How To Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need

Have you ever wondered how to stop buying stuff you don’t need? If so, you’re not alone.

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.

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

KNOW YOUR VALUES + 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, freedom to quit a job that makes me unhappy, 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 as 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.

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 wear them once or twice and then never again—because they don’t really feel or look 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 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.

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

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 everyone of these emotions/excuses for shopping.

In particular, I was really bad with the “I deserve it” mentality; I worked long hours and I would always stop at the shops on my lunch break or on my way home. I worked hard so I “deserved” something to cheer me up. (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 shopping so much, I gave up fashion blogs because I knew they triggered my buying habit.

Whatever your triggers, learn to recognise them so you can take steps to counteract 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.

HAVE 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.

PLAN TO SHOP

We all shop because we all want and need things—myself definitely included. That’s why this isn’t a post about how to stop shopping altogether. Instead, it’s a post 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 made plans accordingly. Because I planned ahead, I knew what pieces 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.

Do you have any tips on how to stop mindless shopping? 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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18 thoughts on “How To Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need”

  1. I love your posts so much, they have really begun to inspire me to begin my journey with minimalism. My only question is, how do you decide when you need to go shopping again? Do you have to throw something out that maybe isn’t getting the use it once did in order to buy a new piece?

    Reply
    • Hi Caitlin!

      To start with, I think the best thing you can do is to implement a “cooling off” or waiting period before buying anything new. (For example, if you think you need a new coat, waiting 2 weeks or a month and try and make do without.) If at the end of your chosen timeframe, you still feel you really need something, it’s probably a sign you do – and if not, it was probably just an impulse purchase.

      Do for a while and eventually – you’ll get better at making decisions and won’t need to be so strict on yourself. (At least that’s what I found!) In general, I don’t think rules or “willpower” work in the longterm – instead, it has to be internally driven by your value and priorities.

      I hope this make sense! Thanks so much for reading and commenting – I really appreciate it!

      xx Jen

      Reply
  2. In terms of planning to shop, one thing I find helps a lot is online shopping. I can browse and bookmark clothes and give myself time to decide if they actually fit into my wardrobe and lifestyle before clicking the “Buy” button.

    Of course, there are some things it’s more hassle than it’s worth to buy online, like jeans and blouses and other fitted things, but for run-of-the-mill tops and casual skirts/dresses (basically anything with a bit of stretch or loose/flowy fit) I much prefer shopping online.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the tip Nicola! I think they key for everyone is to find a system that allows you to ‘pause’ and – like you said – give yourself time to think before buying. One of my last really big purchases was a pair of boots and I think I ‘paused’ for nearly 6 months before buying them! They were expensive but I know I made the right decision because I’ve had them for 5 years and I still love them and wear them all the time! 🙂

      Reply
      • YES. My Doc Martens cost a pretty penny when I got them 6.5(?) years ago, but they’re my go-to footwear from October to March, and they’ll carry me fine to the office, up a hill, and through the mud 🙂

        Reply
    • That really helps me too. I can still get sucked into some mindless browsing though, and discover a whole bunch of stuff I never knew I “needed”. I often set the timer on my phone – it’s okay to browse, but for a short, pre-set time.

      Reply
    • Shopping online helps me, too! If I am in a physical store, I have a lot less will power. There is admittedly something tantalizing about the lighting, the music, the visual displays, the friendly salespeople, and the physical act of seeing/touching products. It is so much harder to resist them.

      But when shopping online, I can either commit to ‘just browsing” and get the vicarious experience of shopping without actually buying anything, or, if I really need something, hone in on it without the distraction of eye-catching displays or confusing signage. It is much easier to comparison shop online as well, and the reviews are incredibly helpful.

      It can also be easier to tell how much you’re spending when your online shopping cart is calculating the costs. In store, the signage and specials can be very confusing and even manipulative (40% off! Only to find out that means everything but denim, after you just found a great pair of jeans).

      And best of all, if I’m not sure, there is no pressure to buy the item on the spot. I can leave it in the cart, wait a few weeks, see if I still want it, check back for a sale.

      In sum, physical stores are definitely one of my “triggers.” Online shopping definitely curbs my impulse buying.

      Reply
  3. About 3 months ago I did an overhaul of my closet where I donated over 40% of my wardrobe. I was inspired by minimalist blogs and I wanted to simplify and decrease that decision fatigue in the morning. What I was surprised to find was that even though my closet was almost cut in half, I always had something to wear. I’m totally with you on cutting out fashion blogs from your daily blog reading. Before I decided to live a more minimalist lifestyle I devoured these blogs- in turn I went shopping every weekend.

    Reply
  4. I was so guilty of this when I was younger! I spent my paychecks acquiring “stuff”… It wasn’t until I got to a point where I looked back at the past 6 years of my life since I started working a job (with no expenses because my parents paid for a lot of my stuff then) with literally a bunch of useless STUFF to show for it and $0 in savings that I knew I needed to change. These are great tips even now that I think I’ve got my spending under control.

    Reply
  5. Oh my goodness, I am sooooo guilty of the “I deserve this” excuse. I have to admit that even as recently as last year, I was a pretty compulsive shopper. I think that I started to change my ways largely as a result of becoming aware of my spending, and also definitely by reading Blonde on a Budget and thinking, huh, weird, this girl is really cool, and she chooses to only own one pair of jeans (three cheers for positive peer pressure!).
    I am definitely taking a look at your Pinterest page, as a) I can use all the help I can get with figuring out the whole clothing thing, and b) I can use all the help I can get with figuring out Pinterest! 🙂

    Reply
    • Right?? I’m one of those people that can justify anything to myself, and “I deserve this” was my go to excuse. It’s soooo easy sometimes. But it’s so cool that reading Blonde on a Budget has such a positive effect on you, it’s funny how sometimes you read something at the right time and it all clicks! Thanks for commenting (and sorry yet again, I somehow missed all the comments on this page and I feel horrible!) x

      Reply

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