Well, I’m glad that’s over.

My first ‘shopping ban’ was only a mere 30 days long, but I’m embarrassed by how hard I found it.

I’ve written in the past about how years of paring down my belongings and adopting a more minimalist lifestyle has helped me develop a healthy scepticism towards shopping.

It’s not as if wandering through shopping centres angered or upset me, I just felt like I had some kind of superpower which made me immune to all the tricks marketers play to part people from their money. (Even in homewares shops. Lovely, lovely homewares shops…)

So at the beginning of this month I had thought a shopping ban, especially one for as short a spell as 30 days, would be a walk in the park.

As a result, I’d made the rules of the game pretty tough.

Back in December, I had originally considered granting myself permission to buy one specific item of clothing during January.

I have a teeny-tiny capsule wardrobe at the moment so when my work boots gave out in the snow around Christmas time, I was pretty sure I’d need to replace them pretty damn quick. Snowy toes suck!

But then I decided to get a grip and wait the month out without new boots. It was only a 30-day challenge, for God’s sake. What’s the point of a month-long shopping ban if you’re still buying stuff??

Instead, I began wearing ballet pumps or court shoes into work each day and thought no more about boots. What a trooper. WINTER BOOTS ARE FOR WUSSES!


The shopping ban went well for the first two weeks or so.

Knowing that I was immune to the usual shopping frenzy, I even joined my wife Ruth on a trip around the January sales.

We visited three of my favourite stores (all homewares, of course). I knew I was testing my resolve to the max – being cocky, if you like – but resisting felt easy. I just had to remind myself that I could admire a beautiful object without having to possess it and I would be able to walk out empty-handed.

Then in mid-January, my brain just flipped. I think it was starting to rebel against the notion that I was banned from doing something. Suddenly, I was fantasising about buying a new phone one day, a fancy new camera the next.

I found myself researching camera phones online and knew I might be in trouble.

Then I found myself in a claustrophobic, thronging clothes shop within one of the UK’s biggest shopping centres as the January sales drew to a close and the heavy discounts began.

There was a blizzard outside and I wasn’t looking forward to wearing ballet pumps through the snow come Monday morning.

In front of me, there appeared some boots! £70, reduced to £20! None in my size….until I checked the very last pair at the back of the pile.

Reader, I cracked.

I’m not proud. It was only the first of 12 30-day challenges I’m planning to set myself in 2018 and I’ve already tripped up.

But I guess the exercise has taught me a few things:

  • I’m not the sort of person who deals well with bans
  • I am not immune to the lure of a bargain
  • I shouldn’t be cocky
  • I am a wuss in the snow

Anyway, at least my first 30-day challenge is over. Details about the second will be coming shortly.

I know some of you guys were joining me by setting yourselves a 30-day challenge this month, either a shopping ban or something else entirely. How did you get on? Better than me?

15 thoughts on “ A wuss in the snow: The unexpected highs and lows of a 30-day shopping ban ”

  1. I think there are some things that aren’t worth minimizing. Everyone’s line is different, but snow boots are on my essentials list. This year I even gave myself permission to buy a new pair of snowboots when my current ones were only 2 or 3 years old. Those boots had the complete opposite of traction, and after a few years of sliding around precariously I wanted something that was actually fit for the purpose.

    Miss Minimalist talked about having a single pair of shoes and it’s an interesting experiment, but probably not a good idea in my climate. In her climate it still involves getting wet feet every time it rains. Clearly that works for her, but for me it isn’t worth it

  2. Well, I don’t think you’re a wuss. Here’s why……UK, blizzards, snow, walking through said blizzards and snow, your old snow boots bit the dust and died. You needed another pair. Plus I’m pretty sure that ballet flats are not meant for traipsing through snow and slush which could potentially ruin them in which case you’re out a pair of flats as well as boots. Penny wise and pound foolish as my Grandmama used to say. You didn’t succumb to the lure of a new camera or phone, you resisted the siren song of housewares…..you bought a pair of boots that you needed at a steep discount and left with nothing else, am I correct? I declare you, by the authority vested in me by my wise Grandmama, a not-wuss. Lol!

  3. I’ve done shopping bans and I think buying a pair of boots for the snow when all you have is ballet flats is okay. I do think staying away from shops and other triggers like certain websites is essential! I should probably do another ban. I am a minimalist but I still get a kick out of buying pretty things… much better than I used to be though!

  4. I get your point. But but… Imagine yourself with less money. Then you’d never need to make these artificial bans. Then you automatically only buy when you absolutely need. And even then not allways, if your kid needs something -like those boots to replace too small ones.

    And this living without enough money doesn’t mean one becomes a stylish minimalist, it’s more likely to result in keeping stuff at home (mainly hand-me-downs) just in case something breaks down and you can’t buy a new thing to replace it.

    I don’t want to mock you, but I have to agree with you – you do seem a bit cocky.

    1. Absolutely. (I don’t have to imagine what it’s like to have no money…getting to £15,000 in consumer debt and then hitting a crisis point, before paying it all back, meant I spent years having to do without. Just a few months after getting out of debt, spending less by choice is now an absolute luxury)

  5. I don’t think replacing an essential item is ‘cracking’ or ‘tripping up’. More a lesson in rules of a shopping ban. Health and safety are not not things to compromise. (I grew up in Minnesota. I know winter.) I think replacing true essentials should be allowed in any shopping ban and was one of the rules in my shopping bans.

  6. To quote Courtney Carver of Project 333 fame, “This is not a project in suffering”. When you can thoughtfully purchase one pair of boots to meet a true need, I don’t believe you have broken the intent of your ban. If the intent was to think about purchases and reject impulse buying and consumerism, I’d say it was a resounding success. Looking forward to the other 30 day challenges. Maybe challenges are better than bans, right? 😉

  7. I think you have to change your mindset about your challenges. Challenges aren’t just for the sake of challenge – they aren’t just a game (see Loviisa’s comment though I don’t think you came over as smug; just frustrated!)
    See them as lessons to learn from. You learned more about your triggers, and you remembered that non-essential shopping IS a pleasure. Looking at the pretty things is great fun – it really is – or we wouldn’t all enjoy it so much!
    As for the boots, you learned that shopping is, annoyingly, essential too!

    See these challenges as focussing you and your behaviour, not restricting you to make yourself uncomfortable. Don’t set yourself up for failure because wee challenges like this should be both fun for you and something to learn from.
    Karen (Scotland)

    PS I’m laughing at the thought of you trying to get around in this last month’s weather in ballet pumps – passers-by must have wondered. I haven’t seen anyone in shoes since New Year!

  8. All this minimalism talk….I want a fun challenge. I am feeling too many restrictions. My challenge for February is have more fun. See my friends more!!!

  9. When I saw the picture of stoneware, I had a Pavlovian reaction! I’m impressed you didn’t crack until you found great boots at a bargain. To be honest, that looks like a smarter choice than holding out until the end of the month and then looking for boots at full price.

    I know myself. As much as I like a challenge and competing to win, it’s just asking for trouble to set myself a specific no spend challenge. I do better when it’s a lifestyle thing and the choice is checking it against the lifestyle we want to have, rather than to make it to the end of a race without buying anything.

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