‘Less is more’ – my Low Buy January recap

This Friday the first month of my low buy year ended and it’s time to look back on these 31 days of NOT shopping. How was it? How does it feel? How am I? Could you do it too?

It was great. It feels great. I’m doing great. Yes, you can (if you want to)!

four book covers

So many books … still not enough time?

Spending time not shopping

As most of you who went on a low buy or no buy challenge know, the moment you ditch your compulsive shopping habits is usually also the moment you suddenly have A LOT more spare time at your hand. Surprisingly though, at least for the first 31 days, I had no trouble at all filling new found time slots with projects and things to do.
For one, I read much more. I signed up for a reading challenge on Goodreads and I’m already three books ahead! Right now I’m reading four books — one non-fiction, one for research purposes, one of my beloved Jessicas, and a self-improvement book — which is less than ideal in general and for someone like me in particular but in the end right now it’s ok for me because I feel like a kid on summer break — the world is my oyster and so are my bookshelves!
Having so much more time also enabled me to FINALLY get back into a proper research mode, usually spending my afternoons writing or reading some papers and actively working on my dissertation again. It’s still not ideal but it is far better than it has been just two months ago, so I’m heading in the right direction. Besides, one thing I’ve learned over the years working as a (freelance) writer and copywriter is that it often comes in waves — one day two, three, five pages are no problem at all, other days every line you accomplish seems almost impossible. So maybe ‘ideal’ is whatever works best on any given day, as long as I just keep working.
I also got crafty again embroidering my Kanken and already planning some design for my other backpacks. I created some rather fancy bullet journal spreads, doodling my way through February and some other collections and lists I started. So overall, January was a great start into a year in which I plan to explore and establish new paths, ideas, and ways to handle my stuff.

Kanken Embroidery

I tried something new and embroidered a Kanken.

Spending time shopping

Apart from being the newly (!!) reformed compulsive shopper that I am, I still spent more than enough time ‘shopping’ things I needed. First to mention are groceries, of course. Thanks to meal planning I only have to get groceries about twice (three times at max) a week, but that’s still more than enough.
And then there are those everyday items you never realized how regularly you need them. How often do you buy laundry detergent, toothpaste, or soap? We’ve adapted a lot of our cosmetics and household product to sustainable and/or low waste options, but you still have to get that stuff from time to time — something that does not become obvious until you only go shopping when you need something…
Additionally, apart from buying only what I needed, I also shopped locally most of the time. Instead of ordering an item online just because I could I now took the time to look for shops where I could buy what I needed. So when my gran asked me to get her a sustainable alternative for her plastic straws, I did not order them online but first went to the local zero waste store to see if I could get stainless steel straws there — of course, they had several different versions! When needing yarn for my embroidery project I also went to three different shops until I finally found what I had been looking for. This took some time, but also gave me a new understanding of how to act more sustainably and buy more consciously, using the resources I had all around me — sometimes just five minutes away. After all, this is how I shopped until just about ten, maybe fifteen years ago. Ordering online was an option, but just one of several. It was not the main option and my first choice — and so one could say I’m on my way back to the future that looks surprisingly similar to a not so long ago past.
Admittedly I also spend half of my book budget for January on Amazon, so those tiny steps I took pretty much amortized itself with this act, but since I would have had to order those books anyway, I decided to do it on my own without the hassle of interpersonal interaction (after all it’s called The Merry Loner for a reason)

Because I completely forgot about my tuition fees which were due in January (as every year but bless this mess that is my brain …) it was not a successful month regarding my saving plans, BUT it could have been much worse. I plan to do my best to undo some of the ‘losses’ in February by taking a close look at upcoming financial obligations before they take me by complete surprise thereby planning accordingly to not end up frustrated at the end of the month.

Room for improvement

January was an overtly social month. We went out for dinner with friends three times and I had three lunch dates, which is definitely more than I and we usually dine out in a month (we are literal homebodies). This is something that did not go according to my plan and rules and I want to change that in February. As I don’t want to rebuff my loved ones when they ask me or us out, this may become a true challenge over the months but sometimes it’s also a question of timing: I hadn’t had a single dinner date (meaning going out for dinner paying for it myself) in December, only to have a surprise visit from friends and family on different weekends in January – something like this can come up and when it does it depends on how you want to handle it. I decided to give in and spend time with people I love, but you could decide to instead invite them over to your place and cook. You could also do something completely different to appreciate your loved ones without having to spend additional money. This is why low buy rules may sometimes be prone to bending at the edges according to what is within limits. Yes, I overspent on eating out BUT at the same time I didn’t use up my whole January book budget. One does not amortize the other, still it is a way of bending the rules without having to feel like a complete failure.

