My No-Buy Year

A little known fact about me is that I’m seriously into Ted Talks. I usually watch them while I run at the gym to kill the boredom, and I usually find that they are incredibly interesting and informative. I recently watched a popular Ted Talk where a woman talks about her “No Spend Year”. I really connected with her message because like myself, this woman is not bad with money. She doesn’t have debt and she doesn’t identify as a “spendaholic”, but she does crave a greater level of simplicity in her life both in her spending and possession of material goods.

The goal for this challenge is of course to hopefully save some money, but more than that I’m curious about how far I can parse down my spending to things I genuinely need rather than want. From September 1, 2019 to September 1, 2020 instead of going out and buying the things I want or think I need, I’ll be writing them down. I’ve gotten a few friends to join me in this challenge, so hopefully you’ll hear from some of them as well!

Since I won’t be growing all my own food or living off the grid in a yurt (though that sounds pretty cool), this challenge obviously comes with some rules. They are as follows:

Things I’m allowed to buy:

  • Planned food: This includes groceries and meals with friends that are planned in advance. Since I’m lucky enough to be an RA, which provides me with a generous meal plan, the vast majority of my food will be coming from a campus dining hall. However, during breaks my school does not provide food so during these periods I will need to go grocery shopping. In order to avoid impulse spending, I will be planning all my meals in advance and will shop off of a list. As for grabbing food with friends, I’m not willing to sacrifice this part of my social life, but these meals will need to be planned in advance and preference will be given to cooking at home. It’s more fun that way anyhow.
  • Things I absolutely need for school: Isn’t there that one text book that the professor insists on using that isn’t anywhere to be found for free online? This category is for that textbook. This might prove to be a struggle for me because any one who knows me knows I LOVE school supplies. Seriously, I get goosebumps when I walk into an Office Depot.
  • Gifts for others: I love giving gifts to my friends and family and I’m not going to sit this out for an entire year. However, I plan to be more conscious about what I’m getting people to make sure it’s something their lives will benefit from rather than something that will just serve as emotional clutter. In this category, gift cards are king.
  • Replacement toiletries: I’m allowed to refill any toiletries or necessities that run out, but I’m not allowed to buy products I’m not currently using at the beginning of the challenge.

Things I’m not allowed to buy:

  • Unplanned food: Uh-oh. This will be by far the hardest part of this challenge. I’m a chronic impulse food and drink purchaser. I’ll be sure to shed a tear every time I pass Einstein’s Bagels in the engineering building as I walk up to the lab.
  • Clothes/Shoes/Accessories: At the moment, I have enough clothes in my closet to sustain me for more than a year, even if some stuff wears out. It might mean getting creative or learning how to sew, but I think it’s reasonable to make it through this year without buying any new clothes or shoes. This category, in particular, is as much about saving money as it is about sustainability. The fast-fashion industry is a literal monster and is one of the biggest contributors to global emissions. Stay tuned for a rant on fast-fashion.
  • Subscriptions: Goodbye Amazon Prime. Goodbye Spotify. I’ll really, really miss you. My initial instinct was actually to keep my Spotify subscription. I rely on Spotify to provide the background music for my entire life, but if I didn’t make any sacrifices it wouldn’t be a challenge, so it’s got to go. I plan on using Pandora to fill the new void in my life, and YouTube if I really want to hear a particular song. Amazon Prime will be much easier to live without since I can’t buy anything which would benefit from free shipping.

And those are my rules! I’m actually super excited for this challenge and even more excited to see the final results of my frugal year. I’ve never been a terrible spender or a serial shopper, but I think we can all improve when it comes to spending less on the things we don’t actually need or care about that much.

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