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I Spent $2400 on ‘Stuff’ Last Year. How Did That Happen?

February 6, 2018
I Spent $2400 on 'Stuff' Last Year. How Did That Happen? | Tiny Ambitions

To be more specific, I spent $2408.94 on ‘stuff’ last year. Stuff being miscellaneous, clothing, books, and toiletries. As part of my 2018 Shopping Ban (and on the nudge of my friend Luxe over at the Luxe Strategist), I went back through my transactions for the last year and added up everything that wasn’t an absolute necessity. Essentials in my case include rent, food, car insurance, and gas.

Like I talked about in a recent episode of Tiny Bites, I was resistant to going through my transaction history for a final, total number. I was worried about what it would say about me as a minimalist. But, I realized that no matter what the number was, the number itself is just a fact. It’s a fact of how I spent my paycheques over the last year. It’s just a number. Any emotional baggage I add to the number is my own doing, not the numbers. I’ll get into the emotional baggage a little later.

To be as transparent as possible here’s a complete breakdown of my ‘stuff’ over the last year.



I Spent $2400 on Stuff Last Year. How Did That Happen? {Pin} | Tiny Ambitions


This is mainly stuff from online retailers where I couldn’t clearly tell what category it fell into (aka it starts with an A and ends with an n). Think tech, cables, the odd household product, etc. The moral of the story here is that small purchases are easy to overlook and they add up quickly.


This number was high but not as high as I was expecting.  I stocked up on a lot of basics that I love (like Canadian made undergarments). I also switched jobs this year which required me to add some business casual items to my one pair of dress pants and three blouses.


Apparently, e-books add up! I even did a book ban for part of last year and my spending is in this area is still higher than I’d like. Most of the books I purchase tend to be e-cookbooks. So, at least I know I’ll get more out of then than a novel – which I almost never re-read.


This total surprised me – a lot. That’s a lot of money for someone who does a bare minimum of makeup daily. I’m hoping to chip away at this total during the shopping ban by using up everything I have under the bathroom sink and by making my own basics (like deodorant and lip balm) using surplus ingredients I already have on hand.

So, how did this happen?

I’ll be honest, I really didn’t want to write this part. I did everything else in my house that I could think of before sitting down and being honest with myself. This included cleaning my apartment, working out, reorganizing my bathroom cupboard, making three different multi-cooker meals, putting away dishes – the works. I was looking for any excuse not to have to write this part. Because what it all boils down to is that I’m still not the mindful consumer that I wish I was (and that I like to portray myself as here). My compulsive shopping habits still rear their ugly head from time to time, and the result is the number in the title bar in this post.

Let me give you some examples.

I know for a fact that the makeup and toiletry total is higher than it should be given how much product I actually use on a daily basis because I pressured myself into buying some fancy cosmetics for a girls weekend I had planned in December. With my best friends. The best friends who literally wouldn’t care if I showed up in sweatpants and a messy bun. Yet, I convinced myself I needed something new and sparkly to paint on my face to make me worthy of their attention. To show them that my life was, in fact, going according to ‘plan’. Whose ‘plan’ that is, I’m not entirely sure.

And then, there’s the clothing total. It’s true I did genuinely need to buy some more clothes for my new position – my work from home wardrobe of yoga pants was certainly not going to cut it. But, I still went a little overboard because I was imagining I was going to magically turn into some corporate city-style type person. Then I showed up for my first day of work and realized I had misinterpreted the dress policy. I still needed to look professional and put together, but not to the tune of $996. I could have gotten away with some less fancy pieces. But, I created this image in my head of what I thought professional me needed to look like in order to be taken seriously (by myself and my colleagues).

Finally, the books and magazines. I used to have a serious magazine buying problem. Any fashion magazine was very much fair game for me. I broke that habit for good a couple of years ago, but the odd one still slips in every now and then. My real kryptonite is e-books. When most of them retail for only $9.99 it makes it hard to say no. Of course, I need every paleo cookbook ever written – how else will I find recipes I can make to impress the people around me? Do I ever look through any of them? Of course not, that’s what the Internet is for.

Dealing with the Spending Guilt

I know it probably doesn’t sound like it, but, I’m trying not to feel guilty about the fact I spent $2400 on ‘stuff’ last year. Mainly because it’s not like I can go back and change it. That’s what I spent last year – it’s just a fact. This year will be different. The shopping ban will help with that. I don’t track my spending like this on a daily basis (I can hear my personal finance friends gasping), so this was really interesting.

To see where your money has gone over the course of the year is an eye-opening exercise. I’m genuinely surprised by some things, which is why the shopping ban has come at exactly the right time. I’m glad I did this exercise because it’s given me a baseline from which to compare this year’s spending. I don’t think I’m automatically going to save $2408 this year. Some things (like toiletries and makeup) will still need to be replaced. But, I do know I won’t be spending anywhere near that number on stuff specifically. And, that’s a darn good feeling.

Have you ever tracked your spending like this? Did the results surprise you?

Next week on the blog, I’m going to be sharing my one-month shopping ban update, plus some new rules based on feedback from readers (aka you guys). If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, all about my phone being out of sight and out of mind, you can listen to it here.

