A Hard Choice/A Necessary Challenge (Hint: I’m Starting A Shopping Ban)


When deciding to make October a Super Frugal month, I had some stern, honest words with myself about some unsavoury and deceptive habits I had been indulging in. To recap, it’s been a costly year so far as most of my closest friends and relatives have decided to get married and/or have babies in 2016. It’s almost as if the new year hit and all of sudden my mailbox clogged up with wedding shower, engagement party, baby shower and wedding invitations, all with a few lines at the bottom stating exactly where they would like me to spend my money on their new life decision (I am inherently against registries, and on a larger level, the expectation of someone spending money on you just because you made a certain life choice  – that doesn’t involve them – but I’ll save my thoughts for another post).

Perhaps due to my aforementioned disdain for registries/mandatory gift-giving occasions or maybe just because it presented many spending opportunities, I found myself sneaking in little “gifts” for myself whenever I had to go to the mall or an online shopping site to buy a gift for someone else. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal and time and again it’s proven to be both a blessing and a curse. I either don’t buy the cookies or eat the entire box the minute it enters the house (same goes for all carbs – I don’t discriminate against anything that once was dough). Some people are “moderators” who gradually decrease consuming their addiction until they dwindle down to nothing. This simply doesn’t work for me – I either am cold turkey or full speed ahead. Couple that personality trait with the underlying resentment of being expected to buy something for a prescribed gift-giving occasion and I rolled head-first off the wagon. My wallet was already open and I was knee-deep in “treat yo’ self” mode – it was a recipe for disaster. 

I’m 23 days into Super Frugal October and although I haven’t spent anything besides bills/groceries/medication for the cold that won’t go away (which my co-workers have not-so-affectionately started referring to as “the plague”), I’m starting to find myself step into stores to browse around and regularly fill up and then empty online shopping carts – and I don’t like it. I know for certain that I am not just trying to overturn bad habits but a full-blown shopping addiction, so I need to really ante up my defences so I don’t fall of the wagon again. Come November I don’t want to have that internal conversation of “oh but you’ve been so good in October! Look at all the money you saved and the $1000 you put towards debt. Winter’s coming, you could use that wooly cardigan/pair of snow boots/sparkly dress perfect for holiday parties” so I’m taking action NOW.

I’m starting a 6 month shopping ban.

Between now and April 23, 2017, I, Frugal Desperado, will not spend one red (or electronic) cent on anything except my allowable expenses list.

I want to make this a year-long ban, but considering my tumultuous history with self-discipline and spending, I want to work with a shorter timeframe for now. Come April 23rd of next year, I can re-asses, take stock of where I am, and extend the ban. For now, I am choosing to bite off what I can chew.

We’ve been inundated with spending ban stories lately on PF blogs and sites and even the news, however that hasn’t desensitized me to how great of a challenge it is to undertake, or made it seem unrealistically easy now. Whether I’m thinking of the first or the 10th ban account I’ve read up on at this point, I’m cognizant that not spending anything on oneself when there’s a multi-billion dollar industry employing some of the most brilliant minds to tell us to spend, spend, spend, doing the exact opposite is tough work that requires an iron will and a ridiculous amount of tenacity. I know I haven’t had much of either in my lifetime when it comes to spending, but by golly, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.

As of today, I cannot spend a dime on anything except the following:

  • Rent (duh)
  • Utilities (see note in parenthesis above)
  • Insurance (life and pet. Yes, I have pet insurance for my pupper and I’m glad I do)
  • Groceries
  • Bus Pass
  • Pet food and any vet bills/co-pays for aforementioned pupper
  • Haircut (purposely written in singular form, as I only get about one every 6 months)
  • Necessary toiletries (nothing new until previous bottle of shampoo, etc. is done)
  • Gifts (I know many people choose to omit this category during a spending ban, but I am choosing not to. I may not agree with “expected” gift-giving occasions but I want to keep the freedom of giving gifts from the heart)

That’s it! I’ve often seen allowances on others’ bans for extra socks and underwear or a pair of shoes that wears out but I assure you all as a shopaholic former shopaholic I have enough of everything to clothe a small army of 5’3 pear-shaped women. Perhaps other “necessity” categories will come up over the next 6 months, but if so, you’ll hear about how I have to navigate around it because my allowable list is officially closed *insert nervous laughter here*

For the past year I haven’t been out regularly for drinks or dinner (the last time was in March of this year) and I plan to keep that streak going, so no real lifestyle change there. I also brown bag a lunch every day and never work out use the free gym in my apartment building, and haven’t had cable TV in about 13 years.  It’s always been shopping that’s been my true vice. Oh, and caffeine. I maintain if you cut me, I’ll bleed coffee. Besides ensuring I bring my coffee in my travel mug every day, I either cut out the mid-afternoon cup of joe I find myself buying or I learn to appreciate the free sludge in the work lunchroom.

So here goes, friends. I know 6 months without shopping may solicit an eyeroll from those who don’t feel the pull of spending or the allure of the “new” but it’s been my greatest personal struggle for over 15 years now. It’s a hard choice, but a necessary challenge. The ban officially begins … NOW!

Does anyone have any tips or success stories on cutting their shopping down to nil?

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  1. I just read this in Distilled Dollar and thought of you, FD – I put the brackets in cos wanted to highlight the lifestyle aspect:

    Frugality (is a powerful force. It has the power to create millionaires out of average income earners and) has the power to liberate us from a lifestyle we don’t enjoy.

    Whaddya reckon, food for thought or what?!

    1. Brilliant, Marian!! Thank you for sharing that excerpt! I’ve already taken that section you highlighted and wrote it in my planner. That’s exactly what I want to use frugality in service of – to reach great big accomplishments that at first don’t seem possible! Thank you for the reminder that frugality is a special and powerful tool we can use in pursuit of our wishes. Simple yet powerful food for thought, indeed!

  2. Desperado you have to factor in a small amount for entertainment/you-spending. Seriously! Even just give yourself $5/week to spend however you please or to save up for something you may want in the future. It’s one thing to ban spending but it’s also important to have be able to control spending. Learning to enjoy yourself with a very tiny amount of money is an important lesson. Plus there are times when you need to let loose and $5 will hopefully not break the bank!
    ~ Pru

    1. I needed that Pru – thank you. I didn’t even think of adding in a “me/fun money” category. I can get so carried away the minute I allow myself to spend but banning every penny of non-necessity money will only make this ban more difficult than it has to be. You’re right – I do need to grow accustomed to enjoying myself with a small amount, and realizing it’s enough. Thank you for that insight! I will build a $5 fun buffer into my budget.

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