When I first embarked on this clothes buying ban eighteen months ago, I couldn’t have imagined I would have continued it on past the original year goal I’d set for myself; it seemed overly ambitious, but I wanted to challenge myself to do it regardless. My closet was bursting at the seams, I was attempting to reel in all unnecessary spending in my life, and clothes buying really seemed like something I didn’t need to be doing. A year and a half later, I’ve found that I was absolutely right to stop my shopping habits in their tracks.

Even though I’ve never been a huge clothing shopper, I grew up like most girls, seeing shopping as a fun thing to do; something to do when you’re bored, when you want to treat yourself, or a way to spend time with friends. Over the years, I had gotten much better about buying only pieces I really did like – not just because they were on sale – but I still ended up with a lot of clothes. I liked most of what I had, but it was still overwhelming to open my closet and dig through everything I owned. I figured that stopping my accumulation of clothes in its tracks would be the only way to finally get to that more simple closet I craved without unnecessarily tossing clothes I liked just to get there. Sustainably speaking, minimizing my closet to the extreme would just push the need to buy more clothes, and use more resources, a bit down the line.

March rolled around, and I finally made it. A year with not a single cent spent on clothing, shoes, jewelry, or accessories. But I found that for the most part, I still owned way more stuff than I needed. Sure, it would be nice to buy another new pair of boots, but I really didn’t need anything. And so with no real reason to halt the ban, I’ve kept it up. Six months past that year mark, and things haven’t changed that much from that point, though it’s been long enough now that even with a large wardrobe, I’m starting to notice that it has been a full eighteen months since I’ve updated my closet.

Camping two years ago – the sweater wasn’t new then, and isn’t new now as I wear it today

The work wardrobe: business casual attire

The time I’ve noticed my unchanging wardrobe the most is when I get dressed for work. For the first year, I had enough clothing that it didn’t feel like anything particularly special not to be buying new pieces for the office; a big reason for this was that I already rotate my clothing seasonally, so a few times a year I still had “new” clothes that I hadn’t worn for four to six months. That refresh really made a difference in feeling like I had enough. Another turn of the clock, and another rotation of the pile though, and I started to feel like I’d already worn everything a million times before. Because I had.

Outside of work, the same was true, but I found that I really didn’t care. Clothing, while never my most important concern, used to occupy more of my brain space. Now that the options didn’t change, I didn’t stress about what to wear outside of work pretty much ever. After all, the places I was going was either to hang with friends, go for a run, or work in the garden. None of those places did it matter what I wore, and if a friend cared, then I figured they weren’t a great friend to begin with.

At work though, it felt different. I work in an office where I show up in business casual every day of the week. I regularly meet with city staff, elected officials, and bank officers. It’s essential that I look put together every day of the week. I found that since I had also given up wearing make up with that first year of my clothing ban, it was that much more important that my clothes and jewelry made me look like I was competent. In the garden, your clothes don’t tell anyone how capable you are; unfortunately, they still factor in the office. A large part of my concern in the last six months or so has been that people will start to notice that I only wear the same clothing over and over again. I certainly was noticing.

Just a month ago, I had an important event at work so I made sure to dress up a bit more than my average day. I wore a black dress and a pair of heels, both of which I have owned for most of a decade or more, but good quality, so they still looked nice. Better quality pieces really have been a huge part of why I have been able to continue this shopping ban; when the clothing is meant to hold up for longer than a season, then you can keep wearing it for much longer than that. And that day, in that old dress and many times worn heels, I got multiple comments from coworkers about how I looked “very nice.” Apparently the only one who’d noticed my repetition in clothing was me.

Ribbon cutting at work wearing VERY old boots

An infusion of new

While I’ve been adamant that this clothing ban means I will not spend a single penny of my income on clothing, I haven’t turned down the occasional offer to supplement my wardrobe. A couple weeks ago, my mother was going through her closet and sent over two bags of clothes for me to look through before they went off to the thrift store. Now that I don’t shop myself, two bags of clothes to look through felt like the height of luxury.