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Jmidu February 10, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Don’t beat yourself up on what you spent or what you brought home! You are allowed to be happy and make an occasional purchase of something you like. Think of how little you spent not how MUCH you spent. Don’t let the focus be on NOT buying. Let the focus be on “did I enjoy life last year”. Big picture.

    • Britt February 10, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      That’s a good perspective! It’s not really the number value that bothers me. It’s more that I could have been more mindful in what I was actually purchasing.

  • Erin | Reaching for FI February 8, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I’ve been meaning to do this myself for 2017 but I keep resisting it. I tracked my spending all year and know I’ve made some progress in being more mindful, but I’m still afraid of what I’ll find. Those aspirational purchases are sneaky and sometimes hard to tell when they’re happening, and I love how much Cait went into that in her book!

    But I love your point that there’s no use beating yourself up about the number: it’s money spent and you can’t change that. Better to learn from it and try to be better as you move forward.

    As for cookbooks, since you’re using ebooks anyway and not paper ones: how many of those recipes can you find online? I bought an app for my phone called Paprika for my recipes and I LOVE it. I can pull up any recipe online and save it to the app, which cuts out all the non-recipe information in the post and separates out the ingredients and directions. It also does things like lets you highlight sections, cross off ingredients you’ve already used, pull up a recipe and add some or all of the ingredients to your shopping list, and it keeps the screen of my phone on when I’m in the app so I don’t have to worry about unlocking it when my hands are dirty. Honestly it’s more than worth the $5 I spent on it. If your recipes have been posted online, maybe you could look into using that instead of buying cookbooks? (I *want* to say it’s available for Androids, but I’m not actually 100% sure of that.)

    • Britt February 8, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Those aspirational purchases are so sneaky! They’re like little goblins trying to convince you that you’re not good enough as you are. I also loved that about Cait’s book. I’m working on a (glowing) review of it – should be coming out in a couple weeks.

      Thank you so, so much for that app recommendation. It sounds amazing. My number one pet peeve of online recipes is the post before the recipe. I just want to get straight to the good stuff. That, plus the ability to not ruin my phone with dirty hands – makes the app seem so worth it. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that’s its available for Android.

      P.S. If you go through and add everything up like I did, I’ll be here cheering you on! It’s not an easy thing to do mentally, but definitely worth it to see where you stand. Thanks for reading and your comment!

      • Erin | Reaching for FI February 8, 2018 at 9:23 pm

        I keep meaning to write my own review of Cait’s book, too. Definitely would be a glowing one—maybe I’ll just cosign yours when it comes out haha 😉

        Yessssss it looks like it is available for Android (oh I’m so glad because I was going to feel bad if it wasn’t)! Also this article is super-useful and talks about a few features I didn’t know about:

        Ah thanks, Britt. I suspect it’ll happen eventually and I’ll let you know when it does 🙂

        • Britt February 8, 2018 at 9:43 pm

          You’re definitely welcome to co-sign mine! It’s taken me a while to solidify my thoughts on it because it was such an impactful book.

          Thanks for the article- I’m very intrigued!

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment February 8, 2018 at 12:25 am

    What an interesting exercise, Britt. I really like that you differentiate between the numbers and how you feel about those numbers. It reminds me that things are only the way they are to us because of the way we perceive them – something I’m trying to keep very present in my mind at the moment. Good on you for confronting those tough emotions and your feelings of guilt despite the extreme discomfort of doing so. I can relate to that feeling of when our image of ourselves doesn’t line up with our reality, and I can say from experience that it hurts. I’m trying to remind myself that even if I want to change in the future, it’s ok to be where I am right now, just as I am.

    Seeing as I’ve been tracking my spending since the beginning of January, I now have a full month of data and it has certainly been very eye-opening! I’ve been pleased so far that I’m spending relatively little on ‘stuff’, since I’m limited to secondhand and have been put off shopping a bit because of that, but it has still added up to quite a lot. It will be really interesting to review my spending regularly to see how the months compare with one another.

    Thanks for sharing Britt!

    • Britt February 8, 2018 at 7:22 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Lisa. They really mean a lot! It is a good feeling to know there are other people out there who have felt the same thing that I’m feeling. I guess we’re all works in progress- I have to remind myself of that everytime my image doesn’t line up with my reality.

      It will be interesting to see how your months compare across your shopping ban. I wonder if any trends will become obvious! I’m kind of a data nerd so I love finding patterns in that sort of stuff lol

      • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment February 9, 2018 at 3:14 pm

        No worries Britt 🙂 You are doing great!! 😀

        It will definitely be interesting to see if any trends crop up. Mr SLE is a data nerd too, so being around him encourages me to see numbers differently!

  • Jennifer | Honey Rule February 7, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    wow. great post britt. and yeah i get it, admitting you still have that spending person lying low in there is tough. i watched myself spend $4k in one month on fun stuff (clothes, books, electronics, etc). i’m very interested to try this exercise… and my numbers will surely astound me. i wouldn’t be surprised if my numbers for the categories you outlined were in the tens of thousands 😧

    • Britt February 7, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks, Jennifer! It’s definitely not fun to admit I’m still a work in progress, but isn’t everybody? Good luck to you if you end up tracking your numbers – I’ll be cheering you on!

