by Susan Caplan McCarthy
As a young adult, every Sunday morning I’d drive my mother to the local CVS Pharmacy so that she could pick up the Sunday papers and shop for the beauty and grooming supplies and other sundry items available at this store.
Since I was there, I’d shop for whatever I needed while checking out new products. Along the way, I adopted my family’s habit of making certain I didn’t run out of anything (even though the store was a five-minute drive from home). This meant that if I started on a new bottle of shampoo or body wash, I would buy a new bottle on my next shopping trip – even though I wouldn’t need it for another month or two.
When my mother died, I took home bags of new and nearly new grooming supplies that she had stockpiled. I didn’t have to buy anything for months. This had me rethink my shopping habits with these types of items.
What Is a Shopping Ban?
A shopping ban doesn’t mean that you can’t buy anything. Consumables that get used up, such as food and shampoo usually get the green light. However, you set rules on the gray areas. For example, coffee is a consumable, but you may decide that you won’t buy it at a coffee shop, but you can make coffee at home. Also, if you know you need to replace your worn-out sneakers, you can buy them during a shopping ban, if you add them to your approved list.
I’ll give myself a mini shopping ban when I go to the store where I’ll limit myself to what is on my list, and I can only list items that I’ve run out of or I will run out of in the next week. No browsing or impulse purchases.
Tempting Sales, Coupons, and In-Store Offers
Yesterday I went to CVS with a shopping list of six items – four I would use or start using right away and two that I’d need within a week. Each item came with an enticing offer that would have required me to spend more and bring home additional items.
Usually, the practicality of grooming supplies would have given me the go-ahead to buy more. After all, I’d save money now and use the items later. But, I’ve started to question if that tactic is in alignment with my goals. So, what challenges did I face in the store?
Hair color – In the Sunday paper, I’d found a three dollar off coupon that would expire in two weeks. I planned on coloring my hair right away, so the coupon was a good deal, I wasn’t buying something I wouldn’t use for months.
Shampoo – If I wanted the sale price on the shampoo I was buying, I would have to buy three bottles of shampoo. I bought one bottle, paid the regular price and spent half of what I would have if I’d stockpiled a nearly six-month supply of shampoo.
Moisturizer – Yes, this was on sale; however, if I spent a certain dollar amount on this line of products, I’d earn an in-store reward. Because the moisturizer was on sale, I’d have to buy a second product to reach the reward. I didn’t need another product.
Sleeping Aid and Toothpaste – Both items offered a buy one and get one at 50% off deal … tempting, but I decided I didn’t want to spend more money.
Replacement Electric Toothbrush Head – Not on sale.
I spent $100. If I’d taken advantage of the offers I mentioned, I probably would have spent another $40. I also would have ended up with a stockpile of items that I wouldn’t use for another month or six. In those few months, I would have shopped at CVS additional times and encountered other sales. I could have bought items that I’d forgotten I had stocked at home.
Define Your Shopping Ban or No-Spend Month
If you do a shopping ban, where you limit yourself to an approved list of purchases, you decide how you’ll handle sales and in-store offers. Do you buy the shampoo while it’s on sale, even though you won’t need it for a while … or, would you count that as an impulse purchase?
If you find that you have a stockpile of items that you’ve purchased on sale or with coupons, you could do a no-spend month which doesn’t just cut out spending but encourages you to use the things you’ve already bought.
So, how do you handle coupons, sales, and other in-store offers that encourage you to stockpile beauty and grooming supplies (as well as food and cleaning supplies) while managing your desire for less clutter? Please leave your tips and suggestions in the comment section below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
Okay, a no-spend month (or year) is a bit of a misnomer; because, of course, you have to pay the rent or mortgage, the phone and electric bill, gas and insurance for the car, food, shampoo, and other sundry items.
You could become a total freeloader and wonder why, at the end of the month, you have no friends (because you’ve been eating all their food) and even your mom wants you to stop sleeping on her sofa.
Nope, not going to work. A no-spend month (or year) is really about becoming more aware of how you spend your money.
Benefits of a No-Spend Month (or Year)
Why This Month of Minimalist Living Isn’t So Minimalist
When you heard about a no-spend month, the first thing you probably thought of was the money you’d save. Chances are, you weren’t thinking of decluttering your home. However, this is another big benefit of a no-spend month, and just why you might push it into a no-spend season or year.
One of the easiest ways to save money is to use the stuff you already have.
Use the Food in Your Pantry, Refrigerator and Freezer
I’m not suggesting that you end up with empty pantry shelves and a bare refrigerator. However, this no-spend month is the perfect time to minimize your shopping list to dairy, bread, eggs, fruits and veggies and other stuff that you eat each week. Shop your pantry and freezer for the components of meals. Do you have three open boxes of cereal. Eat them before buying more cereal. Consider how many jars of sauce you need to keep on your shelf to make a quick supper. Chances are, it isn’t six.
If you go shopping every week, you are just days away from replenishing anything that you run out of during the week. Bonus – you save time that you used to spend stopping at the grocery store for an ingredient to round out your dinner’s menu. You might need to be a bit more creative and plan your menu for the week. Almost any combination of ingredients can be turned into a soup, stew, stir-fry, casserole, or tucked into a sub roll or fajita wrapper.
Yes, at some point, you’ll realize that you need to buy a bag of frozen peas or a box of orzo. That’s fine. You’ll work down you stock of food to a manageable level.
While using the food you already have, you may discover food that’s two years’ past its expiration date or chicken breast with a serious case of freezer burn. Now that you are using the food you’ve bought, you’ll eliminate that issue in the future.
Use the Grooming and Beauty Supplies You Have
Use the stuff you’ve bought on sale. Go back and use the items you stopped using because you wanted to try out your newest purchase. Unless something looks off or smells strange, use it. If it is disgusting, toss it.
When you notice you’re running out of a product, shop through your cabinets and cubbies to see if you have more. Yes, after a few months, you can replace the mascara you’ve been using. Replacing any item is fine. Buying more of what you already have in another color or fragrance is not okay on your no-spend season.
I know, you don’t want to deny yourself that great new nail polish color; however, buying it won’t help you reach the goals you’ve given yourself for going no-spend. Go home and pamper yourself with a mani-pedi using the nail polishes you already have.
You may start to realize that you have a lip balm and tube of hand cream in each of the five purses, totes, and gym bags you regularly carry. Do you really use the products stored in each bag? Or, was this a useful way to handle excessive purchase. Use up supplies and then replace them.
Wear the Clothing You Own
Want something new? Look through your own closet and you may discover something that you bought but haven’t worn (or rarely worn). Pull out the jewelry and purses and scarves and shoes that you haven’t used as often as your favorites. If you find something that doesn’t fit, is stained, or is uncomfortable, put it in a bag for donation.
If you can’t wear something, already it’s not a part of your wardrobe and you can get rid of it. Unlike a bottle of shampoo, you do not have to replace the pair of pumps that pinch your toes or the tee shirt with the coffee stain. Chances are, you have another pair of pumps and another tee shirt that you can wear instead. Again, if you can’t wear something, it isn’t part of your wardrobe, so you don’t need to replace it. If you own one white button-down and you wear it all the time, then you can replace it when your sister’s toddler gives you a spaghetti sauce-laden hug.
Keep Playing the “Shop in Your Own Home Game”
Once you start looking, you’ll realize that you have a lot of stuff that you normally would have shopped for.
Want to carve away at your clutter, a little bit at a time? It’s not to late to join A Year of Decluttering, a free 365-day program.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.