‘I’m 10 Days Into A No Buy January and Here’s What I’ve Learned So Far’

You may have seen a lot about ‘no buy January’ as we all move on from the Christmas period and prepare for a new year. What is it and should you try it? Emma Clifton shares her experience.

There’s nothing like looking at your past open tabs from the previous year to act like your own time capsule for just where your head was at. In my own late 2023 case, I had five tabs about different ‘no buy January’ stories, one tab for a pink Ruby slip and one tab for a floral Max dress I had been eyeing up for months. Wow, what a perfectly consistent combination.

I mention floral dresses because they are my personal financial kryptonite. I can never have enough! The next floral dress I see will be the perfect floral dress I have been waiting my entire life for! And repeat!

It was unpacking the seventh floral dress that prompted me to start my 2024 wardrobe freeze, because there are only so many ditsy florals you can commit to before you start to think ‘what is actually wrong with me?’

And this is what has turned my wardrobe freeze into an additional ‘no buy January’, which I’m actually aiming to make a no buy year.

What Exactly Is A ‘No Buy January’?

Well, like most annoying social media trends, the clue is very much in the name: You aim to not buy anything unnecessary in January. On the scale of ‘is this for privileged people?’ personal challenges… boy, it’s up there.

But as someone who has very much bought into the treat culture mentality of being alive, it’s a challenge I need. And as the amount of ‘no buy January’ content that has flooded my social media and Substack feed so far this year is showing me, I’m not alone.

The general rule of thumb is that you don’t buy any non-essentials of a) anything at all or b) whatever your personal poison is. Entertainment, shopping, jewellery, make-up, dining out… whatever your bank account yells at you. Like Lent, I guess, but for the TikTok generation.

For me, it’s floral dresses (see above) and also skincare, but I simply cannot be trusted with an Instagram auto-fill in any genre and so I am going cold turkey, using the rules from this excellent no-shopping story as my own.

Basically, I can buy whatever I want from the supermarket, which honestly still counts as luxury shopping in a cost-of-living crisis where a packet of coffee is $8. (Robert Harris = the new gold?). And I can still buy books, because books are life.

A lot of people who have done #nobuyjanuary have created specific rules to stop them from going crazy but as someone who is very all or nothing – and once had their therapist tell them they were ‘very into self-improvement’ – I actually find it far more freeing to just rule out all treat shopping completely.

What is important, however, is to frame this as an interesting experiment to learn more about yourself; get curious about your habits and your mindset, rather than as a punishment. Like anything, if you view it through a lens of lacking something, it probably won’t last and it’ll make you feel like shit along the way. But if it’s a fun little trial to break a habit and gain yourself more time and money, well then that’s easier to stick to.

Not to pat myself on the back too much – it’s been *checks calendar* 10 days – but I’ll tell you a surprising silver lining so far: I already have more mental space. In my chat with Kate Hall from Ethically Kate, she talked about the freedom from not having the ‘should I buy this?’ anxiety and honestly, that is a thing.

I didn’t realise how much of my phone time was spent being sold to until the option was removed. Within the first week, I had removed the Instagram app from my phone and my screen time was down (a whopping and also somewhat embarrassing) TWENTY PERCENT. I was impervious to the January sales and there is simply no ‘should I buy this?’ little itch that normally accompanies my scrolling.

The purpose of a no buy January is to challenge the consumerist nature of society on a bigger scale, and become more aware and grateful of what you already own, and you’ll see hashtags of this nature littering your feeds – #shopyourwardrobe, #newyearsameclothes etc. But the lasting impact is also to notice which emotions or situations often influence the knee-jerk reaction that pushes you into impulse spending.

Ever since Covid, I shopped for comfort – in that I literally bought comfortable things – or I shopped to feel more like the adult I wanted to become. I don’t think I would have worked out either of those emotional patterns so clearly if I had not removed the end game – buying something – as an option.

It’s not forever – whether it’s for a year or just for January I’m still working out, by seeing how the month goes. I still love the brands I love and want to support all the small businesses that normally get my hard-earned dollar – it’s tough out there for everyone and where you spend your money makes a big difference. But at the end of the day, I just need less stuff than I want. And questioning that ‘want’ is a very, very interesting place to start the year off.

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