Back At It

Hi!

It’s been a while, but I’m back. Between getting sick at the beginning of August, work coming back into full swing, and starting to apply for grad school, things have been a bit busy on my end. I feel like I’ve reached a point where the goals that I’ve set at the beginning of the year and the adjustments I’ve made along the way have become habit and second nature. I have gained some perspective for what seems to be major spending triggers while back in Montreal (I’ll go into more detail about that in a future post), but now that I’m back out of the city, there’s a lot less temptation.

I still haven’t bought anything in my no spend categories, I’ve been able to take advantage of experiences as they’ve come up, and I’m still chipping away at using up my stockpile of craft supplies and body products. At this point, I know that I have a busy few months ahead – particularly with so many applications due on December 1st – but I fully believe that I’ll still be able to work out a once-a-week posting schedule (especially with this being a creative outlet for me).

For now to the end of the year, I don’t see there being much change in what I’m doing from the no-buy perspective and for what I’m writing about, with it being mostly reflection pieces and thoughts that come up when different situations arise. Looking much further into the future, for next year, I think I’ll keep the goals as being much of the same thing – but I’ve got time to figure that out.

So, to keep it simple for now, I have 2-3 topics that can easily be fleshed out for this month, and then I’ll see what’s doable with my schedule as the final quarter of the year progresses.

Also, thanks to everyone who checked in with me while I took my unplanned break – I appreciate you sticking around 🙂

Conventionally Impulsive

I don’t know if you’ve ever attended a local Comic Con before (as in, not just the major San Diego one), but they are the perfect location for the combination of FOMO (fear of missing out) and impulse purchases to come to a head where you’ll end up leaving with heavy bags and empty pockets.

I do want to get all the positives out of the way first, of what I think is great about having access to a Comic Con event (or offshoots of a similar format):

  1. The experiences: you have the opportunity to attend talks/panels, workshops and concerts; participate in cosplay if that’s your thing; attend meet and greets; and take in the overall vibe of the space.
  2. The community: If you’re a fan of media fully accepted within pop culture or something super obscure, you will find other people with shared interests within this space – and likely make friends if you happen to attend all the same convention events.
  3. The artists/local vendors: “Artist Alley” is a great place to find unique art (prints, pins, clothing, accessories, home decor, cosplay materials, and even themed tea blends!), and an equally great opportunity to support small artists for what they’ve already made or will make by request/commission. A good convention website will even list the artists/independent vendors in advance for you to see what’s available ahead of time or to buy from online if they ran out of stock in person.

Now that it’s clear that I don’t hate the concept of the convention, I do want to talk about how a lot of it felt like it was designed to get you to rely on impulses rather than thinking through a purchase. My experiences are tied to what I’ve seen in the 2010s at Montreal’s Comic Con and Otakuthon (wasn’t my scene, but I tagged along with a friend on a free ticket), so I can’t comment on what much larger conventions are up to nor how things are being run now.

For one, the layout of the convention made it so more than half of the first floor (biggest hall) was dedicated to selling merchandise – and more than half of that space was taken up by larger vendors. I understand fully that for some of these vendors – particularly anything to do with cosplay (namely wigs) – you’d want to be able to assess the quality in person to make sure you’re spending your money on something legit. But where things get overwhelming is how many massive displays – visually noisy or just actually noisy – are competing for your attention (and money). With the space also being so expansive, it’s easy to come back from the upper floors or smaller halls in between the different scheduled activities you’re interested in, because who hasn’t gone window shopping to kill some time? It’s like walking around a Costco that exclusively sold merch for various fandoms.

Regarding FOMO, some of the major vendors will promote convention-specific items, which could be anything from “rare” funkopops to items made to be sold specifically at the convention with the location and year emblazoned on it. I fully understand that rare collectible items will have a place within the convention, particularly for figurines you can only get from another country, rare retro video games, or anything that’s no longer in production. But I’m skeptical about something that is currently in production that they (the vendor) are choosing to make fewer of to create the artificial scarcity. You’re selling to a population that likely are going to be more vulnerable to wanting to make this purchase, whether they’ve had minimal sleep from attending the whole weekend’s schedule (including unofficial after-parties) or are hungry, everyone else in their group is also getting it, or it will give them clout in their online community (where FOMO festers most rampantly). Granted, attendees are mostly adults who can make their own decisions about their finances, but the number of younger people – teens and young adults – who are also in attendance may be more sensitive to feeling FOMO or that they need to have specific merchandise to be accepted in a gatekeeping community (think of the “you’re not a real fan if you don’t have XYZ” mentality).

