2018 Shopping Ban Guide

December 19, 2017

I do multiple things each year to work on my finances.  Usually I do monthly shopping bans or quarterly spending freezes, and I find great success with those.  It helps me be much more mindful of where my money is actually going and I even take that time to concentrate on things like lowering the electric bill.  Occasionally those bans have helped me stop spending on certain things for good (Starbucks coffee), but for other things, I go right back to old habits.

I decided to start it now on a whim, actually, as opposed to the new year start date in general.  I was prepping my 3rd 101 in 1001 list, which starts in April, and one of the goals that I put on it was to define and complete a no spend year.  I knew it would be challenging but still fun, and as I was starting to plan out 2018, I decided to just go ahead and get started on that particular goal, since the timing would be so easy to track.  And here we are!  When it comes down to it, I'm banning most non-essential spending.  There's so many nuances to that though, so I tried to think about every scenario that would come up and set my plans in place regarding them.  I can't plan for everything but I know enough about where my money is going to have a good idea.

Here are my personal rules for the 2018 shopping ban:

Approved Shopping List - Necessities

Rent.  I pay 'rent' to John, and he handles the bill paying of the mortgage, electric, gas, internet, and city stuff like trash and water.

Health Insurance.  Cause I gotta.  My portion of it is like $130 a month this coming year, I think.

Ventra Card.  I don't have a car, so I take public transit to get to work.  It's always $100 a month.

Groceries.  Have to eat of course.  I've been really paying attention to prices and how much we spend on food, so our grocery budget is low.  I want it to remain low, so I'll keep working at that $100 per person per month goal.  It's definitely under that for me, over for John, but it balances out.

Household Goods.  I actually include these in the grocery budget but I separate them on the list just to have it more clearly defined.  Some household goods are a necessity - our city require trash to be in bags, we need paper towels for any dog messes, we're not willing to give up toilet paper, the laundry needs cleaning, etc.  We will be sticking to only the basics and attempting to cut back as much as possible.

Personal Care Items.  I don't know if they're totally necessities but I'll count them here.  This is a category I'll be eyeing for very minimal spending this year.  By personal care, I mean things like shampoo, hand soap, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.  I'll only be buying when I run out, and only after I exhaust other options, like DIY versions of things and attempting to find free items.

Taxes.  And also paying to get them done, because I can't do them myself.

Career Related Spending.  I have to pay random registration fees every year.

Hawkeye.  Don't get a dog if you can't afford a dog.  There's nothing I'll be limiting regarding Hawkeye spending.  She gets food, treats, toys, tacos, plus groomings and vet visits.

Any other essentials I'm forgetting?

Approved Shopping List - Non-Essentials

Netflix.  John actually pays for cable, we have it.  Well, a dish, whatever.  I rarely watch it, I just prefer Netflix.  It's obviously not an essential but it's my $10 a month indulgence.

BoardBooster.  It's the one blog related service I actually pay for, it automates Pinterest.  It's only $5 a month, and saves me tons of time and effort, and ends up paying for itself in terms of what I make off using affiliate links on it, so it's worth it.

Cleaning Service.  We have a cleaning lady that comes in once a month and it's $80 to $100 each time.  I think I might cut back on this, perhaps every 6 to 8 weeks instead of every 4, and see how that goes.  I'm not cutting it out altogether though, because that would mean I have to wash baseboards myself and I ain't doing it.

Gifts.  I have a plan to get my friends on board with not doing Christmas gifts, but I'll never get John's family to agree to that.  Nor will John agree to that for his birthday!  So I'm just generally not going to worry about gifts.  One thing I will do though is try to earn the money online first, through sites like swagbucks, and I wouldn't consider that 'spending.'

The 101 in 1001 List.  I don't plan to spend a lot completing the next list, but some of the items do require spending.  I plan to keep these costs as low as possible, and only if it's essential to checking an item off.

