During this second week of my low-spend challenge, my goal was simple: Spend less. I figure the less I reach for my credit card, the better. But as simple as that strategy may be, its a lot harder in real life. Like earlier in the week, when Girlfriend Collective re-stocked their high-compression leggings. And when I finished my novel and immediately saw a new e-book on minimalist living. Not surprisingly, the list goes on. It would be so easy to justify those kinds of purchases—after all, I’d be supporting small businesses and ethical supply chains. But at the end of the day, I have like four pairs of leggings and books I’ve never even opened. So why should I accumulate anything more? That’s the thing about consumerism; whether it’s new or vintage, ethical or fast fashion, the most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already have.
For those of you who may be trying to reduce your footprint or simply want to spend less money, here are a few simple ways to get the most out of what you already have and keep your wallets shut.
Avoid or limit your use of consumer-centric apps:
Instagram is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a simple way for me to discover amazing brands and get connected to the larger sustainable community. On the other hand, its the same place I discovered Cause Box, Misfit Market, Girlfriend Collective, GLDN, and so many others. Don’t get me wrong, these are brands I love, but they’re also a big cash suck. Self-admittedly, in the past few months, I’ve spent unprecedented amounts on new brands. And while I’m very happy with my purchases, regardless of where I’m shopping, I’m still consuming—often times unnecessarily.
The same is true for apps like Poshmark, Depop, and Pinterest. Whether you can shop in-app or not, it’s very easy to get sucked in to beautiful images and stylish getups. And in the case of Poshmark and Depop, quantities are usually limited and, in many cases, so is your time to buy. All these factors come together and make it hard to resist consumer temptations.
If you are trying to spend less, I recommend deleting these apps from your phone or, at the very least, turning their data off so you can only use them on WIFI. This way, you don’t have the opportunity to scroll through when you’re bored. You know the saying—out of sight, out of mind.
Skip Tempting Locations:
I may go into CVS for medications but I’ll inevitably pass the beauty aisle. I don’t even need anything, it’s just that all that flashy packaging draws me in and I turn into some kind of beauty crow, circling the nail polishes until I either get one or force myself to leave. Depending on where you live and work, temptations can be easier or more difficult to avoid. Of course, there’s always the internet but its when you’re in that boutique or the supermarket that it becomes even more difficult to say, “no.”
During this low-spend month, I’m trying very hard to avoid drugstores, thrift shops, and any other places where my wallet might uncontrollably open. I make sure that every time I do need something, I put it on a list so I’m less likely to go rogue and leave with more than I bargained for. Is this a surefire way to bypass impulse buys? No, that requires some self-discipline. But this can help limit the number of times you come face-to-face that thing you want, but definitely don’t need.
Clean Up, Clean Out:
It is spring, after all. What better time to do a deep-dive of your closet, cupboards, and drawers. I recommend doing this section by section so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Empty the contents of your wardrobe and catch-all drawers. Then sift through, figure out what’s in there that you didn’t know you had. Is there anything you can recycle or donate? And what isn’t there that you do need? Sometimes, it can be hard to visualize everything you have; we’re all so busy that it’s easy to disconnect from what we’ve already purchased. But when you lay everything out, you get a true sense of what you’ve accumulated and are better able to make informed consumer decisions.
Take your time:
Okay, I admit it, I got Cause Box. Technically, it won’t arrive until next month so I’m not breaking my challenge, but regardless, I did spend on something I don’t need. The thing is, I know myself—I love to shop, and I always will. But as I become more woke to the consequences of my consumerism, I’m finding ways to balance my wants with the world’s needs. This means buying less but buying better, thinking about every purchase as an investment, rather than a transaction. WIth Cause Box, I figure, it supports good brands and it’s also an easy way to make sure I always have great gifts on hand for birthdays and holidays. Do I need it? No. But overall, the positives outweigh the negatives so in my mind, its an appropriate purchase.
In the past, I would never spend time considering the carbon footprint of my purchases or the conditions of the people behind the brand. Shopping was a purely primal experience. I want. I get. Now, I take my time when shopping. I avoid hurrying through the process because I know that’s when I make impulse purchases. If I want something but don’t need it, I’ll sometimes take a picture (maybe even hide it from other shoppers), leave the store, and come back later once I’ve had time to think it over. If a shirt is still on my mind a week later, I probably will buy it. But if I’ve forgotten about it, its likely something I’d end up not using.
I also try to be more aware of my emotions when I’m shopping. For example, when I’m really happy or really down, shopping is a terrible idea because I will try to supplement my emotional state with material items. Knowing that I’ll spend more helps me to find alternatives to shopping and in the end, reduce the chance of impulse buys.
For better or worse, consumerism is part of the human experience. But the more we can say, “Hey, wait a minute,” before buying something and really think about what we’re buying and why, the more likely we are to make smarter decisions for ourselves and the planet. As always, it’s not about being perfect, it’s just about trying.