One Great Way to Save Money? Buy Nothing

BILLSHARK not only wants to save you money on your bills, but on everything you buy. And one of the best ways to save money is to buy nothing at all.

Right away, people think if you tell them to stop buying things, you’re suggesting they dress their kids in rags, live in a shack, and feed their family on dandelions and berries from the backyard.

That’s not the case, of course. We don’t mean never buy anything again, although some brave individuals have tried six months or a year of not shopping at all.

Want vs. need

We mean, consider the difference between “I want” and “I need.”

You need food, shelter, clothing, a car if you don’t have access to public transportation, medicine, and toilet paper, for example.

But do you need what the latest social media influencer is pushing, or would it just give you a temporary high to buy it? Does your sense of self depend on showing up in the most on-trend fashion? Is your identity tied to flashing around the latest tech gadget?

And let’s be honest, for some of us, shopping is a form of entertainment. There’s even a word for it: shopaholic.

Unexpected savings

When the pandemic hit last year and everything shut down, some people saw their savings soar when they were forced to stay home and curtail their entertainment expenses. According to one estimate, Americans accumulated $1.8 trillion in excess savings during the first 11 months of the pandemic.

For those not directly impacted by the coronavirus, last year opened many more of us to the rewards of a minimalist lifestyle.

If you look at it as a challenge, it can quickly become a hobby, even a game the whole family can play.

The benefits of not shopping

And the advantages quickly add up:

  1. You save money when you’re not shopping.
  2. You’re helping the planet by reducing the use of resources needed to produce and transport goods. You’re also reducing your contribution to the waste stream. 
  3. You can build relationships with friends and neighbors if you’re in one of the many neighborhood swap groups.
  4. Your home will be far less cluttered and your life will be simpler.
  5. You can feel good about having resisted the constant spend-spend-spend messages that bombard us from the moment we wake up till we go to sleep at night.

That last may be your biggest accomplishment, because ours is a consumer economy, built on convincing us to buy more. But there are ways to resist.

How to stop buying stuff

If we’ve convinced you to try more mindful consumption, here are some ways to get on board.

1. Check your motivation

If you’ve decided to slow or even stop buying, ask yourself why. What will you do with the money you save? What will you do with the extra time you’re not spending shopping for, trying on, and returning items you didn’t want after all? If you have longer-term goals to replace the instant lift you get from buying, the challenge will be easier.

2. Survey your stuff

Marie Kondo might take the minimalist lifestyle a bit too far for some people, but she’s not wrong about the amount of things most of us own, never use, and never will. It’s easier to resist buying something if we know we have five more of them stashed in the back of the closet.

3. Resist temptation

Stay off shopping websites, don’t go window-shopping at stores. If you don’t see it, “they” can’t lure you to buy it. This also means unsubscribing from all the notifications about sales you receive. Forty percent off something you don’t need is still sixty percent more than you need to spend.

4. Procrastinate

If you find something you think you really want, put it into your cart and log off the site, or walk out of the store. Wait 24 hours. Chances are, you’ll find it was only a whim, not a must-have.

5. Check out alternate sources

If you really need something, can you rent it? Can you borrow it from a friend or neighbor? Can you find it on Freecycle, Nextdoor, or Craigslist? Or you could try joining one of the Facebook-based Buy Nothing groups near you.

The purpose of this exercise is not to stop buying entirely, but to realize how much we buy that we don’t really need, or even want when we get it home. And once you’ve started to pare back your shopping habit, you’ll be surprised at how the dollars begin to mount up. You might also begin to feel a bit lighter, free of a habit you didn’t realize you had.

If you’re looking for more ways to save money, look no further than the professional negotiators at BILLSHARK. We’ll review your bills for free, and find you hidden ways to save money.

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