February low buy — what lies ahead?

According to what I wrote earlier, I will do my best to calculate upcoming expenses. February 5th is my mom’s birthday and I will spend some money to get her a gift. We have a sort of town festival coming up which may add some additional costs, but not that much. I have to pay my train tickets for an upcoming holiday and the annual fee for an app I decided to keep. Apart from that, I hope for some smooth sailing and fancy saving my book budget for the month because this idea of ‘rediscovering my bookshelves’ works surprisingly well, so I may stick to it for now without adding anything to my collection.
I’m not a big planner and I won’t ever become one but trying to keep an overview of what’s coming up this month hopefully is sufficient for my low buy life and also gives me a sort of grown-up vibe (again) that is 15 years late. In the end though it’s about what works for me which may be different from how others handle their life (and low buy). We are here to share, support, and inspire each other — let’s do exactly that! 🙂

 

How to … Low Buy?!

bookshelves full with books

Being the ADHD nerd that I am, I always try to be prepared the best I can for upcoming plans and challenges. Educating myself in regards to every possible eventuality that could occur gives me a sense of security and peace of mind, knowing I will be able to handle pretty much everything life throws at me (note that I say “pretty much everything” and not “all” – I’m an absent-minded idealist, not a complete idiot). This, of course, means that I did my best to prepare myself for the challenge ahead, my Low Buy  2020. Watching videos, listening to podcasts and reading some inspiring blog posts all contributed to me still going strong and not even missing shopping in any way on day 12 of this new adventure. It wasn’t that easy and enjoyable to quit smoking, that much I can already say. My various sources provided me with some valuable tips on how to best navigate through a world that is focused on mindless consumption as a way to raise your spirits, and I picked those that work best for me. Here are my favorites. 

Out of Sight, out of Mind – Unsubscribe and Unfollow

I heard and read different opinions regarding unsubscribing and unfollowing to remove yourself from even the slightest temptation. Whereas some want to stay informed about what’s going on – especially those coming from makeup low/no buys – others insist on unsubscribing and unfollowing to make your life a lot easier during a low buy or no buy challenge. I agree with the latter. Consequently, unsubscribing from newsletters and similar E-mails as well as unfollowing some accounts on Insta makes this challenge a lot easier. I’m susceptible to seeing something online and instantly wanting it, especially regarding clothes, backpacks, and bags. I’ve worked in marketing and advertising long enough to recognize certain linguistic devices and design elements, thus it’s not necessarily the ads or E-mails I fall for, but rather a look promoted by some influencer or a certain kind of website with a minimalist look, elegant and low key – that’s my soft spot.
So better safe than sorry – unsubscribe, unfollow, un-everything that helps you not to feel like you’re missing out or denying yourself a better life. Also: less spam mail, more spare time – hooray!

When removing myself from all temptation, this also means not going to the stores or shopping malls. Since I’m not a big fan of crowds in general this is a rather positive consequence of my Low Buy. The same applies to online shops: I don’t want to buy anything so why should I visit their website?

Plan ahead for you Low Buy Challenge

I removed every shopping app I had on my cellphone and tablet – nothing is more convenient than scrolling through Amazon when you’re bored, so by simply removing the app it’s not THAT easy. Some suggest to also deleting your credit card/bank detail from online store accounts so that you have to fill in all your information every time you want to make a purchase. This would probably thwart quite a few shopping ambitions since most of us can’t remember all their information and are often simply too comfortable to get up and search for it in a bag, wallet, or wherever you store it. I haven’t done this because I don’t think I need it – but it’s a good advice for those who may need it.
In addition to removing all shopping apps, I’ve also created a wish list were I record all the items that I may want to buy after giving it some time and consideration. As my Low Buy Year should largely be a No Buy Year, I won’t buy most of the items on my wish list  before 2021, if ever. The only exceptions are items deemed necessary (as I explained in my Low Buy Rules). And books. But I got a separate wish list for books since a monthly book budget of €50 doesn’t necessarily mean I can buy every book I want. Planning is key. Always.

Furthermore, meal planning will also help to shop consciously, though this might not be for everyone. I started meal planning a few months ago – inspired by Anna Newton and her book The Anna Edit – because I don’t like cooking and I’m not exactly creative in the kitchen department; in combination with the fact that without a clear plan I have a hard time shopping groceries (some say that’s one symptom of ADHD – whatever it is I hate it) a meal plan is a great way to make my life much easier. However, one of the side benefits I never thought of is that we’re saving money. 

