My (almost) no buy year

Dear reader, I bought some new clothes last week.

I wasn’t planning to until after July 1, when my no-buy year would officially come to an end. However, two weeks before I left on a visit to see friends and family in Toronto, I noticed my nightdresses and a few of my shirts were fraying rapidly and in some cases, new holes were appearing daily.

Holey clothes may be fashionable but not for this gal. It was past time to assess needs and wants. Locally I don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to clothing and I did not want to rely on buying online in case stuff didn’t match the picture on screen, didn’t feel right, or was the wrong size.

Image description: Martha’s gold toes in five year old sandals are admired by a cute little beige dog and a very large smile.

I joined the challenge because it seemed like a good idea. I wanted to see if I could continue making mindful choices that were voluntary and not enforced through lockdown limitations. The pandemic had meant my “good” clothes got less wear so their lifespan was extended beyond normal. I tend to hang onto clothes for quite a while generally, while relying on accessories like shoes and purses/totes to extend the look.

And I did quite well, considering. I spent money three times on clothes, shoes, or accessories in the past year, each purchase occasioned by urgency, necessity, or opportunity.

Were there times I wanted to buy something simply because it was cute, or it appealed to my inner magpie? Yes, there was. Did I give in? No, I did not. Instead, I asked myself three questions based on the three criteria I had set for breaking my no-buy fast.

  1. Would this purchase fix an urgent issue? My new walking shoes and workshop shoes mended the ankle injury.
  2. Was this something I truly needed? New underthings qualified when the old ones did not meet the hospital test (could I wear them and still be decent?).
  3. If the item was not urgent or necessary, was the opportunity something that was so awesome it would not likely be possible after the no-buy challenge ended? The tops I bought while travelling qualified as they fit well, they were a good price, and I had not seen anything similar at home. The dress I bought with birthday money was too good a deal to pass up for something well-made, Canadian, and spectacular.

I stole an idea from a friend of mine to help me be mindful and to remind me not to settle. Whenever she made a good choice or made a positive decision, she threw $20 in a jar. At the end of the year, she used the cash to buy herself a new piece of gym equipment or finance training, or other appropriate rewards.

I decided to track what I saved when I chose not to buy something I wanted. Rather than a flat rate per item or the full amount of the possible purchase, I decided to save 10% of the cost in my savings account. I ended up with an amount that made me really think hard about how consumerism and capitalism are both exerting significant pressure on our spending habits.

Given that I met all three criteria, I happily set a budget for my holiday. I also reminded myself to focus on what made me look and feel good. The end result: three tops, a pair of pants, three nightdresses, two pairs of bike shorts, a pair of flipflops with built-in supports, and the coolest hat ever. In fact, I refused to settle for just “fine” and only spent half of my planned budget.

What has all this got to do with fitness? A lot.

First, it’s about mental health and wellbeing. Some of us shop because it makes us feel good for a while. What else could give us that good feeling? What is it we are trying to fix with a splurge? Also, we all need to wear clothes. If you are plus size, as I am, it’s hard to find pretty things to wear. We all like to feel good and be happy, not just in our own skin, but in the clothes we wear. (Remember Roy Kent!)

Second, I have started using the same questions framed differently to think about my approach to fitness. (In fact, reframing is a technique I use quite often and will explore in another post. Stay tuned!). For me, urgency in fitness is about recovery and repair. Necessity is about building strength vs body modification. Opportunity is how can I move more often and not just in a gym.

Third, I used the lessons about tracking training sessions and personal bests to evaluate how I was doing. Outcomes and outputs matter.  I saved a lot of money this year. I donated a lot of clothes. I became more creative in my clothing choices. I also hauled out my box of sewing patterns and started thinking about what I could make or get made in the fall.

Even though the no-buy challenge was not entirely purchase-free, I am more than fine with my choices. Last week’s acquisitions make me feel great especially the completely frivolous hat, which I absolutely adore. More importantly, the no-buy challenge helped me focus on what mattered to me: changing habits that led to reducing my carbon footprint and dealing with issues head-on in response to shifting personal priorities.

MarthaFitat55 gets her fit on in multiple ways.

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