I have a particular gripe for the merchandising of fandoms that have built-in teams or factions that fans can align with – especially something like Harry Potter and the Hogwarts houses. I’m leading with the fact that I’m a fan of the books (not the author) and enjoyed having received items that had a use (notebooks, coasters, agendas, shirts, etc.) while growing up. However, I think the level of marketing and merchandise attached to Harry Potter is overwhelming. This is nothing against those who like the series and see it as a big part of their identity, or even just like it enough to watch one of the movies every so often, but instead an open question as to why anything that can be turned into something Harry Potter-themed has to be produced? Do we really need cast iron cookware, shower curtains, bumper stickers, and tree ornaments that loudly proclaim what three traits someone might identify with? Probably not, but you can bet that convention vendors will be ready to create a sense of need by having this odd assortment of items on display.

When I attended in 2019, having the mindset of “shop local/small business” mostly kept me away from the loudest and most impersonal vendor booths, but I still found myself waiting out the time gap between panels by doing laps of the main hall. I even went in with a list of artists to check out by booth and what I wanted to get (for myself or friends and family) so that I could stick to a rough budget – but I was still drawn in by the more commercial stuff sold at booths that lead up to the signatures and meet and greet area (it’s almost like they’re relying on the heightened emotional response to seeing someone “important” to you).

What I’m trying to put out there with all of this is: if you’re going to a convention, plan ahead (even make an impulse budget if you feel that’s necessary), and hold off from purchasing something immediately when you arrive – not only will you have to carry it around the rest of the day, you might be able to find something more specific to your interests in the artist section over the mass produced items. Or, ideally, you won’t get stuck with having bought something you don’t really want (… or need) that ends up cluttering your home.

Curated Closet

I’ve written before about how I would follow whatever trends were popular at the time – whether for fashion in general, or what the rest of the campus was wearing. The idea of a capsule wardrobe wasn’t at all on my radar in the early 2010s, and shopping was as much a hobby as a bonding activity, so my frequent clothing shopping would not have been something I would have questioned at the time. A decade later, I was learning about capsule wardrobes – but those, too, felt more aspiration-oriented than instructional, especially with the flat-lays on Instagram showing clothing and accessories that were not already in my closet nor within my budget.

Last year – 2021 – was the first time I really paid attention to the idea of a curated closet, as opposed to buying a string of trendy statement pieces and hoping for the best. In particular, the closing sale of Le Château – and the fact that I tracked it from the announcement in October 2020 to the actual closing around April 2021 – made it so I was looking at everything that was listed on the website for weeks at a time before making any purchases. I had already been thinking about doing a No Buy (in the flimsiest of ways), but there were also items that I didn’t have in my closet – like pant suits and blouses – that were plentiful on the website. I held off on making any purchases for a few months, mostly because I wanted the deeper discounts, but in part to not deal with the headache of purchasing clothing that fit the wrong way and then not being able to return it (this would have been around the same time that non-essential shopping was not allowed and malls were closed as a result).

The benefit of waiting out the cycle of sales (some sales were buy X number of items, get an additional percentage off – others were these specific categories are a deeper discount) was doing the math to figure out just how much I would save and that I was building the habit of waiting it out rather than leaning into an impulse purchase. On top of that, with the additional time, I was thinking about what I already owned (and actually wore) and what I could reasonably add to the rotation. This was one of the first times that I thought about what I was adding to my wardrobe in context to the rest of what I wore (or at least that season), rather than just buying because I thought it was cute and the discount was an impressive percent. I still bought a larger quantity over that half-year period than I would in one sitting, but it was items that all went together or were for specific events – such as a pant suit set and 1-2 tops that matched the colours in the tartan pattern, or a clutch that matched both something I already owned and an evening gown I was buying.

In comparison, my long-term habit of shopping was “if it looks good on me, I’ll buy it.” While still living in Montreal, it was a lot easier to spend the afternoon shopping, in person, which meant that I was seeing what the store wanted me to see rather than being able to look through items online with filters. I’m fortunate that I lived in a city that had a wide variety of options for clothing and that 90% of what I tried on would fit me (the biggest issue being pants were too short), but in trying everything on, I would form attachments to whatever fit well enough – I start with feeling the fabric (usually some poly-blend), then imagining events and outings that I’ll wear the item while trying it on, then end with walking out with a massive bag of fast fashion for under $100. When I moved for work, much of my online shopping would be done while heading to bed, aiming to have a “quick look,” but sometimes spending up to three hours hours finding a way to meet a shipping minimum – or trying to find every variation of an item.

