No Spend November: a month without shopping

In making an active decision to start living my life in a much more eco conscious way, I’ve had to confront one of the biggest causes of shame in my life: my love for shopping. Not just clothes shopping, but shopping for gear for my job, papers and inks and tools for my hobbies, teas for my tea collection, home furnishings, towels …

It is a horrible addiction. Scratch that, I need to own this: I have a horrible addiction. But addiction is something I have come to terms with before, and successfully overcome before, so there is hope.

November is such an ugly month for consumerism; Black Friday through Cyber Monday screams BUY! BUY! BUY! and of course there’s Christmas just around the corner, which to me has always been an excuse to think about what frivolous items I can ask for for myself and what can I shop for for others. (Is the order of that previous sentence a little too telling?)

So, what better time to take a break from it all? I decided a few days ago that I needed a reset for my shopping habits, especially as my busy season is drawing to an end and I’ll have yet more time to waste “window shopping” online for clothes and accessories.

No Spend November means different things to different people. Here’s what it means to me.

My No Spend November Rules

  1. I will not purchase any clothing, accessories, outerwear, undies, etc. Nothing that is worn. Not new, not thrifted. I have plenty of clothes, I have survived many winters in the clothes I already own, and I will appreciate what I have and what it can do for me.
  2. I will not make any purchases for my hobbies. If I need a tool I don’t have, I will find another way to do things. If I think I need a different type of paper, I’ll survey what I have and manipulate the project to make it work.
  3. I will not buy anything for the home aside from absolute essential consumables: toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, and a multi-tasking soap such as Dr. Bronner should our shampoo or shower gel supply run out. I almost added paper towels, but rags are much better for the environment and we still have plenty of old towels and t-shirts we can cut up despite a recent purge.
  4. I will not purchase anything for my job with one exception: if one of my cameras or lenses gets damaged beyond repair or stolen, I will use insurance money to replace the item (this is more cost effective in the long run as my insurance coverage is excellent; it is also very unlikely that I will need to make this exception).
  5. I will attempt to not “window shop” during this time (in quotation marks because most of my shopping and shopping-without-purchasing takes place online). I would love to say that I won’t window shop at all, but I want to be realistic, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure. My hope instead is that as the month goes on, the frustration of not being allowed to make purchases will naturally curb my shopping habit.

No Spend Restrictions are Personal

As I’ve been starting to read about others’ approaches to “no spend” months, I’ve found that many take it to the extreme, choosing to forgo meals out, experiences, and other non-tangible expenses.

I’ve decided that the non-tangible purchases I make generally have a positive impact in my relationships (dinner out with a friend or my husband, tickets to a show with friends) and they are separate from the addiction I have to purchasing things. So for me, there is no need or desire to limit these purchases, at least this time around.

I also won’t be limiting my spending on food and other necessary consumables; I follow a pesca-vegan diet and if I am to get the best possible nutrients into my body, I need to buy fresh, organic ingredients which generally means spending a lot more than is “necessary”. I’m 100% OK with this.

I also will happily spend money on refueling my CharlieCard (subway/bus pass) so that I can continue to use public transport, and I will also likely take a few Lyft/Uber rides, especially if I’m hauling gear around the city.

Summary (TL;DR)

In short, the aim of this month is to improve my quality of life. This means hitting the reset button on my horrible shopping addiction by choosing not to purchase any clothes, goods, supplies, etc. No things. I will continue to purchase experiences (dinner out, tickets to shows and galleries) and food without restrictions.

I’m expecting it to be tough and eye-opening. And I really hope that a month is long enough that I can make some major long-term changes to how I spend money.


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