There comes a moment when we feel overwhelmed. The credit card balance is high, there may be personal challenges going on, and the social and political situation may not be precisely blooming at the moment. In these times of uncertainty and fear, we must recognize the aspects of our life that we can change and let go of those we most certainly cannot.

Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So these moments of crisis are a great way to have a fresh start and make a meaningful change in our life.

The no buy year challenge is about limiting our spending. For many people, it is a decision that comes with environmental concerns and a sustainable mindset. For many others, it is about restricting their spending to improve their financial situation.

Regardless of your reasons behind an interest in a no buy year challenge, let’s talk about the steps before beginning this journey and some important aspects to consider to make sure that you succeed in this significant decision you are about to make. 


No buy year. Why is it a good idea? Image Courtesy of Ron Lach.

When people get married, they usually exchange vows. The couple goes over some of the reasons why they want to get married to each other. The reasons may mention personality attributes, emotions, special moments, or any other thoughts that they share with their significant other. A no buy year is a commitment that you are doing with yourself for a specific time, so it’s important that you know why you want to do this challenge.

Make sure that you write down this reason or reasons because that will help you to stay motivated during times of temptation, uncertainty, or simply a lack of motivation to keep going with the challenge. For many people, the no buy year challenge comes as a form to stop impulsive shopping or the so-called “retail therapy” where one buys things impulsively because of instant gratification, not because of a need to shop. 

There’s not a “stupid” reason to do the challenge, if this reason is meaningful to you. 

From saving money and helping the planet to reducing your debt or putting money aside to support a beloved one, there are many reasons why people decide to go into the no buy year challenge. 


If a year sounds like a very long period to keep up with this challenge, it doesn’t have to be a year long. You don’t have to do a no buy year just because that’s this challenge’s “standard” period. This challenge is a commitment you make to yourself, and you have the liberty to choose your own rules. You can start with a commitment of two weeks, and slowly increase the time frames to one or two months until you reach a long period that will leave you with greater savings and gratification. 



Looking at the clothes you already own. Image Courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto.

The first thing that you need to do is an inventory. Make sure that you have the clothes you need, that they are functional (the zippers work, the fit is right), and that you are comfortable wearing these clothes. Think about your daily routine and the kind of clothes that you require on a regular basis. People living under very cold temperatures might require several coats, boots, and windbreakers. People with a very active social life will have some clothes for these occasions. Make sure you have clothes for all these occasions that you encounter yourself. 

This is also a great opportunity to get rid of the clothes that you no longer feel comfortable wearing. Make sure you donate, sell, or at the very least recycle these clothes so that you don’t contribute to the huge environmental problem of textile waste.

What do you already have? What do you really need? Image Courtesy of RODNAE Productions.

After doing an inventory, you must track your spending. This will be the greatest eye opener as you will realize how much you have to reduce your spending and where your money is going. Many people don’t do a serious amount of shopping but spend lots of money on entertainment (movies, video games, attraction parks). Others want to reduce their spending on food and drinks (clubs, take-out, delivery food). 

Once you have these numbers, you’ll be able to have a clear idea of your areas of opportunity. You may be satisfied with your spending on a certain area and may want to reduce the amount of money spent on another. This information will be very important in the next step of creating your own rules. 


Clothes may not be where most of your money is going. Maybe it’s entertainment or food? Image Courtesy of Pavel Danilyuk.

This is one of the most critical parts of the process because this is where you are essentially signing the commitment you are making to yourself. The rules you make must be clear, specific, and realistic. Here are some examples of rules that fit these criteria.

I will limit myself to purchasing a maximum of two fashion items per month. (fashion items include clothes, fashion accessories like hats, shoes, jewelry, etc.). 
I will limit myself to spending a maximum of $100 dollars on clothes per month.
The only reason why I’m allowed to buy new shoes is if any pair of shoes I own gets damaged, lost, or is, for some reason, no longer wearable. 

Make sure you include clear numerical limits and that you are specific with your time frames and your spending categories. This will help you to avoid any difficult moments of hesitation once you start the challenge. 

Clothes may not be where most of your money is going. Maybe it’s entertainment or food? Image Courtesy of Pavel Danilyuk.

