Today we’ll be talking about no-buy and low-buy challenges~ We’ll go over what they are, what the benefits of them are, and tips and tricks to pulling them off successfully~ If you’d like to join me in either a low-buy or no-buy July, just tune in to find out how and feel free to comment your own tips and tricks or any questions or words of encouragement you have for me or for your fellow listeners. 💖
Hi everyone~ My name’s Autumn and welcome or welcome back to the Mindful Minimalism Podcast, where we’ll be discussing mindfulness, minimalism, and simple living.
Today we’ll be talking about a challenge that seems to pop up at the beginning of every year, the No-Buy or Low-Buy challenge. So, what exactly are these seemingly self-explanatory-sounding challenges?
Well, the No-Buy challenge is just that, you don’t buy anything except for essential items for the set period of time, and a Low-Buy is the same thing but with a little flexibility for fun things added in. These are usually touted as easy ways to save up some money for your rainy day fund or for another financial goal you might have, such as buying a house or a car or paying off some student loan debt. They are also on a lot of minimalist radars as ways to make sure no more clutter is coming into your home and to help track and gauge your spending habits. They’re also a good way to curb impulse spending and to see when you are most likely to spend money. Is it when you’ve had a bad day at work and need a little pick-me-up? Or maybe it’s when you’re bored and scrolling through your feed and just happen to see something perfectly placed there by the algorithm. Taking notes and understanding when you are most likely to give in to impulse purchases is a great way to learn how to stop it before it happens again.
So what exactly should you do on a No-Buy challenge? Well, it sounds pretty straight-forward, and it is, but there are some ground rules and things to think about before delving in. First of all, you need to figure out what you consider a necessity and just how hard you want to go on the challenge. If you are in serious debt and want to get rid of it as soon as possible and are willing to go without for a bit to do so, you might set up pretty strict rules and boundaries for yourself and your household spending. Maybe you’ll completely 86 any take-out or delivery food and only cook at home from now on. You might also cut back on any activities that cost money, like going to the movie theater or going out for coffee or drinks with your friends. If you do decide to really go for it, I would recommend setting up clear alternatives to the activities mentioned and maybe start off with a 6 month or 3 month goal instead of an entire year right off. Even doing a practice month and seeing how things go and what unexpected things you need in your budget will go a long way to ensuring the next time you do it, you can do it for longer and with easier and more concrete results. If you usually meet your friends one or two Saturdays a month for coffee or drinks, explain to them what you’re doing and see if you can go on a picnic or other no or low-cost outing instead. Maybe go to their house with a bottle of wine you got on sale instead of paying for $16 cocktails outside. Or have coffee at your place and make a day of it baking some easy cookies together and chatting while you do that. It’s more fun and it’s much less expensive than the combined 20 dollars or more you’ll be paying at a cafe. Of course, if supporting local businesses is something that you are passionate about, maybe a low-buy challenge would be a better place to start.
Another thing to look at is your subscriptions. There are some subscriptions that can be tossed aside for a free alternative if you’re willing to put the time in and maybe listen to a few ads. Are you paying ten dollars a month to listen to music without ads? Okay, don’t come for me, I know a lot of people pay lots of different services to avoid radio jingles and such, and like, no judgement if that’s you, but if your goal here is to save money… that’s a pretty easy one to put in the “nice to have” or “luxury” category. I know it might not sound like much, but in the course of a year, that’s 120 dollars that you’re paying just so you don’t have to listen to ads. I use a music service but I just listen to the ads and it’s really not that bad. Sure, once or twice an hour I have to hear something about how delicious a burger and fries are or how you shouldn’t cross the train tracks when the lights are on. But so what? Back in my day, there was no internet and if you liked a song you had to buy a whole flippity-foo album and hope that the $14.99 you spent would pay off with at least a few other good songs. Shout-out to all my lovelies who bought a CD back in the day and feel this on a spiritual level. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that having basically ANY song you want at your fingertips and being able to search a song by humming it into your phone or by searching a line of lyrics is a freaking miracle in my mind and one that I am willing to listen to someone selling a fish burger for ten seconds to have. The same goes for streaming services. Check your bank statements and make sure you’re not signed up for something you don’t or rarely use, or something you bought because it had a bunch of stuff you wanted and then they decided to delete them all from their collection… still annoyed that a certain service deleted the absolute gem that is Fern Gully, bitter, not bitter. However, if you watch your streaming services regularly and they take the place of you going out to a movie or spending money buying physical copies, then keep them, but maybe think about paring down to your faves that you spend the most time on. Again, if your goal is saving money and you want to be ruthless, the more things you cut, the better. If you’re mostly doing it for physical items and clutter, you don’t have to be as cut-throat, but why not cancel some for a month or two and see if you even miss them.
