How To Spend Less Money With A Low Buy Year

low buy year


In our current consumer-minded culture, it’s easy to fall into reckless spending habits, so I decided to try a low buy year to help me creak them. This is how the low buy challenge helped me transform my spending habits and changed the way I think about money.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I gained a lot from taking on the low buy year challenge for myself. It helped me reframe my spending habits and focus on what truly matters to me.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Defining A Low Buy Challenge

Defining A Low Buy Challenge

A low buy year, month or week is all about understanding, transforming and reducing spending habits. Low buy doesn’t simply mean buying less, but rather making fewer meaningless purchases, and choosing to spend money only on the things that truly matter.

A low buy challenge helps you analyze the difference between needs and wants, so you can ultimately save money and make smarter financial choices.

Advice For Creating Low Buy Year Rules

Advice For Creating Low Buy Year Rules

With any new challenge like the low buy year, I’ve found that setting specific guidelines makes things easier, not harder.

set parameters for shoppingDeep down, I’m not a fan of stringent rules and regulations (in fact, I’ve reworked my whole life over the past 10 years so I could march to the beat of my own drum), but I do find that sometimes they help me get things done and accomplish my goals.

When I did my low buy year, I took some time well before I ever started to set the exact parameters that I wanted to follow. While this created some extra work for me on the front end, I knew that it would keep me from caving in to spending more money.

Ambiguity allows us too much room to make rules up as we go. By being specific and creating boundaries, particularly in writing, you set a precedent for yourself that is black and white. You draw a firm line in the sand. I’ve laid out some advice to help you get started with creating rules for your own low buy year.

minimalist rules to live by

Identify Your Purpose

The first and most important thing to do when creating your own low buy rules is to identify why you want to try the low buy year in the first place. Pinning down the purpose for your experience will help you to create rules that make the most sense for you. It will help you cater your parameters to the personal spending goals that you have for yourself.

Check Your Bank Account

Before you start the low buy challenge, take a look at your bank and credit card statements and make notes of the things that you spend the most money on each week, month, or year.

There’s no way to be intentional with the low buy challenge if you don’t know where your money is going! Being aware of what you spend the most on will help you to create rules that make sense for you. This step also gives you a realistic idea of where you stand financially so you can create an accurate budget.

minimalist budgeting

Decide Which Spending Categories To Focus On

Now that you know exactly where your money is going, use that information to decide which categories you should limit. If you eat out four nights a week, maybe you know your low buy year will focus a lot on food. If you go on a mega shopping spree every Saturday, maybe impulse buying is where you need to cut back.

Create Rules That Work For You

Create low spending rules that make the most sense for your life and current money habits. Rules could be anything from a cap on the amount of money you can spend on clothes each month, to a number of days you’re allowed to eat out (I like cooking Monday through Thursday and eating out only on weekends), to the type of stores you’re allowed to buy from (think less Amazon, more thrift stores).

After doing a deep analysis of your life, habits, desires, and where you spend the most money, the rules that make the most sense for you should fall right into place.

Examples Of Low Buy Rules In Day-To-Day Life

Examples Of Low Buy Rules

It’s important to think about the ways you will apply your low buy rules in each specific spending category in your own life. I’ve found that it’s best not to try to do too much too fast. Shooting from 0 to 100 overnight isn’t going to be sustainable or pleasant, so don’t make rules that do this either.

dining out every weekWhat I mean by this is if you know a huge amount of your spending goes on fast food, don’t make a rule for yourself to never eat out. Make the commitment to reduce the time you eat out from four nights a week to two nights a week. This will still mean spending less overall. However, if you only eat out one night a week as it is, cutting eating out altogether might make sense for you.

If you set the bar too high from the beginning, you will immediately feel less satisfied, lose morale, and be unmotivated to stick to your plan. Setting goals that make sense for you will help you stay encouraged. The beauty of the low buy year is that it is entirely flexible to you and your own spending habits.

Here are some of the rules I used during my low buy year. Make sure to set parameters that challenge your current lifestyle, but that don’t completely deprive you.

building good habits

Low Buy Clothing Rule Ideas

Low Buy Clothing Rule Ideas

Clothing and accessories are one of the biggest spending categories in many people’s weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets. A low buy clothing rule may look like giving yourself a spending limit on every shopping trip, only shopping at secondhand stores and thrift stores, or only using hand-me-downs as new clothing.

Personally, I was able to go my entire low buy year without purchasing any new clothing. However, I don’t have a super complicated wardrobe, so I wasn’t spending a ton of money on clothing to begin with. Remember, set parameters that make sense for you.

minimalist personal uniform

Dining Out On A Low Buy Challenge

Dining Out On A Low Buy Challenge

Eating out is another major category for excess spending that can easily be cut back. Again, the limits you set for this category should coincide with your life now.

When I did my low buy year, I decided to stop buying fast food altogether and only dine-in at nicer restaurants for special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. I started cooking a lot more, which did a lot for my wallet over the course of the year.

minimalist diet

Buying Décor With Low Buy Rules

Buying Decor With Low Buy Rules

Furniture, décor, and those must-have kitchen appliances are another spending category that can suck a lot of money from anyone’s budget. Some ways to reduce the amount you spend on furniture, decorations, and other household appliances is to shop second hand, build things yourself, or claim your loved ones’ hand-me-downs when they buy new ones.

If you’re living a minimalist lifestyle, you won’t be buying flashy décor frequently anyway, but you can take this another step further. I set a rule for myself during my low buy year that I wouldn’t buy a new version of anything I didn’t try to fix or repair first. Usually, I could repair my old furniture or build my items anew before I had to break the bank.

minimalist house

Entertainment And The Low Buy Challenge

Entertainment And The Low Buy Challenge

We often spend more money on items that entertain us than we initially think. This can include anything from shiny devices to brand new books to streaming service subscriptions to gaming sets and games. One way to refrain from spending so much on entertainment is to find things we enjoy doing with the items we already own.

