In March of 2019, my husband and I were trying to figure out ways that we could be saving more money for the future. We have a monthly budget that we create every month, so we are very aware of where our money is going. There are two areas that we as a couple seem to overspend on: out-to-eat and “shopping.” Unwilling to compromise any further on the out-to-eat budget (really, I feel like not going to five breweries per day is a compromise already, but whatever), we decided to cut back on the “shopping” budget for the entire month of March. Because we have a budget, that category was very defined for us. To us shopping is specifically clothing, anything you buy after seeing an Amazon ad on the side of your Facebook, Home Goods décor, new running shoes, jewelry – you get the picture. (Like I said before, we have a set budget for out-to-eat, so we did not include coffee, happy hours, etc in this ‘no-shopping’ month.)
Over the course of this (successful!) month, we saved over $300.00! That was huge for us, and honestly we realized all of the unnecessary purchases that we could definitely live without. Sure I would have loved to grab that maxi dress that was 50% off, and when Dick’s Sporting Goods had a sale on golf apparel my husband would have loved to check it out; but we survived, we saved, and we’ve even made the effort to continue on the ‘minimalist’ shopping approach. If you’re thinking about giving this a try for yourself, I’ve compiled some tips that got me through the month of zero-shopping successfully, with only a few very minor breakdowns.
Create a budget.
- It is a good idea to have a budget at any stage of life, but especially when you’re trying to save money. Creating a budget allows you to set goals and track where exactly your money is going every month. While I am old-fashioned and use a trusty excel spreadsheet (can someone get me my cane?) apps like Mint and Acorns can help you track your money and keep a budget on your phone if you’re new to the budgeting concept. We have several categories on our spreadsheet, but our core categories are rent + bills, shopping, out-to-eat, gas, groceries and savings. Our budget holds us accountable; it’s crazy how frequently I would notice “LOFT” come up on my credit card statement – what a reality check! I would often spend $20 here, or $15 there, but if you’re not keeping track of your cash, that can really add up and soon your hardest decision of the day is whether to have chicken-flavored Ramen or beef-flavored Ramen for dinner. (Kidding, kind of).
DELETE, DELETE, DELETE!
- If you’re an avid online shopper like me, you’re undoubtedly subscribed to 546 stores and websites that are tempting you at all times to spend your hard-earned dough. And they are darn good at it, too! I don’t know about you, but if I see the words FLASH SALE – it is IMPERATIVE that I stop whatever I am doing RUSH to my computer, and by the first five things that make it into my cart. Because who knows if there will ever be a sale ever again, right?! Well, one of my strategies during ‘no-shopping month’ was to not even open those emails and immediately hit delete. In fact, you can add a filter into Gmail that will temporarily (or permanently) direct the emails from your favorite, most-tempting stores into a folder and out of sight. That’s right – you don’t even have to look at them if you don’t think you’re strong enough to manually delete them yourself. Sounds simple, but was so very effective to me. Not one FLASH SALE got the better of me this month and I feel like I deserve a freakin’ medal for that.
- Every time you think you want to buy something, write it down. “Dang this shirt is so old, I need to replace it.” “I love this set of wine glasses from Home Goods.” These are thoughts (at least for me!) that happen all the time and give me the urgent feeling that I need to buy something right away. So I started making actual notes of things I thought I “NEEDED” to have to buy when my ‘no-shopping’ month was over. At the end of the month, I looked at that list and have only bought two of the (many) things I thought I very much needed. Impulse buying and emotional retail therapy are definitely real. I’ve fallen victim to it, and dang it sometimes you just need to! But when you’re trying to save money, avoiding impulse purchases and thinking about your purchases more logically after some time has passed can do you a world of good.
Track your purchases during your ‘no-shopping’ month with a modified cash scheme.
- Ok, work with me here. The Dave Ramsey method teaches people to use envelopes of cash for specific line items of their budget; while this method is popular and helpful for a lot of people, it requires cash-only purchases for the majority of the month and that part of it is just not for me. I love the points that I rack up using my credit cards (I know that may be problematic if you’re not budgeting and tracking your $$, but last month I got a free flight to Seattle just using points!). So – my version of the ‘modified-cash-method’ is to use cash when you can, but when you can’t, put the receipts of every single purchases in an envelope. The gas station, grocery store, Target, wherever – keep those babies in an envelope and ‘count down’ your spending each month. We put our total-to-spend at the top of a sheet of paper, and literally did old-school subtraction every time we spent money. We knew exactly how much money we had left every time we swiped our credit card, and that was both empowering and also a bit scary. We knew the totals we needed for groceries, gas, etc. so we took that out of the ‘fun figure’ in the beginning. It was helpful knowing exactly how much we had ‘left’ for the rest of the month on fun things, even though shopping wasn’t going to be one of them!
My favorite tip – do it with a buddy!
- Just like working out, eating healthy, and really any other goal – partnering with an accountability buddy can help immensely in the process of getting through your ‘no-shopping’ month. It’s so helpful having someone to commiserate with, someone to ask the question, “do I really need that?” to, someone to remind you why you started doing this in the first place. My husband really wanted new running shoes, and as a wife I felt bad knowing he’d miss out on them this month. But at the same time, he was there for me when I had to turn down, like, six new dresses that I wanted and we both made it through! It’s all about priorities and having a third party help you analyze your purchases can be extremely beneficial when sticking to goals that are neither fun nor easy.
I love the feeling of success after making smart decisions with money, so if you have any questions about our budget, or our ‘no-shopping’ month, drop them in the comments below! And good luck to you if you begin a saving journey, or a ‘no-shopping-month’! You CAN do it!