how to stop shopping, how to stop buying stuff

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Inside: Have you tried to stop shopping in the past and always returned to your bad shopping habits within a few short weeks or months? Learn how you can break the habit for good, so that you can eventually start shopping again, but this time, with intention. 

Christmas is over. You would think we’d all be shopped out by now, but no, oh no.

We can’t stop shopping. Not yet!

Because after the pre-Christmas sales come the after-Christmas clearance sales…

Consumerism Makes It Oh, So Difficult to Stop Shopping

I went to Target for groceries the day after Christmas, and oh.my.goodness. The sales were so tempting!

Even as a minimalist, I peeked at the marked-down LEGO sets in the toy aisles and seriously contemplated buying them (as if my kids need more LEGOs when they just got sets for Christmas!). It took some serious self-control to put them back on the shelf.

The marked down Christmas décor caught my eye, too. We had to give away Christmas décor when we moved long-distance years ago, and with that décor went our stocking hangers. And we need stocking hangers, right?

No, no we don’t need them.

And what about after the “after Christmas sales”? Now all the stores have started advertising their sales on organization products: bins, baskets, and tubs, galore to organize all that stuff you bought before and after Christmas.

January 1st marks the beginning of a new year, after all, a time for decluttering and organization and to [finally] get our act together. We apparently need twenty new bins and baskets to do it.

(FYI: Start with the decluttering before you go after organization. You probably already have all the organization tools you need.)

It’s not just at the beginning or the end of the year, though. Stores are constantly brainstorming ways to get you to buy more all year long.

E-mails inundate your inbox with the latest and greatest sales, and to remind you of what you left in your cart and “forgot” to purchase.

Magazines show you how your house could look with that home décor or how confident that pair of shoes will make you feel.

Social media boasts of all the things you don’t own…yet.

Do You Need to Stop Shopping Forever?

In the long run, shopping can be absolutely o.k. There are plenty of good and necessary reasons to shop.

Shopping with intention is the goal. Getting to that place of self-control is the hard part.

Some people can even shop recreationally and walk away without buying a single thing. They can appreciate stuff without needing to actually buy all the stuff.

(Just so you know, I’ve never loved shopping as a past-time, and I am NOT one of those people who can shop without being tempted to buy.)

But to make way for healthier shopping habits, you probably do need to take a break from shopping, at least for a while.

So let’s do it together shall we? I came up with ten steps to help you (and me) finally break the mindless shopping habit.

Want to stop shopping, but you've given up? Make this year the year to finally break your shopping habit: for good.

How to Stop Shopping: 10 Essential Steps

1) Know Why You Want to Stop Shopping

Breaking deeply ingrained habits is hard work. You need to know why you’re doing it, for those low days when you want to throw in the towel.

For me personally, I want to stop shopping so that my husband can eventually feel free to find a different job – the one he has now is killing him. I lost sight of that goal for a while, but I’ve been reminded of it afresh in the past week or so.

And that’s the goal I’ll remind myself of every time I’m tempted to buy something, every time I think we “need” something.

You need a goal, some bigger purpose that’s motivating you to stop shopping.

Do you want:

  • Less clutter in your home?
  • To save money?
  • To reduce shopping regret?
  • To give more?
  • To spend your time on more meaningful activities than shopping?

I can’t answer for you. Take some time to figure it out (journaling helps me), and then write it down.

You’ll need to know your why if you’re going to succeed.

2) Do a No-Spend (Stop Buying Stuff) Challenge

No-spend challenges are especially popular amongst frugal living bloggers. Their reasons are usually to save money, but for our purposes, I’m going to borrow the concept and make it a “Stop Buying Stuff” Challenge.

Decide on a length of time to refrain from shopping of any kind, except shopping you need to do to live. You know, groceries and gas – the basics.

Thirty days is generally a good length of time, though I’ve known people to do year-long no shopping challenges.

Only you know how long you need to take a break and what you can realistically handle. Choose a time frame, and set some parameters.

For example, if you know that your snow boots started leaking last week and you live in a climate where snow boots are absolutely necessary, give yourself permission to replace the boots just before or during the “Stop Buying Stuff” challenge.

3) Start an “I Want List”

Having a place to record your wants can be helpful in more ways than one.

You can use it immediately to curb the desire to shop. Write down what you want and why. Tell yourself you’ll come back to it later, and if you still need or want it after the no-buy challenge, you can buy it.

You will probably be amazed at what waiting even just a few days past the initial impulse will do to your desire for that object.

After your “Stop Buying Stuff” challenge is complete, look back over your list:

  • What was on it?
  • Do you still want to buy anything from the list?
  • Where did the impulse even come from?

The insights you can get from this simple list are priceless. They will also help you be more self-aware when you start shopping again in the future.

I still keep an ongoing list of wants in my bullet journal. I tell myself that some of them I can buy when we’re out of debt (we still have student loans).

Others are simply impulses, things I think I want at the time. The desire to buy those items typically goes away after just a few days.

4) Declutter

There’s nothing like putting in hours of hard work decluttering to make you wary of shopping for anything new.

After all that work getting clutter out of your house, most people go through at least a temporary period of not wanting to buy stuff of any kind for anything. You’ve worked too hard to fill your house with clutter all over again.

Don’t know where to start?

Subscribe to my e-mail list below to get this free decluttering checklist of over 100 things anyone can declutter right now – of any family size, of any income level.

Beyond the checklist, I highly recommend the following books, which are hopefully available at your local library:

5) Stay Far, Far Away from Tempting Stores

All of us have our trigger stores – the ones that make it extremely difficult to resist buying stuff.

