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How to Quit Buying Stuff

I devoted May to not buying things and it turned out to be a profound experience. Not only did I save money but it totally changed the way I experience buying things. My credit card loved it too! This is my take on how to quit buying stuff and why I did it.

My no-spend month was a profound experience. My credit card loved the spending freeze too! This is how to quit buying stuff and why I loved it. Not shopping = finding extra time and money for what you do love.

Most of the Challenge was at the Beginning

The first few days were rough; all I could think about were things I wanted to buy.  I am going to share that list with you but I am going to preface it with this. Even though I thought about a lot of things, I would never have gone out and bought them all. However, I’m sure I would probably have added a few to my list.

By day two at 10 AM, I had thought about buying tank tops, an Oprah magazine, a pepper mill, a sports bra, and curtains. Reading over this list from my journal, I just can’t believe it. I absolutely needed none of those things!

And then, amazingly, that urge to buy went away and it went away much sooner than I expected. My brain loved having a reason to not buy! By about week two, when the thought came that I needed to buy something, it felt good to have an excuse not too.

Weeks three and four were easy. I was feeling really good about not buying things. I had learned that I could substitute, borrow, or do without.

Travel and Not Buying Things

Travel seems to bring out the shopper in me. For some reason, I never think I have the right clothes for a destination. Usually I will pick up a couple of new items of clothing or new shoes for trip. I’ll buy a couple of books and magazines for the actual travel. And when I get to the destination, there always seems to be some kind of shopping involved.

However, I took a trip during May and it wasn’t a problem at all. While preparing for my trip, when the thought would come that I needed to buy something, I paused and reminded myself that I had everything that I needed.

During the trip, instead of shopping, we did other things. I reached out and connected with more people, had experiences, spent more time talking, invited people over. It turned out to be a great trip!

Finding Stuff Without Buying Things

One example stands out for me during this month. I used to have a cast iron skillet and for some reason, it didn’t come with me after my divorce. For a couple of months, I had been wanting to get a cast iron skillet or two for my kitchen but hadn’t gotten around to it because I wanted an old one and I hadn’t found the right one yet.

While visiting my mom, I told her about wanting a cast iron skillet but that I couldn’t buy it right now. She said, “I have three that I’ll never use. You’re welcome to any or all of them.” It turned out that she had three really nice skillets.

Not Buying Things Means Less Things

To those of us, trying to live with less without being deprived, not buying stuff absolutely means having less things. In another life, I used buying things as a way to feel better. It didn’t work and eventually I had too much stuff. Stuff does not make me happy! It took me a few years to slowly divest myself of all the extra stuff and I definitely do not want to ever go back to that.

Yesterday, I was with my sister shopping. She bought a really cute decoration for her own home. I immediately could see it in my own home and I was so tempted to get one for myself. The urge was very powerful! Thank goodness we were already in the checkout line or I would have gone and got one for myself. I didn’t. And today that desire is completely gone. To buy it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. But really, it was just a thing and in the end, a day later, I would have totally forgotten about it if I hadn’t written about it.

What About GREAT Sales?

Right at the beginning on day two, I felt I needed to buy two tank tops from Target to sleep in. They were on sale and because I had tried to buy them in April at a Target that didn’t have my size, I convinced myself that this was actually an April purchase.

The good news is that was my only cheat. I realized that I needed to stick with my rules. I can’t tell you how many other bargains I saw during the month. It is SO tempting to jump on a bargain. Honestly, once the desire passes, you just won’t think abut it again.

I devoted a month to not buying things and it was a profound experience. My credit card loved it too! This is how to quit buying stuff and why I loved it. Not shopping = finding extra time and money for what you do love.

How to Quit Buying Stuff?

Set some ground rules up. I listed the items that I would not be buying for the month. My list included clothes, shoes, books, make up, household or decorative items, and gadgets. I did buy groceries. I had a loaded Starbucks card from the month before so I could have a treat coffee now and then. Since I was traveling, I knew I’d eat out a few times and I allowed that. But the general idea was not to buy anything that couldn’t be consumed.

For the first few days, jot down all the stuff you think you need to buy. It might surprise you how much you think about it when you’ve decided to not buy stuff. It’s fun to see what seemed important and how fast the desire goes away.

Don’t be afraid to borrow or seek other solutions. I had a cookout for my birthday in May and borrowed the extra serving pieces I needed instead of buying any more stuff for my kitchen. I was happy to not have the extra expense or the chore of trying to find a place to store the stuff.

Set a definite time period. I liked doing a month challenge. It was long enough to to retrain my brain but not so long it became discouraging.

What This Experience Taught Me

I became aware of all the stuff that I thought I needed to buy but in reality did not need to buy. My brain was retrained to not automatically jump to the idea that I had to buy something if I felt I needed to.

By pausing and not purchasing things, either another solution appeared or the desire went away. It opened up my mind to other solutions and that things can come from other sources that don’t cost anything.

I have become a much more conscious shopper. I thought I was doing pretty good before, but this really pushed me to not buy anything on impulse even stuff that seemed like a bargain or something I needed. I saved money, which is always awesome, and I learned to appreciate the stuff I already own and make better use of it.

This is one experience that I highly recommend and that I plan to do again.

For ways to appreciate what you already have, read my post, The 5 Minute Gratitude Practice That Will Change Your Life.

I love reading your comments and hearing how you are living your Think Big Life. So join the conversation below.

Enjoy the journey my friends!

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Lifestyle Blogger and Influencer at My Think Big Life
Sara is a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now she can be found at My Think Big Life writing about health and personal growth.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Daria June 22, 2016, 11:35 am

    Awesome post! Thank you for sharing! I think many people today buy stuff to make themselves feel better. Shopping therapy, right? I sometimes find myself craving a trip to Home Goods 🙂 But there is a wonderful freedom in having less stuff. Less stuff to clean, less stuff to maintain…Now when I find myself wanting to shop I force myself to complete at least two of the items on my long to do list. Then the urge to shop passes!

    • Sara June 23, 2016, 9:18 am

      Hi Daria. That’s a great idea at the end of your comment. I am definitely purchasing more consciously but I’m human! I love the idea about tackling a couple of things on my to-do list when the urge hits. Thanks so much!

  • Rachel January 20, 2017, 2:34 pm

    A great post. We started a no spend month on the first of January. I can’t believe all the money we’ve saved so far. Just like you said I feel empowered by the experience and it’s not as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve also realised that I am the main spender in our house. So when I stop we save money. My husband is thrilled with me. He can’t believe the savings too. Keep up the good writing. Regards, Rachel, all the way from Ireland.

    • Sara January 20, 2017, 4:35 pm

      Hi Rachel! I’m glad you’re having such a good experience with a no-spend month. It completely cured me of just buying “stuff” and I am a much more conscious consumer now. Thanks for reaching out across the ocean. 🙂

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