The No Buy Challenge: How It Works & Why I’m Doing It

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of living with less. I’m already a big-time budgeter, and I rarely make purchases without careful consideration. However, there are some areas of my spending where I’ve been lax – which is one reason why I’m trying a three-month no buy challenge. 

How the No Buy Challenge Works 

The term “no buy” implies that you’re spending no money at all. While some people take the extreme approach of only purchasing consumables (things like food, medical items, or personal hygiene products), a no buy challenge can be structured in any way that you’d like. It can also last as long as you’d like: a week, a month, a year – it’s designed to be flexible for your needs. 

There’s also a variation called the “low buy” challenge. This is helpful for people who want to cut back in a spending category without eliminating all purchases. 

What I’m NOT Buying this Summer 

In my case, I’m focusing on items that I tend to mindlessly buy a couple of times per month. I chose three months as an interval for getting started, but it could easily extend if I end up liking the results. My no buy items include: 

Clothing & shoes: It’s common for me to get 1-2 clothing items every month or so. While this isn’t extreme, it’s still unnecessary spending that leads to clutter. Further, I’ve been fortunate to get LOTS of hand-me-down items from others (the perks of being child-sized!), so there’s no reason for me to keep buying clothing or shoes. 

Jewelry: Jewelry is another one of those mindless items that I’d scoop up during Wal-Mart or Target runs. The thing about inexpensive, big-box-store jewelry is that it’s pretty disappointing. It stays bright and shiny for a few days, and next thing you know, it’s turning your neck and fingers green. It’s better to have a few timeless, versatile pieces that you can enjoy every day.

Accessories: During my no-buy challenge, I’m refraining from getting accessories like hair bands and clips, keychains, watches, and other doo-dads that I don’t actually need. So many of these things end up in the depths of my drawers anyway!

Beauty and makeup products: To be fair, I barely buy this stuff anyway. But I won’t be purchasing makeup, nail polish, hair products, or skin products (beyond the basics like sunscreen) during my no buy challenge. It’s so easy to grow crazy when it comes to beauty items since they’re inexpensive and fun to experiment with.

Exempt Spending Categories 

Since I don’t want to take an entirely restrictive approach, there are some categories that I’ll still spend on during this three-month period. Mainly, these include: 

Experiences: The costs of road trips, tours, and events add up – but they’re almost always worth it. Life is all about experiences for me, and I won’t deprive myself of awesome experiences. This is especially true in the post-COVID world; you never know when you’ll lose the ability to take a weekend trip or grab dinner with a friend. 

Hobbies: Hobbies bring me an immense amount of joy, along with trying new things. The downside of trying new things is that I’m often buying supplies and equipment so that I can pursue novel interests. I rein this in by prioritizing my interests and buying the minimum required for any given activity. I would certainly save money if I included hobbies in my no buy challenge, but I’d lose out on a whole lot of entertainment and fulfillment – which isn’t the point of this exercise. 

Home decor: Home decor is another category that I’ve gone back and forth on. Decor can be a major money pit, especially when you live in a large space. It’s fun to fill your home with unique and beautiful items, but dang, do those costs add up quickly! Since I’m already careful about acquiring decor items, I decided to exclude this category. 

Why I’m Doing This 

I love shopping for clothes, jewelry, accessories, and similar items. So why deprive myself?

To me, the no buy challenge isn’t about deprivation. It’s about simplification. It’s about cutting out the fluff and connecting with things that bring me true joy. It’s about defining myself from within instead of being pressured to cultivate a particular image. Further, with a growing family and a busy lifestyle, I’ve found myself fascinated by finding ways to simplify my life. Reducing my tendency to mindlessly acquire is one way that I can cut out unnecessary stress. 

Simplifying my life (so that I can focus more on the people I love!)

Finally, no buy challenges have plenty of benefits beyond the personal perks. Being a conscientious consumer helps others, preserves the environment, and helps your children learn to live happily with less. It cuts down on home clutter and saves money, too. 

At this point, I can’t say what I’ll do once the three-month period is up – or if I’ll even make it in the first place. ? But I’m excited to try this challenge and I’ll be sure to post a recap at the end!


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