I’ve been thinking about doing this for a few weeks now, and I suppose with a new year getting underway it’s the perfect time to do it.
As of January 1, I've undergone a six-month shopping ban.
My shopping ban is inspired by one of my favourite Canadian personal finance bloggers, Cait of Blonde on a Budget, who started her year-long shopping ban in July.
My mantra for this challenge is: Do I want/need this more than I want a house, or to be out of debt? as those are my two main goals coming out of this. I doubt I will reach either of those goals after six months of a shopping ban, but I know I will be much closer than I would be without the ban.
When I say ban, I don’t mean I can’t buy anything. But I did take a hard look at my needs versus wants, my shopping habits as well as some gaps in my wardrobe, and I’ve decided that there are a lot of things I can go without buying until July 1 (or longer).
There’s a few reasons why 2015 is the perfect year for me to do this.
1) I accomplished a lot of my wardrobe goals in 2014
Last year at this time, I posted my wardrobe goals for 2014. Luckily I’ve hit on most of them, particularly in the shoe department. I bought a pair of sandals, everyday Oxfords, warm winter boots, and shoes I had been lusting over for more than a year (which I wore to our wedding). I didn’t do as good on the sewing front, except that I did sew up that green blouse. I do have plenty of fabric in my stash to make a few Smooth Sailing blouses, and work-appropriate blouses are in my allowed list.
2) I want 2016 to be the year Ian and I become homeowners
I am so so so so so sick of living in a rental. I know a lot of people wax poetic about how great it is to rent, how you don’t have to do anything, etc etc but it just doesn’t work for us. For one thing, there are several issues, both cosmetic and structural, with the house that we rent that the landlord has yet to fix in the 2+ years we’ve both been here. Unfortunately, it’s also not easy for us to find another place to rent that will allow two cats and a big German Shepherd dog. So we’ve set our eyes on buying a house - and a real house, not a condo (No offense to those who do own condos, but I’m not keen on being a slave to a condo board and paying condo fees). Now that the wedding is done with, buying a house is the next leap we want/need to do before kidlets come along.
Anyway, on to my ban rules (which are heavily inspired by Cait’s rules):
Banned items (not inclusive):
Books, magazines, etc
Vinyl albums/online music
Clothing (except allowed items, listed below)
Take-out coffee, when I have access to a coffee maker.
Take-out/restaurants, when I have access to a kitchen
Electronics or appliances
Needs: Housing, groceries, etc
Transportation expenses (bus pass, insurance, car payments, maintenance, parking up to $270/six months)
Gifts for others
Date night out once a month (all the rest have to be $0)
Approved items - Home:
Hat organization system
New Otterbox case for my phone
Approved items - Clothing:
Knitting and fabric supplies up to $200, BUT
I cannot buy anymore yarn until I use up my stash (except gifts for others)
I cannot buy supplies for new sewing projects until I finish current projects and finish make-do and mend items (except gifts for others)
3 classic, work appropriate button-up blouses (me-made or ready-made)
Cardigan (me-made, in progress)
fleece-lined mittens (me-made)
2 pairs fleece-lined tights/knee-high socks (ready made)
1 pair of wool stockings (ready made)
Approved Items - Beauty:
Glass nail file
Sea salt scrub
Gel nail polish foils
It’s interesting to note that when I look at the year as a whole, I spent $1,810* on shopping and $1,433* on restaurants/coffee/fast food, meaning I did much better in the first half of the year on curbing my shopping habits than in the latter part (and I already took wedding- and gift-related spending out of the equation).
*as calculated by Mint
The main reason behind this ban is to lower my credit card debt and try to speed up paying it off. Besides doing the ban, I am also planning on lowering the payment I’m putting on my card each month. That sounds counter-intuitive, but after I make my $500 monthly payment, I have no money left over for other purchases, like a bus pass, groceries, etc, so I have to put all that on my credit card, which is pretty pointless and also racks up what I pay on interest.
Being the realist that I am, I know this won’t be easy. In particular, the take-out food and coffee will be a big challenge. On hectic mornings, I usually skip breakfast at home and grab a big, cheap breakfast at work that, combined with some snacking, will carry me until supper time. I’m definitely going to miss that, but I plan on buying healthy, easy to take meals to keep at work - like cans of lentil soup, oatmeal, granola bars and nuts to keep at my desk - for those hectic days where I can’t seem to remember my head, let alone pack a lunch. This will be even more challenging since there is a chance we could be thrown into an election.
There are some things that (I think) will be easier than others. Like I said, I am fairly set with my current wardrobe, outside my list of allowable items, so I don’t think I will hear the siren song to Etsy any time soon. I am pretty frugal as it is and don’t like buying what I know I can get for free, and rarely buy books or magazines anymore - instead I often check them out from the library, or through one of the library’s e-reading services. Ditto for music, although our beautiful and fairly new record player makes this one a little bit harder.
The 6-month mark is not a hard and fast rule, but merely meant to be a checking in point where I can reevaluate what I need and what I don’t need, and to see where I am in my progress. I hope I have the willpower to extend it all the way until December 2015!