Saturday, January 20, 2018

Shopping With Intent

Based on my recent experience, I think the conception of “poor student” might be a little bit of an exaggeration. Now, I was fortunate enough not to have to rely on student loans during my undergraduate degree, which was the four first years of post-secondary school I completed. After those first four years, I continued studying for an insane additional five years, but I was considered an independent student, which meant my parents’ finances played no role in determining the student loans I then needed. Between my student loans, summer and part-time jobs, and student discounts offered by just about everyone, I lived very comfortably.

I am absolutely not saying that I was completely frivolous or financially carefree during that time. I was aware that the majority of the money I had was coming from student loans which I would have to pay back. But I didn’t have to think about things like how much I was spending at the grocery store. If I made a $200 purchase, that was definitely a splurge, but I was never concerned that I wouldn’t be able to pay my credit card in full at the end of the month because of it.

Shopping with Intent - A more relaxed, but hopefully still effective, version of the shopping ban | kathleenhelen

Flashforward to now. I’m nearing the completion of my first-year post-school. The government has, of course, stopped sending me financial aid, and I imagine would like me to begin paying them back for what they’ve given me in the past. I am employed, and in my field at that, which is absolutely an accomplishment for which I am proud. The heritage sector, however, is not especially lucrative and although I would much rather work in a field I am passionate about than one I hate but can make lots of money in, it is a tough field starting out.

I knew I was choosing a field that would be difficult, both in finding employment and financially, but I know I’m not the only one out there feeling the struggle of being a recent grad and I don’t think the sentiments I’m feeling are confined to heritage. I was fully prepared to be a “poor student” because it's discussed very openly and resources are out there to help support you. Resources are unfortunately not as readily available after school though. I find myself reading a lot of tip articles targeting students, which is definitely helpful, but I also know that I am not alone in finding myself struggling more now than I did a year ago. I am doing fine, for anyone who has gotten this far and is now concerned I might be homeless next week (I assure you, I won’t be). I am, however, trying to be much more focused on budgeting and trying not to live paycheque to paycheque, which, unfortunately, is the situation for a lot of recent grads.

Not a Shopping Ban

I have been trying to be more conscientious about the things I buy, especially since I moved into a smaller apartment, but I don’t think I’ve held myself accountable to any concrete goals. Over the years, I’ve heard mentions or read experiences of different “shopping bans” from different bloggers I read, typically spanning a month each. Recently, I’ve started following Cait Flanders and have been amazed by how open and honest she is on her blog about the shopaholic she was and how she’s changed those habits. She completed a two-year shopping ban (read her thoughts on that experiment here) and literally listed out everything she purchased during her second year, which was surprisingly not much.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to go that extreme with any challenge I give myself, but I have decided that I need to make some form of change. I don’t want to make a reckless and dramatic change that is going to cause me stress and inevitably end with me cracking and buying all the things I don’t need. I want to make a change that is going to encourage new and better habits to form and grow strong, thereby overpowering silly urges to buy things impulsively. So I’m not starting a full-on shopping ban, at least not yet. But I am setting out some clear and rather strict guidelines for shopping with intent.

Shopping With Intent

Instead of purchasing another pretty sweater impulsively because it was marked 25% off, I want to buy only the things I actually need. For now, I’m going to include new items that I haven’t necessarily planned out beforehand, but it won’t include items I’ve decided I needed in the moment while in a store. I want to walk into a store with a list and leave only with the things on that list.

Guidelines for Shopping With Intent


  • Replacing items is ok. I definitely want to use everything I have before buying what is essentially the same thing though (like burning all the candles I already have before buying a new one).


  • No impulse buying. I’m not going to try to list out my purchases for the upcoming month before they happen, but when I want to buy something, I want to try to stop and sleep on it before deciding whether or not I actually need it. 


  • Track everything. I want to hold myself accountable. I’m going to write down everything I buy (except groceries and gas), and I’m going to share everything in a monthly update. Hopefully, the knowledge that I will have to make my purchases public will curb my spending.

Starting With Flexibility

I know this looks like the most lenient take on a shopping ban ever. I’ve been trying to avoid buying new clothing or accessories for a couple of months now with success, but I’m nervous about all the other things. I want to try tracking everything for probably a few months, which should let me see exactly what my purchasing habits are, and then re-visit my guidelines and perhaps list out some stricter rules at that point. I do eventually want to attempt an actual shopping ban, but I think, for now, a better goal is to shop with intent.

If you’ve attempted a shopping ban or tried to change your shopping habits in some way, please share your story with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

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