My No Buy 2020

Thursday, January 2, 2020
Hello 2020! Hello new year, new decade... Here we are. 

A few of you may have read the title of this post and immediately known what I was talking about, others may be completely baffled, some may even be worried. I will do my best to explain what I mean by 'No Buy' in this post, and then I will share what my specific rules are for this year. I am honestly a bit scared, but also excited. I've been meaning to do this for years, and I'm really pleased that I've finally put some thought into how I'd like to do it.

First of all, what is a No Buy Year? It's also referred to be other names, such as a shopping ban.  In fact, I think the first time I came across a year long thing like this was called a shopping ban, and that was via Cait Flanders and her book The Year of Less. I first read this book in September 2018, and have read it two more times since then. I remember only somewhat enjoying it the first time I read it - I think I found the idea of a year-long shopping ban a bit too intense at the time - but felt drawn to read it again in 2019, loved it, and found myself reading it again a few months later. To make sure that you know what this book is all about, here is the tagline: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store. 

Cait Flanders also has a blog (that I believe she no longer updates, but all the old posts are on there and I used these heavily for setting up my own No Buy rules) that I will link here. If you have any interest in how it all started for her, I highly recommend either reading her book or taking a gander at her blog. Ultimately, a No Buy year is pretty much exactly what it sounds like - a year long experiment where I will try to avoid buying things. There are some necessary rules that go along with this, and they are usually split into about three categories - Allowed, Not Allowed, and Exceptions. This really helps to streamline the process, makes it easier for whomever is doing the No Buy (ie. me) to remember that they are actually performing this experiment (seriously, sometimes I forget when I am trying not to buy a certain thing and then feel a little frustrated later on), and it also gives them an opportunity to really look at what they already have and what they might need during the course of the year. I will add that this experiment doesn't have to last a year - absolutely not. It can go anywhere from a week to a month, to six months, to a year, or even longer. I chose a year because I've played with this kind of experiment before but just decided I wanted 2020 to be the year that I really gave it an honest go.

Now, you might be looking at that 'Exceptions' category and thinking '...but isn't that a bit of a cop-out?' and I totally understand where you're coming from. But to be honest, 'No Buy' is kind of just a catchy name, because I'm still going to be buying things like groceries so I can eat and such. It's really more about looking closely at where my money has been going, and instead directing it to areas that I want to be doing more of, rather than mindlessly spending it on things that I actually don't really need or want for very long after the 'high' of the purchase has worn off. I will admit that I have been known throughout my life to use 'retail therapy' as a coping mechanism - something that I will do when I am feeling low, discouraged, upset, angry... you name it, honestly. If I was feeling an emotion, I usually wanted to buy something - either to comfort myself, or to celebrate something. I have slowly changed over the years to not doing this as much, but I still do it on occasion, and I just really want to be more conscious about where my money is going, as well as feeling more happiness and gratitude with what I already have. Also, shopping is tiring. I want more of the limited energy I have to go towards things that matter to me.

Hopefully I have explained things at least a little, so let's get into my own specific rules. Now, these depend on the person. My rules aren't necessarily going to look like your rules, because some things may not be as important to you as they are to me. It's quite a personal experience, and I took quite a few hours working on this list. I invite you to have a look.

No Buy 2020


  • Toiletries: when previous items run out!
  • Go out for one meal a month. Two coffee/tea/smoothie/bubble tea dates per month.
  • Groceries. Obvs. (This includes cleaning items.)
  • Gifts for other people (try thrifted or eco-friendly) - this also includes donations/sponsorships/online animal adoptions/etc.
  • Education
  • Experiences - holidays, etc. (One 'experience' every quarter, if desired [and we can afford it!])
  • Painting/Art/Craft Supplies. But only if they're absolutely needed and can't be borrowed.
  • Gardening Supplies. As above.

Not Allowed:

  • Books (including ebooks and audiobooks) and Magazines
  • Stationery
  • Alcohol (I don't really drink very much anyway, so this is kind of just an excuse to put a blanket ban on drinking entirely. I think 2020 will also be a dry year.)
  • Make-up
  • New teas (I can restock ones I have finished, but I need to stop buying new flavours and such and then never drinking them.)
  • Clothes & Accessories
  • Home Decor & Furniture
  • Apps/Gadgets
  • Video games & Boardgames, barring the ones I already have on preorder.
  • Pet Accessories
  • Candles (ergghhh this one may be difficult), smelly things - essential oils and incense. I think I am set up for the latter two.


  • Peppermint Magazine (I will re-evaluate this one in June, as the subscription renewal is in July.)
  • Replacements - if something happens to a tshirt or some socks are beyond saving, I can replace them if needed.
  • 2 more tshirts, and long-sleeved tshirts in winter, as needed.
  • A pair of flats (shoes).
  • A pair of winter pjs, as needed. (My previous pair died from intense use over the last year.)
  • Books on my wishlist shelf on Goodreads, if I cannot access them any other way (ie. library). In particular, my focus is on my main three anticipated releases for this year: Stealing Thunder by Alina Boyden, Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty, and Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee. I have other rules in place for this list, and I am often updating it by taking things off and putting others on, so I am not too concerned that this will get out of hand. I may even ask for preorders of the main three for my birthday, if possible.
  • A larger, flat baking tray. (This might be borrowed, though.)


  • If I absolutely need it, can it be thrifted? Can it be borrowed?
  • My 'Why': I want to be able to save for holidays with Xin, or by myself if that becomes an option. I want to feel empowered by my spending habits, rather than beholden to them. I want to look around my home and see things I have consciously purchased, rather than impulsively grabbed. I want to remember gratitude for the smaller things that perhaps money can't buy, like slow meals at home with my love, playing boardgames with friends (ones we already own!), and rediscovering my love for creating and learning. I want less stuff, more love.

You may notice that I have put an additional list at the bottom there - my 'Remember' list. This just has two little reminders for me, one of them being my 'Why'. When I've been reading up about No Buys, Low Buys, Shopping Bans, and any sort of alteration of habits this (*ahem*) drastic, people have often stressed that it is important to identify your 'Why', so that when you feel like you might be about to break your own rules, or you're wavering a bit about why you're even doing this experiment in the first place, you can refer back to your 'Why' and remind yourself. I also want to just take a small moment to say that this doesn't mean I won't be accepting gifts this year. I receive fewer gifts now, since people have observed how minimal I am becoming (and, hopefully, how intentional I am with what I bring into my home), but I still really love receiving and giving gifts, and so that will continue to happen.

Finally, before I sign off from this excessively long post, I just wanted to say that I am going to put an emphasis on self-compassion this year - if I make a mistake with my No Buy, that's okay. I will try to remember to assess what happened, see if I can prevent it in the future, re-affirm my 'Why', and forgive myself and move on. This is not an experiment in 'how much can I punish myself this year!', but a thoughtful, curious look at what is important to me, what I am capable of, and how much I actually genuinely need. If you feel like you might like to try this, I recommend doing a bit of research and maybe also some decluttering first, so you know what you already have before you start, and set yourself up for success rather than leaping in face first and wondering why you can't make it stick (speaking from personal experience here). I look at this list and I feel... hopeful. And just a touch excited. It feels like something I can have a little bit of control over when a lot of things feel absolutely beyond it, and that feels nice.

I hope you are all well. Happy New Year. Love to all who read.

‘We need much less than we think we need.’ - Maya Angelou

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