By shopping as a hobby or for the thrill of the deal, I ended up with a wardrobe of hardly any basics – whether they were statement pieces or short-lived trends – which made it harder for me to feel inspired to put something together when I was overwhelmed by everything looking back at me from my closet. That isn’t to say that I would wear a neon yellow sequin skirt with an ostrich feather halter top for my Monday morning meetings, but when you only have patterns to work with, it can still be headache-inducing. Now, however, I lean into the fact that I have a handful of colours that I like to wear (navy blue, burgundy, forest green), some patterns and prints (stripes, tartan, floral, houndstooth), and I generally stick to the three-colour rule when planning an outfit. I also don’t feel like I need to buy as much when I know that my combinations are basically endless, especially if I’m being more thoughtful about trying out different outfit ideas.

If I could impart any advice for someone who is in a similar situation, I’d say what worked best for me was assessing the following:
1) See what you like the most in what you already own – whether that’s colours, patterns, prints, cuts, or fabric. This is less to do with brands you like, and more what you like on your body.
2) When considering what you feel is missing, think about what’s influencing that: are you being swayed by what you’re seeing in advertisements or posts/videos online (more of an impulse, maybe), or is this a general item (a suit, a clutch, a pair of block heels) that you can use for something coming up (work on Monday, an experience/outing, a specific event) that can also be useful for future wears because it goes with other stuff in your closet?
3) Do I have something similar enough to it already? For example, I have three accordion midi skirts, in three different colours: one is green with white polka dots, one is black pleather, and the navy blue one from this month’s capsule is plain. While I love the way that midi accordion skirts look, I would need to find something completely different to warrant considering buying another one.
4) What else does the rest of this work with? While some items are event specific (like Halloween costumes), I try to think about what else this item will work with for what I already own. If the item already “passes” point 3, I want to consider why I might not have this item already (price, wasn’t in fashion, didn’t know it existed), and whether it will go well enough with the rest of what I wear. I struggle the most with this point for shoes/heels since you can argue that most shoes can fit with the rest of what you’re wearing if you just have confidence, which is how I’ve ended up with two pairs of heels that are the same colour but different shoe styles.
5) Lastly, I genuinely have to ask myself: do I like this as art or do I like this as clothing? I like to think that I appreciate fashion as an art form, but that doesn’t mean that I need to wear the art (at least, not all the time). I like to believe that clothing is about having your body covered enough for the temperature, art is to be observed, and fashion is the middle point between the two. Perhaps this is not as common an issue for others, I don’t know, but I definitely have bought items because they look nice but were virtually unwearable.

Hopefully this can be helpful to you, too, if you are looking for ways to slow down on your shopping, make the most of what you already have, or check in on yourself before buying something you might need 🙂

July Goals & Capsule Wardrobe

Clothing:

I don’t usually adhere to a capsule wardrobe – I think life is too unpredictable to follow a set of guidelines for clothing a month in advance – but while I’m away, I do the best to account for different possible activities and events. The clothing I brought with me for the month is being bolstered by having access to all of my around-the-house stuff, like sweatpants from high school and every college shirt I’ve kept. I’m treating the capsule wardrobe as more my “out and about” clothing, so that I have some amount of choice in what to wear – which also means that I won’t be tempted to buy something new over the summer.

First, this is everything excluding a belt, two pairs of earrings, two pairs of shoes, and whatever purses/bags I’m using. Side note, doing a flat lay of clothing which are mostly the same colour was a creative exercise, to say the least.

If I count the two pairs of shoes (not shown), I have 20 items that I’m working with for a month, which is more than enough, since I won’t be leaving the house every day – and there are plenty of combinations available. My final point about this is that I think some of the items that were left in the wardrobe that weren’t even considered should head to the Bye-Bye Bin if they aren’t worn by the end of August (or if I’m feeling particularly generous, the end of September).

Reading:

This month, I’m mostly reading from Libby and Hoopla, and I’m going to try to knock out some of the sampled/wishlist items that have been sitting in my to-be-read pile as of last October. I’ve already gone through two books in the last week, so I suspect that I’ll be able to give you a total count (maybe even reaching double digits!) in the end-of-the-month check in.

