Financial

I’m Banning Shopping for One Year

Photo Credit: Lyst.com, Gown by Ellie Saab

I guess this means I’m jumping on a bandwagon of sorts, but I’m joining the growing ranks of people who are swearing off shopping/spontaneous purchases/wasteful spending. Yes, I’m a little bit crazy.

I liked to consider myself reasonable with my money–I keep a montly budget and have for years and track where my money went. I look for trends and critically at each category to see if I’m being wasteful or if I haven’t budgeted enough and need to adjust. I have a mortgage, but always pay more than the required payment to chip away faster at the principal. I have a decent amount in emergency savings, but I’d like to have a full 6-9 months of expenses in that account and I don’t.

I pay off my credit cards every month in full, with the exception of 0% balance transfer offers I occasionally get–I use them for a reasonable amount and put that money into savings because 0.9% is still better than 0%. In late May storms destroyed our fence and we had to have a new one built. I could have pulled the money out of my emergency savings and been done with it, but instead I used a 0% balance transfer on one of my credit cards and have scheduled payments over the next 12 months. I get to keep the cash in savings with interest, and it’s not killing my monthly budget to pay it off before the 0% offer ends.

But I have this thing about fashion. I enjoy it and look at it as wearable art in some respects. I follow careers of designers, their companies, and I love looking through pictures of various fashion shows throughout the year. And that translates into me buying (MUCH less expensive versions) of what I’m looking at. It’s a cash suck, without question.

Why now? I read an article about a woman who got herself out of major debt in two years and has adjusted her expenses to live off 51% of her income even after the debt was paid. Part of what resonated with me is that she took an inventory of all her “stuff” and it made her realize just how much she had and didn’t use or need. She banned herself from shopping for one year and held herself accountable on her blog. I don’t think I’ve gone one month without buying SOMETHING.

So I copied her approach and took inventory of my crowded closet. I made categories by type of clothing or accessory and grouped everything by color–so I could see exactly where I have excess and can whittle down without sacrificing my fashionable sensibilities. I had no idea I own 572 items. I have to smack myself on the forehead if I ever complain about not having anything to wear ever again. Wow. Who really needs 66 short sleeve shirts or 43 cardigans? Me, apparently.

I’m not Cher Horowitz, so I need to change my habits.

That made me start thinking in terms of how much money could have been put toward my 6-9 month emergency fund. What I could put toward vacations. What additional work we could afford to do on the house to get ahead of some of the repairs.

So here’s what I’m doing: as of 7.7.2015 I banned myself from shopping for anything but groceries, paying bills, taking care of our kids, and then put together two lists: one for things I’m expressly banned from buying and one for things I’m allowed to buy.

List #1: The Banned Stuff (until 7.6.2016)

  1. Clothes
  2. Make-Up (specifically eye shadow, lipstick, and nail polish–I have plenty of each and there is no way I’ll run out of any of it in a year)
  3. Shoes (this is going to suck, I love shoes)
  4. Handbags (I also love handbags)
  5. Jewelry
  6. Hats (this one is tough–I have a hat fetish; they’re the most underrated fabulous accessory)
  7. Scarves (I forgot this one because it’s summer until my daughter reminded me)
  8. Anything from iTunes (unless someone gives me a gift card–seriously that adds up quick)
  9. Perfume
  10. Candles, trinkets, or anything decorating related (we’ve lived in our house for 6 years. It has plenty of stuff in it already)
  11. Lotion–have you ever noticed how that stuff seems to stockpile? Buy 2 get 1 free! I have 6 bottles that are all at least half full sitting under my sink. Stop the madness!

List #2: The Stuff I Can Buy

  1. Skin Care–refills only, I can’t add anything new to my routine because I don’t need to and I can only buy more when I’m about to run out
  2. Books–I’m keeping a wish list and will only purchase more when my current “to be read pile” gets down to 5 books
  3. Starbucks–I’m limiting it to no more than 2x a week, but I have to be realistic. I’m a mom of a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Cutting out designer coffee in suburbia is like cutting out a glass of wine after the kids go to bed. You just don’t do it
  4. Home Improvement Stuff–our house is 13 years old and stuff is starting to break. I can’t avoid this one
  5. Make Up–but only powder and mascara because I’ll use that up in less than a year
  6. Date Nights–once a month a night out with my husband and no kids isn’t unreasonable, right?
  7. Here’s my kicker–no more than 10 “wow” pieces to feed my fashion monster. I have to think about it for 10 days before I buy and I have to decide it’s something I don’t have anything similar AND it has to be pretty damn spectacular. I really think I’ll crumble early if I don’t give myself this out, and it’ll still keep me well below my past purchases in any year since I’ve been an adult.

Here’s the deal. Each month, I’ll report how I did–a picture if I bought anything, the number of items I’ve donated or sold and how it affects my bottom line. I’m going to evaluate my closet and either donate or sell 20% of my 572 items–114 things. 458 items is still a lot and there’s no reason I can’t still be fashionable within that number. At the end of the ban, I’ll compare my spend to what I’ve spent in years past (because I’m a geek and already have that information readily available) so I can see the impact financially as well as what affect it has on my habits and general life. Will I miss not having most of the latest and greatest trends? I honestly have no idea but let’s find out, shall we?

Experiments are fun.

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