There are also some subscriptions that you’ll find you don’t need at all. If you’re into book subscriptions, consider going old school and checking out your local library. A lot of the time they’ll let you request books if the one you want isn’t at your location, and there are even apps that let you borrow books electronically for free with your library card. Since getting a library app I have cut my spending on books down to pretty much nothing. There is very rarely a time when I can’t get a book I want, and if that time does arise, I usually put it on my wishlist for later. I have saved so much money doing this, like you would not believe. As someone who read over 100 books last year, I can vouch for the library apps. If you don’t have a library card, some libraries are letting you sign up for them online, so make sure to check that out before traipsing all over your city looking for a library that’s open.
Eating out is a big one for me, personally, because you all know I’m a bit… unmotivated in the kitchen. This is definitely my biggest money pit and one that I am working on and have cut down on a lot now that I no longer live near a city center and have incredibly limited options and time frames to order things in, but honestly it literally took moving to get me to cut back, so no judgment from me~ Alternatives to eating out, obviously are eating in, but if you’re like me and have about five things in your repetoire and if you eat any more stir-fry you might lose it, use the internet to your advantage and look up cooking blogs and Pinterest recipes that suit your eating habits. Just make sure to be realistic and not pin a bunch of things with five hundred spices and then buy a bunch of stuff and use it once and never again because you might as well have ordered take-out at that point. I usually search for things with words like “cheap,” “lazy,” “one-pot,” and “quick” in the title. I know all of my cooking lovelies are cringing right now, and if you are amazing in the kitchen, omg love that for you and please share your magic and recipes with me~ but if you’re ordering out for the convenience, you know what I’m talking about. Eating out at a restaurant is another big one, and something I haven’t done in a hot minute, obviously, but if you have a weekly or monthly splurge doing this, then maybe go for a low-buy or cut your monthly food budget to leave room for it. You can also take little tips like not buying drinks and skipping appetizers and desserts. This will cut your bill in half at least and you’ll still be able to support a local business and have a fun night out. You can also look for coupons and specials online and look at cheaper places to eat. When I was in college, my friends and I were at Waffle House at least once a week, if not more, because it was open at all hours and you could get a plate of hashbrowns scattered and smothered for like, a buck thirty? I checked the menu now and it’s more like 3 bucks, but come on… that is pretty awesome. It makes me wish there was one near where I live now~ good memories. Anyway, just make sure to remember your tip is an essential expense because as they always say, “If you don’t have the money to tip, you don’t have the money to eat out.” Especially if you’re not ordering much and you noticed you stayed a bit long, add some money to that gratuity because if you had ordered all of that extra food, you’d be paying a higher tip. Think of it like you’re renting the space and the longer you’re there and someone else isn’t, the less your server, and the other workers, are getting paid. Of course, I know anyone listening to me would never be so gauche as to undertip.
Clothing and accessories is another big expense that tends to eat up our paychecks. If you’re pretty settled into minimalism, you might not have a big issue with this one, but if you do find that you somehow end up with an extra outfit or a cute new necklace more often than not, take some time to look through your bank statements for the past few months and see just how much you’re spending. This works for any expense, honestly, because seeing all the price tags at once can be a shock.
This is one of my top tips for any money-saving challenge: look through your bank statements and your receipts and really see where things are going. I was shook when I saw how much my seemingly cheap delivery meals added up to at the end of the month, and to really shock yourself, multiply that number by twelve. It’ll really make those leftovers in the fridge look appealing. There are also a lot of free apps that can tabulate your expenses for you as well, and while some link to your bank accounts, I tend to be a little hesitant to give my bank info to a third party. They also don’t work if you use cash more often than not, because those aren’t able to be tabulated. I like ones where you have to manually enter in what you spend and what category it’s in. This means that every time I go shopping, I have to take 30 seconds to add it in and this also makes me think before I spend. Do I really want the guilt of the app telling me that 30% of my budget is fast food? It also means that you have to take a moment and really think after each purchase. It can be easy to swipety-swipe and not think about it, but when you have to sit there and type it in, it really cements it in your mind.
