I have done a few of these month-long challenges but one of the toughest by far has been No Shopping November. For the entire month of November I set out to not spend a single dollar on anything other than essentials. For me, this meant I could purchase food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, gas for my car, etc. But no clothing, electronics, accessories, home goods, or any other unnecessary extras. Sounds pretty easy right? Oh wait.... No shopping in November? As in now Black Friday shopping? Yep, that was the idea. Now as I was coming up with my list of essentials, I did run into a few things I felt were a bit in a grey area. For example, I can't buy shoes, but what about running shoes if my current pair is in desperate need of  replacement (as they were)? Or what about entertainment? Can I pay for going to see a movie? And if not, would that mean letting someone else pays my way to the theater count too? After much discussion with any of my friends who were willing to lend their opinions, I created an "acceptable grey zone" list. Here are things I felt acceptable exceptions to the no shopping (but you may disagree):

  • Entertainment: This should really be entertainment with an asterisk. I decided entertainment within reason would be okay because it's an experience. So I could purchase my own movie theater ticket or entrance to the Portland Art Museum, but I couldn't buy anything unnecessary or excessive, like $600 tickets to Hamilton or the Harry Potter DVD box set.
  • Alcohol: Not really a grocery necessity but we concluded it was okay, again, within reason. Six pack of beer for the football viewing party? Sure. Case of wine? Umm.... unless this 2 Buch Chuck and you're in charge of wine for all Thanksgiving guest, no. That $100+ bottle of aged Japanese Whiskey you've been eyeing? Haha... nice try Gretchen, but definitely not!
  • Running shoes: Because I run a lot, and running in worn out shoes increases me risk of ankle rolling and causes knee pain in my very finicky left knee, I decided this would be an okay purchase (but only one pair.) I didn't make it out to the Nike store until December 1st, so I ended up not utilizing this exception.

You might find yourself wondering why I decided to stop shopping for a month? There are two main reasons really: 1) Frustration with the commercialism of holidays and standing against the ugliness of consumer culture. When really analyzing what's important to me over the holidays and what makes me feel a little more stressed, I realized I'd have more time to enjoy the important aspects (for me) of the holiday season if I opted out of some of the shopping stuff. Additionally, while I'm fine with grocery stores, etc., being open for part of the day on Thanksgiving, Black Friday sales that start on Thursday (or even midnight Thanksgiving night) makes me quite angry. (I could go on a rant on why it makes me angry, beside the fact that it can't technically be a Black Friday sale if it's Thursday, but I'd rather just express my disapproval by not participating or shopping at ANY establishment that advertises such sales.) Companies with Thanksgiving day shopping sales go on a list I keep, and I refuse to shop there all year round. 2) This reason is more personal: As a freelance writer, I was always really good at living with less and staying within a budget. But than, once I started making a lot more money, I found myself being more careless and cavalier with it. By not shopping for a month, I hoped to help kick that, and return to my much responsible shopping habits (we all have things we can improve on in life, right?)

No Shopping November was a little rocky. It started off great and wasn't that difficult over all. Issues really started to pop up on Black Friday though. By end of the day, I had received about 90 emails about sales from the just under 10 brands I receive emails from. Temptation was high. While I did resit long enough to get all the way through Black Friday without breaking, I didn't make it the whole last week. I broke down to take advantage of a sale to grab something on my gift list at a holiday price since the sale was ending before December. I did try to hold out as long as I could, but I ultimately decided I'd sacrifice my pride in the name of substantial price savings. Though I broke to pick up a present for someone for Christmas, I did not let that negate my efforts to avoid shopping for the rest of the week. I did wait until December 1st before doing any personal shopping (I tracked a few things I had my eye on and one sale happened to be still going on.)

Since I technically failed at my quest to No Shop November, I've become resolute in being successful in this next year. The concept and the reasons behind why I'm taking this particular month off from shopping are still import to me. We'll see how strong my will power is to avoid Black Friday pricing in 2018. I have faith that I can redeem myself and become a stronger shopping holdout than I was this year. Perhaps next year I'll even get people to sponsor my No Shopping November and we can donate the money we would have spent shopping to charity.

 Photo by Tristan Colangelo on Unsplash