Using what I’ve got:

I’ve packed full sized toiletries with me for July since I had the room in my luggage (the shampoo and conditioner bottle absolutely were stored in a running shoe each for doubling up on storage space), so I can keep chipping away at using them up.

A topic of using what I’ve got that I haven’t really touched on yet includes my very old laptop (from 2013). I want to spend some time this month – roughly half an hour a day – going through all of my photos, documents, downloads, and other stuff to do a digital declutter of what I’m not using or have reason to keep. I know a new laptop is on the books for next year or the year after, but for now, I’m going to lighten the load a bit on how much is being stored – which will make the eventual transfer of everything be a bit easier.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m aiming for a post per week, and I’ll go for every Tuesday, but if festivities occur and I’m a bit behind, c’est la vie! Thanks for reading 🙂

Mid-Year Check-In

How is the No-Buy going since January?

Of all of my major categories – clothing, accessories, tea, body products, hobby stuff, and books – nothing new/new-to-me has been purchased or thrifted. I haven’t needed anything new in any category. Though there have been two clothing swaps so far this year, only one item (a plain black romper) of the seven I set aside has been kept. Barring books, I’ve been downsizing/decluttering or using up my stuff in the first half of the year (more on that below) – which I feel has helped with alleviating some decision fatigue along the way: I don’t have to worry about what products I’m using if I’m focusing on emptying something, I don’t need to make a choice about buying more stuff when I see an advertisement because the answer is already “I have enough,” and I don’t have the itch to buy a bunch of stuff in my down time. Lastly, for books, while I’ve been on target about not purchasing more, I’ve been looser with my expectations of needing to read only what I own versus what I have at the library, and I feel as though that’s made for a better reading experience overall. Oh, and my estimate that I could get through at least the first half of the year without needing to buy any new stuff was definitely spot on.

Do these goals still work for me?

Absolutely. I’ve been able to see the forest for the trees of just how much stuff I have, and that there’s really no reason to have a mega stockpile for just one person (as in, I think it’s certainly reasonable for a large family to have the Costco bulk pack of toothpaste, but I’m still not even halfway through). I’ve found that restricting what’s coming in and focusing on what I have is helpful in learning more about what I actually like to have/use; black tea and other teas with more caffeine were great while getting my degree, but I don’t need the boost now that I work full-time.

Regarding tracking my progress, I find that blogging and using Instagram has been most helpful. The blogging is great to look back on where I’ve succeeded and what needs to change, while the online community I’ve found has been inspirational and motivational (though I’m not as active as I had been in the beginning). The clothing tracker, on the other hand, is good when I remember to actually complete it. I do still want to see the data on what I’m wearing and how frequently, but I find that it’s easy to have it slip away and I’m playing catch-up at the end of the week. I will continue use it, I just need to be more intentional and set aside the time to do so, rather than brush it off.

How am I doing with using up what I’ve got?

I feel like the best way to see how much I’ve used and what is currently in use of the stock pile is best executed by using the original inventory photos. Body products and tea are where I’ve got the most visible progress, and I’ve added red Xs over the items which have been fully used up (or decluttered or donated), and green circles over the items currently in use.

For body products, I’ve chosen to focus on finishing up the liquid soaps first, since they take up the most room and I prefer to not travel with them (I try to pack light and keep to a carry on, so bar soap is easier).

For tea, the vast majority of the tea pouches have found their way into the tins, BUT I still wanted to highlight just how much more space I have now that all the pouches have been emptied. I have a neat row of stacked tins of tea that are easily accessible, and the only other tea stuff I have on the shelf are the three pouches without a X or circle on it, and the box of drawstring teabags. I go through waves of drinking tea, where I’ll have four large cups (about 3L or so) in one sitting if I’m working from my laptop mainly, or maybe 1-2 if I have back to back tutoring sessions – and then I’ll not have any tea for a week and a half.

For the rest of my categories – particularly for hobby stuff or writing materials – seeing the progress is a bit harder. For the greeting cards, I don’t have many reasons to send or write cards (though I’m sure I could send them for the fun of it), but I’ve been using some here and there as I can. The sticker sheets are the hardest to empty, since some of the pages are mixed content and I’m less likely to use the other half of the stickers. Maybe I can do a sticker declutter at the end of the year for sheets that haven’t been used at all the whole year – whether the entire page is still intact, or it’s a sheet that I’ve skipped over continuously.