  • Secret Agent Woman February 7, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Just before I started my no-shopping year in January, I added up all my purchases in just two categories from the previous year – clothes and restaurants. Our clothing purchases – mine and my husband’s – were about $2K and our restaurant spending (not including restaurants on three bog trips we took!) not far behind. I was horrified. And bringing it all to a screeching halt seemed like the only sane answer. I seriously think that when the year is up, that I won’t be buying any new work clothes for the rest of my career. I’m doing the same thing – blogging updates on my shopping ban to keep myself accountable. A month and a day in: so far, so good!

    • Britt February 7, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      That’s awesome! Good for you for keeping yourself accountable. The numbers can be shocking at first (mine were for sure), but then they give you a really clear path of how to change course if you want things to go differently. Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to follow along on your journey!

    • rhinophile February 7, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      I read your review of the Gentle Swedish Art of Death Cleaning and loved it! I would like to follow your blog but couldn’t work out how to do it. Can you help? (Isn’t Britt’s blog awesome!)

      • Britt February 7, 2018 at 6:01 pm

        You are too kind! ❤️

  • The Luxe Strategist February 7, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Britt, I’m glad you went in and tracked all the spending on stuff! I actually was thinking of tallying up all the spending I’ve done too (not just on clothes, but on makeup and knick knacks, just out of curiosity). But this post brings up a good point–are minimalists not allowed to spend money? I mean, you can have fewer things, but are they supposed to be cheap, too? What if you have 3 things, but you spent $250 on each? Still a minimalist or no?

    • Britt February 7, 2018 at 5:33 pm

      This is a bone of contention inside and outside of the minimalist community. I personally don’t think it matters. If you want to spend a lot of money (whatever that means to you), on something you truly love and enjoy, fine. Same goes if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on something.

      For me, it more comes down to making midnfuk purchasing decisions, no matter what the dollar value is. I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money on “higher quality” goods to be a minimalist (some would argue you do, or that minimalism is elitest for this reason). I also don’t think you have to spend the absolute minimum to be a minimalist. You can be frugal without being a minimalist and vice versa.

      Hope this makes sense! It’s a really good question so thanks for asking it!

  • Jessica February 7, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I have to start working on our taxes for last year soon and there was no budget or mindful spending. That didn’t start until November. I’m nervous to see how we wasted money last year.

    I’ve been purging stuff for a while now, but i think i’m ready to start a new round. I feel a bit like the stuff is encroaching on me even though I have less stuff than I used to. I don’t now about the official version of the MinsGame, but I’m game for 1-2 items a day. I feel like if i rush it i’ll just end up repurchasing stuff. Plus i didn’t get all this stuff in a month why rush to get rid of it all that quickly?

    • Britt February 7, 2018 at 12:35 pm

      Try not to be too hard on yourself – you’re on the right track now, so next year’s taxes will be much easier.

      As for the MinsGame, I completely agree. I did do the fast version, and now I wish I had taken more time. I haven’t had to repurchase anything in three years, but I would have liked to be more mindful about where I donated certain items.

      Thanks for reading!

  • rhinophile February 6, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    After my husband died last year, I spent an absolute fortune. I have been meaning to go back over the bank statements to see how I spent so much money. Seems it’s a bit of a thing, a rather unfortunate one as now I have to get back on track, stop spending money as a salve for my sadness, get a job and get on with my life. In a way it showed me how much harder it can be to live up to one’s own standards when sidelined by loss and grief, in whatever form it arises. Thanks for this post, I plan to follow your lead and get those bank statements out of their virtual drawer!

    • Britt February 6, 2018 at 4:02 pm

      I am so sorry for your loss. Our emotional state definitely impacts our finances and how we spend our money. I’ll be cheering you on as you start this chapter of your life.

  • Liz February 6, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    The first thing I thought when I saw the breakdown of your spending from last year was that I felt like it wasn’t bad at all. Unfortunately, I spent almost $500 in one transaction for make up last year . Now that’s a problem! I’m not ready to do a year-long shopping ban but it did give me a heads up. I get too easily sucked in with coupons, points, special events, etc. Yikes.

    • Britt February 6, 2018 at 4:05 pm

      My spending number definitely could have been hire. I guess I’m just not happy with how my emotional state impacted how I spent my money. It’s something I’d like to work on, no matter the dollar value attached to it. Thanks for reading!

  • Amanda February 6, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Before moving in my now-husband, I used to track every cent I made or spent. I was pretty good and not spending on “things” but fast food was my weakness. It kinda made sense… I lived alone, worked 13 hours a day between 2 jobs, so fast food saved me time. It’s not that I spent a ridiculous amount on food over all back then, but it was like 80% fast food and 20% groceries. I definitely could have planned better and saved more money. But of course you don’t realize how quickly $5 here and $10 there adds up!

    • Britt February 6, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      That’s what this exercise taught me – small amounts here and there add up! Thanks for sharing, Amanda.

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.