Have you ever heard of a shopping ban, a spending fast, or a spending diet? A lot has been written about this style of saving money recently.
Whether you want to call it a shopping ban or a spending diet, it’s the same thing: you stop spending money on everything except the bare essentials. Things like rent, food, and health insurance get a pass, but everything else like eating out, movie nights, concerts, or clothes are a no go.
Undertaking a shopping ban means going cold turkey on your spending habits. You quit everything at once, full stop.
This can be used to get bad spending habits under control or to ramp up savings in a short amount of time. They can last for as long as you want, but the most popular timelines tend to be one week to three months. Is a shopping ban right for you, though?
Should You Consider a Shopping Ban?
A shopping ban takes a lot of effort, determination, and planning. It’s very difficult to give up all your spending in one fell swoop. It’s even harder to maintain it over a long period of time.
While you may have bad spending habits to break or a need to save more money, shopping bans are not for everyone.
If you’re considering a shopping ban because you feel your spending is out of control, I applaud you. You want to get into a healthy financial routine. You want to take back control over your money. These are great things!
But before you ban all your extraneous spending, ask yourself these two questions:
- Will this make me feel deprived?
- Will this cause me to overspend in reaction to deprivation?
I’m actually a huge fan of shopping bans (for myself). I lived through a fairly intense shopping ban while I was concentrating on paying off my loans and it got me exactly what I wanted.
I’m someone who thrives when I have a clear goal to work towards and am willing to do almost anything to accomplish the goal. I wanted to be debt free and I gave up almost all my spending in order to get there.
That type of goal setting doesn’t work for everyone. Shopping bans require a lot of work up front for some long term gain. Giving up your morning latte effects you instantly in that moment. While yes, you save your $3.14 in the moment as well, that’s not a huge amount of money saved. It’s only after a whole month of denial you see the savings of $94.20.
Shopping Bans Can Have the Opposite Effect You’re Looking For
If you need to see results sooner than that, a shopping ban may leave you feeling deprived in your every day life. You may begin to resent your lack of spending and feel like you’re missing out on things. This in turn may lead to overspending.
You may give up that coffee but decide to go out to lunch instead, telling yourself you deserve it since you already sacrificed your morning coffee. Reacting to giving up spending by spending in different areas is not going to actually solve your problem.
This is a crucial thing to know about yourself. This is the reason that most food diets fail. We limit ourselves too much and then overreact to the rules. It’s the same principle for your money.
It’s Okay if Shopping Bans Don’t Work for You
There’s no shame in not being able to or wanting to complete a shopping ban. It’s an extreme exercise in financial restraint and it doesn’t work for some people. Not all saving habits work for every single person in the world! You have to find your own financial style. Just like you want to be comfortable in your clothing style, you need to find the financial style that works for you.
Instead of doing a complete shopping ban, try and customize it to your needs and abilities. Let’s say you want to save for a trip home for the upcoming holiday season. (Starting now is a great idea as it gives you more time!) Instead of giving up ALL your spending, try and cut out one simple thing each month until the holidays, but switch what that thing is every month.
Give up that morning coffee for September. Bank all the money saved from that. Then when October rolls around, reincorporate your morning coffee if you feel you really need it (if you don’t, feel free to keep on without it!), and also give up shopping for clothes. Once again, save all the money you would have spent on clothes in your travel savings account. Then when November hits, feel free to pick up a new outfit, but give up some other spending habit you have.
Do this each month for a year and you’ll learn amazing things about yourself. You’ll find out what you really love and value about your routine and what habits you’re fine living without. You’ll take back control of your life and feel empowered in your every day.
You’ll also save money and not feel deprived at any point. Total shopping bans can drive people nuts. A customized, mini-shopping ban can be much more rewarding!
What are your opinions on shopping bans? Do they work for you? Why or why not? What’s the toughest thing about them?