What I Learned From a 90 Day Shopping Ban

Normally I start the month with a budget review, but I seriously could not wait to share what I experienced in my very first shopping ban! Very first….does this mean there will be a second or third or fourth shopping ban? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out!

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When I decided to embark on this shopping ban, I was in a mental state that I was not satisfied with. The purpose of the ban was never to just save money by restricting my purchases. I really wanted to detach myself from the constant thought in the back of my head about what I was going to buy next. I also wanted to stop spending so much of my time looking at new things to purchase. Whether the items are actual needs or pure wants, my goal was to reach a point where I could quickly educate myself on my options, choose what worked best for me, then move on. Just before starting the shopping ban, I had spent MONTHS obsessing over the purchase of a new purse and wallet. I wanted something that reflected my priorities – a classic style, but with ethical production in mind. What that really meant was I wanted something that spoke to people about who I was before I even spoke to them myself. This was really just another case of purchasing something to project an idea of myself and who I wanted to be. The clothing you wear, the vehicle you drive, and the food you eat will always project some identity to others; people will always judge you based on those things. What I was trying to do with this shopping ban was remove the voice in the back of my head that would sometimes persuade me to buy a certain thing because it would evoke envy or desire from others.

This is something that is really hard for me to admit, but I have always wanted to be someone who others aspire to be. There is the positive side of this that guides me to encourage others to strive towards the best version of themselves. But there is also the negative side that wants people to covet my lifestyle. We all possess this quality at some level. You Instagram a photo of your morning coffee in a cute mug, hoping for likes, which are really just a tally of how many people want what you have. This yearning to want to project this better version of myself was taking over the focus to internally create a better version of myself. Regaining my focus in this area was a primary goal of the shopping ban.

Now that I’ve recounted my reasons for going on the shopping ban, here’s a quick recap of what I was allowed to purchasing during the 90 day period between February 1, 2016 and April 30, 2016:

  • essential groceries, toiletries, and home cleaning supplies
  • prepared food and drinks from restaurants, coffee shops, and fast food
  • experiences like movie tickets or entry to a park
  • gifts for others or items needed by my husband and children

And here’s what I was banned from purchasing:

  • excessive snacks & desserts from the grocery store
  • home decor items
  • clothing and accessories
  • toiletries that did not replace something empty
  • supplements and superfoods

And the million dollar question is….did not I make it through the entire 90 days without a slip up? Uhhh, do you see how long this post is? We’ve got a ways to go before you get that answer!

When I think about what I learned and experienced through the shopping ban, there are really distinctive periods. In the beginning I felt extremely confident. There was this overwhelming sense of relief that came from starting the ban, and I did not feel tempted in any way to challenge that feeling.

About two weeks in came the first time I questioned whether or not something was really essential, and I thought about being lenient. That feeling disappeared quickly when I started to notice what a difference it made to truly not purchase anything unnecessary.

By the end of the first month, I reached a really good place where I had accepted my want for items, knowing it was only problem if I acted without restraint or allowed myself to think too much about those wants. I had also committed to a rather expensive experience – a barre studio membership. I would not have challenged myself to take the first class if I had not been saving money via the shopping ban.

The sense of peace I had at the end of the first 30 days continued well into the 75 day mark. But that was when things started to get difficult. The end of the ban was so close, it felt safe to start thinking about what I wanted/needed to purchase once the ban ended. It felt smart to start planning now so I wouldn’t go crazy on May 1st. At the same time, I was becoming really committed to the idea of only purchasing sustainable items either from companies that supported ethical practices or via secondhand shops. This is a world I am not too familiar with, and I quickly became overwhelmed trying to find sources to replace my usual Target home goods purchases and Old Navy clothing.

By April 29th, I had no idea where my new purchases would be coming from all, but I was desperate to fill some gaps in my capsule and active wear wardrobes. I had discussed with my husband taking a half day to go shopping by myself on Sunday, May 1st. But then I realized some of the shops I wanted to check out were closed on Sundays. So Ryan suggested I just end the shopping ban early and shop Saturday. I had already made it this far, it was self-imposed, I felt confident I was in the right place to make new purchases. So it was decided! Saturday morning I would go shopping! It was Friday evening so maybe I should just get a head start and place an order online. It took me two seconds to head to the Bkr website and purchase a new water bottle. It had begun.

Saturday morning I was feeling excited about the prospect of finding some great, new clothing items. I didn’t have a detailed list, but I had an idea of some things I wanted to purchase. My first stop was a major department store. They were having a huge sale so I was confident I would find something I liked at a good discount. Cut to 45 minutes later, and I was basically running for the door. It was loud and crowded, there was just so much excess cheap stuff everywhere. It was not my idea of a good time. I stopped into a couple other small stores, but I couldn’t find anything that fit well at a good price. One of the purchases I contemplated was a clearance poly blend blouse from J.Crew for $53.40….how are y’all gone charge $50 for a CLEARANCE shirt when you know your quality has gone wayyyy down and this shirt was probably made for $2 by an overworked, underpaid woman in India. You’re not gonna get my money today, J.Crew.

