My Shopping Ban: 5 Month Update
It's hard to believe that it's already been five months since I first wrote about my shopping ban, but here we are and it's almost December 1. I started the ban on July 1, and set the intention of doing it for an entire year.
At the time, my goal for the ban was to save money for the round-the-world trip I was planning with my then-partner. As we know all too well, life happens and plans change, and the round-the-world trip is now a thing of the past. I'll still be traveling for a few months starting in the new year, though, so I'm happy to have the cushion of extra savings that the ban certainly provided.
So, am I still doing the ban? Well, yes and no.
Yes, I am still doing the shopping ban in the sense that I am not going to buy things that I do not need. But the rules need some adjusting, hence the no.
A Shopping Ban Refresher
The original rules from the ban consist of allowed items, not-allowed items, and a pre-approved shopping list for the things that I knew ahead of time I would need to purchase:
What I'm Allowed to Buy
- Groceries (includes food, vitamins/supplements, and alcohol)
- Toiletries and the ingredients to make them (though I should be set for a while)
- Replacements for basic cosmetics like concealer and mascara
- Ingredients to make cleaning products (I use vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils only)
- Gifts for others
- Anything made and sold by friends - I want to support them!
- Postcards and stamps
- Items on the approved shopping list
What I Am Not Allowed to Buy
- "Fun" cosmetics (nail polish, eye shadow, goth lipstick, etc.)
- Clothes, unless I need to replace an item that's falling apart
- Shoes and accessories
- Books and magazines
- Household items (candles, plants, decor, furniture, etc)
- Electronics and gadgets
- Takeaway coffee, tea, and kombucha (yes, even from the grocery store)
- Alcohol at the bar
Approved Shopping List
- Miscellaneous travel supplies: adapter, daypack, packing cubes, headlamp, water bottle, a few items of travel-specific clothing (thermal, new sneakers, one pair pants, underwear and socks)
- 1 pair of sneakers (RIP Vans)
- New headphones - my current ones are over-ear and made of leather, and I'd like to get a pair of earbuds instead
- New laptop - my trusty Mac Pro is seven years old and way too heavy to take with me on the trip. I need to find a lightweight and affordable alternative
- Mic and grip/tripod for vlogging on my iPhone
They're More Like Guidelines, Anyway
I've mostly followed the rules, though a couple of them proved unrealistic. I drink socially, and so my idea to not purchase any drinks at bars (and therefore only drink at home) lasted about two weeks, until I was invited to a good friend's birthday party at a local beer garden. Given that I enjoy drinking on occasion and a number of social events, including one-on-one meetings, take place at the bar in DC, I decided early on that the money saved just wasn't worth the hassle and awkwardness of refusing to drink any time I was out.
Similarly, the kombucha ban fell by the wayside after a month or so, but I succeeded in breaking my habit of purchasing one every time I went to the grocery store. That was the only reason I added it to the list, so I'm calling that one a success. I'm pleased to report that I did succeed in avoiding takeaway coffee and only ordering it when I'm with friends or sitting down to work in a cafe. That said, I was driving home late from Los Angeles two nights ago and felt sleepy. I probably could have done the hour-long drive without coffee, but I swung by Starbucks as a precaution. The coffee didn't taste great and I wasn't happy about the waste of a cup, so I plan to take coffee with me anytime I think I might be driving late.
Let's take a look at what I bought on the approved shopping list, shall we?
- 1 pair of sneakers (RIP Vans) - purchased a pair of Toms secondhand over the summer
- New headphones, as my current ones are over-ear and made of leather, and I'd like to get a pair of earbuds instead - waited until these broke (they literally cracked in half) and then replaced with a pair of Bluetooth earbuds for running
- New laptop, since my trusty Mac Pro is seven years old and way too heavy to take with me on the trip. I need to find a lightweight and affordable alternative - purchased a new MacBook Pro over the summer, having decided I needed one for video editing capabilities. Pricey but fast, lightweight, and worth it.
- Mic and grip/tripod for vlogging on my iPhone - not purchased yet
- Miscellaneous travel supplies: adapter, daypack, packing cubes, headlamp, water bottle, a few items of travel-specific clothing (thermal, new sneakers, one pair pants, underwear and socks) - not purchased yet
Everything I've Purchased (Yes, Everything)
That was the easy part. Now let's dive into everything else I purchased, because you can bet I kept a record of every. Single. Thing. Let me tell you, nothing is more sobering than reviewing every single purchase you've made over the past five months. The following list includes every object I've bought, other than groceries.
