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How I Broke My Shopping Habit

July 3, 2017
How I Broke My Shopping Habit | Tiny Ambitions
A couple of years ago, my morning routine included three things – making myself a cup of tea, scrolling through social media and checking my favorite online stores for deals.
If you’ve been following along here, you know social media is no longer part of my morning. Like, social media, my online window shopping was a compulsive habit – I couldn’t help it.
Every morning without fail, the first website I would check before anything else was a certain Canadian yoga wear company. I would check their sale section every. single. day. Sometimes I would buy something, sometimes I wouldn’t, but the compulsion to check was always there.
When I started down the rabbit hole of minimalism, I began to notice the impact my habit was having on my mindset. If I saw something on sale, that I could ‘afford’, I felt compelled to buy it even if I didn’t like it. Even if it didn’t come in my size.

How messed up is that?

That mindset comes from very influential marketing. The kind of marketing that convinces you that you’d be a better/happier/sexier person if you bought this ‘thing’. Now, I have nothing against shopping or buying things. But, for me, my shopping compulsion was becoming deeply problematic for my finances and my mental health. 
But, my habit was just that – an ingrained pattern of behavior that I continued long after it stopped being useful. But, that’s the thing about habits – once you know you have them, you can’t see them the same way again.
For the health of my wallet, my mind and my closet, I decided to tackle my online shopping habit once and for all. Here’s how I did it:

1) Online Shopping Blackout

Step one to tackle my compulsive online habit was self-imposing a website blackout. The websites I normally checked were now off limits. Basically, I pretended they didn’t exist. The logic here is simple, if you can’t access the site, you can’t buy anything. Life. Hacked.
I’ll be honest – the first couple of weeks were very challenging. Like any habit, to break it requires a replacement habit. In my case, I subbed YouTube shows like GMM for online shopping. A much cheaper and funnier habit if you ask me!

2) No Buy March

Once I had tempered my online shopping habit, I wanted to bring it into the ‘real’ world.
A friend of mine told me she was doing a ‘No Buy March’ – which is exactly what it sounds like! And it was exactly what I needed!
Again, the first few weeks were challenging. Once I tell myself I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it more than anything!
By the end of the month, I thought I would have made a list of everything I had put off buying, so I could go on a spree! That couldn’t have been further from reality. I ended the month having created space between what stuff I thought I needed, and what I actually needed.
If you want to do a 30-day shopping ban – pick whatever month works best for you! Don’t feel like you have to wait until March to get started.

3) The Minimalist Game

After banning myself from online shopping and completing a ‘No Buy March’, I realized something. After not allowing myself to shop, I realized I’d already accumulated far too much in my life.
Enter the Minimalist Game! Created by Joshua & Ryan over at The Minimalists, it’s a great way to jumpstart your minimizing journey. The premise is simple; you donate/sell/recycle/toss one item for every day of the month. On day one, it’s one item. One day two, it’s two items. You get the idea. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive decluttering approach, check out this post, a guide based on what worked for me!
I made it to the end of the month easily (remember, I was a shopaholic) and ended up donating/selling/recycling/tossing 496 items. And that was just the start! This game marked the end of my compulsion to shop and kickstarted my journey as a minimalist.

For some people, three steps won’t be enough to kick their shopping habit. But, because of my life circumstances, timing and a certain degree of luck, the three steps above did help me a great deal.
I won’t pretend I never feel the shopping itch anymore – because I do. The difference now is that I know I can’t buy my happiness or lifestyle.

Have you ever conquered a shopping habit? I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to share in the comments below!

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment July 16, 2017 at 5:25 am

    Wow, 496 items in your mins game! Thanks for sharing your journey towards kicking your shopping habit, Brittany. Honestly, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who had compulsive shopping habits pre-minimalism. I can seriously relate to the anecdote about you checking that yoga wear website every morning. Fortunately, instigating a shopping ban really does work, even though it’s hard at the beginning. It is amazing how the compulsivity just melts away!

    • tinyambitions July 16, 2017 at 8:47 am

      I’m so glad it resonated with you! I’m definitely finding lots of people have similar histories when it comes to shopping. It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in this.

      • Katie Jones March 7, 2018 at 8:34 am

        I am so pleased that you have also had these results! I just finised reading Joshua and Ryan’s book where Joshua says he was able to kick the compulsive shopping habit (even though it was really hard to start with) and to have both of you say that as well, gives me hope that I can do it! I am currently trying to minimise my non-essential spending and am finding it quite tough, but not impossible. I can do this!!

        • Britt March 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

          You can totally do this! It’s not an easy feat that’s for sure, but it just like any other habit change. It just takes time and reinforcement. You’ll get there. Thanks for reading!

  • Sharon@ A Journey of Steps July 5, 2017 at 11:58 am

    I find myself in the same situation and after a bit of a shopping hiatus – instead of going out impulse buying I find myself being more conscious of what I want to buy. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that goes out the window 🙂 but I am a bit more mindful of those states that make me want to splurge. I also find as I learn more about certain aspects of the industry it makes me want to change that habit. I now have a list of things I do need but I’m taking my time to slowly acquire them.

    • tinyambitions July 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      That’s amazing! It’s crazy how a little space can help us reframe what we actually need and want in our lives. Congrats on your successful shopping hiatus. I hope you enjoy being more mindful in your purchases in the future! Thanks. For reading Sharon!

  • Jessica July 4, 2017 at 7:54 am

    I went cold turkey too! It was the only way for me.

    • tinyambitions July 4, 2017 at 7:56 am

      Congrats! It was the best way to shock my system into not wanting/needing to shop anymore.

  • Courtney A. Casto July 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Oh yes, this really hits home for me! Substitute the coffee for tea and you have my morning routine. When I shop online I have a problem with thinking I need to buy more than one thing. So, I end up with multiple items even though I really only wanted one thing. I’ve found when I shop less I feel better overall. I feel more responsible with m money and I’m not surrounded by things I don’t need. I’m a work in progress!

    PS: Looks like we chose very similar colors for our blogs!

    • tinyambitions July 3, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      I think we’re all works in progress, no matter how long we’ve been working on it!

      And that’s too funny about our blog colours- I just randomly picked it out of a colour wheel and loved it. Great minds think alike! Thanks for reading Courtney!

  • AdventureRich July 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Great tactics! I’m similar, if I plan to actually achieve something, I need to go “all in” and really commit. Congrats on the success on this one!

    • tinyambitions July 3, 2017 at 10:28 am

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. Things are never grey with me, only clear cut black and white! Thanks for reading!

  • luxestrategist July 3, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Good for you, Britt! Your tip about replacing the behavior with something else is key. For example, I’m a sugar addict, so I can’t just quit cold turkey. I had to replace dessert with fruit or something.

    Another tip I’d give is to unsubscribe from promo emails. I think that makes a big difference! If you don’t know about the sale, you don’t shop.

    • tinyambitions July 3, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Ya without a replacement behaviour, it’s hard to change the pattern. And unsubbing was a big part of this too! It had the added bonus of reducing my inbox load. Thanks for reading!

  • Lance @ My Strategic Dollar July 3, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Awesome work! I don’t know that I ever had a shopping problem, but I understand the ability to splurge. Great job!

    • tinyambitions July 3, 2017 at 9:42 am

      It was definitely the impulse for me that became problematic. I never really ‘splurged’ in the traditional sense, but lots of little purchases do add up quickly. Thanks for reading!

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