As you all know by now, I love a good budget challenge.
In 2019 my New Year’s resolution was to implement a shopping ban: I would not buy any clothes for the entire year.
I figured it was a good challenge in minimalism, since I was pretty sure I had more than enough clothes already and could stand to get rid of a few too.
I also wanted to do something impactful with the money I would save, so I calculated approximately how much I had spent on clothes the year before and used that money to make donations to local and international charities. This also helped keep me motivated so I wouldn’t give up. I mean, what kind of horrible person would I be if I decided a new shirt for me was more important than providing shelter or water for someone in need?
To be honest, it was pretty easy. Like I said, I already had more than enough clothes. And thankfully, even though I was a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding that year, I had purchased the dress at the end of 2018.
In March I decided to take it a step further, and tried the Project 333 challenge where you only wear 33 items of clothing (including shoes and accessories, excluding pajamas, under garments and workout clothes) for 3 months. That was fun too, even though sometimes my shoes didn’t really match my outfit. This reinforced the idea that I did not need as many clothes as the average girl (ie me) thinks she needs.
In case you’re wondering, nobody said (or probably even noticed) “Wow, you wear the same three sweaters all the time.”
I did make one exception to my shopping ban, to buy socks. I wore socks with holes in them for awhile until one day my client said “Tricia, you need to buy new socks.” So, I did.
I enjoyed the challenge of not buying clothes, and wanted to do something similar in 2020, but I realized something: my only remaining pair of jeans were likely not going to make it another full year.
So, I made a new resolution for 2020. I gave myself a clothing budget of $100 for the year. This ensured a few things:
I could continue donating the same amount of money, since I sold something for $100. I literally put the cash in an envelope and labelled it “Tricia’s 2020 clothing budget” so I couldn’t cheat.
This forced me to shop second hand when possible. I love thrifting for many reasons: it’s better for the environment, it saves you money, and depending where you shop, the money you do spend goes to local charities. It’s a win win situation.
It forced me to make a plan, and be intentional about my purchases, instead of buying something on a whim.
Oh yeah, and for both years I was not allowed to buy any dresses, since I already own so many. That was hard for me. I love dresses!
One specific thing I wanted in 2020 was a pair of athletic joggers for work. I checked at all my favourite thrift stores, but they didn’t have what I was looking for. So I went to the mall. Let me tell you, I could have spent my $100 just on a nice pair of joggers. But I went from store to store, looking and comparing. Finally, I found a pair on sale for $28 at Sport Check.
Overall, the last two years of not buying many clothes have been very valuable to me and has taught me a few things:
I already have more than I need. In fact, in the first year even though I wasn’t buying more clothes, I noticed I still wasn’t wearing all the clothes I had. It’s the classic 80/20 rule. I was able to donate some clothes and free up space in my closet, which felt great.
I learned to reuse and repair. As I mentioned, I love dresses. It was hard for me not to buy any new dresses for 2 years, so I came up with a solution. I took two floor-length bridesmaid dresses to my gracious Mother, and got her to hem them to knee length. That way I could wear them to less formal occasions and not look so much like a bridesmaid. Voila! Two “new” dresses. I also hand stitched some holes, and replaced some missing buttons on other items.
I learned to appreciate the clothes I already own. One of my favourite sweaters right now is a pink zip up that my sister bought me 6 years ago. It’s just so comfortable. The best part is she bought it second hand (and if you think that’s weird, that’s just us.) Knowing I couldn’t buy any clothes forced me to be grateful for what I have.
I stopped caring about fashion trends. In the past I cared about fashion, I was just bad at it. Now, I’m still bad at it, but I don’t care anymore. That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes THINK I should care about fashion, especially when I’m in the presence of a fashionista. But then I remember I have more important things to spend my money on. And also, I love my pink zip up.
I’m not against shopping, or having nice things. I do love the thrill of the hunt when looking for a good deal, and finding just-the-right-thing is always exciting. But I want to remember that material possessions will not bring me lasting joy or satisfaction. I want to remember the value discrepancy between a $25 shirt for me, or $25 that could provide clean water for someone for a month.
For 2021, I think it might be interesting to see if what I learned will stick if there aren’t any rules. Maybe I’ll just track my spending in a journal with comments about why I bought each piece.
2021 will be the true test. Will I remember what I learned and make wise choices? Feel free to keep my accountable, folks.
I hope you’ve been inspired by this post to reflect on your own shopping habits. If you decide to try a shopping ban for yourself, let me know and I’ll cheer you on!