Could you survive a year without buying clothes?
It sounds extreme. I know. Hear me out.
Why would you take on a no spend challenge for a year?
Most people don’t set off to take a year long no spend challenge, even if focused on a single category, like clothes.
Usually, when you start to consider something so extreme, there’s been a seed planted.
That seed could be that life is feeling complicated.
Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of living with less, but going full on minimalist sounds crazy.
You could be in a situation where you need to save cash.
Or, maybe you are downsizing your home, moving into a RV, or taking a year off to travel.
Whatever the reason that may be pushing this crazy idea towards reality, keep an open mind.
You might just learn to love a challenge like this.
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11 valuable lessons learned from a year of not buying new clothes:
1 – The first month of not buying clothes is the hardest
Whether you started a new exercise program, started following a new budget, or moved to a new city, it seems the first month of change is the hardest.
During my first month of not buying clothes for a year, I avoided the stores at all costs. The temptations were everywhere.
Apparently, I NEEDED new clothes all the time. At least that’s what my habits told me.
I found myself going to the clothes sections to look for new clothes for absolutely no reason. It was nothing more than a bad habit.
It took time to break that cycle, and the first month was the worst.
2 – Knowing your spending history can be scary…and eye-opening
Before I took a year-long challenge to not buy any new clothes, I added up all my spending for the month prior.
The number was scary, so I decided to go back three months. The average surely wouldn’t be so bad. It was.
If you don’t already, get an app like YNAB to help you budget your dollars. It’s an amazing app, and it has saved me from a number of costly expenses over the years.
If I wasn’t motivated to take a year off from buying new clothes, figuring out my spending history sure did it. It may do it for you too!
3 – Capsule wardrobes are a thing
One of the first things I did in my first two months of not buying new clothes for a year was create a capsule wardrobe.
I’ll be honest here. I had zero ideas as to what a capsule wardrobe was before this little experiment of mine.
Basically, a capsule wardrobe is a paired down set of clothes that are timeless, will mix and match into numerous combinations, and serve multiple functions for your particular lifestyle.
Some people count their items in their capsule wardrobe (I don’t). Others have a seasonal capsule wardrobe.
Then, some have a different capsule wardrobe for the styles of clothes they need, like business casual vs leisure capsule wardrobes.
My capsule wardrobe is still a work in progress, but I have one now. Let me tell you, capsule wardrobes are pretty cool.
Yes, at first, I fought getting rid of my pastel purple pants and fancy print blouses, but they were rarely worn and didn’t serve me well.
If you want more help creating a capsule wardrobe, check out my ultimate guide for creating your own capsule wardrobe and get a feee printable to help you get started.
4 – Retailers make it easy to buy clothes you don’t love
How many times have you walked into a clothing department and walked out with a piece of clothing you liked but didn’t love?
How does this happen? Easy.
Retailers use so many marketing tricks to get items in front of you. They put clothes on mannequins that don’t represent your size.
They put clothes out for crazy, cheap prices.
Tags on clothes will have the “regular retail price” and then the really low price will be marked. Who wouldn’t buy this item?!
Thing is, unless you go into a store with a specific need or purpose to buy a piece of clothing, there’s a good chance you are going to walk out with something you like, but maybe you don’t love.
This is all thanks to how retailers market to you. Feel fooled? I did.
When I was going through my closet and purging the clothes I didn’t love, some still had tags on them! Or maybe I wore an item once or twice, but that’s all. I never liked how it fit me, or it was dry-clean only, or it really wasn’t my style.
5 – Low-quality clothes don’t last long
When you can’t buy clothes for a year, you become intensely aware of the quality of your clothes.
When you are wearing cheap, low-quality clothes, they will quickly wear out, sometimes not even lasting an entire season.
Low-quality clothes will:
- pill up
- seams fall apart
- buttons fall off
- zippers break
- holes appear from nowhere
I had a rule during my no clothes shopping challenge that I was allowed to buy underwear and socks. It really came out of necessity, as my cheap options were wearing out, and they were wearing out fast!
It was during my one year no shopping challenge I learned the value in $20, life-time guarantee socks. You read that right. Twenty dollar socks. These bad boys last, and I have the slate tile and hardwood floors that put them through the ultimate tests.
If you take on a no-shopping challenge, pay attention to which clothes wear out and which ones last.
6 – Mending clothes isn’t hard
When you are committed to not buying new clothes for an entire year, you have to get crafty.
I drew the line at mending my cheap socks. (See above.)
I realized I was often tossing perfectly good clothes (before this challenge) when they could easily be mended.
