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Week 26: A Year of Not Buying Things

I like to make goals for myself each year. I try to have some that are career-related, some that are health-related or self-improvement type things, some just personal goals. It varies year to year depending on where I’m at.

For 2019, I had a goal to “Buy no more things” and this post is about how it went, now that the year is just about over. I didn’t make myself a specific list of rules, but I had a pretty clear idea of what counted as a ‘thing’ and what didn’t.

Here are the general guidelines:

  • Only personal spending was included. (We spent thousands and thousands of dollars on building supplies this year, but it was all from our renovation fund that we’d saved as part of our household budget and I am not counting any of that.)
  • Basic necessities were not included. (Stuff like shampoo and toothpaste, which also comes in under the household budget category anyway.)
  • Experiences were not included. (Concerts, dance events, meals out with friends…)
  • Gifts were not included. (I don’t tend to go too crazy in this category anyway, but if I bought something for a birthday or Christmas present, I didn’t count it.)

The idea of this goal wasn’t exactly to not spend any money, because I did spend money on all kinds of things. I was mostly trying to see how little stuff I needed to add into my life. I knew I probably wouldn’t get through an entire year without buying anything, but I’m not a big shopper anyway, so I was curious to see how well I would do.

Here are all the things I bought this year:

  1. Souvenir T-shirt – This was in January, so I felt like a bit of a failure right off the bat, but it was our first time at the California Balboa Classic and I wanted a keepsake. In retrospect, I think I could have done without it.
  2. Clinique face wash (x2) – I decided to count this because it’s a specialty item. It’s debatable whether it’s a ‘thing’ because it gets used up, but if I was into beauty supplies, I don’t think I could get away with not counting make-up and fancy hair products as I don’t think they are basic necessities.
  3. Puzzle book – I bought this as a reward to myself for getting our basement suite done. It was symbolic of all the free time I would have on my hands going forward. I had fond memories of doing logic problems, etc. as a kid and thought it would be fun to do them again. As it turns out, I’m pretty much over it. Wouldn’t buy again.
  4. Used Clothes – I bought a skirt, a top and a pair of pajamas from Value Village for the themed dances at a swing event last spring. I have only ever worn each of them the one time, and I probably could have gotten away with wearing things I already owned so, again, if I could do over, I probably wouldn’t bother.
  5. Bras and Underwear – I managed to last until about October, but finally caved and bought some new underthings. This was purely out of necessity (brought about mostly by not taking proper care of my things and not following washing instructions.)
  6. Dance shoes – This was a bit of a splurge but totally worth it. The shoes I bought are better quality than the ones I was wearing before (which are now discontinued) and should last me a few years. 100% happy with this purchase.
  7. Socks – The new dance shoes necessitated some new low profile socks. I bought a pack of them online because I didn’t want to go into the mall when I really should have just bit the bullet and gone. I’m not very happy with my choice, but I will make do.
  8. Giant Sweater – Around Halloween, we hit up Value Village for some stuff for Michel’s costume and I saw a huge hand-knit sweater for $9.95. I liked the colours and couldn’t pass up the deal of getting that much yarn for such a steal, so I bought it with the intention of unravelling it to make something with. It is now unravelled (which was a tedious and frustrating task) and waiting for its new life. I can’t say at this point if it was worth it or not, but it definitely provides a lot of yarn for a project or two in 2020, and that will save me from having to make at least one purchase next year.
  9. Gloves – I bought a new pair of stretchy gloves in Tofino during my birthday week extravaganza. No regrets there. They are super cute and I have worn them every day since, and enjoyed every minute of it.
  10. Day planner refill for 2020 – I have used the same style of day planner for many years and it is the definition of something that ‘sparks joy’ for me. I will probably buy one every year for the rest of my life, if I can.

* * *

The most surprising thing about this experiment, to me, was that from the beginning of the year to the end, I didn’t really run out of willpower or start to give up. It didn’t get harder as time went by; I think it actually got easier. It just became a habit to not bother browsing or looking up items I was casually interested in.

Having this goal in mind definitely made me consider things much more carefully. If there was something that I thought I really wanted but was going to put off buying this year, I wrote it down in my trusty day planner so that I could either buy it next year, or ask for it for Christmas or my birthday. A couple of those things I did get as gifts, and there are still a few things on the list that I want. None of them feel very urgent though. There were also a few things on the list that I ended up crossing off after a few months when I realized I didn’t really want them that badly.

Overall, I don’t feel like I deprived myself of anything this year, and looking back at what I did buy, if I had to do it all over again, I would only buy about half of it. Also, I can’t think of a single thing that I passed on and now wish I’d bought.

As for the experiment, I would definitely do it again, and I am planning to stick with it for 2020. I don’t really know what I learned about myself from this, except that there are very few things I actually need to add to my life. Spending my money and time on experiences holds much more value for me.

* * *

Unrelated Endnote:

This post marks 6 months of weekly blogging, which I feel is a success in regards to my original goal. I have proven to myself that I can write on a consistent basis, and I’ve enjoyed doing it, but I have other projects that I want to focus more time on going forward. I am finding that my weekly post is taking up too much of my one free day each week, so I am planning to post once or twice a month from now on.

Thanks to everyone that has been reading and encouraging me! I really appreciate it.

Happy New Year!



Join the Conversation


  1. Hi Julie. Good job sticking to your plan. This world is rolling out of control in so many areas. It is good to feel you can take control over some of your life and see the benefit and see the beauty of what is truly important. I feel encouraged to make some changes in my thinking by your words


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