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My Year-Long Shopping Ban By The Numbers

January 29, 2019
My 2018 Shopping Ban - By The Numbers_ Tiny Ambitions

One of the main reasons I did a shopping ban last year was to save money. I had just spent a small fortune on car repairs (apparently, that’s just a theme for me) and a ban on buying stuff seemed like it would be the easiest way to get my finances back on track.

Before I started the ban and because I’m a nerd, I went through my purchases for the previous year and determined that I spent $2400 on stuff. I knew I wouldn’t spend zero this year – I would still need to purchase certain things. But, I figured any reduction would be helpful.

So, how much did I spend during my shopping ban compared to my ‘normal’ year? Well, let’s get into the numbers.

Shopping Ban Year      Previous Year
Toiletries & Makeup:   $185.06   $407.50
Clothing & Accessories:   $502.48   $996.60
Books:   $47.57   $294.19
Miscellaneous:   $740.43   $710.65
Total:   $1475.49   $2408.84

These numbers include things I was allowed to buy as part of the ban, like toiletries and makeup once I ran out, plus gifts and items for travel. These numbers also include the purchases that came up as surprises – like the fancy dress I purchased for a work function.

Books and Clothes and Accessories, Oh My!

Right away, it’s pretty clear that I saved substantially on clothing & accessories, books and toiletries and makeup this year.

In fact, this year, I only purchased three books and it took a lot of deliberation to pull the trigger. These books include Cait Flanders memoir (obvi), Matty Matheson’s debut cookbook, and Samin Nosrat’s epic Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Everything else on my 2018 reading list, I borrowed either digital or paper copies from my local library.

As clothing was the single biggest category last year, I’m very pleased with the progress I’ve made in reducing it. Almost every clothing purchase I made this year was from a second-hand source which I think helped reduce the total amount spent. I also just purchased fewer items of clothing overall.

It’s Expensive to Look This Good (lol)

I’m pleasantly surprised that my toiletries and makeup spending is as low as it is considering I still purchased a fair amount of products over the course of the year when I needed them or when they were on sale. Though this number is quite low ($185.06), I don’t think it’s something I will be able to sustain in the future since I won’t have the same stockpile to draw from anymore. The DIYs I tried this year also had a sizable impact on my toiletry and makeup spending. A lot of it was trial and error, but at least I tried.

M is for Miscellaneous

The category that continues to stump me, just like it did last year is Miscellaneous. I somehow managed to spend more in this category than I did last year and I think that comes down to a few key purchases. First, I expanded my knitting supplies so I could pick back up my hobby towards the end of 2018. Second, I DIY’d a lot this year. In order to do some of my DIYs, I needed supplies like fermentation weights (for my pickling experiments), and a new solid state drive (to keep my 8-year-old laptop running). Third, I also purchased some new (to me) wireless headphones to help get me back into the gym – which is a habit I’m happy to say has mostly stuck.

All in all, I don’t regret anything I’ve purchased in this category. But, it still serves as a good reminder that spending in this area can add up quickly if I don’t pay close attention to it.

But, Did I Actually Save Money?

Just looking at these totals ($1475.49 vs. 2408.84), it would be easy to think that my shopping ban saved me $1000. But, that’s not entirely the case. My total spending in these categories may have decreased, but I didn’t add an extra $1000 to my investments or savings accounts. In fact, I checked my accounts and I saved roughly the same amount this year as last year.

Why don’t I have an extra $1000 floating around in my pants pockets and couch cushions? There’s a very good, house-shaped reason for that.

Oh Right, We Bought a House

In case you missed it, we bought a house last year and (get ready for the newsflash of the century), houses are expensive.

Beyond the cost of purchasing the house, and closing costs and home inspections, I spent $1500 on home-related purchases last year and that’s just my half (and also only half the year as we bought the house in June).

Now, house spending wasn’t included or excluded from my shopping ban because I never in a million years thought I would be buying a house last year. That being said, some of the stuff we’ve purchased for the house has been necessary (like a lawn mower and a dehumidifier). And some stuff has been more wants, like a handmade map of Canada made out of recycled wood to hang up in our living room.

I’m actually pretty happy that I spent more money on our house than on stuff solely used by me. I love my house and don’t regret any of our home-related purchases thus far.

I don’t think my shopping ban had the effect I intended (re: saving money). However, I do think it was an interesting experiment and has taught me a lot about my own consumption habits (more on that in the future).

Now that you’ve seen the numbers – how do you think my shopping ban went? Are you surprised by any of the numbers here? Do you track your total spending on an annual basis? Let me know in the comments!

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Lizzyfied February 18, 2019 at 9:31 am

    This was so interesting to read! I only started tracking my annual expenses last year, but I can’t wait to compare 2018 to 2019. I am not on an official buying ban, but do want to be more intentional with my purchases this year. So I am intrigued to see if that makes any difference in my savings.

    • Britt February 18, 2019 at 9:37 am

      Good luck with making more intentional decisions with your money this year! It is definitely interesting to have years worth of data to compare. I can’t imagine that being more mindful in your money wouldn’t make a difference. Once you start paying attention to your spending, it really does make you change what you want to spend your money on.

