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!
With the first quarter of the year coming to a close, I thought it would be good to check in on my goal progress and see if there’s anything that needs to be adjusted.
So far, so good, I haven’t bought anything new or thrifted. There was one item that I picked up from a clothing swap – a dress for warmer weather – and two items that were in my maybe pile that got put back before I left. I’ve also decluttered some 20+ clothing items since the beginning of the year. I did have a bit of temptation when a new activewear line was released from Joe Fresh, but other than that nothing had been added to my wish-list or particularly caught my eye. I feel that the fact that I still haven’t worn everything once through is helping me to immediately reconsider making any purchases. I’ve also been lucky that nothing has needed to be replaced, so there’s been no need to browse online or in store for stuff. I haven’t brought in any new/new to me accessories either, which is great considering I still haven’t yet worn all 60+ pairs of earrings that I own (so it’s not like I’m lacking new-to-this-year things to wear). Lastly, regarding tracking my clothing, shoes, and earrings per wear, if I have the energy at the end of the day, I’ll add the tally marks right away, if not, I’ll do it every 2-3 days.
Slowly but surely, I’m making my way through my yarn and planner stickers. Pens are harder to go through as quickly, but I haven’t bought any new writing utensils. Through travelling earlier this month, I had picked up postcards and was careful not to buy more than who all I wanted to send to – so nothing has been added to a stockpile, but I haven’t used up any of my other stationary. What’s important to highlight (hehe) is that there’s nothing new in this category either.
I have drank so much tea since January, and yet somehow I’m still barely making a dent in the quantity I have. I make anywhere between 1 and 4 cups of tea a day (sometimes double-sized in my huge mug), so progress is there, but sometimes hard to see since I keep all the tea in tins. Same as above, nothing new has come in.
When I made the estimate that I wouldn’t need anything until at least the summer, I was 100% right. I’d even be willing to wager that I’m going to last a bit longer on certain items, like toothpaste and body wash (liquid and bar soap). The only “new to me” items are hotel shampoo and conditioner that my mum passed me before the second leg of my trip (she wasn’t using them and I could still get through security with them in my bag), but other than that I’ve just been chipping away at what I have.
I have a bit of a mixed review for this category: I haven’t bought anything new, but I’ve only read two of my own books this year. Making the most of my local library (physical and digital branch), I’ve read or listened to some 10 or so books since the beginning of the year. I think what’s drawn me more toward the library is the “newness” factor of content, or finding old series that I never finishes/aged out of but still wanted to know how it ends. I’m pleased that I’ve read more than double in the first quarter what I read in all of 2021, though I’m looking for ways to recapture the “wow” factor of the books still left on my shelf. I don’t know if I want to do something as extreme as flipping the books around on the shelf, or select titles through a random generator – or maybe I just need to slow down and choose what to read based on more than just the title. In fairness, packing light but wanting to read on my trip meant that I’d opt for e-books and audiobooks, and the trip wasn’t planned until later January/early February, so I couldn’t have predicted that when setting goals on January 1st.
I believe the bye-bye bin format will still work for me, as it’s been the same method I’ve been using for a few years now. Regarding empties, I find this to be rather helpful in seeing what I’m using, as well as how quickly (or how long) it takes for me to go through a given product. Lastly, for the wish-list, I still think the parameters I set are what’s best for me – there’s no reason to lower the bar just because nothing has met it yet.
I’m pleased with how experiences-focused my plans have been thus far, as well as what I’m looking forward to for the rest of the year. I feel that being more mindful and intentional with my budget (including my “for fun” money) means that I’m not opening up my banking app at the end of the month and trying to figure out where my money went after I went off the rails with impulse purchases. Additionally, I’m more inclined to answer “yes” to looking at an experience (solo or shared) of “is this event worth 10 hours of work,” while the same question geared at clothing or other no-buy categories are a resounding “no.” Other than reading my own books, I don’t think there’s much yet that I need to change about how I’ve been approaching my no-buy year – but I’ll be sure to keep you posted if that changes 🙂
This post is both to look at how I did with my March goals and to reflect on travelling within the parameters of my No Buy Year.