Did you know that most stores are specifically designed to increase your spending and keep you shopping in the store for longer periods of time?

That milk you ran into Target for?

  • First you pass the Dollar Spot on your way in.
  • Next, you stroll right past the home décor and organization section (my biggest weakness) to get to it.
  • And the rest of the grocery aisles? They run right by a host of other tempting departments.

Especially during your “Stop Buying Stuff” Challenge, avoid these stores at all costs. It’s worth paying an extra $.50 a gallon for milk than to put yourself in the way of temptation.

If those stores continue to be a source of overspending, try going in without your credit cards and a limited amount of cash, instead. It’s hard to overspend when you don’t have the ability to do so.

6) Stop Reading Magazines

Magazines are basically advertisements on steroids. Besides the actual advertisements which probably take up a third or more of the magazine itself, every spread holds new suggestions of things to buy.

And everything looks like it will make you happier than you are right now.

Again, while some people can shop and find pure inspiration without buying a single thing, some people can also read magazines without feeling compelled to buy anything.

If that’s you? Awesome.

But be honest with yourself. When you are running an errand at the mall, does something you see in a store draw you in because a magazine already prepped you to buy it?

Besides that, how much joy does reading a magazine actually bring you?

Over the past couple months after receiving some hand-me-down magazines from a friend (so thankful for generous friends!), I realized that for me, much like social media, reading a magazine is a time filler. It’s something I do when I’m too tired to do anything else, in which case I should probably just go to bed and get the sleep I really need.

Reading magazines doesn’t bring me any personal fulfillment. I’d be better off watching a favorite show than reading a magazine or scrolling through social media.

That might not be the case for you, but either way, take a break from magazines and see how it affects your desire to shop.

7) Take a Break from Social Media

Social media can be a powerful and useful tool, one that keeps us connected to family and friends.

But it can also be a source of comparison and discontent.

I enjoy a gorgeously curated Instagram channel as much as the next person, but the ones I’m drawn to most are generally my biggest triggers for discontentment.

I loved my IKEA couch yesterday, but after looking at that beautifully renovated home on Instagram, nothing I own seems good enough. It sends me straight to the web to browse for furniture we not only cannot afford and don’t need, but also would be stupid to buy right now in an ongoing season of babies and toddlers.

Just like magazines, take a break from social media for a while and see what it does to your shopping habits.

When you return, pay close attention to what Instagram channels immediately rekindle your desire to shop, even when that desire has been dormant for quite some time. You may need to unfollow some of them to maintain your new, healthier shopping habits.

8) Unsubscribe from Store E-mail Lists

Store e-mails are the result of pure genius!

The subject lines are tested over and over again to increase open rates. They generate curiosity and intrigue and a feeling of urgency.

Even if we don’t need a single thing, there’s this underlying fear of missing out on a great deal – one that will never come around again. I always wonder how they get away with saying things like “this kind of deal will never happen again.” It probably will…next major holiday.

Do yourself a favor and unsubscribe from store e-mail lists, especially for your most tempting stores. You can always subscribe again in a few months, when your shopping habit is reformed and under control.

I’ve gone through this process myself a few different times. When I do resubscribe to store e-mail lists, I make sure to only sign up for the stores I regularly shop at for the things we regularly need.

The only exception is when I know we have a specific major purchase coming up. Then, I will research my purchase beforehand and know what we are going to buy in advance.

Once I know the specific item we are going to buy, I will subscribe to that specific store e-mail list and wait for a great coupon or sale. It’s one of the few times I really don’t want to miss that great deal when it does come around again (for the fifteenth time).

9) Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is the antidote to discontentment, and discontentment is almost always at the root of a bad shopping habit.

If you’re reading this and need to stop shopping, the odds are good that you are already extremely blessed. I have had the opportunity to visit other countries where poverty is much more obvious. Things like food and shelter – the most basic of needs – go unmet every single day.

Keep a running list of things you’re thankful for. If you’re new at this, or if you’re in a difficult place emotionally, it might be hard to come up with things to put on that list at first.

Start small.

Water. Breath. Health. Food to Eat. A Place to Live.

Adding to the list will get easier with time.

When you realize how much you have, the difference between needs and wants becomes much more apparent. When you can truly tell the difference, keeping your wants in check will be easier, too.

10) Pinpoint the Feelings Underneath Your Shopping Habit

Discontentment is almost always at the root of a bad shopping habit. But there’s usually more to it than that.

Are you shopping from a place of:

  • Boredom?
  • Grief?
  • Confusion?
  • Habit?
  • Comparison?
  • Pain?
  • Loneliness?

I guarantee that mindless shopping is filling or masking an emotional need in your life of some kind.

When you remove shopping from your life for a period of time and allow yourself to feel to the feelings that drive you to shop in the first place, you will be able to address those feelings in a healthier way.

Ready to set new habits in the new year? Break your bad shopping habits to make way for healthier ones. Stop clutter. Save money. Train yourself to shop with purpose and intention.

Shopping with Purpose: The Ultimate Goal

Moving forward, let’s making our shopping intentional! May every purchase be thought through and planned for.

Shopping with purpose can be so freeing.

Shopping with purpose means that when you decide (after a month of careful thought) that you really do need a pair of jeans, you can shop for it without guilt or regret.

You can budget for it, have fun shopping for that perfect pair, and be truly satisfied with your purchase.

Shopping is a tool with enormous potential, the potential to impact our lives in either a negative or a positive way.

We get to decide how to use it.

Read Next: Simplify Life in 2019: How to Make Time for What Matters

woman addicted to shopping with lots of shopping bags

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