Again, this is one hundred percent a self-imposed shopping ban – I have the means to go out and replace my wardrobe now if I wanted to – so I know that this absolutely feels different than if I continued to wear my old clothes because I had no other options. The options behind frugality and opting out are what make this not feel like deprivation. I felt free to choose just the few items that I really liked, and would have spent money on myself, rather than hording all the clothes for the future for when mine wear out. The journey toward minimalism is absolutely a privilege, and something I’m constantly reminded of when I make the decision to continue my clothing ban.

Since I accepted those new dresses and a couple of new shirts, I’ve worn them to work multiple times. No one has even noticed. It felt so special to wear something different from the choices I’ve had for the last year and a half, but it was only special to me. I’m just as likely to receive a complement on a decade old piece than I am a weeks-new to me dress. It does help that I tend to gravitate toward more straightforward, timeless pieces, so it’s harder to tell if something is a year old or ten years old. A simple black cardigan was in style in 2008 the same way it is in 2018. Or at least close enough, though The Luxe Strategist might tell me differently. But I do live in the Pacific Northwest and not New York City, so it probably doesn’t matter here regardless.

styx photo
2016 Styx concert wearing a 2005 concert tee (first time seeing them – 7 times & counting now!)

The siren call of “new” things

In the last couple of months, I will admit that I’ve had an upswing again in wanting new things to wear. It isn’t anything in particular, more an echo of old habits when I walk through Fred Meyer on my way to the grocery section of the store. I was twenty nine years old when I implemented my shopping ban, and even eighteen months of self imposed removal from the shopping complex isn’t nearly long enough to combat a good twenty years of shopping. Perhaps it’s the start of a new school year. Growing up, my siblings and I received a set shopping budget, and we were free to spend it however we pleased. It could mean one or two new expensive outfits, or it could mean a full new wardrobe if we were judicious in how we spent that money. Either way, fall ushered in cute new clothing to wear to school to initiate a new year.

Cute, cheap, fast fashion has nothing to do with the turn of the seasons. A new $20 cardigan on sale at Fred Meyer won’t be new for very long. I don’t have any one item that’s missing from my wardrobe. It might feel good to wear those new clothes for a second, but I’d rather have that money in savings and I’d rather opt out of non sustainable clothing options altogether.

Of course, I could spend my rare free time scouring the thrift store instead of going for a run, or spending more money on ethically sourced, sustainable made clothing, but neither of those are good options right now. Most of the way through a year where I’ve been focusing on making the best financial choices for what brings us joy, I realize new clothing doesn’t make the cut. Just like with brunch out every weekend, a new piece of clothing every month doesn’t meet the high bar that is now required for both my time and my money. I just sometimes have to remember that when walking past “fall’s best new styles.”

65 thoughts on “Continuing My Shopping Ban: 18 Month Update

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve decided not to buy new clothes this year as well. For the most part it’s been okay–the strong urges to shop have died down. I noticed that I spent way too much time shopping online for clothes, and not doing that multiple days every week has really saved me a lot of time.

    But since I have gotten into tennis, I’m wanting to buy a cute tennis outfit, even though shorts and a t-shirt are fine. So thanks for the inspiration to continue to not buy clothes I don’t need!!!! Dragon Gal

    1. Yeah, I’ve found that for the most it’s been a really positive experience (and definitely time saving as well!) but I hear you on the tug for cute new things for specific purposes. Definitely the hardest thing to say no to, even a year and a half in!

  2. i’m glad you climbed aboard the styx train. i remember how excited my 16 year old neighbor was when paradise theater came out in 1981. a few weeks ago i was wondering to myself what “items” i had bought this year. i looked back over credit card statements and came up with one single item. it was a wahl trimmer for free haircuts at home to replace a worn out 20 year one. it’s only possible if your set up is all in place. then you can do it without hardly trying. also, i get to come to work like a slob and nobody notices.

    1. Oh I am all aboard the Styx train 😉 Sadly I had my volunteer commitment the night they came back to the area this past summer. And I buy very few “things” – at this point it’s almost all food + experiences. Which is pretty great I think, but we can still pay wayyyy too much in those two areas).