You don’t have to be a master seamstress to close up a seam or sew on a button. If you are feeling stuck, there are a ton of amazing YouTube videos out there that will walk you through just about any repair, step by step.
Worst case, you can always hire a tailor. There are tailors just about everywhere, and they can fix the hem on a pair of pants for way cheaper than you can buy another pair. Don’t be afraid to use them.
On this same note, if you have nice shoes, cobblers are fantastic too.
7 – Buying clothes doesn’t have to be a hobby
So often, shopping and buying clothes becomes a sport or a hobby, one that we take on with vigor to go find the perfect deal or to waste a Saturday afternoon.
Once I was a few months deep into my one year no shopping challenge, I realized buying clothes had become a hobby for me.
Shopping was a way for me to waste time on the internet over my lunch break, or it was a way to spend a sunny afternoon, when I could be doing something far healthier or more fun.
Don’t let shopping become a hobby. It costs you money and time, when that time could be spent doing far more enjoyable things.
When I gave up shopping for the sport, we went to the library more often. We hiked. We had picnics. We enjoyed our time together at home. Shopping was no longer the chore I had made it, when in secret it was my choice for fun.
8 – Used clothes are kinda cool
Thrift stores are a thing for a lot of folks. Admittedly, I rarely shopped thrift or consignment stores for clothing prior to my one year no clothes shopping challenge.
During my challenge, I did allow myself to shop consignment or thrift, IF I had a specific need for something and had exhausted all other avenues for solving that need. (I bought 5 used items over the course of one year to fulfill a need.)
For example, I needed a special occasion dress for an event during my year of not shopping. I first exhausted my closet, but I had no dress that still fit me (apparently one does more formal events in college than in adulthood).
I found an AMAZING dress at a local consignment shop for a quarter of the price I would pay in store.
Lesson learned, even with my one year no shopping challenge over, I still buy used first.
Even when I needed a wardrobe change (I quit the corporate world to stay home), I was able to sell all my work clothes to the consignment shop and buy several new tops for my new lifestyle. Win-win.
9 – Your friends will think you’re nuts
If you take on a one year no shopping challenge, even if it’s only for clothes, your friends will think you’ve gone off the deep end. So will your husband.
I first volunteered myself for this challenge for 30 days. After 30 days, I realized I still had an embarrassing level of clothes in my closet, so I committed to a year.
As the year progressed, I told people about my challenge and the lessons I was learning along the way. People thought I was nuts.
I even had friends send me gift cards for my birthday with specific instructions to use them for new clothes, not because I needed them, but because they thought I was depriving myself!
My friend, you are not depriving yourself by taking a break from shopping. I giggled, and then I used the gift cards to buy something I needed personally…not clothes.
Peer pressure can be intense, especially if you are used to shopping with friends for sport. Don’t let this derail you.
Find other ways to hang out with friends. Or, tag along and help them spend their money. Simply because they are buying new clothes, doesn’t mean you have to give up on your challenge.
10 – People will give you more compliments
It may sound surprising, but when you start wearing the same clothes over and over again, but the ones you absolutely LOVE and fit your body well, people will take notice.
They won’t take notice that you are wearing the same thing. People aren’t that aware. However, they will see that you feel confident in what you are wearing.
When you wear what you love, it is usually because the items fit you well, look good on you, and make you feel confident. People will take notice of this more than they ever took notice of a new outfit.
11 – Not buying clothes opens the doors to minimalist living
Of all the lessons I learned from a year of not buying new clothes, this was the lesson that opened doors for me I never could have imagined.
Not buying clothes for a year opened the door to a simpler, more minimalist way of living.
Am I full blown minimalist? Nope. Not even close.
Yet, when I stopped placing value in new stuff and started placing more value on experiences, time with family, and making myself better, a whole new world opened up to me of intentional living.
I was saving money… a lot of it.
I had more time… a lot of it.
I eventually was able to quit my job and stay home, a dream I never thought possible.
Minimalist living, or just living a simpler life, changed my focus, and it all started with an easy-peasy challenge for not buying new clothes that grew into something beautiful.
Related Post: Simplify Your Life and Find More Joy
Take the no shopping challenge!
OK, so maybe you are intrigued by the idea of a no shopping challenge, but a year sounds crazy.
I thought so too.
Don’t start with a year.
If you have some serious shopping habits, maybe try going a solid week without buying any new clothes.
If not shopping for a week was easy enough, stretch it to a month.
If a month was tolerable (remember the first month is the hardest), then stretch it even longer.
Let me know what lessons you learn along the way too. You may surprise yourself. I sure did.
Related Post: How to Stop Shopping with a No Shopping Challenge