Written by Cait Flanders
Monday, March 19th, 2018
In July 2015, I completed a yearlong shopping ban.
My goal was simple enough: I wanted to spend less money, save more, and become a mindful consumer. Now that it's over and a few years have passed, I can safely say I achieved all of those things. I wrote about it in my book, The Year of Less.
Here are a few lessons I learned that I haven't really talked about before. They're the reason I was able to complete the challenge so successfully, and the reason I continue to live this way now. I'm excited to share them with you here.
1. Change Starts with Awareness
The lesson I've learned countless times is that in order to create change in our lives, we have to first understand exactly what we want to change. To gain that understanding, we have to generate an awareness of what our current situation is.
For me, that awareness has come from tracking my spending and budgeting to see where my money is really going. It also comes from doing something as simple as adding up all of my debts to figure out how much I owed, or adding up all my numbers to calculate my net worth. It's not always easy to look at those numbers, but it creates awareness—and that prompts change.
2. Browsing Can Be the *Real* Thief of Joy
The second lesson I learned throughout my year of less is I had a bad habit of browsing. Shopping isn't bad and buying stuff isn't bad. My problem was browsing, because it's an activity that causes me to think I need more stuff. I never truly appreciated or used all of the things I already had at home. Instead, I was always walking through stores or scrolling through online retailers to see what was on sale.
What I learned was if I visit a store thinking I might see something I like, I probably will. Again, shopping isn't bad and buying stuff isn't bad. But browsing stopped me from feeling grateful for what I already had, and it always caused me to spend more money than I needed to.
3. Convenience Comes with a Cost
Despite growing up with parents who could do everything with their own two hands, at some point while growing up in the digital revolution, I opted not to and instead paid for everything. It seemed easier at the time.
Sometimes, the more convenient option really is cheaper. What I learned during my year of less is that convenience actually cost me a lot, especially when it came to my confidence and self-worth.
That year, I finally asked my family to teach me some of the things they knew, like how to stitch and sew, change my engine oil and grow vegetables. I finished the year feeling more confident in myself, thanks to these new skills.
With this, I realized we are more resourceful than we give ourselves credit for—and that we can save a lot of money when we put the power back into our own hands.