What choices have I been able to make/things I’ve been able to do by not buying anything in my no-buy categories?

Travel

Unsurprisingly, my selected luxuries have been able to get more attention as a result of having the for fun money and a specific line in my budget for travel. Regarding travel, I’ve been able to visit family and friends this year more than I thought I would. I’ve been traveling light – which has been helpful while trying to navigate the messy airport situations in Canada right now – and not worrying about leaving space for something to take home, since it was only postcards that I took back (or nothing at all for my more recent travel). I’ve also come to recognise that the people I’m visiting care more about seeing me than what I’m wearing (shocker, I know), and so long as I’m comfortable in what I’ve got on, I’m good to go.

Entertainment

I’ve been to museums this year, and I have two comedy shows to attend this summer, plus a ball later in the fall. I’m not worried about what trade-offs I’ll need to make to be able to attend, and I’m making choices based on my comfort and being able to be present for the events, rather than trying to juggle too many things all at once (namely, trying to squeeze in shopping, whether for myself or souvenirs for others). I’m also finding ways to include my friends in the events, so it’s a two-fer, in that I get to spend time with them and I get the experience of the event itself.

Does anything need to be adjusted for the second half of the year?

For now, I think I need to give myself a bit of breathing room, creatively, and scale down to one post a week. Beyond that, I believe that the system I’ve figured out for myself works on good days, meh days, and bad days – I haven’t purchased anything, and at most, my clothing tracker is set aside when I’m too tired to complete it. However, if you feel like there’s something that could help me, please do let me know – suggestions are always welcome 🙂

Milestones & No Buy Reflection

This past weekend, I attended convocation for my graduate certificate, with my parents in tow and friends who were receiving their Bachelor’s degrees. I hadn’t been back to the campus since 2019 (the certificate was done online), and the wave of nostalgia was real and alive. I used to set aside part of my semesterly visit to the campus to stop by the bookstore and buy more school “merch,” whether t-shirts, water bottles, rugby jerseys (it’s a whole thing), or winter wear, something new was coming home with me.

The school has a strong culture of “hand it down to the next generation,” so much of my decluttering of school shirts – particularly those with slogans that only make sense on campus – has gone back to people who will use it. Though, much of that culture stems from having bought so much in the first place.

This time around, the only new item I left with was a frame for my certificate. More accurately, my parents bought it as a gift, so I made no new purchases over this weekend. But it was interesting to see how many opportunities there were for buying something along the way: the bookstore is usually closed on Sundays and has reduced hours on Friday and Saturday, yet was open the whole weekend (understandably so, especially for anyone who hasn’t been back to the campus in two years); tables were set up in the convocation venue to purchase degree and grad photo frames, stuffed mascots in grad gear, and class rings; there were tables on both floors by the main entries to purchase flowers; and the sports complex had their team gear store open as well. I understand that part of this has to do with tradition (we give flowers as congratulations, but why?), but much of it felt like enabled impulse purchases. I can’t even remember if we’d bought anything at my 2018 ceremony (same university), not in the sense that I think we left empty-handed, but more so that if we had bought things, I have no recollection of it.

Much of how my family celebrated was experience-based – we chose the nicer hotel for comfort (and its spa), we knew which restaurants we’d enjoy most in the area and went back to them, I got a bunch of photos in grad gear – rather than me receiving physical gifts. To be clear, I’m not judging anyone who left campus this weekend with the fanciest frames for their photo and degree, a new alumni shirt, and a handful of other school spirit items that can remind them of their shortened time on campus – I get it, fully.

What I want to question – reflect, muddle, whatever – is why we associate milestones with stuff. I’ll be honest and say that even before the no-buy, I was a big fan of practical gifts or consumable items. Perhaps that comes from a place of privilege that I have all my necessities (or make do with reasonable alternatives) and I have the spare money to cover needs and wants as they come up. I get that “traditional” gifts for milestones – cookware for a wedding, a full toolbox for your first apartment (maybe that’s just my family, though), driving lessons or a car at 16, etc. – are reflective of the next chapter the person is going into (a baby shower is definitely helpful for the family’s first baby, but much of it can be reused amongst cousins and younger siblings, no?). I understand, too, that we’re all looking for reasons to celebrate after making it through 2+ years of the pandemic, but “stuff” was still available through online ordering.

