Less is More - Shopping Ban Summary for Month 1

Have you ever read a book and felt inspired to start THAT right NOW? I have, more times than I would want to admit. In a few cases, I’ve even taken the plunge. So it was with “The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store”. Author Cait Flanders spent first one, then two solid years buying only what she needed, using up what she had, and getting rid of anything non-essential. The rest is summed up in the title, but it’s still worth a read.

There’s no easy way to say “I think I have a spending problem”. Cait did, and she wanted to break her bad cycles and build new habits. I’ve suspected I have one too, but the truth is that I just don’t know. I don’t have the data. And I want that data. Bad.

So it was that in late November, I decided that I would, with zero fanfare and a lot of planning-on-the-fly, start my own shopping ban in December and run it for a year. YIKES.

My shopping ban rules are inspired by Cait’s, but not enslaved to them. For Month 1, here are the rules:

  • Write down EVERYTHING you spend and which account it came from

  • No shopping outside of the approved monthly shopping list

  • Purchase toiletries only when used up (toilet paper and diapers are the exception)

  • (NEW!) Gift budget must be set prior to purchasing a gift

  • NEVER EVER buy anything just because it’s on sale

  • No shopping for fun (reading in bookstores is ok)

  • Houseplants are not essential

  • Coffee out only with friends

December went well, but not perfectly. I purchased two houseplants because they were on sale (…oops), but otherwise no non-essentials. My friend at my day job, Amy*, has agreed to be my “sponsor”, and allows me to check in with her prior to any unusual purchases. This no-bullshit, tough love Aussie has been a lifesaver during this month.

We did the “worst” on food and eating out. Our tiny family of three spent $700+ on food this month. We enjoyed a few meals out, and treated friends and family to a few as well. We’re setting next month’s budget to $600 (with the understanding that my birthday is at the end of the month, and I am allowed one semi-fancy meal). It’s astonishing how quickly eating out adds up, and horrifying to remember how much we used to do it.


  • $600 on food

  • No material birthday present to myself**

  • Set birthday present budgets in advance***

  • Begin saving with Digit

*name changed for privacy

**Can we say “jewelry”?

***A story for another post.