Low-Buy Update

Time to be honest. I’m pretty much failing at this whole “low-buy” thing.

It’s no coincidence that my last two posts were about “going easy on yourself” and “balancing frugality with self-care.”

Maybe it’s because this end-of-wintertime season is really hard mentally and emotionally, or maybe it’s because there weren’t enough strict rules to this challenge….but I’m pretty sure I’m failing. (Although, the lack of rules makes that hard to determine.)

Financially, I’m doing okay. There haven’t been any huge blows to the budget. Anything that would make my husband gasp and wonder what I did. However, there have been lots of little pick-me-ups. Trying new skincare. Trying (and returning because it really sucked) new makeup.

I’ve been trying to find better ways to get my electrolyte and protein needs met in the healthiest and cheapest way possible. Even a “free” workout isn’t free if you factor in the food and supplements it can take to properly fuel your body. If it works out, this will save us money, but trying new products is always a little risky. I tend to stick to what I already know works and stock up on it!

I’ve been known to spend hours in Target reading labels, reading customer reviews on my phone, and basically turning what should be minor decisions into huge, stress-inducing events. (What has my life become?!)

So while I haven’t been spending a ton, I feel like this challenge has backfired in some ways because I’m marinating on every small purchase for a long time. And I’m really disappointed – in myself and in the company – when the product fails to live up to expectations.

Am I alone in this?

A couple of things I am proud of though:

While I’ve still been thrifting on occasion, I have refrained from buying clothing I do not need. Since I have a pretty good wardrobe built up and I know what’s in it, this can mean turning down some great brands and items that I like that would fit me…because I don’t need another sweater or another pair of black leggings. I just don’t. When I’m thrifting, I’m really looking to fill holes in my wardrobe or my kids’ wardrobes. Sometimes in the process I see nice things that I don’t actually need. And in the past, I would have found myself buying them anyway…”just in case” and “because clothing wears out.” But lately I’ve stuck to my guns, and left those finds for someone else.

I’m also proud of the fact that I haven’t been tempted to buy any new houseplants. Again, it would be too much of a good thing. I love my houseplants, but I’m literally running out of window space in my home. I’ve decided that it’s time to implement a “one in, one out” rule for my plants. If one dies, I’m allowed to replace it with something similar in size. Otherwise, I need to chill out. I’ve succeeded in doing this, even at Valentine’s Day – which, in past years I have used as a reason to pick out a new plant or two in lieu of a floral bouquet.

I’m realizing that having a vague goal like “buy less in 2020 than I did in 2019” isn’t really that helpful in the day-to-day. As nice as it will be at the end of the year to look back and compare the two years, that kind of goal isn’t concrete enough to help me know what to buy and what to pass on at Target.

I’ve been a “frugal weirdo” long enough to know that many things people consider necessities aren’t truly necessary. Therefore, I overthink a lot of purchases. Things like household cleaner. Hand sanitizer. Makeup. Dandruff shampoo.

I’ve gone years without buying these things…I know I can get by without them. But what if it’s worth it and I’ve been missing out all this time? I don’t even watch commercials, but the reviews say this product is wonderful and life-changing. Maybe I should give it a shot. Or maybe I’ll be really disappointed and out $10… and it only takes ten $10 items to equal $100. Plus tax! It’s so easy to overspend on stuff I know I can live without. 

Can anyone relate, or is it just me? I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the store at any given time having this kind of moral dilemma. But maybe you’re out there somewhere.

Being aware of where our money is going is important. However, it doesn’t mean every single purchase should be the source of an existential crisis. What is my purpose? Does buying bleach go against everything I stand for? 

This is happening more and more though. Especially as consumers are getting more educated in how their buying choices create a ripple effect. What we buy today not only impacts our budget, but also the environment, and the lives of workers all over the world. Is the cheaper version the better value if it isn’t cruelty-free and from a sustainable brand?? Buying makeup and cleaning products really can be dizzying thought process actually.

Clearly the most “sustainable” thing to do is to buy nothing. But I’m not interested in doing that for a whole year. In some ways a “low-buy” is harder than a “no-buy” since there is so much gray area.

There is freedom, yay! If I need something I’m allowed to buy it! But how do I decide which are needs and which are wants? How do I justify small, unnecessary treats throughout the year? How do I try new things in order to see if they will become my new go-to? How do I make these decisions consciously, but without overthinking too much?

I don’t have the answers, but these are the questions I’m trying to figure out, two months in. So maybe I’m not completely failing. I’m just facing questions I didn’t know I would have.

What about you? How was your past month or two? Are you participating in a low-buy or even a no-buy this year? How do you research and decide which products are worth it?


Photo by: Raphael Lovaski

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