joanna irl

Lessons from No-Buy 2019

Oh hey. I still own a blog. (I feel like every fourth post or so is along the lines of “wow, I haven’t written in forever” but grad school and blogging don’t seem to have meshed well.)

I officially finished grad school this weekend (HUZZAH!), though I turned in my final projects several weeks ago, which means I’ve had some time to reset mentally and take a look at some old, lingering projects (and some new ones I’m excited to share).

As I’m writing this, we’re several months into a global pandemic. This post isn’t about that, but I want to acknowledge that anything I write about for the next bit will be at least flavored by that fact. But that being said– I want to share what I learned from spending last year NOT spending money. There was a lot!

Use what you’ve got

The first goal of my No-Buy 2019 project was to use (and appreciate) what I’ve already got in my life. I started off by organizing everything and really exploring what I already had, and then made a point of making everything very accessible and easy to use. I used up several eyeshadow palettes for instance, and didn’t buy any new eye makeup (beyond when my mascara/eyeliner ran out) for the entire year. So far in 2020 I’ve splurged twice on a new thing to try, but I find that it’s much more intentional now.

It’s been interesting to track my own change in spending. I don’t feel the need any more to have the next shiny thing, because I know there will be another one coming right behind it. Instead, I plan out what I’m going to spend much more carefully. I’ve been wearing more of my shoes again, putting new outfits together with existing clothes I already had, and sourced any crafts I wanted to make from what’s in my office. I now check what I already have FIRST before looking online to see what new thing I can find.

A perfect example of this is my Spring Dapper Day outfit from last year– My friends and I went as the three kittens from The Aristocats, but instead of buying a white sundress or something like that for my Marie-inspired look, I used things I already owned to create my outfit. The only purchase for this outfit was the wide pink ribbon that cost less than $5– and by using it for a belt, I was able to turn a tank and skirt into a vintage looking “dress” with enough left over for a huge hair bow!

Another fun thing I did to “use what I’ve got” was digging out a bunch of old puzzles and things that I haven’t done in years. It’s been long enough for all of them that it was like working them for the first time!

Repairing and reusing

Another skill I got much better at in 2019 is repairing random things. I don’t need to be an expert sewer to mend a popped seam, and I don’t need to be a carpenter to fix a coat rack. I spent a lot of time working on these little repair skills over the year to get more life out of things, and honestly at the end of it all I’m floored at how much I was able to fix and keep using.

Reusing things was a big theme of the year, too, and I really did get very good at spray paint refreshes, where I found old things that weren’t quite what I wanted and turned them into something unique and fun. The pineapples and trash can were certainly part of it, but I took pine cones from a friend’s yard and painted them gold in the winter for a centerpiece, and then this spring I painted a couple of plaster rabbits we’ve had for years to make them new again for Easter. I even refreshed some of my kitchen accessories! It’s been fun giving new life to things.

Buying second hand and vintage

I know I posted before about my love of Craigslist Free (and wow I’ve gotten some great things from there over the last few years) but if I couldn’t find what I wanted, either from my own closet or for free online, then my next step was to check thrift stores and the like for second-hand or vintage things.

A perfect example of this is the dining room chairs I got last fall– I found some gorgeous chairs for sale from someone cleaning out storage, less than 5 miles away. Eight chairs for $150. They needed to be recovered but otherwise were in great shape! So, putting my new repair/refresh skills to work, I was able to finally upgrade our dining set!

Intentional Spending

If you read the first post I wrote about my No-Buy 2019, I left myself room for “intentional spending”. This was to cover things like replacing items I needed or finding things I’d been looking for prior to the No-Buy. (Dining room chairs were on the list!) But this also left me space for small splurges, which I found I had more room for in my budget without buying all the random other stuff.

Behold– the red dress! I bought this dress for homecoming after J’s deployment in November. The shoes I’ve had for ages, but the dress was brand new, and exactly what I wanted it to be– a special outfit for a special day. Plus it’s a classic style that won’t age badly and something I can use again (especially for holiday parties).

Other than the dress, I also bought a few things I needed for travel to India, souvenirs from the trip to Europe with my folks in late summer, and art. (Mostly what I bought was art!) Having room in my budget to support some indie artists I follow, and to have a few small souvenirs, made each small thing I did get special.

Would I do a No-Buy again?

I mean, I feel like I would if I needed to at some point. It was a very liberating experience, to be honest– knowing that I “couldn’t” buy anything took away a mental pressure I didn’t even know I had, and allowed me to appreciate things and then walk away without feeling like I was missing out on anything. It really has changed the way I interact with the way I spend, and how I think about consumer goods.

I’ve also gained a lot of confidence in my skills to make things work as well– I’m more likely to try and repair something myself, or to try and new skill, than to seek a replacement for something. And I’m much more aware of how I spend when I do– and have continued to try and buy second-hand or vintage items as much as possible.

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