  3. Great job sticking with it. I tried that for a year and didn’t have any problem. Now, I’m less strict and buy new clothes once in a while. This year I got 2 new t-shirts. 🙂
    It’s also much easier now that I can be casual all the time.

    1. Yeah, if I could be casual all the time I don’t think I would even think about it now. It’s really work that continues to keep it in the forefront of my mind.

  4. You inspired me to set a challenge for myself this year too. I didn’t institute a ban but I did set a limit of 12 items or less. The bonus is that I spend very little time thinking about shopping or actually shopping, which frees up my time for better things. 🙂

    1. So, how many items have you purchased so far this year?? DGal mentioned the time saving part as well and it’s not something I had identified before, but it’s so true!

      1. I think 9? I’m allowing myself about 1 thing per month so right on track. Of those 9, really only about 3 were “needs.” So there has still been plenty of room for fun purchases.

    1. That’s the thing – if you’ve been a minimalist shopper for a long time already, an extended shopping ban is harder to do. I still have quite a large closet, which helps the challenge, but means I still have way more stuff than I’d like.

  5. Wow, you have done a great job with your shopping ban. My husband and I have done a few no spend months over the last few years, but I would love to try a full shopping ban within a certain category of items. Perhaps I will give it a try.

    1. Having strict parameters has helped me a lot; otherwise, I would have found “reasons” now and again to fudge the details.

  6. Oh man, yep, back to school new clothes were always so exciting! New year, new me, right? And now that fall might actually happen sometime in the near future here, I’m feeling the urge to buy aaaaalllllll the comfy sweaters. But I’m resisting that urge.

    I broke my shopping ban for a few very specific items (NOT comfy sweaters) this month (obviously post forthcoming haha). Does that mean I’m not going to continue with the ban? Nope!

    1. Exactly!! Easy enough to ignore the shopping thing the rest of the year, but the draw of “back to school” fall time is definitely there. And kudos to you for being able to strategically break your ban and then keep it up after that. I’m afraid once I break it I’ll find too many “just once” excuses.

  7. Congrats on 18 months! Last week I met up with a friend of mine for lunch who is on maternity leave. After she wanted to wander some stores just to browse for clothes. I joined since it was extra time with her and her baby, but resisted the urge to eye the clearance rack. It was a good reminder of how much time I used to spend just browsing stores, and celebrate all the small things I’ve added into my life by not shopping so much.

    1. Browsing stores as a form of hanging out and chatting. Sigh. If only that wasn’t such a cultural norm. It was definitely the hardest part of the shopping habit to break.

  8. This is something I’ve been considering doing for a while now. I’m at that weird age in my life clothes wise where I’m just out of college but haven’t landed a career job, and I’m starting to notice that what I wore in college (note that I started at 16 and didn’t really change my wardrobe that much) isn’t really who I am now. And that’s okay. My hubby and I are talking about throwing out a bunch of the stuff we never wear anymore, spend an oodle at the thrift store on good quality clothes, and then not shopping for clothes for a good few years. There’s something liberating about being able to forgo that type of arduous shopping for something more joyful. Congrats on your 18 months.

    1. You are in the PERFECT situation to not end up with way too much stuff in the first place then! I wish I could rewind to where I was eight years ago when we moved home from South Carolina with just what fit in our cars – instead, I bought way too much on a rolling cycle over the subsequent seven years or so.

      1. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. We’re young. We don’t have a lot of stuff yet. Clutter stresses me out. The better we can maintain a habit of not collecting unnecessary things, the happier I’ll be!

      2. WISH I’d started that mindset years ago. Would save me loads of decluttering now 😉

  9. Congrats on hitting the 18th month mark! One thing I knew for sure before starting my ban, that has only been reinforced during, is that literally no one other than you notices what you wear. We may be more inclined to notice because we write about it, but the average person doesn’t. I work with a women who have said more than once that they love what I wear and that I’m always serving up ”looks”. I wear the same five outfits every week lol (but, I’ll take their compliments regardless).

