At 6:45 PM on Saturday, July 13th, I stopped spending any money. After a night out for my friend’s birthday, that was the last I touched my credit card or cash. The last thing I purchased was a $10 – extortion-level – ticket to watch World War Z. Then, “The 7-Day Buy Nothing Challenge” began.
I was ready to examine my assumptions in spending and visiting stores. I felt capable of completing the task, but didn’t know what would be required of me. Looking at my Mint.com account, I could see that occasionally, a day would go by without money spent. But honestly, it was a rarity.
Seeing that habitual spending scared me. I was motivated to test these patterns and take control of my financial future.
We Desire What We Can’t Have
Plain and simple, we want things we can’t have. The rarity of things tends to increase their value. Whether it’s related to supply and demand or because it’s a Veblen good, people are attracted to elite and scarce products.
After I ran out of granola, I wanted it; even more so, because I couldn’t buy more. My mouth would water with the dream and thought of getting more. Stopping the urge to spend meant deep psychological restructuring and understanding the power of these more biological urges.
Preparation Is Key
As I’ve mentioned, food storage concerns reigned supreme over this experiment. Preparation is a fundamental necessity for completing this task and possibly extending a Buy Nothing Challenge beyond a week.
Theoretically, if food storage was stronger, I may have had less pressure to go shopping again. At the same point, the urge to spend wasn’t always about shopping. I was often caught by the desire to go ice skating, see a movie, or go to a nice restaurant for a fun little date night.
Reflection For The Future
This experiment taught me a lot about my spending woes and urges. I feel enlightened by my mistakes. But most of all, I’m actually eager to try it again. Pressing pause to credit, debit, and cash really did help my budget and give me a short-term goal that has positive, long-term consequences.
That’s the thing about the Buy Nothing Challenge: You must envision the future-oriented effects of the changes you make in the present. If you can, the reward is a better, freer future.
Day 7: $0 spent.
Thank you for following along!