To plan ahead also means keeping track of your money. Even though this challenge is not mainly about saving money but rather about my inner peace and freedom from shopping as a crutch to use whenever I feel low, one of my main goals is saving a decent amount of money. Having some money on the side will buy you the freedom to live on your own terms whenever you feel the need to do so.
Keeping a budget will help you to track your money, seeing where it goes and planning where it should go instead. I don’t like apps so I do it the traditional ‘analog’ way with charts and lists, and I’m only at the beginning of actually telling my money where to go BUT I’m on my way. If you decide to keep a budget yourself, find a way that works for you – you will find tips regarding #budgeting all over the internet.   

That’s the last post of my Low Buy for Beginners series – for now.
I will continue to write about my Low Buy Challenge 2020 as well as the books I read and the life I live … just as I did before. Enjoy 🙂 

“Any fool can make a rule …”

Before deciding to start my Low Buy 2020 Challenge I went on YouTube and watched videos by Hannah Louise Poston, Christina from style apotheca, Signe from useless_dk, and Hailey Evans, amongst others, for inspiration and to get an idea of what I actually want to do – low buy, no buy, a whole year, just a few months?
Thanks to Signe I realized early on that a complete No Buy year would very probably set me up for failure because in the end I wouldn’t be allowed to buy a single book for a whole year (yeah, I know, I’m such a drama llama when it comes to books …). That’s why I granted myself the luxury of a 50 Euro book budget every month. My main objective is to rediscover my bookshelves and read what I have – so best case scenario would be to save additional 50 Euros every month – yet if I absolutely HAVE to get a certain book (maybe even for professional reasons) I can buy it without breaking the rules of my Low Buy challenge feeling like a total loser.

bookshelves with books and plants

Another thing that became clear early on was that I needed set up some rules for myself if I wanted to suceed in not buying anything I don’t need. I’m a grown-ass woman and intellectually capable of grasping the basic idea of a ‘low buy challenge’ BUT the issue may get a bit more complicated over time and I know I have to give myself some guidelines to follow so I won’t start bullshitting myself … Thus, I did some research and voilà – THE rules! 🙂

My Low Buy 2020 rules:

1) I will not buy any new clothes, bags, backpacks, or shoes. Nothing. I got enough stuff to get me through more than just a year and I will make use of it.

2) I will keep track of my spending to keep my eyes on the prize, i.e., see how much money I save by not buying shit I don’t need. I will do so by tracking my expenses in my bullet journal because apps simply don’t do the trick for me.

3) I will buy replacements WHEN NEEDED. This includes groceries, medical items, skin care products and toiletries, household goods, stationary/office supplies, plants (as stated before I might have killed one of our green friends …), fabric and wool. BUT: I will buy this only WHEN NEEDED. I will not accumulate a collection of notebooks, deodorants, or candles as long as I got enough of it and don’t need one specific item. I will use up (or discard) what I own before buying anything new.

4) I can sew or knit something new if I want to BUT (again) I will use the fabric and wool I have at home before buying anything new. Only then am I allowed to buy materials for one new item per month. In doing so I want to train my patience by actually making something myself – which takes much longer than simply buying it – and also create a sort of appreciation for clothing in general. Garments don’t grow on racks, they are made by someone and it takes time and workmanship to create a piece of clothing. So why not take a step back and do it myself – I got the equipment but lack skills and patience, so this promises to bring lots of fun.

5) I will only have two take-outs per month at the max.

6) I have a book budget of 50 Euros per month. Since book shopping has never been a problem in the first place, I want this one thing to continue ‘as usual’. However, I will not spend more than 50 Euros – if something is too expensive, it has to wait. So I have to think hard about which books I really want and which ones I put on my wishlist. 

7) I will buy gifts for others or spend money on shared experiences. This includes vacations, lunch/dinner/coffee dates, and trips to a museum, the zoo or the like. Since I’m not a huge socializer to begin with, it’s not like this is something that happen three times a week. Usually I have a fortnightly lunch date with a good friend of mine as well as the occasional coffee date with friends or family. I couldn’t afford vacations for several years not only for monetary reasons but also because of mental health issues. That’s why I don’t want to cut back on traveling for this Low Buy challenge in general, nevertheless I will focus on the experience and not on the shopping opportunities when up and away. In the end it’s not like I’m flying across the globe every few weeks …

8) No IKEA, no mugs, no home decor and the like.

9) No video games. I will use what I have.

10) Whenever I see an item I want to have I put it on my wish list. Having and (pretty much) curating a wish list will give me an understanding of the things I WANT compared to what I actually NEED. It will also give me the certainty that even though I may not be able to buy it now it will not be forgotten and can be bought in a few months/weeks time.

My main incentive is to save some money. I was good at saving money when I had none – it’s time to get back into that spirit. Because the only thing worth spending money on is time for yourself … at least to me. 🙂