Do you feel like it’s time to get serious about your finances and break some bad habits? Are you bored of spending your weekends decluttering, only for the space to be full to the brim again just a few weeks later? Challenging yourself to a Low Buy Year could help to shift your money mindset for the better, as well as your relationship with shopping.
In 2023, we are bombarded with marketing messages from every direction telling us what we ‘need’. Even the most cynical of people aren’t immune to the influence of marketing; it’s infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and seeps in when we don’t even realise it!
Sometimes it’s good to take a step back, re-evaluate our spending habits and make sure we are making mindful decisions when it comes to our purchases.
What is a Low Buy Year?
The focus of a Low Buy, or Low Spend, Year challenge is to reduce excessive consumption, and make a commitment to buying only what is needed. In other words, it’s buying a LOT less stuff, and instead looking to make use of what we already have first. The Low Buy Year challenge a more flexible version of a No Spend Year, in which the aim is to cut out ALL non-essential spending.
What are the benefits of a Low Buy Year?
Financially, this challenge is a good way to reduce outgoings and boost your savings. However, there are so many other benefits of taking on a Low Buy Year challenge, and it’s something I think we should all try at least once to regain a bit of perspective.
A Low Buy Year can help us to feel more gratitude for what we do have, rather than constantly focusing on what we don’t. By avoiding buying new, we are inclined to use what we already have instead. As a nation we have developed a throwaway culture and tend to be quite wasteful, so tackling this mindset is becoming more and more important.
This challenge also acts as a circuit breaker to help us to identify our own spending habits. Find yourself scrolling the ASOS website when watching Netflix? Notice you’re opening the Deliveroo app again when you have a fridge stocked full of food? You’re not alone!
Mindless or emotional spending can creep up on us all, and you may not even realise if these habits have become ingrained. Spending challenges can help us analyse and break some of our worst habits, and we can become more aware of our triggers.
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Why should we buy less?
There are a whole host of reasons why we could be looking to buy less in 2023. The motivations can depend on the individual and their circumstances; maybe you’re looking to save for a house deposit, or speed up your debt free journey. Perhaps financial reasons aren’t your main driver, and you are looking to reduce your consumption and waste to benefit the environment.
Post pandemic, the idea of a more minimal and simplistic life might appeal to you, and this is a way to dip your toes into the lifestyle by being more deliberate with your purchases.
Or it could be a combination of reasons. For me, saving for a house deposit was a real motivating factor, as well as the desire to use up what I already had before making any more purchases. Living in a one bedroom flat can quickly become crowded if you have the tendency to hoard! So trying my best to reduce unnecessary spending keeps my living space more manageable.
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What are the rules of a Low Buy Year?
It’s a good idea to decide on your rules before you get started. It’s your challenge, and therefore, your rules!
Think about how strict you are going to be. Will you plan to avoid takeaways completely for an entire year, or perhaps takeaways will be reduced to one per month as a payday treat?
The challenge can also be adapted; if a year sounds intimidating, then try a Low Buy Month first, or maybe you want to take part in No Spend January after a spendy December!
Take some time to think about your Low Buy Year Rules, but remember… life happens. Give yourself a bit of leeway; we are all human!
What should I include as part of my Low Buy Year?
It’s really up to you! It depends on your spending habits and what you are aiming to get out of the challenge.
It’s important to think about what items you deem essential. Is a gym membership a need or a want for you? Groceries, rent, and bills are good places to start when working out your list of essentials, and you can go from there.
Imagine you have a wedding to attend next month. You could decide that travel to the wedding and accommodation are essentials, but an outfit however is an additional expense. Maybe you could try to borrow a dress from a friend, or shop your closet instead.
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3 top tips for having a successful Low Spend Year
1. YOU decide your rules
Don’t be too harsh on yourself as you’re more likely to give up if you restrict yourself too much! The purpose is to shop more mindfully, not to make yourself miserable in the process. It’s better to set realistic rules and stick to them even if that does involve a few treats, than go all in for a short period of time, splurge and then give up entirely after a week.
2. Take stock of what you already have
Try ‘shopping your stash’ and work through your space, taking note of what you own. You might find you have a lot more than you originally thought! This goes for make-up, clothes, grocery staples etc. you’ll probably be surprised at what you have to use up.
3. Make a list of cheap activities and hobbies you can turn to when boredom strikes
Instead of heading to the shops on a Saturday morning, can you take up hiking? Maybe start a new craft that keeps your hands busy so you stop browsing on your phone in the evenings? It’s a good time to throw yourself into new hobbies. Maybe you could improve your frugal cooking and baking!
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Tracking your Low Spend Year progress
When taking on a savings challenge it helps to keep a tracker of some form to stay motivated. You could print off a paper savings tracker, and colour in or cross out each day you manage to stick to your goals. Remember to stick your tracker somewhere clearly visible!
You could also start tracking your net worth over the year, as it can really help to see your monthly progress. Another option is to track your skin care and beauty empties to see how many products you have used up.
Accountability buddies: Finding your people
It’s a good idea to let your loved ones know that you are trying a Low Buy Year so that they can support you. Can you take on this challenge with a friend? Maybe you and your partner could try as a team? Having a buddy so that you can cheer each other on and share tips can be super helpful.
You can find accountability buddies online too! If you have an Instagram account, then following some of the accounts in the money community on Instagram is a good way to help you stay on track. Checking in with people each day that are also saving and reducing their consumption can do wonders for your motivation. You can follow me on Instagram, and explore the personal finance community of Instagram – you won’t regret it!
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Final Thoughts on a Low Buy Year challenge in 2023
With the rising cost of living impacting our finances, now is a great time to take on a Low Buy Year challenge. It can be beneficial for our wallets, the planet, and also our relationship with shopping… try it and see! You might find that it makes a lasting impact on your spending habits too. It truly did for me, and I’ve never looked back.
My number one tip is not to go too hard and cut out every little thing that brings you joy. Find the balance!