You know how sometimes you just need to take a break from dating and focus on yourself? I need to do that but with my MasterCard.
Money can be a source of stress and worry for a lot of people, myself included. Looking back this past year, I made a lot of purchases that I regret. And the worst (or maybe the best) part about regretting spending choices is the thought that says, “If only I had that money I spend on XYZ now to use towards something I really need now.” It forces us to put our priorities into perspective and it shows us whether or not we’ve been true to our priorities and values.
I’ve been having that very thought lately and with getting ready to move back to Boston for fashion school, it makes me worried, anxious and stressed. Doing a No Buy for 2020 helps alleviate that mental stress for me and it makes me feel more in control of my money instead of my money controlling me. Even just thinking about doing it and planning it out calms me down.
Obviously, I can’t go a whole year without buying anything. So aside from the obvious like toilet paper, laundry detergent, groceries, school supplies, and all the stuff I’ll need for my apartment like a new bed and kitchen appliances, I’m going to have a list of things I will allow myself to buy along with all the caveats for each category.
What I won’t be buying: fast food, UberEats, ordering takeout, convenience store snacks/meals, eating out, coffee, ice cream, etc.
What is allowed: going out to eat with friends, ordering takeout with friends for a sleepover, coffee dates, basically any time food is part of socializing
Why: Our moms are right, we do have food at the house. Eating out and grabbing a coffee can be a major black hole financially. I personally don’t drink coffee and I don’t want to start. Coffee has always been an occasional treat for me. And avoiding convenience store snacks means that I’ll have to take food with me whenever I leave the house and plan my meals and snacks more carefully, which should lead to healthier choices all around. I have no problems taking myself out to a restaurant and eating dinner alone, I’ve done it plenty of times before. But I’m allowing eating out only with friends because time spent with friends is time well spent. And money is time.
What I won’t be buying: new makeup, new brushes/tools, new skincare products, new fragrances, etc.
What is allowed: replacing products that have expired, been used up (switching to something new is ok, as long as it can be sampled or returned), broken, or need to be replaced often (like toothbrushes, razors, makeup sponges, and Clarisonic heads)
Why: This category is the biggest black hole of them all for me personally. I feel like I’m at a good place right now with my skincare routine that I don’t need to be constantly trying and buying new items and I’m just getting into makeup and I want to practice and get somewhat skilled at doing it before I go and buy every new eyeshadow palette and highlighter that comes out. It’s really tempting to go buy a new product based on what the influencer in a makeup tutorial swears by but I want to focus on technique first, product second. I also hope that I actually start using all of my products instead of just constantly buying new ones.
Services > Products
What I won’t be buying: products when services would be sufficient/superior instead. Example 1: I wouldn’t buy a $200 posture correcting device to help with back pain when a professional massage and practicing yoga and stretching at home would work better to release the current muscle tension, alleviate pain and improve my posture, thus keeping back pain at bay. Example 2: I wouldn’t buy a gel nail polish kit with the lamp and the special polishes when I can go get my nails done at a salon. Example 3: If my shoes are getting worn, instead of buying a new pair, I’ll take them to a cobbler.
What is allowed: I can’t think of any exceptions to this one at the moment. I guess I’d be allowed to buy a gym membership if I actually used it. It would have to have a lenient no-fee cancellation policy. I’m also considering getting a monthly subscription for a meal planning app to help me with meal prep since I’m going to living on my own and having to cook for myself for the very first time. It’s cheaper to buy it for a whole year but I think I’ll try it out for a few months and then see if it’s worth committing to for a yearly subscription. Also for example, if I’m getting my nails done regularly enough that I’ve spent the value of a gel nail kit at the salon already (this would probably be about 4 or 5 visits), and I’ve decided I want to continue having my nails done, I can buy the gel nail kit to save money from going to the salon. Oh! Here’s an exception- if something can’t be repaired (a service) then it can be replaced (product).
Why: Getting a service over a product ensures that the money won’t go to waste; it’s too easy to buy products and never use them. With the gel manicure example, getting them done at a salon first has several benefits- 1) watching the nail tech and learning how to do it yourself, 2) spending enough time getting your nails done to know if you want to and will actually take the time to do it yourself, 3) learn if you can do the types of manicures you like at home (DIY is not the best option for someone who likes fancy nail art and can’t/won’t take the time for it), and 4) see if manicured nails are conducive to your lifestyle. In this case, getting the service before buying a whole manicure kit is like a “try before you buy” with little risk. You learn things and get to have your nails done versus buying the nail kit and then risking that it goes unused for months past the return date. Also, I feel like services stimulate the economy more “directly.” When you buy services, the workers who bring you the service are 95% of the time average members of your local community like your tailor, hairstylist, nail tech, etc. They live, work, and shop where you do. When you buy products, the beneficiaries of your purchase are god-knows-where in the world and/or the super-wealthy executives.
Clothing, Shoes, Accessories
What I’m not buying: New clothing, new shoes, or new accessories are not allowed and fast fashion purchases are definitely not allowed.
What is allowed: The exceptions to this No Buy are custom made shoes that I’ve been eyeing for a while and any item of clothing that is high quality, exactly my style, and on the expensive side. If I do want to buy something that’s just too good to pass up, I have to wait for 24 hours before purchasing (many stores allow 24- 48 hour holds). Also, replenishing “basics” like socks, underwear, undershirts, or Cuddlduds is allowed. And of course, if I want a new item of clothing, I can make it myself, or hire a dressmaker (service > product) if it’s something too complicated, but if I’m doing it myself, I have to sketch it and draft the pattern before buying the fabric.
