I had this bad habit of spending money to buy unnecessary things without thinking; I buy first, I think (and 99.8% of the time, regret) later. That has changed throughout this year as I’m now in my final weeks of a no-buy year which I started in January 2020. It is my attempt to reset my spending habit and I’m glad to say that it works!
If you have the same issue of compulsive buying as me, or you would like to minimize your stuff purchases for any reason, or you would just like an arguably fun challenge for yourself – this is a perfect time to start a no-buy year!
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A NO-BUY YEAR
If you are considering to embark on a no-buy year, here’s what you can do in preparation for the no-buy year.
1. DECIDE WHY YOU WANT TO DO A NO-BUY YEAR
Anything in life that you do without knowing exactly why you do what you do tends to not last long when you start questioning yourself along the way. Hence, it is important to first determine your goals or aims in doing something. Similarly for a no-buy year, it is important for you to know why you want to do a no-buy year.
Personally, my goals back then were two:
First of all, I need to save money. My biggest financial goal in 2020 is to have untouched ringgit in my bank account. This year I’m working towards having an emergency fund and savings so hopefully, by next year or perhaps even earlier, stop the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck!
Secondly, I have to stop my habit of impulse buying. Some of the purchases that I made within the past 6 months did not even last long or I no longer like them. What a waste! Those purchases were not expensive but you know the saying – small leaks will sink a great ship.My first no-buy year post in January 2020
Sit down, observe, and review your financial state and spending habits and decide why you want or need to do a no-buy year. Some goals can be:
- To save money for an emergency fund or any other purpose, i.e. retirement, buying a house etc.
- To stop the habit of impulsive buying
- To get out of the cycle of consumerism
- To live a more intentional/minimalist lifestyle without being drowned by stuff
- To be more environmentally-friendly as you reduce your items purchases
2. SET YOUR NO-BUY YEAR RULES
Next, set your very own customized no-buy year rules. The same way you determine your goals, that’s how you set your no-buy year rules. Reflect on your spending habits and see whether there is any category of spending that is unnecessary or you tend to overspend. No worries, there is no specific rule set in stone.
The categories to determine (based on my own no-buy year rules) include:
- Apparel and clothing
- Books and stationery
- Monthly subscriptions
- Groceries and eating out
- Skincare and makeup
- Electronic devices and accessories
- Home decor and furniture
- Travel, social, dates and activities
Decide for yourself and classify and set the ground rules for each category above for your no-buy year. I keep it simple by classifying into the following categories:
- Things I can’t buy
Things that I’m willing to cut and not buy for the whole year. I also set some exceptions to cater to every possible scenario such as I can buy a replacement when any item listed here go kaput, expired, or torn apart.
- Things I can buy
Things that I don’t want to compromise and will still buy and spend money on but with a budget. For example, health (never compromise your health), my existing monthly bills, food (to survive), gifts and donations, and experience.
- Things I may buy (but preferably not)
The key to not breach your rules is to be realistic. There can be certain things that you would have to buy during the year. For instance, you’re about to have a baby next year so you would have to buy baby stuff.
Read my rules in detail here.
One year is a long journey so you don’t want to go extreme (up to you by the way). While aiming for a successful no-buy year, please do not forget to have fun during the year. So give yourself some allowance and legroom to spend money on the things that you value, or better, not things but experiences.
One more thing, review your rules from time to time. This is not an all-or-nothing thing. If along the way you find some rules are not working, then revise them. I personally had to relax my rule for books, from cannot-buy-at-all to can-buy in May 2020. Read more here.
Having set the rules, time to live by those rules.
3. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Perhaps prior to starting a no-buy year, you’re still not able to have that positive money mindset that buying unnecessary things is not healthy for your financial state in the long run. That’s fine, I only manage to slowly instill the habit throughout the months.
Nevertheless, it is important at this juncture to set your mindset into CAN DO mindset. You CAN do a no-buy year. You CAN not buying anything for one whole year. You CAN persevere. You CAN achieve your goals. Having this mindset helps me a lot during those moments when I felt like giving up.
4. UNSUBSCRIBE, UNFOLLOW AND REMOVE SHOPPING EMAILS, ACCOUNTS AND APPS
Marketing and advertising are powerful dangerous tools that can trap people with impulsive buying tendency and low self-control, especially now that they have encroached on our private lives through our phones. Everywhere we are (online or offline), we are always bombarded with ads, ads, and ads. The annoying part of the online ads is that they always seem to show what we want or just talked or thought about. Ishhh.
So let’s remove all those unnecessary marketing, advertisement and temptations. Do these even if it is not for a no-buy year:
- Delete shopping apps on your phone or gadget
- Unsubscribe to any mailing list from shopping websites
- Unfollow shopping accounts in social media or any influencer that can tempt you
I did this early January 2020 when the temptations were sooo real. They work! Plus no more annoying 4398110 emails in my inbox from any shopping website!
5. FIND YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNERS
I would like to first thank those few people who follow my no-buy year journey and drop comments from time to time. Because you keep me accountable. Because whenever I felt like just buying things (because duhh no one knows), I stopped myself as I don’t want to have to report my failure in my monthly updates.
That’s the reason why we need an accountability system. I choose to share my journey here in Figuringgitout and I also share this with my partner. He keeps me in check all the time.
So please do that as well. Tell your family and friends to be your support system throughout your no-buy year.
6. BUY NEEDED ITEMS / DO A LITTLE SHOPPING
Amongst everything in this list, this is one thing that is not necessary at all. I’m just sharing this here because this was what I did in December. It was part of my preparation to get myself ready for my no-buy year. I went shopping, bought things, and treated myself well in December haha.
You can skip this if you want but it’s good to have that one last taste of shopping before going cold turkey on shopping.
7. FIND AN EFFICIENT WAY TO TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
This was something that I, unfortunately, did not do in starting my no-buy year. I just keep track my expenses as usual and see how much I save for that month. So I’m unable to actually pinpoint how much my no-buy year contributes to that savings. But I believe it is a big factor that allows me to not touch my savings this year.
In hindsight, these are what I would consider doing in order to efficiently track my expenses and the successfulness of my no-buy year:
- Finish all the items at home without buying anything new and keep track of the items I manage to empty out;
- Set aside the money that I would usually use to buy any particular category of items that I no longer buy during my no-buy year and see how much I manage to save for each category.
If that’s too troublesome for you, just track your income and expenses and your savings progress in general.
8. START SMALL
If not buying anything for 12 months seems daunting to you or you just want to give this whole challenge a taste, start small! You can start with a no-buy week or a no-buy month. Set up a week or a month where you promise yourself that you won’t buy anything unnecessary. You can follow the above guide as well.
Heck, if that’s too much for you, you can also do a no-buy shopping mall trip. Do not buy anything when you go for the weekend shopping mall trip. In other words, just go window shopping. If you want that to be challenging, go during sales and set rules to not buy anything.
It doesn’t matter what and how you do it, so long as you start and give it a try. Trust me, I can slowly feel the change in my money mindset and spending habit throughout this year, all thanks to my no-buy year (and the courage of my past-self in deciding to do this).
ALL IN ALL
When I was considering to do a no-buy year, I was unsure whether this whole thing would succeed. However, I decided to do it anyway because I was determined (and desperate) to achieve my financial goals. I’m glad that I made that decision and prepared myself accordingly.
So if you’re currently in the same position as me a year ago and are also considering to do a no-buy year, just do it. Follow the list above to prepare yourself, YOU CAN DO THIS. Hope the list helps.
Let’s continue figuringgitout.