Now, there are a lot of tips about leaving stuff in your cart for a specified amount of time and coming back to it… but I want to add a little tweak to that excellent piece of advice and say that if the website has the ability, put it in your wishlist or “saved for later” folder instead. For me when I log on and see the little notification in the cart, it reminds me, “Oh yeah~ I wanted to buy that tarot deck~” and just brings it to the forefront of my mind again. But, if I put stuff in my wishlist, there isn’t a notification and I can just forget about it. Like, for real, I have had this gorgeous tarot deck on my wishlist for like, a year. Another thing I’ve noticed is that on some sites, if you leave stuff in your cart, they’ll email you like, “Hey~ forget something?” and it kind of defeats the purpose.
So remember, before you start on either a no or low buy challenge, determine what you are going to spend money on, usually necessities like your bills, groceries, and cleaning supplies, and how long you’re going to do it for. I think starting off with a month is a great idea because it’s a long enough time to see some money at the end of it, to understand what your pitfalls are going to be and what your necessities actually are, and most people can go a month without a couple of their streaming or music services without too much annoyance or boredom. It also doesn’t seem as daunting as an entire year, which will include holidays and birthdays and a whole host of unavoidable expenditures. You can also usually go a month without something if you realize you kind of need it but it isn’t an absolute necessity. Put it on your wishlist and get back to it at the beginning of the next month. You can also gauge whether this is something you could do more longterm or not.
These challenges are also fun to get your friends and family involved in. Would I suggest doing them in December when an absolute bevy of holidays fall? Probably not for a first-time try, which is why this podcast is originally airing in mid-June. If you’re listening to it now, you have a couple of weeks to plan things out so you can start with me in July or even in August if you have a lot of birthdays or events already scheduled. While there are some holidays in every month, you have time to buy stuff or allot the money for them now, before they actually pop up. And if your family and friends are involved and know what you’re up to, you all might come up with fun ways to make it work and to save money together. To use the US holiday of July 4th as an example, if one person is usually in charge of supplying all or most of the food and decorations, you could work together to do a potluck or all give some money to support the cost of everything. It would be the same as paying to go to a restaurant and no one would have a big burden on what should be a fun day for everyone. I like to do this with any holiday or party, because you never want one person to feel overwhelmed. Even if the host insists that it’s all good, at least bring some drinks, alcoholic or not, depending, to show your appreciation. Again, to me, these things would fall under necessities because, of course, treating our loved ones and any fellow human nicely is a necessity, and again, if you can’t afford to, either plan to host them for something you can afford, like a movie at home day, or a card or board game night, or a cookies and tea party, or pick up something in your budget or make something as a small token of your appreciation. Again, if everyone knows where you’re at financially and what you’re doing about it, I doubt they’ll have any hard feelings, but it’s always nice to show you appreciate their effort and your relationship with them.
For my last tip, I’d just say to remember that it’s not forever. This is called a challenge for a reason, because it’s either a little or a lot hard. Going permanently low-buy is a good idea, and the more no-buy or low-buy months that you do, the easier it’ll be to cut out the things you don’t need and to allot the money necessary to get the little luxuries that really do make life a little easier and more enjoyable. Evaluate why you’re doing the challenge and remind yourself of that when you’re saving things for later and tabulating your expenses. Start off small to make sure you can finish strong and not give up and feel bad about it later, and think of it as a fun thing instead of as a burden. Tricking ourselves with the language we use is an easy way to turn things from depressing to not-so-bad or even fun, and if you have someone doing it with you, you’ll not only have an accountability partner, but you’ll also have someone to compete with, boast about your successes with, and commiserate with as well. If no one in your life is into this kind of thing, there are also free online communities that are always looking to help people doing these challenges, judgment-free. And of course, I’ll be doing the challenge along with you all in July as well~ I’ve done these a couple of times and it’s so worth it.
Good luck to everyone joining me in a no or low-buy July and feel free to comment or leave me a voice message at anchor.fm/mindfulminimalism or on my blog, where you can also find a transcript of this and every episode, at mindfulminimalismnow.wordpress.com. You can also support the podcast at anchor or on Kofi at ko-fi.com/mindfulminimalism. I hope you all have a lovely month working out your plans for the challenge~ Until next time, bye~