Why do I appreciate shopping bans?
Since I started to consume mindfully and less, I assumed my saving rate would go up. In my mind, if you buy less, you should spend less, right? Somehow, this is not quite true…
How can I still have so little money left at the end of the month, although I bought “nothing”? This nothing turned out to be a few more dinner dates than expected, a second latte at the cute coffee shop or a newly published book I could not resist to buy.
Even a zero waste lifestyle can tempt you to (fairly produce and package-free) consumption. This really cool tea-strainer to-go or the reusable stainless steel water bottle from another socially and ecologically producing company? If you are not careful, these sustainable items are bought faster than you intended.
In order that I did not feel guilty every month, I implemented a few tricks and looked what others are doing to resist the buying impulse.
Say hello to the shopping ban.
Do you want to save money in the bank with your sustainable lifestyle? Then these tips might help you get there:
Tips for a sustainable shopping ban.
Why do you want to spend less?
Before you start, think about the reason you want to spend less. Are you saving for something specific, do you want to pay off debt or do you just want to own fewer things?
It is easier to resist the temptation if you are clear on the reason why you want to spend less in the first place.
Saying no to coffee-to-go? But just so the money is added straight to your travel savings (and because a cup of coffee might taste even better in New Zealand, don’t you think? :P).
What are you allowed to buy?
I first read about the idea of a shopping ban at Cait Flanders’ blog. As I once again spent more than intended, I just stumbled across her site (at the time it was still called Blonde on a Budget). She was on her first year-long shopping ban (which she extended for a second year) and did not spend any money other than for food, basic hygiene products and gas, as far as I remember. And she had an “approved”-list of things that she knew she would need during the year because they needed replacement, for example.
It does not matter how long your shopping ban shall last, decide beforehand what you are allowed to buy. You probably will not survive with love and air alone…
I did another month-long shopping ban in October and was only allowed to spend money on food and transportation (I knew I had to take the train).
„There is nothing cheaper than the things you already own.“
You can save a lot of money if you use what you have at home. For example, you can save quite a bit on your grocery bill. And no, I do not mean you should just toss your eco-consciousness and buy cheap, highly processed food.
Have a look in your fridge, freezer and cupboards: what can you find and how can you use it creatively without buying extra food items? It is time for a pantry party! 😀 Get crazy and avoid unnecessary food waste.
The rest of your monthly groceries should be bought as seasonal and regional as possible. If you buy from local producers, you save a lot of transport emissions and money as well. (Tip: ask your local farmers about their cultivation methods. They might grow their crops organically even without a certificate.)
Related: value your food #reducefoodwaste
The same goes for all the other things you have at home. Where did you store your spare light bulbs? And wasn’t there a drawer full of extra pens? And a folder full of scratch paper?
Have fun shopping at home 😉
Before you take out your credit card as soon as you think “I need this RIGHT NOW!”, write it down. Take a note on your phone, your calendar or your notepad. It does not matter where you collect all your wishes, but it has to be in one place. This way, you will see all your biggest wishes at a glance and you will realize how much you really want something.
On my list, I put “ new winter coat” a few years ago and it is still on there. I might not have needed/wanted it so much after all…
if you really need to buy something… consume consciously.
This wish list is good enough to make you reconsider your potential purchases and avoid impulse buying. But what do you do if you really need to buy something?
Appeal to your eco-consciousness.
The ultimate guide for questions to ask before you buy anything:
- Look for ways to use things you already have creatively. Can you repurpose something?
- Can you make it yourself?
- If you find nothing appropriate, can you borrow it?
- Can you find it on the second-hand market? (most of the time cheaper and no additional resource consumption!)
- If nothing of the above works: Can you buy it from a company, which has a socially and ecologically fair production?
I had exactly this problem during my otherwise consumption-free October. Against my best efforts, I broke my sister’s smoothie maker. We had another broken blender at home, so I looked for this model on willhaben.at (second-hand trading platform; and we only had the second blender because it was left behind when a roommate moved out, but unfortunately it missed the essential seal ring).
After a few days, I really found another blender and bought it. Not without thinking twice! I wanted a blender for a really long time (hello creamy versions of pesto, hazelnut milk, smoothies and nut butter,…).
The “new for us” blender has two containers, so now I have two functioning gadgets for the price of one 🙂 One for me and one as a Christmas present for my sister!
make it hard to spend money.
People are unbelievably lazy. The harder something is, the less likely we are to actually do it.
Here are a few tips for more inconvenience (in the spirit of saving money and resources):
- Pack away your credit and debit cards and pay everything in cash.
- Doesn’t work? Put a note on your card that says: Do I really need this? or What happens If I do not buy this right now?
- Log off all online shops. No more one-click-purchases!
- Unsubscribe from all newsletters, which want to sell you something.
- Unfollow companies and people if they tempt you to buy something.
- Transfer as much money as you can to a savings account. This way, you have to re-transfer it first if you want to spend it.
collect memories, not stuff.
Your shopping ban should not be about sacrifice and self-punishment. Who wants to live an ascetic life all the time?
That is why you should combine the necessary with the beautiful.
Ideas for less consumption and more fun:
- Instead of going out for (expensive) dinners with your friends, invite them to a pot luck dinner or cook together. If everybody brings something or pays for a little bit, it is cheaper for everyone – and probably more fun ;).
- Do you want to spend less on cosmetic products? Maybe you find a few people and you can make deodorant, washing detergent or toothpaste together. DIY will save you money, especially if you buy the ingredients in bulk.
- Is your weak spot coffee-to-go? I am afraid you might have to change your routine a little bit, sorry… If you get up three minutes earlier, you could make your coffee at home. Or you take the bike to work (very inconvenient to drink coffee-to-go) and drink the first coffee at the office. If you have a strong zero waste consciousness: use it and “forget” your reusable mug at home. You don’t want to get a single-use, plastic-coated coffee cup, right? 😉
- New season, new clothes? Fair fashion has its price for its reason. Extended shopping sprees will definitely hurt your budget. How about a swap party with your friends? Or with strangers, organised via the wonderful world-wide-web? And you could even earn money if you sell your no longer wanted clothes on platforms such as Kleiderkreisel (or thread up).
- Want to go to a concert, movie or play? This does not have to be expensive. Look for events with free admission, go to the theatre with a standing room ticket or rent a movie for a cosy movie night. Zero waste tip: make your own snacks and save packaging and money. 🙂
What are your biggest expenses, which you would like to avoid? Let me know in the comments below or send me a message – maybe we can explore alternatives together!
long-term planning: income and expenses.
The last tip is actually the start of a better and intentional handling of your own money.
As unsexy as it might sound, but a plain old overview of your finances makes your life easier. And you will see at a glance if your shopping ban has made an impact on your net worth.
After a few years of monthly astonishment at my spending account, I gave in and started to write down all my expenses and my income. This might not help saving money, but it sure as hell helps you to see clearly where your money goes.
If you want to have a solid overview of your money, you have to be made aware of every single purchase. I have a self-made excel file for this purpose, but more modern people might use apps or programs for that.
Cait Flanders offers a great mindful budgeting program – for free!
You can increase your own net worth with more income or less spending. A shopping ban is not the solution to have a lot more money in a very short time. However, it is a wonderful possibility to make yourself aware of your own spending habits and consumer behaviour. It is a good start to handle your financial resources more intentionally and reasonably – as you are trying to do with our natural resources.
Whoa, this list got a little longer than intended. Did I miss anything? Have you ever tried to complete a shopping ban? Is it easy for you to spend less? What is the hardest thing to forgo?