It’s also important that these goals are achievable according to your lifestyle. If you go shopping every two weeks as a hobby, it might be challenging to quit shopping entirely for one whole year with no other activity to replace it that satisfies you the same way.  

Many people talk about a no buy year challange as a time to entirely quit shopping every single thing except for food and essential goods. The most common rule is that you may replace the products you own without incorporating new ones. For example, you may buy a new mascara for replacement, but you may not buy any new makeup item that is not part of your established routine. Although this rule has worked for many people, it may not work for many others. So make sure that you tailor your rules to your basic needs. 

It’s also important to be realistic about the unprecedented moments in life. It makes sense if you don’t own a tuxedo if it’s not part of your regular attire. But there’s a possibility that you may need one during your no-buy year if any sort of celebration or formal event comes up. Make sure that you address these possibilities in your rules and that you understand that this type of situation won’t make you a quitter or a failure in this challenge. This would simply be an extraordinary occasion where you buy something because you require it, not necessarily because you desire it. 


During your no buy year, stay away from this kind of signs. Image Courtesy of Markus Spikse.

As you get ready to start your no buy year challenge (or no buy month, no buy weeks, etc.), you can let go of those things that may tempt you to fall into the rabbit hole of shopping for unnecessary stuff. These temptations may come in different forms, such as email newsletters, digital or physical coupons, Instagram profiles, Facebook pages you follow, or TikTokers who create content around “unboxing” and “spending X amount of money on X clothing store,” etc. Unfollowing and unsubscribing to these pages is a good first step to changing our consumption mindset. These profiles have the goal of selling us stuff that we don’t need, so if we don’t see the stuff, we don’t feel the need to buy it. Therefore we’ll stay on track to succeed in the No Buy Year Challenge. 

Depending on your lifestyle and relationship with the people around you, it may be a good idea to let your family or close friends know about your no buy challenge. This way, they will know how to support you and won’t tell you about the cool stuff they saw at the mall or encourage you to go to the stores without a specific shopping list. 


Track your spending during the no buy challenge. Spreadsheets, notebooks, whatever you need. Image Courtesy of E!

You started the challenge; now, let’s make sure you are on the right track to accomplish your goals. Depending on how long you are committing to this challenge, you can establish certain dates to check in. Bank apps are a great way to see how much you have been spending and on what you have been spending your money. You can have a specific day, such as the last day of the month, to see if you are really following the rules of your challenge or if you need to make any adjustments or accommodations in order to reach your goals. 


What will you do when sales happen during your no buy year? Image Courtesy of Lider Empresarial.

The best advice nutritionists give to people who need to stop eating sugar is to stay away from the candy shop. The same logic applies to people who love to shop and can walk into a store without needing anything and leaving the store with stuff that was simply “a really good deal.”

In a culture where historic National holidays become a reason to have stuff on sale, it’s better to stay away from the stores and from any temptation that may lead us to go into the stores (either physical or online).

If there’s a specific item you were looking forward to purchasing when Sale season comes, such as a new TV, or a somewhat expensive item you wanted, you can ask a friend or family member to go to the store and purchase it with your money. It’s very easy to get attracted by sale signs with warning messages like “Last Chance,” “Everything must go,” or “Everything 40% Off”. Stay away from the stores whenever possible.

I can resist anything except temptation. Oscar Wilde.


Celebrate your accomplishments after your no buy year! Jennifer Lawrence smiling. Image Courtesy of Entertainment. IE

First of all, recognize your effort and commitment throughout the challenge. It doesn’t matter if it was two weeks or a full year, you did something different to improve your lifestyle, and that’s a huge achievement.

What happens next depends on the reflections you have about shopping in general. Here are some questions that will help to keep the ideas going. 

How did you feel during the no buy challenge? Was it difficult?

How do you feel about your spending during this time? Did you accomplish your goals?

Do you feel that you have the stuff that you need?

For many people, the no buy challenge becomes a pivotal point in their shopping experience, and once they finish it, they don’t feel so tempted by sales. Somehow it’s easier to distinguish between desired items and needed items.

You are free to do the challenge one more time for the same period or for a longer or shorter time. Remember that the general idea of a no buy year challenge is out there, but you can take that concept as a starting point and tailor it to your needs and lifestyle.