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Articles 2019




 

How One Year of No Shopping Laid a Path to Financial Consciousness

March 1, 2019

By Carijn Michel

We overconsume – we buy too much and throw out things that are still good. This year the average American will toss out 81 pounds of clothing and will waste 225-290 pounds of food. A bit over a year ago, after reading Ann Patchett’s article “My Year of No Shopping” in the New York Times, I asked myself if I could do better.

I have always been conscientious about my budget, because living in New York City and having a child is expensive. So, it wasn’t that I was spending frivolously, it was more like a challenge to myself to learn to spend less and to tackle overconsumption.

The rules of the one-year challenge were to not buy any clothing, shoes, bags or jewelry. It is much harder than it seems, because shopping in a store or online was like therapy.

How did it go?

The first month was tough because there were temptations everywhere. Daily emails from my favorite retailers and walking by stores with lots of cute things. I quickly unsubscribed from all the emails, which decluttered my inbox and led me not into browsing. The next several months were easier, because I created a simple game plan – the A.E.D. system which stands for Awareness, Editing and Discipline.

Here are some tips I used that helped me with my game plan:

Awareness

  • Know how much you spend every day
  • Know what food you have in your pantry and freezer
  • Know how much groceries you need to buy for the week
  • Know if there is a price match from retailers (i.e. Target online is cheaper than the store)
  • Know how much clothing you have
  • Know how much of your clothing you will truly wear and, as Marie Kondo says, if it gives you joy
  • Know how much you spend on streaming services and whether you really use and need them
  • Know how much you spend on your cell phone bill

Editing

  • Clean out your closet so you are left with the pieces that you will wear
  • Clean out your pantry and donate items you know you won’t use or use the food that you have
  • Clean out your garage so you are left with only the things you really need

Discipline

  • Always check what you have before you do grocery shopping
  • Never go shopping without a list
  • Make your meals with what you have – reject “we have nothing to eat”
  • Ask yourself – do you need this, or do you want it?
  • Plan your meals with what you have – turn this into a family activity

What was the biggest challenge?

Discipline was the biggest challenge because it sometimes feels nice to spend money on something silly, but questioning Need versus Want made it a lot easier.

What have you learned?

This challenge created a path to a deeper consciousness around spending.

One year of no shopping forced me to be Aware of what I had in my closet by doing an Edit, so I was more Disciplined in not buying frivolously (why buy another pair of black pants if you know you already have four?). This is a continuous process that I am applying to food, plastic, and overconsumption generally.

Is this perfect? No, but I am trying. Full disclosure, I did buy gym pants, but I used coupons and free shipping, so I spent $0. I do feel more conscious of everything I buy and feel lighter. My AED system and Marie Kondo have motivated my family to do the same. Every little bit helps.

 


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