I started my no-buy year with the hope to overcome my shopping impulse and to have an emergency fund. Little did I know that not only I managed to achieve that after not buying anything* for one full year in 2020, I’ve also learned so much from this year-long experience, which affects both my financial life and my life as a whole.
(*I did spend my money, check it out in My Spending Review of 2020)
And without planning on it, my no-buy year turned into the beginning of my personal growth year.
So here I am sharing with you 10 things and lessons that I’ve learned from this whole 12 months’ experience. At no particular order –
1. We already have what we need
Before this, I would always trick myself into buying something because – it’s important, I need them, they will improve my life and yada yada, the excuses went on – but after not buying anything for a year, guess what? I survived with everything that I already own.
That’s it, I learned that I don’t actually need any more than what I already have!
Which brings me to the next lesson.
2. We don’t use everything we buy and own
I still have random stuff or clothes that I bought in previous years that I just don’t use. Time to sell or give them away (P/s while I’m okay with not bringing new things home, I’m struggling to get rid of things from my life, help).
Now that I’ve learned these first two lessons, intentional purchase becomes my new keyword.
3. Desperation can be a good starting point
While other people jump into the no spend year for some minimalistic, ethical or environmental reasons, I started this simply because I was desperate. Haha I wish I have some grande reasons but nope, I was just desperate and frustrated. I was frustrated by my financial state and I was desperate to change it for the better.
So sometimes we don’t need any grande reason, purpose, or goal in life to do something. Sometimes all we need is to realize that we’re stuck in a hole of desperation and voila, there’s the goal – to work our way out of that hole.
4. I still spend money – to buy happiness
Sometime last year, I read Ringgit Oh Ringgit’s post on How to Buy Happiness based on the book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. It talked about how to spend money to buy happiness, which is based on these 5 core principles:
- Buy experiences
- Make it a treat
- Buy time
- Pay now, consume later
- Invest in others
Then I realized though I didn’t buy material stuff, I’m still happy! That’s because I spend my money on things that I value, especially no #1 and #5 above – doing activities and experiencing new things with my loved ones and treating others.
5. No buy year prompts me into spending money on others
Speaking of which, my rule was clear right from the beginning that I would continue treating others throughout the year despite not buying anything for myself. I didn’t want my desperation to save money turns me into a stingy person who is scared to spend money on and for other people.
Prior to this, my day would be me looking for things to buy for myself . Throughout my no-buy year, that urge slowly dissipated. Instead, when I see any interesting stuff, my brain would go, “Ah, Sara would love this.” So if my budget permits and especially if there’s occasion for it, I would get it for Sara.
I also stopped gifting people random gifts because I, myself, know how some gifts will be sitting on our cabinet collecting dust. I tried to become more intentional of what I got for other people which prompts to listen well in conversations, picking up hints of others’ possible needs and wants.
6. Those cheap purchases add up over time
I was aware of my problems back then – I love sales and cheap items. I won’t bother to look at the original price, you just have to put some discount posters or tell me I can only get this price today, and I’m all yours. One of my justifications would always be, “Alah this is so cheap, it’s okay, you can afford this. If you save this much also cannot become rich“.
So just imagine my surprise when I saved more than RM10k in 2020, which I would contribute hugely to this whole effort. Crazy right?!
7. We just have to start with one good habit for a domino effect
I shared briefly in my final update about the impact of this no-buy year to me –
Financially, I’ve grown and improved oh-so-much. I managed to have a positive shift in my money mindset; I found ways to tame my spending urge; I broke the bad habit of taking out my spending; I got into the habit of paying myself first; and most importantly, I finally have that mental peace having known my exact financial state.
Seriously, I’m not exaggerating. I started with restraining myself from buying things. Slowly I felt the positive mindset shift which then became a domino effect, impacting other parts of my life one by one, like a domino. I also started to focus inwardly, finding and trying ways to improve myself.
Perhaps because I cut out the distraction of always wanting material things? So my mind became more focused on what matters.
It’s not backed up by science (I didn’t do proper research on this) but that’s what I feel. Truly. Mark me as exhibit.
8. Be kind to yourself
My no-buy year was not a breeze. I struggled a lot. There were always challenges every month, many ups and downs. One moment you would find me accepting my faith my past self brought upon me and the next you would find me questioning why did I do this to myself. (Click here to read my monthly struggles)
When I messed up in May by buying books that were expressly not allowed in my rules, I almost gave up. I failed once, so just better stop doing this altogether right? Well that’s the thing that I learned, this is not supposed to be a perfect blissful journey. It would be bumpy and, it’s totally fine to fall and fail. Be kind to ourselves and bounce back. Which is why I still declare my No Buy Year as a successful one haha.
9. No buy year affects the way I spend my time
One clear proof of this is I spent way less time in the shopping mall last year. Yes, of course this pandemic was part of the reasons, but I just kinda lost interest in spending my weekends at the mall. If my family and friends brought me to the mall, I would gladly follow but I didn’t / rarely initiated it.
Instead, I got more into just chilling and sitting at any cafe and restaurants, talking while enjoying food and coffee. I love that sort of interactions much more now, compared to talking while strolling at the mall and getting distracted by the crowd or anything we see on display.
I also didn’t do much scrolling through online shopping platforms, or any influencers’ social media. It might be a stretch, but I will contribute this change to this no-buy thing. I think it’s because my mind becomes more at peace with what I already have that the part of my brain that was always on the lookout for new stuff stops going at full speed. Maybe.
10. I now know what I need on a daily basis
I would just reproduce the excerpts from my September update:
Before this, I didn’t put any attention to the necessities that I usually get every month. I would buy whatever that’s finished at home, or I would be walking down every aisle in the store and picked up whatever that I felt I needed. So my brain was always on the lookout mode – what to buy, what to get, what I need, what I want, what is finished.
This whole year I’ve been making the unconscious effort to figure out what I actually need and use on a daily basis. Now I have mental notes of everything I need for every category – frozen foods (my cooking skill is non-existent), produce, cleaners, skincare, makeup, and personal goods.
I think last month was when I became quite certain of what I actually need and the brands that I use. For instance, I just came to the realization that I don’t really do biscuits. I have been throwing out biscuits every now and then, but I kept buying biscuits every month because I thought that’s an adult thing to buy. Guess not.
ALL IN ALL
I never thought I would learn so much more out of doing this last year. So give it a try. Do a no buy or no spend day, week, month, or year. Up to you. I believe you can feel and learn one or two things as listed above, if not more.
Will I do this again in the future? Heck yes!
With that, let’s continue figuringgitout.