February 05, 2016

Minimalism & A Good Old Shopping Ban (Updated)



Like many people out there these days, I too have stumbled upon the minimalism movement and, true to my band-wagon jumping nature, I'm on it.

Further to my New Year's update, I am one month into #frugal2016 and so far I have done surprisingly well. I've completely unsubscribed to all my favorite websites in an effort to deter myself from continually filling up online shopping carts with stuff that I don't really need. I have created a budget on paper and I am tracking my spending through the Mint app on my phone, which is not completely balanced but it's a start! I am on a one year long "No Spend" which is scary but I am starting to feel like it's totally achievable.

There are many ways to complete a no spend challenge, you basically write your own guidelines or you can follow ones that were created by someone else (see this article from Blonde on a Budget for ideas) If you want to write your own rules here are some ideas:

1. Decide how long you want to stop spending for: This would apply to non-essentials because obviously you will need to pay bills and buy food. I have decided to do this for a whole year but if you are accustomed to spending all the time it may be best to take it one day at a time and aim for a week then a month then two months and so on.

2. Write down what would fall under the essentials and non-essentials; for example no takeout coffee but you can buy beans to make it at home, no new skincare or makeup until you run out of that item, no new clothing unless something completely rips apart and you need another one, or if you spend a lot on takeout dinners and lunches then make it a rule that you must always bring your lunch.

3. Allow some flexibility or rewards for good behavior: Being too strict with yourself (unless you are in serious debt or unemployed) may cause you to feel too deprived that you end up in a binge-shopping situation. You could allow yourself a treat coffee from Starbucks maybe once a week/month, or promise yourself a new item if you can make it to the end of your challenge.

4. Make it a team effort! This no spend may be more challenging if you are doing with your boyfriend or husband but  you know what they say; misery loves company. If you are one of those people who like to look on the bright side, it may be worth having someone to motivate you and keep you honest while you endure this form of anti-retail torture.

5. Don't quit if you slip up! Keep going, I've noticed that part of this process is realizing what triggers your urges for impulsive spending and being aware of these thoughts makes it easier to avoid giving into them. So be kind to yourself if you have a moment of weakness.

6. Lastly focus on what matters, the good people in your life, without them life is pretty empty. Also focus on financial freedom, being debt-free gives you the power to spend on really awesome things like trips, home improvement and investing.

So how does minimalism play into my no spending? Well I really think they go hand in hand. I think it's the minimalist mindset and approach to living with less (and that the less you end up with is stuff you use, value, love and appreciate) that allows you to stop the mindless spending behaviors.

While I have struggled with the urges to spend (particularly online) I have done pretty well and I am proud of my progress thus far. I am also starting to delve a bit deeper into the "why" of my shopping addiction, when I have a thought, I recognize it and analyze it, then I occupy myself with cleaning, You Tube videos (on how to save, how to stop spending, how to live a minimalist life, how to invest and capsule wardrobes). One of my favourite new channels is Sugar Mamma tv! I spend time with my stuff, decide if I love it enough to keep it and if not, I get rid of it. I've also discovered podcasts such as Mo Money Mo Houses and Budgets and Cents which have been helping me to distract myself from shopping and get motivated to invest my money.

I've finally come to the place in my life where I realize that more stuff is not necessarily better, that the clutter is making me have serious anxiety because my house is constantly messy (two kids do not help with this) and the spending is making us broke. We are very close to be consumer debt-free and I realize that I want financial freedom more than I want the mini rush that shopping gives me.

I have gradually been going through my house and stripping it of all the stuff that I have been holding on to, simply because I felt bad getting rid of it. I will use that guilt that I feel, having paid money for something that I didn't truly love, to motivate me to avoid making impulse purchases in the future. Also to avoid buying things that are not good quality, after all I can't afford to buy cheap! With the way the economy is going, I think having money in the bank and in my purse, is much more savvy than 10 designer handbags waiting in my closet for their turn, or a pair of heels that may get worn twice a year.

I hope that other people are inspired to try this if only just for a month, You Tube has so many videos on this subject or you can google minimalism, 30 day challenge, no spend challenge, etc.

Until next time!

Erin

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