Recently, we published an article about the benefits of being a minimalist. It was all about how downsizing your life can make you happier, healthier and more productive. What’s not to love about that, right? But I have to admit that personally, I’m a bit of what you’d call an ‘Instagram minimalist’. I love filling my apartment with minimalistic, Scandinavian-style homewares and reorganising my wardrobe. But by any standards, I still own a lot of stuff. Just ask my mum, who has a jam-packed wardrobe of my old clothes at her place! Unlike most people who have too many possessions, I’m not a hoarder. I can actually be pretty ruthless when it comes to getting rid of stuff. My problem is, I love buying new stuff!
I shop when I’m happy, I shop when I’m sad and most of all, I shop when I’m bored. But as fun and therapeutic as shopping is, it turns out you actually need money to do it! And thanks to a recent change from a fortnightly to monthly pay cycle and a few sky-high bills, I don’t have a lot of it at the moment. Knowing I’d need to do my Christmas shopping soon, I figured I needed to do something to get my finances under control. I decided it was the perfect time to try the ‘buy nothing new challenge’ For the month of November, I wasn’t going to buy anything apart from food (and coffee) and other essentials like toilet paper. Spoiler: it was tough and it didn’t exactly go to plan. Here’s what happened:
1. Week one
On the first morning of the challenge, I realised I had run out of deodorant. But I couldn’t believe my luck when the Lavanila Natural Deodorant landed on my desk that day to trial for a story. Win! The first day of the challenge also happened to be Melbourne Cup Day. Although I’m not a massive fan of horse racing, I decided to put $12 on a trifecta to make the race more interesting. Not off to a good start, but hey it would be worth it if I happened to back a winner. Then I wouldn’t have to do the challenge at all, right? Wrong. I won nothing and the challenge continued.
Day three was payday (woo!) but the majority of it went into catching up on bills and my savings account. Apart from my daily almond milk lattes and the occasional smoothie and takeaway meal, I really only spent money on topping up my Opal card during the week. I did go out with friends on the Friday night and bought a few drinks and an Uber home, but nothing too crazy.
That weekend, the cracks started to show. My partner is currently away for work and I didn’t have much planned. So, as the boredom crept in, I felt the inexplicable urge to spend money on something. I definitely didn’t need to buy anything new and I knew I’d regret it if I did. I knew the urge stemmed from wanting to keep myself busy and feel good about myself. So, I booked myself in for an eyebrow wax and lash lift on Saturday. I also went and had my mid-length, knotty hair coloured and cut into a much healthier looking lob. It was well worth it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had already breached the terms of my self-imposed challenge!
2. Week two
On Monday morning, I went to an event for work where they paid for our transport to and from the office. Score! But because I had been out of the office for so long that morning, I decided not to head out for lunch. I’d forgotten to do my usual Sunday food prep the night before, so found myself without any lunch. So, I decided it was a genius idea to get some Vietnamese rice paper rolls delivered directly to the office via Uber Eats! To cut a long story short, I waited more than an hour for my delivery guy before it became clear he wasn’t coming. I re-ordered, then told Uber what had happened. The legends gave me a $20 voucher and reimbursed by $10 order, so I actually made a profit. This meant that the following night, my dinner was free!
Apart from that, my spending was pretty on par with the week before (but without the expensive grooming!) On the weekend, I kept myself occupied by cleaning my apartment, catching up with friends and heading a dance class through my ClassPass membership. I was so busy that I wasn’t even tempted to shop!
3. Week three
In week three, I went off the rails. It started with downloading a new book on the Kindle app on my phone. I like having something to read when I’m on the bus and am not in the mood for scrolling through Facebook. I told myself that because I wasn’t physically buying a book, it didn’t count. But a few days later I ended up buying a magazine. I had no way to justify it: I just wanted to buy it before it went off the shelves! Then, on the weekend I bought a present for my work Secret Santa. It was a necessary purchase I was more than happy to make! But being around all the shiny new things in the department store seemed to trigger my desire to shop.
Later that day, I ended up buying a floral, red wrap dress I’d been eyeing in the window of a local boutique. I made the mistake of going in to try it on, when I should have just kept walking. Not only was it my size, but it was the last one and they weren’t ordering any more in. I told myself it was now or never and happily swiped my debit card. A few minutes later, the regret settled in. It was official: I had well and truly lost the challenge. I went back to my apartment and did a much-needed cull of my wardrobe. I put some of my old clothes on a Buy, Swap, Sell Facebook page and ended up making back most of what I’d spent. Maybe all was not lost?
4. Week four
The final week helped me get slightly back on track with my spending. I had my mum staying with me for the week and she shouted us dinner pretty much every night. Thanks, mum! I also had quite a few events on (including the Sporteluxe Christmas party), which helped me save a bit of money on food. On the weekend, I had family staying with me. We went to my local shopping centre and I had my nails done. Then, I happened to spy some stylish white sneakers in Vans. I’ve been searching for the perfect pair of months! In the interest of being honest with you: yes, I bought them. But don’t worry, the blisters my new sneakers have given me are a constant reminder of my lack of self-control!
5. What I learned
Well, it’s safe to say that my challenge didn’t quite go to plan. I’m a few days away from pay day now and am still no better off than I normally would be. But while attempting the challenge definitely didn’t make me any richer, it did make me wiser. It gave me some valuable insights into how and why I spend money. Here are the top 3 things I learned:
- Be mindful: Keeping note of everything I spent made me much more aware of where my money is going. I realised that even without all the extra bits and pieces, I spend way too much on coffee and takeaway food. It also made me aware of the fact that I may be spending money for the sake of it to fill an emotional void. Note to self: stay away from the shops when you’re feeling down or bored!
- Replace what you spend: I felt so much better about buying that red dress after I sold a few of my old clothes. This ‘one in, one out’ approach is something I intend to keep doing now. For instance, now that I’ve got a brand spankin’ new pair of white sneakers, I plan to sell my old ones.
- Out of sight, out of mind: I have a habit of going to shopping centres for a wander on the weekends. But I tend to find that window shopping always turns into actually buying things. When I stayed away from the shops, I found that the urge to spend money disappeared. So, in future, I’m going to ban myself from shopping centres unless I really need to buy something!