I know that different traditions and cultures will approach celebrating milestones in different ways, and my perspective is a reflection of what is culturally common for me versus what I’m questioning. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that were I not on a no-buy this year, I would have set aside an entire portion of my budget just for this past weekend. Knowing my past shopping habits, I would have likely bought anything that said “Alumni” on it, home décor items for my apartment, and anything else “cute” from the bookstore. I didn’t buy new clothing, jewelry, shoes, accessories, or make up for the weekend, which is a 180-degree difference from my first convocation. “Shopping” my own closet also meant that I could wear anything fancy that has been waiting to be worn, and I wouldn’t have to worry about something arriving on time via shipping.

I think this post it more like a guided reflection than anything else – look at what I’m doing differently, what do I still want to ponder – so there might not be much of a “point” to it, but it’s been rattling around in my brain for a week. Thanks for reading!

I’m Not Buying It

While a lot of what has gone into my continuous efforts to have a successful No Buy have been internal factors (will power, avoiding temptation, motivation), there’s been one major external factor that I wasn’t fully expecting back in January: the rate of inflation.

Canadian shoppers are somewhat in a less great position for purchasing power, since anything imported will cost more, and the Canadian dollar is not as strong as the American dollar. Even for some things that are made in Canada, to buy new will still be fairly expensive. Granted, I’m no economist, and my observations are strictly based on what I’ve seen while in different provinces.

Anyhow, what I’ve been thinking about for a while (last two months or so) is that there’s no way I can justify spending X amount of money on clothing when the prices have jumped so much – regardless of my no-buy status. I’m not picking on one store or another in making this post, but to see the cost of a recycled material dress of a basic cut and style go from $39 to $49 is ghastly. Ghastly but helpful (to me), as I’m much less willing to throw that kind of money around. Perhaps this is the same as how it’s easy to spend $3-$5 a day on a coffee and treat on the way to work, but if you were shown the total amount for a month, you might be less inclined to spend it. Which, for the record, you absolutely should be allowed to treat yourself, things are tough enough as it is, you don’t need to deprive yourself of simple joys.

Before I go any further, I do want to address that I am fortunate enough to not technically be impacted by the change in prices for clothing. I haven’t bought any new clothing in a year, and my last time thrifting was in October 2021 – and despite my trickle of decluttering, I’m certainly not wanting for options to dress myself. I realise fully that this may not be the case for someone who has children, whose body is changing, or can only justify buying clothing when items are falling apart.

I’m also at a point in tracking my clothing that still nothing has reached 30 total wears (including my running shoes!), so it’s not like I need anything new. Even though we’re 5 months into the year, I still haven’t reached a justifiable point of needing something for clothing – and I think that slow pace of consumption (the opposite of an impulse buy for me) has made it all the more visible how much more expensive something is since the last item I bought in person was under $10 (and under $40 online). Had I still been buying when the same type of dress went from $39 to $42 to $47 to $49, I don’t think it would strike me as as much of a jump.

I feel like I have some more digging to do on the topic, particularly in light of where the low prices are coming from that I would previously be drawn to (as in, who is being cheated out of a fair living wage along the way), and what else I can learn about and the decisions I make to reduce my need for buying more – including learning what a quality garment looks like and where to find them once needed.

Later this week, we’ll have a look at my empties for the month – and next week I’ll be having a check in on my May goals. Thanks for reading!

Changes I’ve Noticed

So there’s been positive changes that I’ve been documenting so far – haven’t bought any clothing this year! haven’t spent money without being aware of my budget! haven’t bought from any of my other no-buy categories! – but I need to be realistic about “areas of improvement” that I’m noticing as I’ve gone past the 6-month mark of not buying any clothing (if we count from the soft start in November).

For one, I’m still on my phone more than I would like to be. In 2022, that’s a bit of a nebulous statement since we use our phones for so much, but I mean it in the sense that I’m not being intentional about my phone use. Watching youtube videos to clear out my “watch later” playlist, reading an e-book, or listening to a podcast while out for a walk or doing chores don’t fit into unintentional use – I’m setting out to do something and my phone happens to be a tool to complete part of the task. Where I end up losing track of time is generally through social media, particularly Instagram’s explore page – made worse by having both my personal and my Lady with Less account to scroll through. I want to highlight that I’m not saying I feel like I’m wasting time taking in content from fellow no-buy, mending, and outfit repeat accounts – you’re actually all so inspiring, just saying – but specifically the explore page is where I can lose more than an hour of my day (minimum). I know there are ways of having your screen-time limited within the app, but if I’m already in the middle of reading or watching something, I usually just hit “ignore” and go back to whatever content was on-screen.