    1. SERIOUSLY. I figured people paid attention at least a tiny bit, but nope. Especially obvious when I get compliments on something I’ve owned forever and wear often haha.

  10. 18 months is impressive! I didn’t realize that you had stopped makeup as well. I don’t think I could go without my mascara… otherwise, I am makeup-free *most* days.

    BTW, I love your subheadline of “the siren call of new things.” So clever!

    1. I didn’t intentionally stop wearing all make up, but just kept wearing less and less until I decided to just go without all together. Helps I have very dark eyelashes I suppose 🙂

  11. daaang! I am not on a clothing ban, but my closet is mostly full of clothes from before my first baby and supplemented with stuff to try and fit my postpartum body as I sloooowly lose the baby weight from #2 (which has been much harder than the first time). I’m so sick of my clothes lol, but I hate to buy a bunch of new clothes when I don’t want to stay this size long-term. So I’m making it work and remembering that nobody else really pays attention to what I wear is important. You’re doing awesome!

    1. Losing baby weight is sooooooooo slow it’s ridiculous. Your body changes but also the time you have to make healthy food/work out gets so squeezed as well! It’s freaking HARD.

  12. That’s really impressive that you had your shopping ban for this long. Since you run a good amount, how many pairs of shoes you run with and how do you keep them in good shape. I started running again recently and realize that I may need to buy another pair of running shoes. I currently use 2 pairs to run but one of them is getting worn out and the other I use for other activities besides running and don’t want to wear them out too.

    1. Oh, I probably should have included that in this update – thanks to some of the other runners in the Pf community, I’ve moved running shoes specifically into “health care” instead of clothing. Though I probably need a new pair now, it’s more just not finding the time versus being related to this ban. Don’t want my want to not spend money on clothes take a toll on my health because I have bad running shoes 🙂

  13. This. This. This. “In the garden, your clothes don’t tell anyone how capable you are; unfortunately, they still factor in the office.”

    Congrats on 18 months!!!! I am not on a full on ban like you, but I did find myself eyeing some new work clothes in the first few weeks of my job. I had the duh moment that none of my new coworkers know my wardrobe, so really it’s silly to get new clothes for that reason. I did get a pair of sturdy flats now that I have the standing desk option. My old flats were not cutting it, and heels are out of question. I think I am most impressed with your ability to not get new shoes!

    1. New shoes are exactly why I needed this ban!! I still own SO many after shedding the ones I never wore. Though I would have needed a new pair of black boots had my mom not been reading my blog and then bought me a pair last Christmas. Maybe I can be that lucky again this year 😉

  14. Congrats on 18 months! At the beginning of this year I decided to see how long I could go without new clothes. 9 months in and I only need to replace footwear. Like Kris above I too am wondering about your running shoes. My running and hiking shoes are in need of replacement and I need new winter boots. Other than that I am planning to make it the whole year!

    1. I’ve mentioned it in past posts, but apparently I need to add that detail here – after way too much discussion with the running PF community, I decided to move running shoes into the “health” category. I haven’t purchased any yet thanks to a hand me down almost-new pair from my mom, but I’ll be needing some new ones in the next few months anyway.

      1. I believe that idea first came from Gen Y Money?? I hadn’t thought of it either, but it makes so much sense.

  15. Keep on rocking it, you Styx fan you! I would actually love checking them out. Reminds me of my childhood. Those guys were ALWAYS on the radio. Along with Boston, Toto, etc. etc.

    Nice pun to kick off this post, Angela. “My closet was bursting at the seams” … My wife can relate. Though I appreciate her abilities to find gems on super sale and at the consignment shops. Frugal enough, I reckon!

  16. I know that if I keep clothes long enough the fashion cycles back around and my closet will become fashionable again. At least that is what I tell myself. I have been on a no spend year myself since January. I don’t value new clothes and I wear hospital scrubs to work so I don’t face the same challenges as you for office clothes. Kudos for not conforming to the societal norms of office attire. You look great in your ribbon cutting outfit. Like you said, only you knew those were not new clothes.”