I ended up going with a backpack and a purse, which meant that I was able to fit in the estimated three days’ worth of clothing into my bag. Granted, I didn’t count the day of clothing for travel (I wore the same thing on each flight), but I needed the layers for some of my excursions anyhow. I was able to do laundry often enough that it wasn’t a problem, and it was still cool or rainy out that I would have been seen in a jacket and black leggings no matter what tops I was wearing. Getting through checking in and airport security, by the way, was an absolute breeze, so I’d be inclined to do this again for short trips.
Stuff versus Experiences:
The only “things” I bought were postcards, but I bought fewer this time around since I brought my gratitude journal with me (which I used to list my daily highlights instead of the postcards). Though I’d been in some stores throughout the trip (where else would I get classically tacky postcards?), I had very little inclination to browse for location-name shirts or books – especially when I thought about how many layers of shirt I’d have to wear on the flight home to fit it all into my backpack. I’m not entirely sure if I would have done the trip all that differently were I not on a No Buy, since much of it was spent on day trips and walkable outings, but it made it easier to not have half a day lost to the vortex of circling a store display to hunt for bargains. I also was able to pace myself a bit better throughout the trip, since I wasn’t trying to constantly do mental math to figure out how long we had left before the gift shop or other stores would close.
Staying on Budget:
I do my my monthly budget by pen and paper in my planner (which I didn’t bring with me), and I didn’t think to take a photo of it before leaving. Though that may sound like I’m gearing up for something negative, things actually turned out well. I ran through the numbers before setting out to write this, and the only section I was over budget on was for postcards, by $0.26 – everything else either fit into what I’d allotted to spend, or was added to my “for fun(d).” I did make sure that what I was setting out to do had a reasonable cost in the first place (museum entrance fee for $15CAD versus almost $70CAD for a suspension bridge crossing), and to not be swept up by promotions like, “buy 12 postcards for $5” when I only wanted 3 (which came out to around $2.50, but I’m fine without the other 9 postcards). I also was travelling during the off-season, which meant that there weren’t too many lines or a sense of urgency while going from place to place, which in turn meant that I could take my time to make more intentional decisions.
For the sake of not worrying about trying to account for preferred currencies of every reader, I figured I’d use percentages to make it easier to see how I did with my budgeting:
On maybe a less positive note, I noticed it was really easy for me to slip into the same treat-yo-self/guilt cycle for buying take-out/dine-in meals. One major factor was that I had lowkey forgotten that I had the $75 “for fun” money set aside, so each time I bought food while out on my own, I went for the cheapest options instead of what I necessarily wanted. For example, one of the slower days had about an hour of deliberation of how far to walk versus how much to spend versus should I just get delivery, which was made worse by my increasing hunger. The majority of the food for the trip was either home meals or split bills/someone covering for the group in turns, so this at least didn’t eat away (… ha ha) at too much of my time – but it’s indeed something to keep in mind for my next trip, whether that’s looking at restaurants in advance or choosing the number of meals out versus at home.
I finished my physical book in one day, and finished three e-books during the month. The audio book didn’t pan out, but I was completely enthralled by what I loaned as e-books, so I’d say that balances out.
About the No Buy & Travel:
To begin, doing a No Buy while staying with friends and family would look different than if I were in a hotel/accommodations without a fridge and space to cook. Everyone I stayed with or spent time with had some knowledge of what I was up to, and my goals were respected, which made it easier (and was validating). There were a few small instances of needing to say no (to the general “is there anything you need while we’re out/on the way back?”), but for the most part, discussions took place in advance to figure out what I could borrow/share while I was packing and planning.
My level of flexibility for planning what to see/do was influenced more by travelling in reduced-but-not-gone pandemic measures than the No Buy Year, since experiences are a category I hadn’t limited. I did, however, spend less time combing through any souvenir shop that caught my fancy – especially once I had a postcard per person on my list – which gave me more time to see and do things (and not have my hands or bag full while doing so). In trying to be more mindful of what and how I’m consuming, I’m also more hesitant to pick up things for others – mugs, magnets, shirts, etc. – if it wasn’t something specifically requested. I’m sure my friends and family who have young kids are silently relieved there isn’t a new toy or stuffed animal entering their home.
