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Shopping fast experiments can be a good ways to learn more about my shopping habits and how I spend my free time. This isn't the first time I'm trying this, but this time I have decided to share the process and learnings with you, in case it helps with your own simplicity journey.
Current Situation AnalysisSome people may find it indecent to decide, and write about, stopping to shop when so many people can't afford bare necessities. My personal opinion on that last point is that we children of the first world have been raised to consume, and it is already a big step to try to do something about it (not that I'm congratulating myself here, after all I failed the first time around, I'm just saying a shopping fast can be a good experiment to conduct).
Last year, I started a first shopping fast experiment because I realized I was buying clothes every month, whereas it isn't supposed to be a daily kind of need. I wanted to see if I was capable to spend two months without buying clothes. One year later, despite understanding and adapting to my weaknesses as a consumer, and changing my week-end habits from shopping to other activities, I am still buying clothes, and other types of household items, every month.
Another reason might be that, looking at my budget, I realized I could have offered myself a fantastic week in Morocco with all the money I spent on clothing since the beginning of the year. And that's without counting linen, dishes, home decoration items... As my budget is rather tight here in Paris, I figured it was quite a joke to promote simplicity and favouring experiences over things, yet, in practice, spending more money on material items than travel and other experiences.
All of this lead me to engage in a new shopping fast experiment, broader and longer than last year, to do something about this discrepancy between my wished priorities and the cold hard reality of how I spend my money.
The Levelled Up Shopping Fast ExperimentLast year, the experiment was only on clothing, over two months. The main reasons for this were that I wanted to work on the fact that I was buying clothes every month, and I wanted to see if I was going to compensate with buying from another category of items (hence the fast being limited to clothes).
This year, I would like my experiment to cover all non-daily material items. Here are the reasons why:
- I want to learn more about myself as a consumer in general (and not only as a clothing consumer)
- I think I own more than enough and I'd like to prove to myself that I can be content with my current collection of items - focusing on the "use" part of the buy>use>throw consumerist cycle.
- I have gathered a lot of stock (especially of beauty products, with Sephora 20% off coupons and airport purchases) and I'd like to use what I have before buying new items
- Some life changes are coming, and I may need the money I will save with that experiment
Another change in the experiment is the length. Instead of two months, my experiment will cover the remainder of 2014, so six months. Yes, that's a lot, and yes, I expect to fail. But I opted for this length because:
- Two months was a good start, but I realized it was short enough for me to think "I'll hold off and buy it after the end of the experiment", whereas the goal was to consume less, not consume later. With six months, the collections will change and I have to give up on the purchase as it probably won't be on shelves anymore in January 2015
- Six months is a very long time, but on the other hand, since I simplified my cultural items purchase habits (CD, DVD, video games...) I do spend months, even years, at a time without buying a single Blu-Ray. I'd like to be able to do the same with my current weaknesses: clothes and household items.
- Six months covers 3 seasons and several pivotal changes - the back to school season, my beloved Autumn... I know these periods make me weak as a consumer, and I'd like to see how I'll deal with them with a shopping fast experiment in mind
- Six months is a long enough time to make durable habit changes - in replacing shopping with something else, in celebrating seasons with other things than material items, in making the most of what I currently own
The New Shopping Fast RulesI have decided to post about this shopping fast experiment because it is a way for me to be held accountable. It makes it official, and I can think about you guys next time I'm tempted to make a purchase. It is a simple psychological trick, but it seems to work.
Now, in order to hold myself accountable, but also in case you'd like to try a similar experiment yourself, here are my rules:
- Start with marking a purchase as the last one before the fast - as a symbolic way to say "here, I'm starting now". In my case the last purchase were two little colourful tops - my yearly summer joy.
- From that date, until the end of 2014, all material item purchases are forbidden, save for daily items and presents
- Daily items include: food, cleaning products for the appartment, the replacement of daily beauty products (shampoo...), medicine, replacement of a daily item that breaks (coffee machine...), tools for my activities (example if my violin teacher asks me to buy a new lesson book)
- No daily item should be purchased until the previous bottle is actually empty, and possible back-up stock is depleted
- Forbidden items to pay special attention to are: books (go to the library!), items of clothing, accessories, household items such as linens, tea cups etc., beauty and make-up products.
- It is allowed, and encouraged, to alter existing items - bringing a lesser worn garment to the tailor to give it a second chance...
- Make a monthly check of the experiment: did I succeed, was I tempted to buy something? Did I give in temptation or not? Why? If I have interesting learnings to share I'll write follow-up posts
Actually, the main reason why I have decided to share this, is that I'm promoting simplicity here and I want to share everything about it: not only the shiny side of everything I have succeeded at simplifying so far, but also my limits, weaknesses and failures. I am but human and I don't want readers to believe I am some sort of perfect minimalist. Believe me, my item consumption in 2014 is not exactly minimalist. This is a journey, that I'd like to share with you, achievements and mistakes alike.
I'm really hoping the documenting of that levelled up shopping fast experiment will be of interest to you - as this is the type of post that is more self-oriented than reader-oriented. As usual, please feel free to send feedback via comments or e-mail, as I want to make sure what I share on this blog is of value to you readers.