Take a fresh look around your home in a more intentional way and take notice of the things you have in the house that could spark a new hobby or good time. Maybe you want to make good use of your pots and pans and try out some new recipes. Does your backyard landscaping need tending to? Is there an exciting book you already own that you can read before buying a new one?

digital minimalism

Low Buy And Giving Gifts

Low Buy And Giving Gifts

Of course, there’s going to come an occasion where it’s necessary to get a gift for a family member, friend, or loved one. When I did my own low buy year, I often made the conscious decision to give the gift of experiences over the gift of physical items.

When a birthday or special occasion comes around, I may choose to take someone out to dinner, go to an event together, or take a trip. None of these gifts involve buying more “things.” You can spend even less by making friends and loved ones handmade, sentimental gifts with items you have around your home.

clutter free gift ideas

Tips For Navigating Your Low Buy Year

Tips For Navigating Your Low Buy Year

I won’t sugarcoat it, committing to a full low buy year can be a real challenge, especially when you’re used to a certain kind of lifestyle or plan to spend a very different amount than you have in the past. When I tried my own low buy year, I had some systems in place to help me stick to my guns.

Remove Temptations Before You Start

Remove Temptations Before You Start

If there’s one thing that makes a low buy year a challenge, it’s the temptations of consumer culture. We may not even notice how many “buy this right now” subliminal messages we receive every day until we make the effort to avoid them.

unsubscribe from tv subscriptionsFrom email subscriptions, to TV ads, to our social media algorithms, there are so many sources telling us to buy from different brands and companies. When I did my own low buy year, I took the time to remove these from my line of sight before I even began.

This meant unsubscribing from email lists, spending less time on social media, and watching movies on DVD or subscription services without ads every fifteen minutes. Doing this really helped me refrain from unnecessary temptations during a challenge that’s already hard enough without the reminders.

Keep A Wishlist Of What To Buy Later

Keep A Wishlist Of What To Buy Later

Creating a wish list as I went was one of the best tricks that helped me survive my low buy year. Every time you have an impulse to buy something that exceeds the limit you’ve set for yourself, write it down.

Keep your wish list somewhere you won’t lose it, but don’t keep it in a super visible location either (this could backfire and make you even more tempted to splurge). At the end of your low buy year, pull out your wish list and think through if you still genuinely want the things on it, or if they were just impulsive desires.

Find An Accountability Partner

Find An Accountability Partner

Every challenge is easier with a teammate! Another way to help you stick to your word when doing a low buy year is to find someone to do the challenge with you. Not only will this make you feel less alone, it will also give you someone to bounce alternative ideas off of, gain encouragement from, and confide in when the low buy year feels insurmountable.

Recite Or Write A Gratitude List

Recite Or Write A Gratitude List

When undertaking a low buy year, it’s important to keep your “why” in sight. I found it really helpful to take just five or 10 minutes out of my day to recount the things I was grateful for. If I took this time in the morning, I would think about the things I was grateful for from the previous day. If I did this ritual at night, I would think through what I was grateful for from the current day.

Sometimes this involved writing things down, other times I simply listed things out loud. Whichever method I used, I think recounting my blessings made the entire low buy challenge easier for me. I think it’s pretty easy for us to get caught up in feeling like we need the next big thing, the most expensive gadgets, or the newest gizmos.

how to find contentment
Taking a little bit of time to intentionally think about what I already have helped me remember that I have more than enough for a good, full life. It helped me navigate my low buy year with ease instead of struggling, so I could adopt spending less as a lifestyle rather than a burden.

Low Buy Year Verses No Spend Challenge: Which One Is For You?

Low Buy Year Verses No Spend Challenge

Another popular minimalist challenge like the low buy year is the no spend challenge. These are similar challenges, but they don’t have the exact same rules. So how do you decide which one is best for you and your own life?

no spend challengeIn a nutshell, both challenges are methods to help you rethink your relationship with money, rework your spending habits, and save lots of money in a given year.

The main difference is that with the no spending challenge, you are committing to cutting out excess spending of any kind from your life and only using what you already own.

In contrast, the low buy year really just focuses on cutting back how much you spend in each category of your life and reworking your habits to follow a stricter budget.

It’s the lighter, simpler version of the no spend year. Figuring out which one is right for you depends on how hard you want to go in the paint.

Is A Low Buy Year Worth It?

Is A Low Buy Year Worth It

I learned a lot during my low buy year, mostly about the impact that consumerism has had on me, despite being intentional with my spending habits in my regular minimalist life. If you’ve never tried a challenge that encourages you to spend less than you do regularly, a low buy year might be a great place to start.

While the whole concept may seem restrictive at first, the purpose truly isn’t to deprive you or teach you that spending money is wrong or bad. The exercise is simply meant to reframe the way you think about spending money and help you reevaluate your spending habits around buying only what you need. I think anyone can benefit from giving it a try!

reflecting on whats important

Your Turn!

  • What will you cut out during your low buy year?
  • How can trying a low buy year improve your life?
1 Comment
  1. If I did this, it would be for the mindfulness aspect. I feel like I already don’t shop for fun, but every now and then I kinda binge shop (my excuse being that I hardly ever shop…). And I do eat out more than I need to. I also will buy stuff for projects that I fully intend to do, but never seem to get around to. There are good reasons for this, but still, the money is gone and the items just sit there. I love the idea of a wish list. It’s like reverse window-shopping.

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