I don’t believe that it’s fair to compare international/non-family trips to essentially going home, so I won’t look at how I did versus my last bit of travel in 2020. I can, however, think about past trips to family versus this trip, and recognise that I didn’t even go into a mall (let alone browse small shops) on this trip, at all. I didn’t have the room in my luggage for stuff (intentionally), there’s nothing on my wish-list (still/yet), and I didn’t put myself within reach of temptation through staying busy otherwise. Or, to consider things in a positive light, I got to do what I set out to do: take a proper break from work, see my family, hang out with friends, eat delicious food, lose myself in 5 different museums, and be in nature. The memories made and the photos taken will outlast my interest in a t-shirt that might get worn twice a year, even if I got it on discount.
I will be travelling this month to visit with family and friends in another province, and this is my first major voyage since 2020, so it will be important to focus my goals on not falling into old spending habits from holidays past.
The benefit of staying with family and friends is that I can for sure do laundry and pack much lighter as a result (also free housing). Though I’ll be away about a week and a half, I want to limit myself to 3 days’ worth of clothing plus what I’m wearing on the plane – and my usual plane-friendly toiletries – to see if I can’t fit it all into my medium sized backpack. This will be helpful when navigating through security at the airports, as well as limiting how much stuff I can bring back. The last time I travelled, I did the opposite, where I left with one carry on suitcase that had almost everything in it, and then the larger checked bag was almost empty – with the intention of it being filled with goodies to bring home for myself and for family & friends. So, it’ll be interesting to see how I fare since I haven’t travelled in 2 years. Thankfully, the temperature will be a bit warmer there, so I won’t have bulky items taking up too much space.
Spending on Stuff versus Experiences
In the past, I would budget for about 1/4 of whatever I’m spending to be on stuff. Some of it would be souvenirs for myself (again, I was very “one for you, one for me”), which would include postcards (I use them as my travel diary for each day), clothing (both of the location’s name or of something specific to the region), books, and anything else specific to the area (honey from a monastery in Meteora, Greece? Sure, why not). Then there were also the souvenirs for others – I would generally focus on shirts, fridge magnets, post cards, and anything specific that was requested based on where I was going (I felt like a bootlegger coming back from Scotland). Now, I’m not about to turn stingy and refuse to get anything for anyone (capping it at postcards and requested items) – but I’m also not going to somewhere I haven’t been before, since I’m visiting family. Regarding experiences, I’m still keen on visiting at least one museum (if it’s safe), and I like to try the food of the region/stuff I can’t as easily have when I’m back home, so I have that to look forward to as well. I’m one to do my research about where I’m going and what to do while visiting somewhere (which I clarify only because I went on a group trip with someone who didn’t do any research at all before leaving, which is mind-boggling to me), but I’m being considerate of what my budget is and how I can still do what I want to do for fun without going all out.
Staying on Budget
I’ve given myself a “for fun” budget of $75 per month at the beginning of the year, or $900 for the full year. I haven’t fully finished my planning yet, but I can both see how that money can evaporate in a day or last me the whole second leg of the trip if I plan things out well enough. As mentioned above, I’m aiming for at least one museum and one lunch out. The museum I ultimately choose will be based both on price and content, and I know I’ll want to get myself 1-2 postcards of the exhibit. I brought up the for-fun money as budgeted for the year, as I don’t mind giving myself the flexibility to spend nothing in one month to build up $150 for the following month so I’m not actively withholding my ability to enjoy myself if the situation presents itself (not that I’d go ahead and spend all $900 in a day, but you get what I mean). If I under-spend, then small stuff like taking the bus versus walking somewhere can get added to the for fun/convenience budget versus come out of my travel budget (since I hope to do some travel this summer as well).
Other than Travel
I feel like I’ve reached a good stride for my No Buy that I can keep up what I’m doing on a long-term scale without it impeding my ability to enjoy spending my time with loved ones – as opposed to bargain hunting or other shopping with the people I’m there to visit. I’m stocked for groceries, I’m all good for body products, and there’s nothing major that I can predict at this time that would throw me off course. For reading, I want to have an e-book and audio book lined up for the flights, and I’ll be stopping by the library for some fun and lighthearted fiction (most of what I have here is non-fiction, and kind of heavy).
