I Gave Up Shopping for an Entire Month (& It Was Way Easier Than I Expected)

The months between Halloween and Christmas are historically indulgent for many of us, but for me, they felt downright excessive in 2021. I was just months into living in a new city and after spending the past year living out in the literal desert with my parents in various stages of lockdown, I was eager to buy and try (and eat) all of the things now that I had access again.

After work and on weekends, I started exploring the various shops around my neighborhood and in nearby cities. I was excited to be on my own, but I was also trying to quell some of the loneliness I was feeling in all of the quiet time I suddenly found myself engulfed in.

“Give yourself these next few months to just enjoy this new chapter and your new home,” one of my friends instructed on our weekly group call. “Yeah, this is the time to treat yourself, and then you can tighten things up in the new year,” advised another.

And so I heeded their advice (not that I needed much convincing). The only issue with this golden moment of treating myself was that it didn’t stop beyond the four walls of my apartment. In the evenings, I had fallen into the habit of mindlessly scrolling and saving items on Shopbop (my kryptonite for new drops and sales because of their vast selection and free two-day shipping). As I saw the boxes and bags accumulate in my closet, I began to feel what my colleague and PureWow fashion editor Abby Hepworth described as "environmental anxiety” over my consumption.

I decided to quit cold turkey. January 2022 would be the month of no shopping for me. Let me specify: For the next 31 days, I would not buy any new clothes, shoes or accessories. If I could wear it on my body in any way, it was off limits. In the last week of the year, during that gloriously disorienting stretch where you no longer know what day it is or when you last washed your hair, I slowly prepared myself for my new year challenge by unsubscribing from all retail emails. I also uninstalled my beloved Shopbop app from my phone; it was too enticing.

how to quit shopping category

Now, 31 days later, I have successfully completed my challenge. Though I did come *this close* to breaking my shopping fast twice: once while I was editing a story about the best designer sales to shop now and a bag I’d been eyeing for a while was being offered at an offensively steep discount and again when I spotted a rare jacket from a streetwear brand in Japan that I was convinced I could never find. I went so far as to add both items to their respective carts and input all of the shipping info, but I couldn’t submit the order.

I had come so far, and anyway, something I’ve learned since beginning this experiment is that these seemingly irresistible urges will pass if you give it a little time. That urge to buy that bag or consume that third cookie almost always goes away if you give yourself a beat. (Fine, the cookie usually goes into my mouth, but the bag stayed in my virtual cart.)

It was eye-opening to see how impulsive I had been with my shopping before this point. I found that the kind of joy I felt after buying something was often fleeting. And by taking even just an extra minute to think through my purchases before making them, I was able to realize when I was shopping out of an actual need vs. a force of habit. Nine times out of ten, it was the latter.

If you feel like you’ve turned into a shopping zombie, unable to resist the siren song of sales and Instagram ads, I’d recommend trying a month-long hiatus to reset your habits. And if you decide to give it a go, here were the six things that helped me the most:

  1. Unsubscribe from all shopping emails. In this case, ignorance is definitely bliss. Not knowing when my favorite brand was offering 40 percent off their sweaters freed up my mind and my inbox, which was a welcome bonus.
  2. Uninstall or remove all shopping apps from your home screen. Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. Remove any saved credit cards from retail sites, Shopify and PayPal. Let’s add some barriers to buying, shall we? Saved settings make it too easy to click a few buttons and forget about what you did until a box shows up at your doorstep the following week.
  4. Limit your time on Instagram to avoid being targeted by ads and seeing photos of people wearing all of the cute clothes and accessories that you believe will improve your life if you have them.
  5. Don’t step foot inside any clothing stores during this time. Why even tempt yourself?
  6. If you do find yourself contemplating a purchase, step away from the store or computer screen. Go for a walk. Make yourself a snack. Call a friend. Basically, put some time and space between you and the thing you want to buy, and if you must, bookmark it for later. If you’re still thinking about it after the month is up, go for it (but I’m willing to bet you’ve moved on).

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...