- Bottle of Dr. Bronner's castile soap x 2 - I use this for shampoo, body wash, and general cleaning
- Room freshener from Mrs. Meyer's for my house
- Deodorant x 4 - I was looking for a new all-natural and vegan one, and there was a lot of trial and error (I finally landed on Meow Meow Tweet's Baking Soda Free Deodorant Stick, which I highly recommend)
- Neem, shikakai, and aritha powders - this was an experiment in going without shampoo, and this tea rinse worked well for about a month but then stopped working for my hair, which led to...
- A shampoo bar (didn't work for me) and a bottle of vegan shampoo
- Jar of bentonite clay (I use this as a face mask)
- Wooden comb (I didn't own one and cutting my hair short again necessitated this)
- Preserve brand razor (when I broke up with my partner, I gave him back his safety razor, which I'd been using)
- Pumice stone
- Mascara (replacement)
- Liquid eyeliner (replacement)
- Blush/highlighter (replacement)
- Concealer (replacement)
- Aforementioned Toms shoes
- Thrifted pants (to replace a pair that wore out so much that I couldn't wear them to work)
- Thrifted blouse (to replace two tops that ripped)
- Sunglasses (I wear cheap ones and my old pair broke)
- 3 bralettes, 8 pairs of underwear (I had two bralettes before that literally fell apart, and pretty much all my undergarments wore out at the same time - this was on the travel supplies list)
Products Made By People I Want to Support
This category proved to be a tricky one. None of these people are personal friends, but they're artists, writers, and entrepreneurs who I really, really want to support, so I allowed them.
- Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too, a book by Jonny Sun
- Surpassing Certainty, a memoir by Janet Mock (I decided to buy this after she was harassed and misgendered on a radio show, to show my support)
- Corazón, a book of poetry by Yesika Salgado
- "Animal Liberation" t-shirt by Beet x Beet (read the story behind this purchase here)
- A Black Lives Matter shirt, sold by my local BLM chapter in DC
- Basal Body Temperature thermometer, for charting my cycle (this is part of my personal care routine now)
- New sheets, since mine wore so thin they ripped
- To-go ware bamboo utensil kit (part of travel supplies)
- Notebook for my morning pages, since I filled up the first one
Items That I Wasn't Supposed to Buy But Totally Did Anyway
These items are not part of the allowed category, and they weren't on the approved shopping list. Some of them (gasp!) are even explicitly listed on the not-allowed list. Here we go.
- 3 new lipsticks - to be fair, I didn't own a single lip product when I started the shopping ban. I could consider this to be a reasonable addition to my makeup kit, but I wasn't supposed to purchase new makeup other than replacements. And one of these I bought when I was feeling emotional and wanted to treat myself. So.
- Instax film - I don't own an Instax camera, but my sister does and left it at my parents' house, so I'd like to use it while I'm here.
- Halloween decorations/party supplies - this was a joint expense with my housemates that couldn't really be helped, since we decided collectively to throw a Halloween party.
- Amazon/iTunes movie rentals and downloads - I have no idea where to put these.
- Thrifted corset and blouse - I bought these for my Halloween costume. I deliberately and knowingly broke the ban here.
- Pentacle earrings - I straight up bought these two weeks ago.
- Pisces necklace - I straight up bought this last weekend.
- A copy of Allure magazine - as a new freelancer, one of the things I have to do is read and get to know the publications I want to pitch (try to write for) and in this case, I needed the masthead as well. I could have tried to stay in Barnes & Noble for an hour to read the whole thing, but I think this will be a useful resource.
What I've Learned
Reviewing the list of items that I bought that weren't on the list, or more precisely, all the times I broke the shopping ban, I can detect a clear pattern. There isn't necessarily a commonality among all of the objects themselves, but there is one among the circumstances of the purchases. Almost every time, I was in a state of emotional distress, like anxiety or sadness; this was the case when I bought the lipsticks, the earrings, the necklace, and the Halloween costume. They were all impulse purchases, even the costume, since I probably could have borrowed the clothing pieces if I tried hard enough.
That's not to say that I regret the purchases. I love the jewelry, wear the lipsticks all the time, and I've worked the costume pieces (yes, the corset too) into my regular wardrobe. But I do find it illuminating to recognize the connection between my emotional state and my shopping habits. I've been through many changes and no small amount of emotional turmoil this fall, and these purchases reflect those ups and downs. Thanks to this insight, I don't see the illicit purchases as failures, but rather an opportunity to learn about myself.
I need to create updated guidelines for the ban, which I plan to post sometime this week. There will be a more detailed allowed shopping list based on my preliminary packing list, and perhaps a few more things will be specified on the allowed and not-allowed lists. As of now, it's less than thirty days until I depart for Madrid and start traveling through Europe, so it's high time I start preparing! Stay tuned for the updates coming this week, as they also will hint at some of my destinations...