Shopping was once one of my favorite pastimes. It was my own personal form of therapy and how I spent a lot of my time with friends. However, after looking at my depressingly low savings account and my overcrowded closets, I embarked on a quest to quit shopping for an entire year. Here are 10 things I’ve learned from it.
There’s a huge difference between want and need. All my life, I’d made exceptions for temporary, short-lived shopping bans. I needed a new swimsuit for my next vacation. I needed a special water bottle just for the gym. I needed to buy a new book to read. If I was being honest with myself, I didn’t need these things at all. I had bathing suits in my closet, nothing was wrong with the water bottle I already had, and I could borrow books from libraries. It seems so simple, but it was a mind-blowing shift in perspective for me.
It’s possible to shop in my own wardrobe. I’ve spent a lot of my years staring into my closet, filled to the brim with messily arranged clothes, saying I have nothing to wear. Only when I forced myself to stop buying new clothes did I realize how wrong I was. I found out that I could get creative with my clothing choices. By mixing and matching, layering, and accessorizing, I could find countless new outfits using the clothing I already owned that made for new, inventive, and exciting looks!
Decluttering feels amazing. Quitting shopping meant I had a lot less clutter piling up around the house. The feeling of cleanliness this provided made me feel less stressed and much more comfortable—so much so that I started actively decluttering! I started getting rid of things I’d never used, things I hardly used, and items that simply weren’t necessary. I donated loads to charity and even began cleaning up my messy desktop on my computer and organizing apps on my phone. The less clutter I had in my home (and all aspects of my life), the happier I became.
The money you can save when you stop unnecessary purchases is amazing. We all logically know that not shopping saves money, but I had no idea just how much it could save until I realized I’d put so much potential shopping money into my savings that I was able to very easily go on a vacation with my partner towards the end of the 12-month shopping ban and still have loads left to spare. Imagine if I hadn’t shopped for, say, five years?
New experiences don’t need new looks. Whenever I had an invite to a party or planned to attend an event, I always headed straight to the store to purchase something appropriate for the occasion even when I had some perfectly alright options back home. There’s a funny idea a lot of us carry around that in order to look our best, we have to show up in something we’ve never worn before. After a whole year of being unable to do that, I say I can look absolutely fantastic in what I already have without any problem!
There are lots of things I forgot I owned. There’s nothing like a good ol’ dig in the closet in a desperate search to find something new to wear to remind you that you have lots of items you’ve never touched. In my hunt for a summery dress for a friend’s party, I not only stumbled across just that, but also two pairs of untouched shorts, some tops with the tags still on, and an old pair of jeans I’d forgotten. Just like that, I had new outfits again—and I was also ashamed for having forgotten I owned them in the first place! Surely if I liked them enough to buy them, I would have remembered them…
Following trends isn’t worth it. When I stopped shopping, the most valuable pieces in my wardrobe were those that were timeless. The ones that I bought on impulse based on the latest fashion trends became pretty dated a few months in. It’s not that someone can’t follow trends if they want to or that it’s “bad” to follow trends. It’s more that if you want to invest in pieces that you’ll be happy to wear again and again for years, your best bet is to avoid those trends.
Shopping takes up a lot of time. Shopping isn’t just about buying things. It’s about strolling through stores that you pass by, using days off to go to the mall, and spending ages in fitting rooms. When I stopped including these activities in my regular schedule, I found myself with lots of free time. I was able to take up a new hobby and even go back to playing music again every now and then. I go window-shopping or wander around a mall every once in a while still, but it doesn’t take up so much time.
Material things don’t equal success. Shopping made me feel good because it was like a tangible sign of my success in life. I’m working a job where I could earn enough money to buy certain things. I think there came a point where I was defining my life’s progress by my material possessions, which is why shopping was such a therapeutic experience for me—it was like a pat on the back saying I did well. Now that I can’t use shopping as a crutch for self-esteem anymore, I’ve discovered better, healthier ways.
Lots of things make me happy. Buying new things made me happy. It was like a rush of positive emotions each time. Forcing myself to give up this habit made me realize that there are actually lots of things in the world that make me happy and so many simple, small pleasures in life that make me smile. The world is beautiful and my life is full of potential—it’d be a shame to waste it all on material things!
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