Banned Shopping List

Let me start with the biggest one and the reason for a ban idea in the first place: Eating Out and Ordering In.  This is what mainly made me decide to start the shopping ban now - it aligns with my word of the year, healthy.  Outside of bills and Hawkeye, most of my money goes towards this category at the moment.  An obnoxious amount, though I don't want to tally it up, to be honest.  It's not one I've ever tracked well, because it's consumable and therefore not leading to stuff and clutter in my life.  I'm much better about 'not shopping' when it comes to physically bringing things home from a store, and not at all when it comes to Grubhub or Dominos.  Of course when we do it out or order in food, it's never even remotely healthy.  Like, okay, maybe I get some green peppers on my pizza once in awhile, but yeah, that's the extent of it.  At the end of the day, it's not causing me financial stress, we still live under our means, but it's causing me health stress, absolutely.  So I will be doing no ordering in for delivery or pick up.  Eating out will be a little less strict - no more than twice a month, not including special occasions like birthday.  But pretty much only dinner, no things like coffee or lunch.  I'll relax these rules for the Iowa road trips, but I'll still be doing it on a budget.  (The Iowa trips are the only two 2018 vacations planned and I don't think we'll be doing anything else.)

Gas and Transportation.  I don't have a car, so there's no reason to pay for gas.  The only time I'm willing to pay for it is to chip in for gas for a road trip, and we do plan on going to Iowa twice in 2018.  I'm also not willing to pay for cabs in 2018 unless it's a safety issue.  Like when I'm out late and it's just not smart to take the train home at 1 in the morning.  But sheer laziness about getting somewhere quicker is not a good reason to take a cab.  Again, I'll be willing to spend the times I'm in Iowa, because it's much harder to navigate there - like, there actually isn't public transit where we need to go and we don't drink and drive because we're not assholes.

Fun Spending.  I mean this as the things that traditional waste people's money.  No clothes, shoes, nail polish, home decor, or makeup unless it runs out (mascara has to be replaced every 3 months, for example.)  When I do need something makeup-wise, I plan on getting it free from my Sephora friend whose home is overrun with free makeup, or earning the money for it online, like with swagbucks.  I also won't be spending on books or e-books.  While I don't consider them wasteful like the other things on this list, I don't need them when I have the library.  And the last thing that I know will come up - candles.  No spending on candles.  Yeah, you heard me!

Entertainment.  I don't spend here anyway, but I figured I'd mention it.  No spending on entertainment, like movie tickets, concert tickets, cover at bars or street fests, etc.

Bars and Drinks.  I still love cocktails and going out.  But I have never loved paying for it, and I already usually don't.  I fill a water bottle with vodka instead (and yes, vodka is counted in my grocery budget.)  I plan on continuing this, but I will tip any time I order water.  I'll make an exception for special events, like Market Days, but it'll still be on a budget.

One last thing I want to address because I think I'll get asked about it, both related to this and to some of my health goals next year - I am a very all or nothing person.  I absolutely cannot limit myself or allow small indulgences here and there.  Some people can!  Some people rebel if they have too many restrictions and telling themselves that they flat out can't have or do something will make them do the opposite.  I am not that person.  I have no self-control once I start down a slippery slope like that.  'Spending on eating out if you get something healthy is fine!' is going to immediately spiral into 'chocolate is a bean and beans are good for you' so I'm not even going to consider it.  I'm great at following rules and instructions and plans - I like them.  If the rule is 'no spending on Grubhub all year,' I can do that.  There is no grey area.  It's just how my brain works.

One more last point, I lied - Cait Flanders is a favorite blogger of mine and completed a two year shopping ban, so she has a lot of tips and tricks posts related to it.  If you're interested in learning more or attempting something of your own, these posts might be helpful to you: part one and part two.  I don't really plan to update much on this topic in 2018, other than reporting my spending total in a monthly recap post of all my goals, so if it's an interesting topic to you, definitely check her out.  

Funny how the major spending holiday that is Christmas makes you think about not spending another dime all year.  Are you setting any financial goals for yourself in 2018?

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