Hitting the Reset Button — Introducing My No Buy Year

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One year ago to the day, I declared I was going on my first No Buy.

At that time, I declared that I didn’t want to buy anything for seven months (February 1 to August 31, 2018). 

My intentions were good. 

I introduced it… And then I never followed up with you on it. 

I was reminded of it when that very article popped up on the OLD Podcast, episode 747, released January 8, 2019.

So, how long did my No Buy experiment last? Until early June, for a total of just over four months. 

Not long enough. Not good enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong, four months with no purchases, other than the bare necessities, was a good thing to do, but the reason it wasn’t good enough in my eyes? I didn’t change in the process, at least not in a lasting way. I was “reformed” for a bit, but not meaningfully enough to make it stick. 

Why Do I Ultimately Consider it a Failure?

I was going through the motions but still coming at it from what I was losing as opposed to what I was gaining. No one I know has ever successfully achieved personal growth by feeling they were losing more than gaining in the process. Have you?

Through my spoiled little peepers, I perceived myself losing the ability to get shiny new things. I was losing a source of shallow entertainment. I was losing a type of distraction that feels particularly rewarding because it’s easy, yet feels surprisingly productive in some way. Should we brand consumerism as active passivity? A way to feel tuned in when we’re actually tuned out, but without the guilt of not being “productive” in some way?

If anything, only doing a No Buy for four months made me worse off! Why? 

Because I:

  • Didn’t internalize the lessons I was trying to rediscover/reinternalize

  • Ignored the problems that were leading me to distraction in the first place

  • I didn’t actively seek to fill up the void I created by ceasing an attractive activity I’d been spending a significant amount of time on

The Insidious Nature of Consumerism

Consumerism is very effective at keeping us preoccupied, at keeping us from dealing with things that matter a whole lot more than finding that perfect Holiday red lipstick, winter coat or replacement for an outdated smartphone.

Consumerism reduces our lives to focusing on the next transaction, on the next: 

  • paycheck

  • bill

  • flyer delivery

  • marketing promotion

  • sale or clearance event (Black Friday anyone?

  • delivery or pickup

Thank You, Next!

It takes a lot of work to manage an increasing number of transactions, well with all the coveting, money management and scheduled deliveries or outings to stores and malls. It takes hours of our time, precious time we could use for personal connection, personal growth & development, personal care, or even for some precious silence and contentment. 

No, It’s Not About the Money!

My No Buy was never about the money and still isn’t. Spending is certainly about money to a certain extent because it’s the vehicle we use to acquire goods, but I was losing far more than dollars in our bank account. 

The only side effect of using money to fuel this behaviour is that I was feeling increasingly selfish, lazy and entitled. What worried me was what I was losing every time I chose browsing/shopping/picking up deliveries over reading, writing, learning, creating, connecting, dreaming, engaging in self care, noticing and appreciating the little things we can lose sight of that—when it comes down to it—are priceless.

I was also losing my appreciation for individual items. How can you care about something you have dozens of? You can’t, no matter how much we want to convince ourselves otherwise.

There’s a great deal more appreciation for what we own when we have less than when we have more. That’s why just because we can afford to consume doesn’t mean we should. Unfortunately, the opposite reasoning is as rampant as it is distorted.

I want to rediscover that feeling of appreciation for the material, along with increased helpings of personal productivity and growth.

Clearly, if I want the above, I can’t consume. The behaviour is not in line with what I say I want. Indeed, I think I’ve established that it’s counter to it.

How Long Is Long Enough? How Long Will My No Buy Last?

I don’t know how long I need to be on a No Buy (see rules at the end of this article). I’ve declared a year at this point (January 1st to December 31st of 2019), but I have no idea if I will have “arrived” at that point. All I know is that it will take a while…a long while.

My reward system has materially changed for the worst over the last year and a half and I think it might take more time to correct itself than it took for me to screw it up in the first place. I promise I’ll offer more on what I think are the root causes of my regretful behaviour in future articles.

Currently, I get much more of a buzz from perusing a website than I do from reading a book, which seems so wrong, so out of character. I also get more “warm fuzzies” from opening a cardboard box to investigate its contents than I do from writing. 

That truth hurts me to my core. I feel I’ve lost so much ground. I don’t feel like myself. I feel lost but I’m slowly getting on the path.

I’ll know that I’ve achieved my goals for my “No Buy Year” when what motivates me has fundamentally changed. I want the same excitement I used to feel when I connect deeply with others, get lost in a book, do something thoughtful for a friend or a stranger, when I’m comfortable with…myself.

I look forward to feeling like myself again. After a mere month of reform, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface. But it’s a step forward for a change. And that feels so right.


My No Buy Rules:

  1. Use and Enjoy What I Already Own

  2. Only Replace What I Have Used Up, and Only Replace Items if I Deem it Necessary/Desirable.

  3. Eliminate Shopping Time & Time Spent Investigating Products

  4. Redirect Reclaimed Time to Other Loves (Producing Content—YouTube & Blogging, Speaking, Playing/Training, Investing in Myself)

  5. Plunge Deeply Back into Reading

Measurements: Money spent on consumables other than food, number of purchases and reasons for purchase, number of articles and videos produced, number of books read.

Do you think I’ve missed anything? Have you participated in a type of personal reset?