Why: Aside from being a waste of money, constantly shopping for new clothing is a waste of time, especially online. I’m pretty picky when it comes to my style and I’ve been trying to find my style and revamp my wardrobe for a good long while now but I haven’t had much success. Since what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working, I’m going to take a break from shopping for clothes. I also rarely wear the accessories that I do have so I’m hoping that this No Buy will force me to actually use what I have and get creative with outfits. More importantly, wearing the clothes that I do have and wearing all of them instead of just the few that I wear regularly, should help me figure out what works for me in terms of fit and fabric and I can take that information with me when I start shopping again.
Miscellaneous Rules & Caveats
The Credit Card
What I’m not buying/doing: Using my credit card for random nonessential purchases
What is allowed: Using my credit card for repeat purchases- namely my Spotify subscription and monthly T pass when I get to Boston- and for true emergencies that involve my food, shelter, healthcare, or education.
Why: Even though I always pay my credit card in full every month and I’ve never paid a dime in interest, the problem with the credit card that I’ve noticed is that instead of saving some of my paychecks, I have to use all of it to pay off the credit card. When I had my first job at J.C. Penney, I only had a debit card and I saved 50% of my paychecks. Credit cards are also so misleading because it makes you feel like you have X amount of dollars to spend so it’s all good. But with using a debit card, you know you have a much more limited amount of money in your account. I also feel like I was more careful with my purchases using a debit card versus using the credit card.
What I’m not doing: buying new books or buying ebooks
What is allowed: buying used books or audiobooks after checking for it in the library and on the Libby app and only after the previous book is finished
Why: I think of books as investments in yourself. I mainly read nonfiction and I love learning about certain topics. But I do also have some fiction on my 2020 book list as well, which I’m capping at 52 because there are 52 weeks in a year. I also want to stay off my phone as much as possible so ebooks, aside from Libby (because they’re free and from the library), aren’t going to be allowed. I’m also going to try and stay away from audiobooks since I feel like reading a physical book helps me to comprehend better and I don’t use headphones on public transportation or in rideshares for safety.
Movies & TV
What I’m not doing: subscribing to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, paying for cable, getting a TV, or buying movies
What is allowed: going to the theater with or without friends, watching TV shows on the network websites (many networks provide the latest episodes online for free), borrowing DVDs from the library or renting from Amazon, and usually (lets be real) using free movie sites, getting a DVD player to plug into my computer so I can actually watch those movies from the library
Why: Even though going to the theater can be expensive, it’s an experience that I don’t regret spending money on. When I do go, I go for movies that I’m actually excited about and I enjoy the moviegoing experience. It’s a treat for me, not a biweekly standing appointment, and occasional treats are ok. Not using streaming platforms also forces me to be resourceful in how I watch TV and movies like taking advantage of what’s available at the library for free. I also think physical movies have a built-in “stopping cue.” There are only so many things you can check out at the library or rent at once and having the stack of physical DVDs forces us to be realistic about how many movies we can actually get through, rather than just mindlessly adding more and more movies and shows to the streaming queue that we could never ever hope to get through (and would we even want to waste that much time getting through our Netflix queues?).
Experiences & Events
What I’m not doing:
What is allowed: buying tickets to real-world events like concerts or comic-cons, taking classes or doing like a sip & swirl paint night type of thing, and basically anything that means getting out of the house, going somewhere and being social (even if it is watching a small band I’ve never heard of play in a dingy basement in Allston)
Why: I hardly ever regret spending money on experiences (even if they do happen in a basement in Allston and the music isn’t my thing) and getting out of the house and doing something social, alone or with friends, can go along way in combating feelings of loneliness and isolation. I also want to try doing something uniquely Bostonian every other week while I’m there. I read in a book by Laura Vanderkam that doing something unique to your city often helps you not only learn your city but also appreciate living there more. I know when I grew up in Buffalo, my family almost never went to Niagra Falls. It’s so insane that people travel from all over the world to see Niagra Falls yet I lived 35 minutes away for 18 years and I’ve only seen it like 3 times.
I’m sure other things will come up that aren’t on this list so in order to judge whether or not I’m allowed to buy it, here are some questions I need to ask myself first:
1. Will not having this cause me to go hungry, be without shelter, or endanger my health and safety?
2. Do I need this because a new need has arisen in my life or did I simply fail to plan for this situation?
3. What are all of the alternatives to making this purchase?
4. Can I borrow instead of buy? What are the pros and cons of each option?
5. What’s the return policy?
6. Can this purchase wait for 48 hours? Why or why not? Will waiting cause me to go hungry, be without shelter, or endanger my health and safety?
7. Will I actually use this? How often? Have I used something similar before? How did that go?
I know there are a lot of exceptions and caveats to my No Buy rules. So why do a No Buy if there’s just going to be an exception for everything?
If you took the time to read through all of this, first of all, thank you, and second, I’m sure you noticed that the reasons why I’m doing this No Buy aren’t necessarily to save money, although that’s part of it. My reasons for doing this are to stop regretting what I spend my money on, stop stressing over my purchases, and to force myself to be resourceful, plan ahead and get creative with what I already have.
I’ve been using Mint for a while to track my spending and of course, my banking apps can track how much I spend and where so I can use those to see if this actually saves me money. I plan to do monthly check-ins next year near the end of each month where I detail what I spend, how much, and what I wanted to get but couldn’t. Hopefully, this long list of rules will help in determining whether or not this No Buy for 2020 is a success.