How to Survive a Shopping Ban

Shopping rocks: you can trust us when we say that no one knows that better than us. But as much as we love to shop, sometimes there comes a time when shopping for fashion has to take a back seat to some of the other, arguably more important things in life. Whether you’re putting yourself through college, starting a family, or saving up for that house, holiday or pension fund, every now and then there comes a time when a shopping ban starts to seem like a good idea.

But how on earth do you survive one?

How does a fashion-obsessed shopping addict get through a shopping ban without breaking down and hitting the shops hard? Well, we can’t promise you wont ever be tempted, but here are some things to try…

how to survive a shopping ban

Remove temptation

When it comes to surviving a shopping ban, you COULD go for a “look, but don’t touch,” approach. But the fact is, you’ll only end up making yourself feel bad about all those pretty, shiny things you just can’t have, so if it’s at all possible, we’d recommend simply staying out of temptation’s reach. You don’t necessarily have to freeze your credit card inside a giant ice-cube, Becky Bloomwood style, but take a couple of hours to unsubscribe from all of those sales alerts and shopping related emails (20% off at your favourite store? Will you REALLY be able to resist?), stay away from the mall, and avoid reading fashion blogs. (Except this one, obviously. Unsubscribe from this one and sorry, but we WILL have to shoot you, shopping ban or not…)

Clear-out the closet

If you’re anything like us, you probably have more clothes than you really need, and just THINK you have nothing to wear. Just to be sure, pull everything out – and yes, we do mean EVERYTHING – sort through it, and decide what to keep and what donate/bin/whatever. Not only will you discover items you’d forgotten you had (which feels a bit like shopping for free…), paradoxically, less can start to feel like more once you’ve had the chance to organise things properly, and in such a way that you can actually see what you have. Be ruthless, and get organised. Before you head to the charity store or rubbish dump with the clothes you’re getting rid of however…

Organise a clothing swap

Think you’re the only one with lots of clothes you no longer have a use for? You’re not. And one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure, so before you dismiss those old clothes entirely, call some of your friends and organise a swap. Not only will your unwanted clothes go to a loving home, you’ll be essentially shopping without spending: what’s not to love?

Keep your eyes on the prize

Whatever the reason for your shopping ban, it can really help to make it tangible, so it can serve as inspiration. Pin a photo of that new house or fabulous holiday destination somewhere you’ll see it every day, and be motivated by it. If your shopping ban is motivated by the need to pay off debt, or put money into a savings plan, imagine how you’ll reward yourself when you reach your goal (Make sure it isn’t something so huge it’ll land you right back where you started…) and use that as your motivation instead. Every time you feel tempted to make a purchase, go back to your photo and remind yourself of your goal.

Allow yourself small rewards

On the subject of rewards, although it seems sensible to simply go cold turkey and declare that you’ll never shop again, it’s important to be realistic. Denying yourself absolutely EVERYTHING you love can be demotivating enough to make it much easier to quit, so make sure there’s some room in your budget for the occasional small treat, to be doled out once you reach specific targets: a certain amount saved, say, or a number of weeks without shopping. Again, just don’t go crazy, and “reward” yourself with a shopping spree at  Net-a-Porter.

Make yourself accountable

Not everyone wants to share their personal business with everyone they know, and personal finances are exactly that: personal. By declaring your intention to stop shopping for a certain amount of time, though, you’ll make yourself accountable, and be less likely to cheat. You don’t have to take out a billboard in Times Square for this purpose, either: even telling a friend about your shopping ban, or simply writing it down somewhere could be enough to make you feel like you’re answerable to someone (even if that “someone” is yourself…)

Take your mind off it

Still feeling the lure of the mall? Mouse finger itching to feel the click of the “add to basket” button? It’s time to employ some distraction techniques by acquiring a new hobby: ideally a free one, which doesn’t take you anywhere near the mall. Whether it’s taking up running, joining a team or club, either make the time to re-discover an old hobby or start a new one. Then keep on doing it for as long as it takes for the shopping itch to subside…

Anyone survived a shopping ban? What are your survival tips?

Image © Macsuga | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images


  • March 25, 2013


    My tips: throw out any catalogs without opening them. I get a few catalogs that if I even look, I want, so when shopping isn’t on, the catalog must go out.

    I also make use of eBay watch lists and saved searches. Maybe I won’t buy it right away, but I can save a search and only buy when the price is right. Searching completed listings gives me an idea of a good price range, so I know when something is a really good deal. Adding stuff to my watch list – or ‘favorites’ on Etsy – feels like shopping, without the cost. Pinterest might serve this same function, but I haven’t explored it yet.

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  • March 26, 2013


    For me and probably many others, bans backfire and lead to binges. In order to survive periods where I’m low on funds, I have to do exactly the opposite of what is suggested here and window “shop” often, surround myself with catalogues, and browse the internet blogs and shops frequently. I do agree with the “small rewards” bit though!

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  • March 26, 2013


    Great article!!
    I’m starting to get clever at my shopping ban, I have a few tips: never look and stare at something too expensive you could never afford, but look at cheap stuff, since even in the cheapest store you will find something pretty (and it’s an easy reward). When I feel the urge to shop something new (and I feel it) I go get accessories like a small bijoux, a beret or a straw hat, some fun tights…. When I walk in the shops, I look at the blogs, etc. I do it for inspiration and to see if there’s something back in fashion I might already have and forgot, or a new way to pair something that is already in my closet…. I usually get out the shops without buying anything. And get tons of remixing inspiration at the blogs.
    But then sometimes I see something I like… I let pass by a few days and see if I still “remember” about it (and I usually don’t!). Sometimes I ask the shop to keep it for a few days to decide… and usually I don’t get back (it works like impulse shopping, without the actual buying!). But some times I get obsessed. I have plan B: if it’s online, I keep looking at it until I get sick of it (and it happens more than you could think!) or if it grows and I feel like I really really really need it (which is rare!), at that point, and just at that point, I go get it.
    Please don’t think I’m crazy, I just am at a shopping ban since I have no money to spend! 😀

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