How to Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need (Real Tips That Work)

Have you ever wondered how to stop buying stuff you don’t need? If so, you’re not alone. Keep reading to find out how I took control of my spending.

For most of my life, I had a problem with mindless shopping. I spent more than I could afford, I shopped emotionally or out of habit, and I bought things I didn’t really want or need. To be blunt, I was a full-blown shopaholic and I had the debt, stress and overflowing closets to prove it.

I knew that I needed to stop shopping but I didn’t know how. Looking back, this is embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. I honestly didn’t know where to begin changing my shopping habits.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since then. I’ve since embraced a minimalist lifestyle, and I’ve completely changed my relationship with material possessions.

Of course, I still shop occasionally but it’s different now. Instead of making mindless choices, I’m intentional and considerate about my purchases.

If you’re on a similar mission to stop mindless shopping for things you don’t really need, then here are 6 practical tips to help you get started.

white box with the title: "how to stop buying stuff you don't need" in the foreground. In the background there is an image of a women walking away with shopping bags over her shoulder.

Why Should I Stop Buying Things?

If you’re reading this, you obviously want to stop buying so much—but why do you want to stop? What is your motivation for changing your shopping habits?

I can tell you some of the benefits:

  • More money = more freedom. Financial breathing room means you can leave a job (or even a relationship) that makes you unhappy without worrying about making ends meet.
  • More time for yourself. Shopping is a time-intensive habit (how long have you spent browsing over the years!). Plus all the time that you spend working to pay for things.
  • Increased confidence and self-belief. This one surprised me, but when you spend less time buying stuff, you stop judging yourself by what you own.

But ultimately, you need to get really clear about why YOU want to stop. Without a compelling reason for change, you won’t truly commit. And without commitment?

It’s a slippery slope. “One more” purchase turns into another, and nothing really changes. So get clear on why you want to stop buying stuff and if you’re not sure, be sure to check out tip #1 below.

6 Tips To Stop Mindlessly Buying Things You Don’t Need

1. Know your values and priorities.

If you want to resist buying things for the sake of it, the first step is to get clear about what you really want in life—and I mean the big picture stuff. What are your values, priorities and dreams?

I first asked myself this question a few years ago and it was an eye-opener. After a bit of honest self-reflection, I realised one of the things I value most is freedom. I want the freedom to travel, the freedom to quit a job that makes me unhappy, and the freedom to throw myself into passion projects or whatever opportunities may come my way.

Shopping (especially for things I don’t need) kept me broke and tied down … the exact opposite of what I wanted most out of life.

Once I realised this, it became a lot easier to stop shopping for things I don’t need. It became less about willpower and “giving up” shopping, and more about choosing the life I really want instead. Nowadays, I ask myself “what do I want most” before making purchases and it has made a world of difference.

If you’re not sure what your values and priorities are, here are some journaling ideas for self-discovery and self-reflection.

2. Train your eyes to look for quality.

Let’s be honest—a lot of what we buy is very ordinary: poor quality t-shirts that lose their shape after one washing, icky fabrics that feel uncomfortable against your skin, and cheap designs that flatter no one. So why are we buying it? Very clever visual marketing.

Crap stuff looks better when grouped together with other crap stuff, and shops know this. They create bright, colourful displays, play trendy music, and we’re instantly distracted by the shiny stuff (Forever 21 and H&M are just a few great examples of this).

Secondhand shops are full of these pieces (clothes that look gorgeous in the shop, but you never get worn in real life) because when you’re out in the real world, you realise they don’t look or feel very good.

Look—I’ll be honest—sometimes I buy low-quality clothes (although I try and get them secondhand). Sometimes it’s convenience or even necessity because it’s not always easy to find good things! But just be aware of it.

Train your eyes to see the quality and you’ll automatically buy less. You’ll walk into a shop, feel a few fabrics, then turn around and walk right out.

woman walking away with shopping bags full over her shoulder
Train your eyes to look for quality and you’ll stop buying things you don’t really need.

3. Know your style.

I’ve mentioned the value of truly knowing your style before, but it’s worth repeating. When you’re not confident in your style, you want to buy every beautiful piece that catches your eye—whether it suits you or not.

However, once you fully know your style, you become a ruthless editor and you stop buying clothes you never wear. It becomes easier to say no and walk away from pieces that don’t work for you and your wardrobe. Knowing my style has taught me to say “That is a beautiful dress, but it’s not for me.” And to then walk away.

Related Post: How to Create a Personal Uniform + Simplify Your Style

4. Know your triggers.

Why do you shop? If you’re a problem shopper like I was, my guess is it’s rarely because you need something. Instead, it might be:

  • Bordeom (“I’ll just kill some time …”)
  • Low self-esteem (“I look fat in everything I own, what I need is new jeans that make me look thin.”)
  • Fashion magazines and blogs (“Nothing I own is in style anymore!”)
  • Entitlement (the “I deserve it” mentality)

I’ve personally experienced every single one of these emotions/excuses, especially at the height of my shopping addiction.

I was especially bad with the “I deserve it” mentality; I worked long hours and I always stopped at the shops on my lunch break or on my way home. I worked hard so I deserved something to cheer me up, right? (Of course, in reflection, I could have bought less and worked less instead!)

I also had a weak spot for fashion blogs, which often led to expensive online purchases. When I decided to stop buying so much, I gave up fashion blogs because I wanted to stop online shopping and I knew they were triggering.

Whatever your triggers are, learn to recognise them so you can take steps to manage them. If you shop on your lunch break because you’re bored, find a yoga class or start bringing a book. If you shop because you read fashion blogs, delete them from your favourites and start reading minimalism blogs instead. It’s a simple tip that will help you stop buying things for the sake of it.

5. Find a support system.

Find a supportive community. Like everything in life, it’s easier when you have people on your team— to celebrate your success and to keep you going when you slip up.

Find friends or family that you can talk to about your goals, or if it’s not something you feel comfortable talking about in “real life”, try looking for supportive communities online.

6. Plan to shop.

We all shop because we all want and need things—myself included. That’s why this isn’t a post about how to stop buying things altogether. Instead, it’s about how to stop mindlessly shopping for things you don’t need.

So my last tip for being purposeful and intentional about shopping is to plan to shop.

Most of the time, we know when we will want or need new things (the change of seasons, the holidays, special events, etc.). If you plan your shopping ahead of time, you have time to think about your purpose and what you really need.

For example, I spent seven months travelling around the world (with carry-on luggage only). On that trip, I knew that I would need to buy more warm clothes before arriving in Europe, so I planned accordingly. This meant that I knew exactly what I needed and was, therefore, able to avoid any impulse purchases.

I’m not perfect and I won’t pretend I don’t occasionally buy something ‘just because’, but I’ve definitely come a long way. I’ve learned to stop buying stuff I don’t need and hopefully, these tips will help you too.

“I Still Can’t Stop Buying Stuff”

If you’re still really struggling to stop buying stuff, then I want to leave you with one final bit of advice: mindset matters.

In the short-term, hacks like unsubscribing from sales emails or avoiding the shops will help, but ultimately, you have to get to the heart of your shopping habits. What are the thoughts and beliefs that keep you reaching for your credit card?

If you need help answering this question, one of the below posts might help—or I invite you to check out my programs.

Do you have any tips on how to stop buying stuff you don’t need? Let me know in the comments! x

For most of my life, I had a problem with mindless shopping, which means I bought more than I could afford, I shopped emotionally or out of habit, and I bought things I didn’t really want or need. Here are 6 practical tips that have helped me immensely on my mission to stop mindless shopping and instead start being intentional and considerate about my purchases.

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