Tips for a Successful Shopping Ban

Not gonna lie, shopping can be fun!

Truth is, shopping can be fun. It’s a way to pass the time, get out of the house, and pick up some nice new duds.

It’s also a good way to waste hard-earned money and fill your home with clutter.

It’s a fine line and making decisions on the fly is hard. The more serious I get about consuming less, the more important (and stressful) buying decisions can be!

I don’t want to waste money that could be spent better places.

I want to re-use rather than replace things.

I want to support good companies when something must be replaced.

I don’t want to fill my home with clutter we don’t actually need.

Some people know how to spot a great deal and not give into buying things they regret later. However, I’ve found that an all-or-nothing approach works best for me. That’s why I’m not buying clothes this year. I’m also in the middle of Buy Nothing Month. It’s easier when I don’t have to make a decision in the moment.

You might benefit from a shopping ban if…

You’re shopping to get the rush and happy feelings. 

This is a sign that you might be on the verge of a shopping addiction. I know because I’ve been there myself. Buying stuff is kind of like sugar or caffeine. It gives you a rush at first, but if you keep doing it, you start to require more and more to get the same feeling. You can go through spending withdrawals just like any other drug. So it’s a good idea to reclaim control over this area.

You’re shopping out of boredom.

I’m guilty of this too. Especially before I had kids to keep me busy, I’d go to the store everyday. I’d go to Goodwill just to browse and see what new things they’d gotten in. The hunt can be thrilling. But shopping out of boredom signals that maybe you should explore filling your free time with more productive things. Shopping is deceiving because it feels productive. But how productive is it really spending several hours a week in a store and coming away with a cheap toaster or a cute top to add to your abundant collection of cute tops? If most of your shopping is out of boredom, I’d encourage you to find a new hobby. Maybe take a class and learn a new skill. Maybe volunteer at an organization that means a lot to you. Maybe exercise instead. Maybe write or create a work of art. Read books that are on your book list. What’s currently sitting on the back burner because you can’t find the the time to do it? I know I personally gained quite a bit of free time when I stopped shopping recreationally.

You’re shopping to fit in.

I no longer care what most people think of me. I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t need to wear designer shoes or sunglasses to be respected. It helps that I gravitate toward friends who largely aren’t interested in those kinds of things. But even in the “real world” people should respect you because you are human, not because of the car you drive or the technology you flaunt. Dr. Suess put it well when he said “Those who care don’t matter and those who matter don’t care.”

You have consumer debt you need to pay off.

This signals that you don’t just have a shopping problem, but a spending emergency. If you’re faced with consumer debt you haven’t paid, I wouldn’t consider a ban optional – I’d consider it a requirement. You really can’t afford those things you’re buying. Take this as a wake-up call. Make some serious changes now. Don’t act like your debt doesn’t exist. Cut your spending now and start making those payments instead.

Here’s some specifics to consider if you’d like to start your own ban:

Decide the Rules

Give up something that will be challenging for you, yet attainable. If you “give up” something you rarely do, the money you save won’t be that noticeable. If it’s something you do often, but can live without, you’ll notice a huge change in your life and extra money in the bank account.

Maybe you eat out a lot, so that needs to go. Maybe take-out coffee needs the boot. Maybe, like me, clothes are an issue. Deciding ahead of time what my response will be helps me resist impulse spending in my areas of weakness.

Yes, I used to buy these! Now all I see is Sugar, Plastic, and Wasted Money.

Set a Timeframe

Either make it a personal monthly challenge or aim for 6 months to a year if you’re ambitious. You could start small and see where it leads. Even just trying it for a week will teach you discipline and save some dough.

Be Specific

Know exactly what items qualify in your ban. Clarify any gray areas. Leave no room for loopholes. Maybe socks don’t count in your clothes shopping ban, but decide ahead of time. Maybe you’re allowed to replace items that break or wear out. Maybe you’re allowed to purchase things as long as you delay the decision for 30 days. I’ll be honest, most things I think I want are forgotten about by the time 30 days is up. There’s flexibility here. After all, the idea is to change your lifestyle even after the ban is over.

Avoid the Store

The only weak moments I’ve had have been when I allow myself to browse. If I stay out of the store (online stores count too!) then I don’t know what I’m missing.

Everybody loves a bargain. It’s easy to justify “this is a one-of-a-kind!” “It will never be this price again!” Cut yourself off from temptation whenever possible. Don’t torture yourself by looking at things you can’t have. Just act like the world stopped selling XYZ and focus on other things. A great sale is not a reason to abandon your shopping ban. Great sales come around more often than you think. And you’re not actually saving money if you don’t need the item.

But…it’s on SALE!

Avoid Ads

Unsubscribe from all product emails. Unfollow your favorite companies on Facebook and Instagram. Become hyper-aware of ads: billboards, commercials, pop-ups, newsletters, Pinterest, and storefronts. We often don’t even realize how many times a day companies are vying for our dollars. Avoid what you can. What you can’t avoid, acknowledge as ridiculous.

Tell People

Don’t do this alone. Get other people involved who want to do the ban with you, or at least tell your friends and family. Have them hold you accountable. Shout it from the rooftops. Make it public. Post it on Facebook. You don’t want the embarrassment of telling everyone you failed, right? If people don’t support you and they say you’ll never do it, prove them wrong! A couple of naysayers can be all the motivation it takes sometimes.

Make Reminders

There were a few times early on when I honestly forgot about my shopping ban. I’d pick something out, almost buy it, and then remember at the last minute. Write a reminder and put it in your wallet or tape it to your credit card. It will serve as your last line of defense.

Keep Track

When you successfully resist an item that you would normally purchase, either write it down or take a photo of it. Keep a “resist list” and reward yourself for each victory! Add up all the savings at the end of the ban. I personally have done my best to avoid stores during my ban, but I wrote down several items I wanted to purchase online and didn’t. Maybe I’ll share this list at the end of my clothes buying ban. I can add up the cost of those items and enjoy the money I didn’t spend!

I took a picture of this instead of buying it!


Don’t delay. Don’t put it off another month. Don’t wait for the New Year. If you’re excited about a shopping ban now, nail down the details and start now. The sooner you commit to something like this, the sooner you’ll get to reap the benefits.

Whatever you chose to give up and whatever timeframe you chose, I wish you luck on your frugal endeavors! If you need accountability, contact me and I’d be happy to help you out!

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