As I shared in my 2019 goals, I decided to start off the year by challenging myself to make ZERO purchases other than food and essentials for three months. I considered essentials to be just replacing everyday items if they ran out. For example, I wasn’t going to stop washing my hair because I ran out of shampoo and was doing a spending challenge. Same with household products. But I wanted to add nothing new to any shopping carts. So even though I usually wear makeup, purchasing new makeup beyond just replacing my staple items if they ran out would be against the rules of the spending challenge. It’s a little bit flexible in terms of the rules and definitions, but it made sense to me.
Let me tell you one thing that surprised me: the three month spending challenge (January 1-March 31) FLEW by! I thought I would be painstakingly counting the days until I could go to the Target home section, but it was such a good discipline for my heart because I realized how much I really didn’t miss buying stuff. That was even true for clothing. I have officially not purchased any clothes since 2018, and I even perused the spring clothing collection at Target with Grace the other day and had very little desire to buy anything.
The other thing that surprised me: how much this spending challenge and consciousness regarding buying things changed my overall financial perspective. These first three months of 2019 have radically changed Grace and me in terms of finances. I will be honest and tell you that we did not keep a budget whatsoever for the first 5 months of marriage. Thankfully it was fine, but as we dream and talk about our lives as a married couple we realized how much we are going to need to intentionally save to be able to do the things we want! There were definitely tears shed in the early discussions about budgeting, and we’ve had to sacrifice and make tough decisions. But we’ve also been able to joyfully say YES to a big trip this summer because we know how we’re going to afford it, and we’re so excited about the dreams we’re building towards by being disciplined in this area.
The spending challenge has helped me turn my perspective around from focusing on the sacrifice of saying “no” to something I want, to focusing on the joy of saying “yes” to things I want WAY more in the big picture.
So it’s now April and my spending challenge is technically done! So far in the first couple weeks, I’ve only bought a new mascara and some small home improvement items for our house. I’m happy to say that doing this challenge has really reduced my desire to online shop or just want a quick fix of retail therapy. I initially thought about what it would look like if I kept the challenge going the whole year, but I think I’m going to ease up for the spring/summer and then maybe end the year with another three months of it.
A couple tips if you are interested in doing this (I highly recommend it)!
When you get a desire to buy something specific (like “oh I NEED a new houseplant for that windowsill” or whatever), write it in a note on your phone. I kept a note of things I wanted but was saying “no” to for now, so I wouldn’t forget to grab them if I really still wanted them at the end of the challenge. On my note are a grout pen to touch up our grout on the tile floors (exciting stuff huh!), this book so many people have recommended, this beauty product a blogger I like recommended, and these monogrammed PJs. I might pull the trigger on the grout pen because it’s only like $11 but everything else can wait or maybe go on my birthday wish list!
On that note, I think easing back into buying stuff after your spending challenge is done is really helpful. I personally would feel kind of bummed if I just went out and bought tons of stuff to make up for lost time. So far I’ve just bought things that I know are useful and I’d been consciously waiting to purchase, and I feel good about it!
But before your spending challenge, I say go all out and have one last spending hurrah if you feel like it. Leading up to the start of my spending challenge was the holiday season followed by our decadent trip to New Orleans, and so by January 1 I actually felt pretty ready to take a breather from buying stuff. I think it helps to know that you can grab that one thing you “need” right before starting the challenge.
If anyone has done a challenge like this or wants to try it, I would love to hear from you and connect!