How I Saved $1,000 in January by Not Buying Whatever I Wanted

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Flex that self-control.

Young confident model in shorts and sunglasses standing carelessly at street looking away.

In a recent Collective Hub article, blogger and author Cait Flanders proposed we save money simply by not spending it. Having decided 2018 is the year I finally get “money smart” (yes, at 34), I decided to give it a shot. Here are the parameters she lays out: “If you’re not comfortable with how much you’re spending on your usual vices, cut those out for 30 days. Journal about it before/during/after, and figure out what role you want it to have in your life when you’re done.”

The idea is that if you don’t spend money, you’ll have plenty more of it. I decided to take up the challenge for the month of January. Instead of buying something, I’d write it down for later consideration. If I still wanted it come February, I’d contemplate it then. (Spoiler: It’s almost mid-Feb and I still haven’t made the purchases.) (Disclaimer: I did allow myself to spend as I normally would on food and experiences – The Shape of Water was amazing, btw.)

Here’s everything I didn’t buy in January (but wanted to)

Earrings from Afra Amba, from €38 per earring

New band for my Fitbit Ionic, AU$49.95

Pop Socket for my phone, AU$15.95 + postage

Aesop Calming Shampoo, AU$50 for 500ml

Bedgear pillow x 2, AU$199 each

The Lover by Marguerite Duras, AU$17.50

10% Happier app, $16.99 per month (I currently use the free version)

Just Peppermint teabags from T2, AU$12 for 25

Necklace from Brie Leon, AU$120

Planter from Koskela, $189

TOTAL = approx. $1049.39

What blew my mind about this experiment

A few things really stood out about this trial. For starters, I never realised how many of my purchases are made almost unconsciously. I see something, add it to a checkout, and pop in my bank details to seal the deal. Most of the time I’m buying different, newer versions of items I already own. I was very surprised by how easy it was to desire something, tell myself, “Oh right, you’re on that ban. If you want it, wait till February,” and then carry on with my day.

Secondly, not one day passed where it didn’t occur to me to buy something. We are constantly, and I mean constantly, bombarded with beautiful things to buy. Our friends share links to cool gadgets that we might like, and Instagram is extremely effective in converting a click to a sale. This blog post claims 75 per cent of users who click on a link within Instagram will commit to buy. Which leads me to believe that deleting Insta might work wonders for my bank balance. Even an innocent stroll on my lunch break caused me to want a mother-of-pearl inlay cheese knife. It is incessant and terrifying once you pause to think on it.

Another outcome of this whole spending ban was I became more creative as a result. For example, I want these earrings (see above) I’d seen on Instagram, discovered only after stalking Zoe Kravitz’s account. Unable to buy them, I took an old pair of chemist-bought silver sleepers, stole trinkets off another pair of earrings I no longer wear, and made a version of the very thing I’d wanted to buy. I haven’t taken them off since, so proud am I at having chucked them together myself.

Will I continue to not buy stuff on a whim?

Yes. Definitely. I wish to save for a house and thus buying stuff I’ll use for a couple of months isn’t going to help. Yes, all of the un-bought items above are very cool and I surely would have enjoyed them. But the thing is, next month I’m going to crave a whole new batch of things and the cycle will carry on. Sure, I will buy again but I’m sure fewer items. Now that it’s February, I did buy a new Building Block handbag (pictured below), but that was only after first fantasising about it for four months.

If you’re similarly ready to stop your incessant spending habits, do try this. Keep a list of everything you want and don’t buy. Notice how you feel about said list once the month is over. Certain desires are gone, and some linger. Notice how in some cases, you can let go of wanting something just as quickly as you desired it. Happy saving, friends.

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