My No Shopping Year by Becca Ehrlich

My No Shopping Year by Becca Ehrlich

In 2018, I didn’t shop. You read that correctly I didn’t shop for one whole year. And it was incredible.

Why did I do this? It all started when I realised how much impulse buying I was doing online. I was addicted to online shopping. I constantly bought things I didn’t actually need, in order to fill an emotional and spiritual hole in myself. 

We’ve all probably done some impulse buying at one point or another. There’s a reason stores often put small items for sale near the cash registers we’re more likely to impulse buy when it’s easy and accessible. 

Online shopping can take impulse buying to a whole new level. It’s so easy to buy things online. Click your mouse a few times (it even takes just one or two clicks on some websites), and you’ve bought an item that will be delivered to your door in just a few days. 

It’s an addictive cycle you buy the object, you receive it in the mail… and then a few days later, you feel empty again. So you go buy something else. 

I was sick of buying things on impulse. I was wasting valuable money, time, and energy on buying things I didn’t actually need. Plus, my living space was getting incredibly cluttered. It was clear that my online shopping addiction wasn’t serving me well. I wanted life free of bad shopping and spending habits, free of material clutter. 

I knew that I had to do something drastic. I decided to do a shopping fast for a whole year. 

When we hear of the word “fast,” usually we think of food fasting. But fasting can be anything we abstain from in order to grow emotionally, mentally, physically, and/or spiritually. My shopping fast was aimed at growth in all of the above. 

Before I started my year-long shopping fast, I set some ground rules. I would obviously have to buy essential things during the year to function and survive. So I made a list of things I was allowed to buy/spend money on during my shopping fast:

  • Necessities to stay alive (i.e. food, other food-related necessities)
  • Medicine (having a chronic illness means this is super important for me personally)
  • Toiletries/cosmetics (but only when I ran out)
  • Things necessary to run household appliances, like batteries (but only when I ran out)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Gifts for loved ones (but gifting experiences rather than things whenever possible)
  • Books (I’m continuously doing minimalism/simplicity research, and since I was taking classes for my doctoral degree I needed to be able to buy books for my classes)
  • Experiences (going to a movie, going out to eat with friends or on date night with my husband Will, etc.)
  • In addition, I was allowed to replace anything that wears out or breaks, as long as I throw out/donate the original item

I was not allowed to buy anything that did not fit into any of these categories. Clothes, shoes, accessories, electronics, household items you name it; if it wasn’t on the list, I didn’t buy it. In order to break myself of bad habits, I had to fast from those habits completely.

At first, no shopping at all was tough. I was so used to buying things on a whim, so when I took steps to stop myself, it felt painful. But I pushed through the pain, knowing that it would be worth it.

And it truly was worth it. Over the course of the year, I mostly re-wired my drive and desire to impulse buy. I became more aware of how I use my time, energy, and monetary resources, and felt like I was making healthier decisions in how I used those resources and these healthy behaviours have continued in the years since the fast. 

I know I will always have those addictive tendencies to buy items impulsively. But now, after the fast, I am much more aware of my triggers and I have specific ways I can redirect my energy and resources when I’m feeling that pull to buy something.

We need so much less than we think we do. I assumed that I “needed” a lot of what I bought online, but I was actually mixing up my wants versus my needs. I didn’t need that dress on sale, I wanted it. Knowing our wants versus our needs makes a huge difference in our buying and spending habits. Just acknowledging that I don’t actually need something gives me permission to say no.

The year-long shopping fast has also helped me to implement some helpful tools in my life. As an impulse buyer, I’ve adopted a strategy when I feel like I should buy something I wait. I’ve noticed that if I wait a day or two to buy something, the impulse to buy usually passes. 

The shopping fast has changed my behaviours for the long-run, and I have so much more freedom because of it. I now have time, energy, and money freed up for more important things. I am healthier in my habits, and I feel less attached to my stuff. The fast has had an incredible impact on my well-being.

Doing a shopping fast changed my life and it could change yours too. 

Do you have some unhealthy buying and spending habits that you’d like to change? Consider a shopping fast. It doesn’t have to be a full year. It could be done for a month, or a few months, or half a year. Try not shopping for a while. You may be surprised at how different your life can be afterwards.

Becca Ehrlich is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) living in Philadelphia, PA. She blogs about minimalism from a Christian perspective at www.christianminimalism.com  and shares inspiration and encouragement to live a more minimal life on the Christian Minimalism Facebook page, Christian Minimalism Twitter @jesusminimalism, and the Christian Minimalism Instagram @jesusminimalism. Her book, Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living, comes out May 17. 

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