My "Year of Less"



Yesterday, I finished Cait Flanders' book, The Year of Less.

Not only did I love it (Cait Flanders is an incredible writer) but I was also inspired. Reading her journey to becoming a mindful consumer and saving a ton of money while doing so has been the exact thing I've been trying (and failing) to do for years. I related to her struggles and I saw a lot of my spending habits mirrored back to me through her words.

That said, I've decided to do my own "year of less" experiment. Why? Because how I spend my money currently doesn't align with my values or what I want out of life. I spend money on things that I don't need, don't use and don't add any value to my life. I want to be debt-free, I want to have a cushy emergency savings account, I want an even cushier retirement savings account and I want to travel. And I can't do any of those things while I struggle to pay off my credit card that I keep using to pay for frivolous shit.

I may be crazy for starting this right before the holiday rush begins, but I also think it's kind of serendipitous. When is a better time to start being more mindful of your spending than around the holidays?

Now, my rules are not as strict as Cait's, and this is for the simple reason that restriction almost always has the opposite effect on me. I want to start off with confidence, and that means giving myself a bit more leeway in terms of what I can spend money on. That said, I expect that because I have given myself a bit of grace here that I will end up surprising myself with what I end up leaving behind anyways.

My rules are:

1) I must declutter and get rid of everything I don't need, don't like or don't use.
2) I am only allowed to purchase things off of my approved shopping list.
3) I must document what I spend my money on and how much I save per month.
4) I must try to fix something before I replace it. If something needs to be replaced, I must check thrift stores and buy-and-sells first.
5) I can only purchase things in cash. No more using my credit card.
6) My money must go to debt payments first, savings second, and my approved shopping list third.

Here is what I am not allowed to buy:

- Large quantities of alcohol. I've actually been doing my own Sober October challenge and am finding it fairly easy. I don't want to give up drinking altogether but I am perfectly content cutting it back—by a lot. So I will only allow myself to buy alcohol for special events and only in quantities that I can safely consume in one night.
- Magazines, books, and notebooks. This is going to be hard for me. I am an avid reader and I love to journal. That said, I've been using the library a lot in the last month and have been loving it and I still have a number of empty journals waiting to be filled. I don't need more. That said, I am allowing myself to replace notebooks when they are full and have given myself a maximum number of books I can buy during the year. Everything else has to be digital, free or from the library.
- Health and wellness products I don't need and/or won't use. This includes everything from stockpiling supplements to purchasing new workout equipment. I have plenty as it is, I have a gym membership and if I need anything else, it will be because my naturopath says I need it.
- Fast food and takeout. Anything with a drive-thru is off-limits. Anything I can order from the comfort of my couch and have delivered is also off-limits. I spend so much money on unhealthy food simply because of the convenience, which in turn has kept me from developing healthy eating habits. This one will be a big deal for my wallet and my health.
- Clothes. Food and clothing are my two biggest debt contributors. Not only will I not be purchasing clothing (other than those on my approved shopping list), I will also be developing a capsule wardrobe of no more than 40-50 pieces of clothing (including jackets and shoes). I have so many clothes that I never even wear because I forget about them—until I buy something new and I realize that I own something exactly the same.
- Anything that is for "ideal" me and not "present" me. This was something Cait brought up in her book that slapped me across the face. It's the idea of buying something because you want to be the type of person that uses/wears/reads/owns that kind of thing. For me, this would look like buying skirts or fancy hair products or a nice camera. Present-day me hates skirts, uses 1-2 products on my hair ever and doesn't take a lot of pictures. There would be no reason for me to buy those things other than the hope that I would transform into someone who uses them if I owned them.
- Anything spontaneous or caused by the urgency of a sale. I usually only buy things that are on sale but I also buy things just because they are on sale. If it's not something I would pay full price for, it's not something I need and it's something I can wait on.
- "Extra" anything. I don't need duplicates of anything. When something runs out, I can replace it. I don't need to stockpile foundation that is a shade darker for summer, or deodorant because it is on sale, or have a shampoo bar and bottled shampoo. I just need one.
- Home decor. This is going to be another tough one for me but I know it's going to help a lot. I always end up spending money on house decor and then end up not knowing where to put it. It adds to the clutter of my home which in turn adds to the overwhelm and stress of my life. This said, I am allowing myself to purchase 10 home decor items throughout the year, but this is only after I've decluttered everything.

And there you have it. It's going to be a challenging year but I hope to come out of it for the better!

You can follow along with my shopping ban journey by clicking here to read more articles.