Which leads in nicely to my next point: getting enough/better sleep. I already have a weird sleep schedule for working second shift and being on call during the night, and I’ve strongly identified with being a night owl for most of my life (I was maybe 8 the first time I stayed up until midnight outside of New Year’s Eve to satiate my curiosity of what happens when the alarm clock goes from 11:59 pm to 12 am on a normal day). Some nights, I’m falling asleep by the time midnight rolls around, but there are others where 2 am comes and goes and then I’m fighting against the melodious squawking of the early birds greeting a new day. If I’m able to follow my routine to a T, particularly that I fit in some time to read before bed, rather than scrolling, my sleep is significantly better. Pardon the tangent, but I want to point out a win: this time last year, my endless scrolling wouldn’t have been nearly as aimless and at the whim of the algorithm, but I was instead surprised by the sudden light of the rising sun after losing 2-3 hours to going through every page of the stores I spent the most money on. So, while there’s growth in that I’m no longer midnight shopping, stores would run out of content eventually, while the explore page does not.

Finally, sugar. My skin gets worse, my body hurts more, and I don’t feel great (overall) when I backslide into snack-y comfort food for meals on end as opposed to something more balanced. I didn’t study nutrition in university, but I know my body well enough at this point to recognise what my patterns are – and what reactions correlate to my actions. I generally don’t buy anything sugary of my own (I am a Montrealer, so I will always have at least some maple syrup at home), but my workplace has a generous snack supply that we can take from as we please. If I’m not getting enough sleep over a few days and things are quiet at work, I’ll grab something to munch on, since the kitchen is right by my desk. It’s almost like no one part of my life exists in a vacuum and everything is connected (pardon the sarcasm).

For me, it’s reached a point where saying, “I need to be more intentional about XYZ” has almost lost its meaning since I’m going through things too quickly (real talk, I haven’t used my planner in three weeks and have instead relied on daily post-its around my monitor screen). I need to give myself that time and work through what’s working and what isn’t, and make small adjustments rather than sweeping statements about massive change. I also realise that the focus of this blog is about the no buy, but I feel as though the no buy touches so many areas of my life that there’s grounds to bring up other areas that I want to work on as well.

To close with another win, in all of my endless scrolling, I’ve still been seeing ads for the clothing stores I like. I don’t have them blocked for the sake of knowing I can see them without losing the plot, and the unexpected benefit has been that I’ve seen spring/summer items over the last two months, and I feel nothing. It all is just the same florals and pastels that I have something similar to in my closet, and the cuts of the sleeves and skirt lengths on the dresses are the same, too. So, if nothing else, this check in coinciding with switching in my spring/summer clothing has highlighted how little I need more clothing.

April Empties & Bye-Bye Bin

It’s been a bit since I last had a look at my empties and I’ve been making some progress in using up my stuff. I realise I hadn’t included an update here for March, so you get a two-fer this month:

All the empty tea pouches are from topping up the tins I have, while the empty tin is from finishing off a tea entirely (pardon the extra text on the first picture, I had to pull it from my instagram stories – this is a one-person blogging team). For the soaps, I finished the last of my bar soap that I used for travelling last month, the lip balm was finished a few days ago after fighting to get the last of it out from the bottom of the tube – and the liquid soap was emptied within around a month (which I include to answer my own question from my last post).

For the bye-bye bin, there’s not as much this month (only 3 items), though I suspect that number will be much higher as I swap in my spring/summer stuff and set aside the long-sleeved and bulkier items.

The French phrases book has been sitting on my reference shelf for about 3 years, and I’ve never once used it as a reference for students in tutoring – I’d either explain the answer to their question, or the student would look it up. The yellow tin is ready to find a new home, as I know if I have more tins, I’ll find a reason to fill it with yet another tea (also, I’m back to an even number of tins, so there’s that too). The dress acting as the background to the flat lay was an impulse purchase last year from an online thrift store that just doesn’t fit right.

While there’s still nothing on my wishlist, I do want to bring it up for the sake of sharing a change in how I’m thinking: there isn’t anything yet on the list since I genuinely don’t need anything, so I’m going to treat it more like a restock “limbo,” where I keep an eye on the stuff I’ve emptied and see whether I actually need more. There aren’t any categories that I’ve emptied out entirely yet, so it will likely be a few months before I have anything to add to the list.