    1. That’s a definite upside to scrubs!! And thank you – I got multiple comments on those boots that day 😉

  17. Black cardigans are always in style!

    I only shop when I think I need something, so I tend to ignore the seasonal marketing. While it’s hard when I’m out and about and see all these cute, new fall outfits, I think what makes it easier is knowing that a lot of the stuff out there isn’t good enough quality for me. I was in a shopping district the other day, and thought, man, all this stuff is junk! Now that my income is higher, I can of course afford to be choosy like that. But having some types of standards and rules in place really do help cut down on the shopping.

    1. I’m going to think long and hard about new rules for myself once I do buy new clothes eventually, or I can see myself slipping back into the cute/cheap/fast fashion hole.

  18. Congrats on 18 months! That is awesome. Also yay on the hand me downs from your mom :). I love how a buying ban brings a lot more value back to things.

    I’ve never been a huge clothes shopper and often get hand me downs from friends/family whenever they get tired of their clothes. To me it is way more fun to discover what potential awesome piece of clothing is hiding in a mystery bag than to go look around at pricey stores!

    1. Yes I’m loving the mystery hand me down bag search!! Especially because then you know things are more or less likely to fit and you don’t have to hunt just to find a stack to try on.

  19. Thanks for sharing this…. I’ve been wanting to implement a shopping ban, but we haven’t yet. Now is probably the perfect time with my wife recently quitting her job lol

    Great update Angela, now you have 24 months in your sights. Not a single outfit i saw in this post didn’t look fancy shmancy lol 😉

    1. Heh, yeah I still have plenty of clothes to make me look fancy shmancy when I need to – though you definitely won’t see them when I’m out in the garden 😉 And yes this sounds like a perfect time to start your own ban!

  20. 18 months that is fantastic! I haven’t done a full year shopping ban but found my alternate month shopping ban to suffice. Even alternate months it forces you to evaluate whether you need to buy something. I have a Banana Republic black cardigan I have had for years. There are few holes here and there and I continue to patch up.

    1. Alternate months is a great idea log term!! I may implement that one once I finally break this ban. It forces you to be deliberate with you’re purchases I bet.

  21. Way to go! My unofficial shopping ban has also extended to over 14 months now which I think is pretty cool, though definitely different for guys. I too feel like I wear the same rotation of shirts and pants to work (cause let’s be honest, I do) but nobody has ever once said anything haha.

    Also side note… is that single use plastic water bottle I see in your picture!?! 😳🙈😉

    1. You’d think it would be different for guys, but like I said, my experience is that no one notices for women either! All internal, which is crazy.

      And I thought about cropping that water bottle out 😂🙈 The picture is from over two years ago though, and I’ve gotten better with time! Still not 100% perfect, like I mentioned last week.

  22. 18 months is an amazing amount of time to not buy a single item of clothing! My clothes shopping is fairly subdued, as things have to look good on, feel good quality (so they’ll last) and not be too ‘in season’, so those things tend to cut out many purchases. It’s odd how we’re ‘programmed’ to want when we don’t need. I don’t have the draw of work clothes, but recently I’ve been looking at new dressing gowns. I have 2, one is 10 years old and one is 8 years old but they are still in very good condition. Another 5 years in them at least. And yet, I can’t help but want new! I’m trying my very best to just not look online. I would bet, when the time comes to replace them, any new ones won’t last nearly as long. I think I need to use that thought to keep putting off a purchase!

    1. Thank you! Yeah, the last time I was at the mall was just to go to dinner and let the kiddo run around at the play area when the air quality was bad around here. Otherwise I don’t find any reason to go these days.

    1. It’s so worth doing! I didn’t think I bought a ton of clothes either, but it’s eye opening to realize more things come home than you think about.

    1. That’s very true – especially once you get past the first few months of buying mindlessly. To be honest, the first three months were by far the hardest, but now it’s only specific situations that makes me want to buy something (like being in REI. Ha)

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