  • Abigail February 12, 2019 at 9:44 am

    I definitely don’t track my numbers annually. I don’t even break down my budget by category. Instead, I give myself a set amount of money that needs to last at least 7 days. Since the divorce, the “weeks” have been lasting closer to 10 days (and including more expenses that normally just went on the card), so I know I’m spending less overall. Now if I could stop getting hit with unexpected expenses, my credit cards might just reflect that…

    • Britt February 12, 2019 at 9:46 am

      That’s an interesting way to manage your spending – I’d never considered that. And I completely understand about unexpected expenses. We’ve had so many since Christmas that I’ve almost come to expect them!

  • Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE February 11, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Congrats on the shopping ban! A good by-product of changing spending is that it serves as a reminder to what you really need and/ or want and what you can do without. You may decide to bring spending back up in some categories, but you may also realize you don’t need what you bought before. I think the tracking you did will be helpful for much more than the one-time $1,000 you saved. Will you focus on different categories going forward? Will you focus on raising income v. cutting expenses for the next experiment? Will you track time next? Lots of interesting experiments to change the way we live.

    • Britt February 18, 2019 at 9:39 am

      Thanks, Caroline! It was certainly an interesting experiment. I think I may continue the shopping ban in a much more unofficial capacity moving forward. I’d like to increase my income as well, but I’m still mulling my options on how to do that. Thanks for reading!

  • Tread Lightly, Retire Early February 10, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    I’d say you still did save that $1,000 – because otherwise you would have still spent that money on the house PLUS on those categories. And I bet what you spent on was a lot more purposeful as well (not just because “it was on sale”).

    • tinyambitions February 12, 2019 at 9:43 am

      Thanks, Angela! I think you’re right. That $1000 did make our home purchase a little easier.

  • Erin | Reaching for FI February 5, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I’d say being a more mindful consumer and buying fewer items is definitely the mark of a successful shopping ban! Plus an extra $1000 is never a bad thing, especially in a year in which you buy a house. Are you thinking about extending the ban (even if unofficially like I’m still doing with my clothes ban)?

    • tinyambitions February 5, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks, Erin! I agree – I think the ban was definitely worth doing. I haven’t really decided how/if I’m going to continue the ban. If I do, it will more in the unofficial side. There’s only so many posts about me not buying stuff that people can read lol

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  • The Luxe Strategist January 30, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Hi Britt,

    It’s so cool to see the numbers behind your shopping ban! I’d say your house spending shouldn’t be a factor here, since it’s not real shopping in my opinion. So you totally saved half, which is great!

    For me personally, reducing the number of items I buy would be the better unit to measure against versus the dollar amount, as I think my issue revolves around decision-making as a whole.

    I’d be curious to know if you experienced shopping withdrawals post-experiment, or you think your shopping habits have been changed for the longer term.

    • Britt January 30, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      That would be an interesting way to track things for sure. If I had to guess, I also brought in fewer items over the course of the ban compared to last year but that might not be the case for everyone.

      I’ll be honest, I have been feeling some shopping twinges since the ban ended. I think it’s because I can now shop so I feel like I should because I spent so long not. I haven’t been giving into most of my shopping twinges which is a change from before the ban. So, hopefully I’ll have some lasting change as well.

  • Lisa January 30, 2019 at 2:25 am

    Wow, Britt! Congratulations on finishing your ban! It was really interesting to see it broken down in numbers. This is something I didn’t do when I did mine but I wish I had, because seeing the contrast is really eye-opening. Of course, as you say, the savings were eaten up by your house-related purchases, but what a worthwhile was for them to be consumed. 🙂

    I think it’s incredible that your spending on toiletries/makeup was under $200. I would say that even your spending the previous year is well under the average. If I’m not mistaken, the average spending on makeup and similar products per year is in the thousands, which is pretty hard for me to get my head around!

    I have missed TA sooo much over the last 5 months or so, Britt, and I’m sorry I haven’t been reading for so long! I have missed my regular doses of Britt wisdom!! I have a lot to catch up on! Really hope you have been well. 🙂

    • Britt January 30, 2019 at 7:25 am

      Hi Lisa!! I’ve missed you so much! I’m glad you’re back! And thank you for your kind words. I definitely think my toiletries and makeup spending is well below average. I’m not much of a makeup guru so I think that probably worked out in my favour for the ban. Can’t wait to hear more about what you’ve been up to over the last five months.

      • Lisa January 31, 2019 at 5:24 pm

        I have missed you very much too, Britt!! Looking forward to reading more about what you’ve been up to lately, too. 🙂

  • Moriah Joy January 29, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Wow your shopping ban was so successful! Congrats for everything you’ve accomplished, and the house!! I’ve been really considering going on a shopping ban myself, but I haven’t yet pulled the trigger.

    • Britt January 29, 2019 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks, Moriah! Is there something specific holding you back from doing a ban? You should just do it – they are a great way to learn more about yourself and your consumption habits. Best of luck with your future ban!

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