Next week I’ll be looking at the topic of selected luxuries as well as returning for the next instalment of my relationship to shopping. Thanks for reading!
1) These are theories that were first published in the 50s & 60s in the USA. They have been retested with different variables and have had similar outcomes – which is the standard for a theory to still be seen as, uh, legit. 2) With any theory in the social sciences, there are limits to how many experiences will align entirely with the theory. Your experiences, beliefs, perspectives, culture, mood, and more can impact how you will respond to a given situation. 3) How you feel the theory applies to you may change over time, and may change from one context to the next. I’m going to be applying the theory strictly in the context of shopping, though I encourage you to think about it in other areas of your life as well.
So, What is Locus of Control?
There are two ends to a spectrum that are labeled “internal” and “external,” and in general, a person’s perspective will fall somewhere within the line – or at an extreme – of what they believe controls their outcomes. Someone who is more toward “external” sees outcomes and consequences as being left to fate or luck, and may be less inclined to try to take control of a situation if they feel that there’s nothing to do about it. For someone who is more toward “internal,” they see outcomes and consequences as mostly in their power, and will see the results as a direct consequence of the choice they made.
And Attribution Theory?
Frequently in psychology, behaviours are placed along two spectra, which offers a lot of variety for where someone can land. Later theorists have looked at what influences someone’s response to a situation: the result is based on something internal/personality and would likely be the same across multiple situations (“dispositional”) or it differs depending on the context (“situational”).
How this Applies to Shopping
How this may apply to shopping depends on how someone can choose to react to sales, bargain finds, and more. For the sake of not complicating this, we’ll use the same situation for four different people (I’m going with 4/5 sisters from Pride and Prejudice for names – but not specific to the actual characters), and here’s the scenario: there’s a seasonal sale at the local mall, which includes stores that our four examples would regularly shop at, as well as stores they usually don’t care about. Our first person, Jane, is drawn in to the stores where she usually shops, makes purchases for items that she would usually buy, and because it’s sale season, has a look at other stores just in case there’s anything else on her list that she can take care of (internal, situational). Jane may stay on budget, but this will depend on what else she finds for her list. Lizzy, on the other hand, goes into the mall with her wish list items that she planned for, and doesn’t bother checking other stores since she knows she doesn’t need anything they sell (internal, dispositional). Lizzy will come in on budget or below, depending on if anything from her wish list is no longer available. Next, we have Mary, who happened to be at the mall the weekend of the sale – as luck would have it – and will spend the day going from store to store (in order of preference) just to see what she can find (external, dispositional). Mary’s budget may have been forgotten in taking advantage of scooping up great finds. Finally, Kitty’s rainboots have splashed their last puddle, and it just so happens that the shoe store has rainboots on clearance as winter is on its way. Kitty will take advantage of the sale since the stars aligned, but isn’t too worried about the rest of the sales going on – she’s got only her rainboots on her mind (external, situational). Kitty’s budget is rainboots, and rainboots alone.
How this Applies to Me
How this may apply to you will depend on which person you identify with most. If you feel like you might be more of a Jane or Mary, you may find yourself spending time and money that you might not have intended to, especially if your goal (like mine has been in the past) is to find the best possible bargains – regardless of your needing them. I think that reflecting on how you react to information related to shopping – new collection drop, limited run, flash sale, clearance, store closure – would be the best place to start. You can’t move towards making a change if you don’t know where your behaviours are coming from, you know? For myself, I feel that I’ve been in the mindset of each example person at least once – though, historically, I would have been in the middle between a Jane and Mary, and now I’m closer to a Lizzy since leading up to my No Buy year. I feel like I’m more in control to say “no,” to the things I don’t need so I can say “yes,” to the experiences I want. A $200 clothing haul every other month feels great in the moment, but I’m now more hyped about turning that money into seeing more of the world with clothes I already love. I’d be curious to know how others who are also doing a No Buy feel their alignment has been or currently is.
Further Reading/Reference List:
In case you’d like to dive in on the original theory, here are the two major sources I’ve scouted from: 1. Locus of control: Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological monographs: General and applied, 80(1), 1. 2. Attribution theory: Heider, F. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. New York: Wiley.