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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22 thoughts on “How to Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need (Real Tips That Work)”

  1. Hi,

    This article was really great and helpful, however one criticism I have for your website is there are far too many ads. I have one large one that follows you down the page whilst trying to read, along with an ad between paragraphs.

    I think if you’re writing about minimalism and curbing spending habits, I would have enjoyed reading your article a lot more and feel the ads are contradictory to your content.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your thoughtful feedback about the ads on my website.
      I appreciate they can be annoying but I’m afraid I’m not in a position to remove them at the moment.

      I did attempt to run my blog ad-free for several years but sadly, sales of my online courses were never enough to cover my operating expenses (which have increased each year as my blog has grown).

      During that time, I continued writing at a considerable personal cost— I spent thousands of dollars and invested hundreds of hours of my time— but I did so happily because I was passionate about sharing what I’ve learned.

      I still have this vision but after the birth of my children, my priorities had to shift. Running ads was (and still is) the only way I can justify spending so much time and money on this site. (I should mention running this blog is my full-time job.) I have considered offering my articles ad free via a paid membership but there hasn’t been much interest.

      Of course, I respect your time as well and if you choose to stop reading because of the ads, then I 100% understand your decision.

      But if you do continue to support my blog, then I thank you for your generosity. Every ad you view buys me time with my family and in addition, allows me to continue writing free content for those who cannot afford my paid programs.

      Wishing you all the best and thank you again for taking the time to share your feedback.

      Reply
  2. List of Guilts/Admissions

    There have been times when I’d spent over an hour browsing/shopping a particular department store online and adding a bunch of clothes to my online “shopping cart”, only to panic and have second thoughts with my heart racing, and then finally I’d empty the entire “cart” at the last second, just before clicking on “check out”! It was like I still got to have that shopper’s high feeling but at the last minute I panicked and decided I didn’t want to spend the money on all of it after all (but I did not purposely fill the cart to get that feeling or knowing I would empty it though).

    Purchasing clothing in-store which felt so satisfying, then never wearing it and ended up taking it back to return a couple of weeks later (with the receipt and un-worn with price tags still on of course, so that is ok I guess, but still not really a good thing).

    Buying “back-up” or “spare” articles of clothing (did this numerous times), meaning: I’d feel so excited about something I just bought that I’d buy a second of the exact same thing so that I’d have a spare in case the first one ever got worn out or damaged…….except I’d wear it once or twice and decide I didn’t like it after all. I would then return the back-up item with receipt and tags still attached if I was still able to.

    Reply
  3. Ooh the times I’ve been tempted by fashion blogs!! The struggle is real. I read these blog posts with things like ‘MUST HAVES SPRING 2019” and these gorgeous items, shown off by celebs and models, then I’d think it would be another item I “need”.

    Reply
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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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