Before leaving the outdoor mall, I decided I would check out this really cute outdoorsy store that might have some yoga leggings. Lo and behold, they had a ton of active wear from ethical brands like Prana, Lolë, and Patagonia. And in the clearance section, I hit the jackpot – an olive Barbour utility jacket, size 0/2 for 60%. I have been wanting a Barbour Beadnell for a couple of years. But the utility jacket was at a price I could not pass up. After picking out a  yoga tank and leggings, I spent a couple of minutes justifying that the Barbour jacket would be a good purchase. Then I headed to the register. 3 items for $312. Yikes!

My next stop was a secondhand store. Within a couple of minutes of browsing, I found a cute pair of cropped pants. Then a top. Then another top. Then some shoes. Before I knew it, I had 10 items and I was headed to the dressing room. I tried on everything, but nothing fit that well, and I realized it wasn’t on my shopping list. But it was all so cute! And deeply discounted. I could buy J.Crew and Lilly and LOFT without the guilt because it was secondhand! So I headed to the register with 7 items totaling $150.

I left the secondhand store feeling accomplished and excited about my new purchases. I headed to the car and noticed another discount store in the same shopping center. It wouldn’t hurt to duck in there, right? 15 minutes later, I had 3 new items for $65.

My last stop of the day was Target for a few grocery items and one of my wants throughout the shopping ban – a small rug for the kitchen. As I walked quickly through the store, in a hurry to get everything and get home, this horrible feeling settled over me. What had I done?!?! I had just spent $527 on a bunch of clothing! Had I learned nothing from this shopping ban? Did I even like this clothing?

The entire drive home I felt sick to my stomach. As I walked through the front door, I immediately announced to Ryan that I had failed the shopping ban. I couldn’t get it out of my mind the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. I just felt horrible. I kept going back into the bedroom to try on the clothing, looking in the mirror and trying to justify it was a smart purchase. After dinner, I realized I should just return everything! Besides, the utility jacket, which easily retails on eBay for double what I paid, everything could be returned for a full cash refund. I immediately folded each item up with the corresponding receipt and placed it in a shopping ban. Sweet relief rushed over me. I felt so much better.

But I hadn’t truly fixed the issue. There is an underlying problem that still needs to be addressed. I thought I had become better about making smart purchases. Which I had. But what I had not anticipated was the avalanche of good feelings that would come from a smart purchase which would lead me to less smart purchases until all of a sudden I was considering buying workout clothing from Walmart. I mean, who am I? Shopping at Walmart? Oh, the humanity!

It’s been to two days since my shopping trip from hell. One item has been exchanged for a different size, but the purchases from the secondhand store and discount store are still waiting to be returned. And I’ll shortly be listing the utility jacket on eBay. The only items I’ll be keeping are the (exchanged) yoga leggings and yoga tank. Both are pricey, but they are from an ethical brand so I feel good about the purchase. I think. The tank is hanging in my closet, tags still on. I’m still working up the courage to wear it. These things take time.

So what have I learned from the shopping ban? Slow fashion, for me, also means a slow shopping experience, apparently. I might just do all my shopping online so I don’t have to set foot in a store. It’s too much pressure. Sticking to a list is basically my mantra now. Lists are life. And if I feel any bit of regret, the purchase is probably not for me. The kitchen rug I was searching for at Target? I found a yellow woven rug on sale. It had a fair trade tag which allowed me to look up the source of the rug before even purchasing it. I immediately put it on the ground next to the sink when I arrived home, and I’ve admired how bright and cheery it is every time I step foot in the kitchen. That purchase is definitely a keeper.

Did I fail the shopping ban? Absolutely not. I’m a liberal arts major so there’s no right or wrong answer for me. It’s all in the journey, man.

Will I be embarking on another shopping ban? In a way, yes. I have banned myself from making unintentional purchases. And in doing so, I have banned myself from feeling guilt or regret from a purchase. I have some major wants coming around the corner….hello, outdoor furniture! And I still sense some gaps in my wardrobe. So I’m considering another ban in the fall/winter. But for now I would like to continue testing the waters without a full-fledged shopping ban.

Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for getting through this whole post! Or thank you for skimming to the end so you can get the gist of my experience before deciding if a shopping ban is for you. Either way, I hope you’ve learned some things. And I hope I haven’t scared you away from my blog. I promise the next few posts will have photos, and I will be less long-winded. Thank you for reading!

xoxo Lauren



8 thoughts on “What I Learned From a 90 Day Shopping Ban

  1. Thank you for sharing so honestly your experiences, thoughts and feelings! I haven’t done any official shopping ban myself, but I am definitely trying to be more aware of what I really “need” and what are just things I want… or, as you say, what things I want so that people will have a certain idea of the person I want them to think I am… It’s definitely a learning process and sharing your experience will help me and others learn too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post gave me LIFE, Lauren!! I absolutely loved all the layers of learnings you shared and it’s encouraged me to start my journey, but with way more realistic expectations. I’m going to embrace it right now that it’s not going to be easy or perfectly planned as it appears in my head, haha. My FAVORITE part was your honesty about acquiring items to evoke envy and desire in others. I can definitely relate to this, because who doesn’t want to be an inspiring example to others? It’s tough as a blogger/vlogger to not do/buy things for the sake of the blog/TY channel/instagram, because of the fear of not having “exciting enough” content. I used to struggle with this in the past when I’d do my monthly beauty review videos. But there’s absolutely no need to live under that kind of pressure. I love the freedom you experienced in making smarter choices, and inspiring others to do the same. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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