Why I’m Doing A Shopping Ban
As I took part in my annual spring cleaning frenzy earlier this month, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and flustered after purging the items, rather than relieved and lighter like I usually do. A semi-annual purge where our family gets rid of clothing, toys, housewares, etc. is something that we’ve always done and felt much better about afterwards, but this time as I waded through our things, I realized that doing the same thing over and over (buying things, getting rid of said things) was actually driving me insane. Half the things we bring into our home, we end up throwing or giving away a few short years later. Sometimes, it doesn’t even make it a full year (i.e. cheap toys and fast fashion). I decided something needed to change.
I recently finished reading a book (nope not that Marie Kondo one – but I do like that one!) called The More Of Less by Joshua Becker. In it, he describes how contentment and true joy can’t come from our stuff, and in fact the more stuff we accumulate, the less joy and freedom we begin to feel. These are all things I know, but yet I still can’t deny the initial high of seeing something I want, buying it, then immediately feeling regret and dissatisfaction. Yet I do it again and again. This endless cycle is what has created a home full of “stuff” that feels more like a burden, than a joy. As a Christian, I have always known that my joy ought to come from my faith in Christ, but I’ve become easily distracted. While I consider my faith strong, and I do get a lot of joy out of my daily quiet time in prayer, I’m embarrassed to say that my 30 minutes of prayer are no competition to the hours of advertising I’m exposed to on a daily basis. From the moment I wake up when I check my social media accounts and see at least 30 product promotions before I’ve had breakfast to the endless ads on TV when I catch the news, and the promotions I hear on the radio as I drive my kids to school, I have been brainwashed. But I’ve justified my spending because I try not to buy things that seem frivolous or selfish. They are often items that will make my family’s life better (a kitchen gadget to liven up dinner, a cute hat for my kid in case he loses his current one, a book for my husband to read when he travels, etc.) But while these things might make our lives more comfortable and convenient, they aren’t actually a necessity. And these are actually the kinds of items that I end up purging every single year. But enough is enough.
The past two weeks have been an introductory phase to my shopping ban. I’ve started with cutting out all forms of media as soon as I wake up, with the exception of my devotionals, which I access through an app. Starting the day in prayer has also really helped me to be more patient and loving with my family in the frenzy of the morning. I have also cut out all TV, with the exception of Master Chef Canada on Thursday evenings, because in my mind, it’s helping me to become a better cook (aim high, right?) For me, the TV was something I grew up with on in the background. It was like white noise, and even comforting in some ways. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s taking up too much of my brain space and attention. Plus, the amount of advertising and product placement I see through watching certain shows is having more of an effect on me than I probably realize. The first few days without the TV on felt weird and too quiet. But I felt like a fog had been lifted over my head and I became more mindful of other sounds in my home such as the birds chirping outside the windows, and the wind rippling through the pond out back. I’ve been much more productive since turning off the TV. I’ve made it a goal to write every single day, and I’ve submitted over a dozen articles to various websites to be published since making this goal. Ten so far have been published. It is funny how when we let go of the need for “stuff” it not only unburdens our living spaces, but our mental ones too allowing us to be more focused on our goals.
So what does my shopping ban look like? I had to answer a few questions about duration, exceptions and ultimate goals. The duration of my ban is 6 months. I began in mid-May so I will end in mid-November. It seems timely since it will be right in the thick of holiday shopping. My hope is that my new discerning shopping skills will help me navigate the holiday season with more purpose. The exceptions are a list of items that are not included in the ban, such as groceries and medical costs. Also, I had to write out specific things that I may need to buy over the next 6 months such as toiletries, kids clothing, fees for school trips, etc. But I got very specific. For instance, instead of writing just toiletries, I looked at exactly how many new shampoo bottles, bars of soap, lotions, etc. that I would need for the next 6 months based on past usage, and budgeted for that amount only. I have a tendency to buy too many toiletries to the point where I’ve had cupboards full of lotion and makeup that I have forgotten about. This shopping ban is teaching me to be more mindful of my existing inventory and only buy what is necessary, so I don’t have to throw away brand new products that are past expiry. I also put aside a certain amount of money for gifts. Just because I’m on a shopping ban does not mean I can’t spoil my friends and family from time to time. If you are looking for a good guideline on how to do a shopping ban, I recommend this one by fellow blogger Cait Flanders.
What I hope to achieve out of this 6 month shopping ban besides the inner peace that comes from being unburdened by too much stuff is the ability to give more. My hope is that with our family going with less, we can give more to others. Naturally when you are spending less, you are going to be left with more money at the end of the month (unless you’re in debt. If you are, pay off those debts with the leftover money.) So my goal is to increase our household charitable giving. I hesitate in sharing numbers because I’m not sure if sharing exact figures is sharing too much information, but I’d like to share enough that it can be a source of encouragement for others. At this point, I’ll talk about percentages. In the past, we’ve always given 10% of our income away every month, as that is the biblical principle we’ve followed. But my hope and goal is to double that, and eventually give more to others than we spend on ourselves. My husband and I feel this is important because we are currently in a stage of life where we are not able to do a whole lot of volunteering in our community or international development abroad with our kids. Perhaps when they are older, we will be able to do some development trips, but in the meantime we will do what we can, which is to give financially.
So I hope that you will follow along with me and my family’s shopping ban, and perhaps be encouraged to tailor one for your own. It will be interesting to see how this ban will affect our upcoming travels. I’ll be in Las Vegas for a few days in July and NYC as a family in August. I did allocate a small budget for traveling and eating out however most of that money is meant to be used for necessities and experiences over items. I’ll keep you guys updated with our journey. Also, I’m curious if you have ever done a shopping ban, or if it is something you think you could do?