy in your “okay to shop for list”. Moral of the story – don’t make the ban so restrictive that it doesn’t work in the real world.

WHY YOU SHOULD TRY A SHOPPING BAN

If you’ve found yourself struggling with your shopping habits, it might be a good idea to give yourself a bit of a pause and enforce a shopping ban. These are just some of the ways in which it could benefit you:

1| You would save yourself time and money

2| It forces you appreciate what you have

3| It might force you to look inwards and address the scarcity in the other aspects of your life

4| It will ease you to a minimalist way of living


Let’s talk about life after the shopping ban. Again, let me repeat, a month long shopping ban is not that significant a time period ( I mean, Cait Flanders completed a year long shopping ban and even wrote a book about it!), but it does serve well for a good stop-and-reflect exercise.

I have of course been back shopping ever since my shopping ban ended, but on most days, I am far more intentional with my purchases that I would have otherwise been. I am keen to actually try a longer shopping ban period… maybe 3 months or so.

At the end of it all, I just want to become more conscious of my spending and try to buy things that I truly, truly love, instead of just trying to fill a void or run away from some larger issue.

Have you ever attempted a shopping ban? How did it go for you? I’d love to know in the comments below.


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