6 Reasons Why A “Not Buying Anything” Challenge May Not Work

Not buying anything

Is a "not buying anything" challenge right for you? It can be a great way to jumpstart your savings and cut back on excess spending. But trying to buy nothing new for an extended period of time is not for everyone.

In this article, we discuss why you might not want to participate in a not buying anything challenge and what might work better for you instead!

What is a buy nothing new challenge?

There are various challenges involving cutting back on your spending. In general, a not buying anything challenge is exactly what it sounds like – not buying anything (other than essentials) for a set period of time. It could be a no-buy year, or month, or just a week.

Whatever the time period, anyone taking part in one of these challenges agrees to cut out all excess spending.

That means the only thing you can purchase during the challenge is something that is truly necessary, like groceries or basic personal hygiene products. And, no, if you’re really sticking to the challenge, makeup doesn’t count as essential!

Six reasons why a not buying anything challenge may not work well for you

While we love a buy nothing new challenge just as much as the next person, it’s certainly not for everyone. Here are six reasons why this sort of challenge might not be the best idea for you:

1. A buy nothing new challenge might be too restrictive

If you stick to the challenge rules, you might find that it’s quite restrictive. On the one hand, it can definitely help you keep your spending in check.

You’ll likely find that there are things you usually buy without a second thought. With this challenge, when you stop to think about whether something’s a necessity, you will often realize it isn’t.

Then again, there will be things you do put thought into that you still really would like to get but can’t because they aren’t “essential.”

For example, you wouldn’t be able to get your niece a birthday gift if it fell during a no-spend challenge. Maybe you could make her a gift instead, but what about an event that comes up during your challenge period? Would you be ok skipping a friend’s concert because you can’t spend the money for a ticket to her show?

These restrictions can really throw your life out of balance. While it might save you money, you have to consider what you are giving up. How that might negatively affect other parts of your life (like your mental health).

2. Can cause negative emotions

Speaking of mental health, another reason you might not want to participate in a no-buy challenge is because it can cause negative emotions. This really depends on your nature and how you react to challenges like this.

Are you always hard on yourself? If so, how would you feel if you “failed” at the challenge? If not following all of the rules perfectly would cause you distress, it’s probably healthier for you to sit this one out.

Likewise, if you have a somewhat addictive or obsessive personality, this type of challenge might not be the healthiest for you. Those with obsessive tendencies might take the challenge to the extreme and to their detriment.

Everyone has a different definition of what is essential, and if you decide you can only “win” the challenge if you cut out everything from your life, you could harm your well-being in the process.

3. Not buying anything can promote a scarcity mindset

If there’s one thing you don’t want to have when you’re working toward a money goal, it’s a scarcity mindset. Restricting yourself and not buying anything for an extended period can cause just that sense of lack.

When you go through life with a scarcity mindset, you are always thinking of the negative. Of all the things you can’t afford. Of all the things you shouldn’t buy.

It’s the opposite of the mindset you want to have – one of financial abundance.

This type of thinking can be exacerbated by a no-buy challenge. During these challenges, if you constantly live in the negative and think about all that you lack or can’t buy, you can hurt your finances.

This might have the opposite effect of what you want – repelling money instead of attracting it.

4. Can cause you to go overboard once the challenge is over

Just like a crash diet doesn’t necessarily work, neither does a no-buy challenge. Have you ever come off of a diet and gone overboard eating all of the foods you’d restricted yourself from?

Similarly, if you restrict yourself from spending on anything, once you go back to normal, you might end up overspending.

If all the money you saved during a challenge is spent the day after the challenge is over, then it didn’t really serve much good!

This is something to consider before starting a challenge if you think you might fall into this restrict and binge trap.

Additionally, a no-buy challenge might not be the answer for those who have problems with spending or those with a shopping addiction. If you do, this challenge might seriously backfire when it’s over or if you quit it.

Those with real shopping addictions are better off seeking professional help for their addiction rather than trying “fix” themselves by participating in a challenge.

5. Doesn’t necessarily help you track your finances

Not buying anything new for a week, a month, or a year will certainly help you save money. If that is your short-term goal, a challenge might be great for you.

But, if you are looking for a sustainable way to get your finances on track, this might not be the best option.

When you stop a no-spend challenge, will you have learned anything from it? Perhaps, but it depends on how you complete the challenge.

Some people end the challenge not having learned much and go right back to their old spending ways. For them, it would have been better if they had spent the time devoted to the challenge instead learning how to budget or invest.

6. Not buying anything is not realistic for the long term

Lastly, a "buy nothing new" challenge is simply not realistic for the long term for most people. For some, it is not even realistic for a short amount of time.

The process of completing a challenge is quite arduous. The rules are strict. Not being able to purchase anything new for a sustained period of time is simply unsustainable for most people!

Even if you can follow the rules for a little while, it’s not a long-term solution for your financial challenges.

Luckily, there are other ways to take the spirit of a no-buy challenge and make it work for you, like…a low-buy challenge!

Try a low-buy challenge instead!

So you’ve decided that a no-buy challenge isn’t right for you, but you still want to live with less. What can you do? Well, a great alternative to try is a low-buy challenge.

A low-buy challenge is way less restrictive than a no-buy one. It gives you more flexibility to make a challenge that works for you.

Basically, you make your own rules. You decide what you want to spend on and where you want to save.

For example, you might decide that you want to spend no more than $50 a month on lunches out at work, rather than your usual $150. That’s much less restrictive than not allowing yourself any lunches out, but it will still help you save at least $100 a month.

A low-buy challenge is much more like setting a budget and sticking to it than restricting yourself entirely. Here are some benefits of a low-buy challenge:

Teaches you how to be mindful of your spending

A low-buy challenge can teach you to be mindful of what you spend your money on. Not only that, but because it offers you flexibility, you can adjust your spending based on what you’ve become aware of during the process.

When you really think about what you are willing to spend and for what, you become aware of what matters to you.

You start to understand what you actually need and what “wants” are important to you.

Balanced and sustainable

A low-buy challenge is more likely to result in a low-buy lifestyle than a buy nothing new challenge.

Because it’s balanced and not restrictive, you’re more likely to make changes to your spending habits that will follow you even after the challenge is officially over.

A low-buy challenge often results in sustainable changes that you can take with you way beyond when the challenge ends and help you live a more sustainable, financially-free life.

Not buying anything new is not for everyone and that’s ok!

For some people, trying to buy nothing new for a month or even a year is a fantastic way to get their finances in order. For others, though, it’s not the right choice.

If any one of the above reasons resonates with you, but you still want to cut back on some spending, consider a low-buy challenge instead.

Another option is to consider other money-saving challenges or ways to cut back on expenses without completely quitting spending.

You might find that not only will you save money in the short term, but your finances will be forever changed for the better!

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