Later this week, I will be looking over my April goals, though for the next few weeks (to May 19th or so), I’ll be aiming for one post a week while I’m leading a budgeting and financial literacy course with students in a local school. Thanks for reading!

Psychology and Shopping: Ideal & Real Self

Figuring out who you are is a big question, and inherently relies on comparing yourself to other versions of yourself or to others. Your answers to that question may have some elements that are fixed while others change over the course of your lifetime. A common exercise in social psychology/sociology classes is to answer the question “Who am I?” 20 times over. How you choose to answer this is going to be a mix of what comes to mind first, what you value most, maybe some insecurities you have (“bad at math” was common amongst the social science students in class), and some demographic information when you start to run out of ideas.

Another thing to consider when thinking about who you are is how close you are to being who you want to be. There’s a lot to unpack from that as well, so I’ll keep it simple by working with “real” and “ideal” self. “Real” is, simply enough, who you are right now, for better or for worse. This is who you see yourself as, and can be a combination of your perception and what others give you as feedback of who you are. “Ideal” is who you are striving to be, whether within realistic reach or beyond what you could ever do. I don’t mean that in a defeatist way, there are limitations to what we can do – or what we care to do, just as much as we all have our strengths and passions. I like to learn through visuals, so we’ll compare how low and high overlap of “real” and “ideal” self can play out.

In our first Venn diagram, there’s not much overlap between “ideal” and “real.” We aren’t going to make any other assumptions about this sense of self – my blog posts are long enough on average, so we’re not going to try to unpack level of happiness, feelings of self-worth, sense of success, or anything else, we’re sticking to just what’s in the circles. So, there’s minimal overlap between “real” and “ideal,” which means that, to this person, there’s a lot of catching up to do for them to be their ideal self. What can influence this is the types of messages they’re exposed to and whether they choose to internalize these messages as faults/failures they need to change.

For example, you likely don’t internalize the types of messages we see in pop-up ads or spam mail (the “dermatologists hate her!” type), but you may be more inclined to consider listening to or heeding the advice of someone whose opinion you value – even if you weren’t aware of the “issue” in the first place. The more and more things or abilities that get added to the ideal pile that you don’t already possess, the further gap – or more minimal the overlap – will be between “ideal” and “real.”

The second Venn diagram has much more overlap. Who this person wants to be and who they are is mostly consistent. This could be someone who manages the number of messages they choose to internalize, someone who is able to fulfill their goals/enact their values, or someone who may see the value in their faults and how it makes them human which in turn is included in their “ideal” view of themselves.

You can reasonably expect that the gap and overlap will change throughout your life. There can be parts of yourself that you’ll (almost always) value, and other parts that used to be “ideal” but either no longer fit your lifestyle, or your goals and responsibilities have changed. How this can be a factor in shopping habits is whether the aspirations you have can be fulfilled through shopping/physical items. If you feel the need to follow specific trends or fads to feel like you belong with a specific crowd, there are likely items or fashion staples that you would need to purchase to “keep up” with everyone else. This can be related to hobbies as well (a topic I’m coming back to later this month), where to get into certain hobbies and the lifestyle that surrounds it can lead to a lot of money being spent for the sake of getting “in.” Granted, you would absolutely need to buy a kayak to get into kayaking, but for other hobbies like table top gaming or crafting, my experience has been that there’s an undercurrent of gatekeeping if you don’t own a bunch of stuff or specific brands related to the hobby.

For a personal example, when I got hired after university, I felt like I needed to overhaul my entire wardrobe for it to be work appropriate (despite having pieces that would have been fine to wear at work), which resulted in a shopping spree in preparation for entering “the real world.” I internalized that I needed to look a certain way for work, spend a chunk of money to emulate that look, and four years later, own only a handful of those pieces. On the other hand, I was in the later years of high school (16 years old) when Silly Bandz were a thing, and I saw no value in purchasing any despite most people I knew having at least some and otherwise being the type to like the idea of having a complete collection. The “need” for these items were not internalized at all, and I largely forgot about them short of watching a YouTube video about 2010s trends and fads.

It’s been a long while since I’ve last done my 20 “who am I” questions, though I’d wager that what my focuses are now are less geared toward fitting into specific groups – especially through status symbols – and more about liking who I am and what I bring to the table.