I pretty much followed a similar formula as summed up perfectly on Zen Habits Buy Nothing Challenge.
As a retail therapy junkie I found it an incredibly confronting challenge which made me realise my motivations to shop. Thankfully I've never been one to buy things on credit and kept it well within my means. But I did use it as a way to soothe my emotions. To treat myself when I was feeling stressed or blue. As a way to congratulate myself on a job well done. I bought gifts to show people how much I loved them. Because I just plain wanted something impulsively. Often once the rush of the purchase was over, I'd almost immediately feel buyers remorse later.
So to help myself in the challenge I turned off all of my email subscriptions, set myself a savings goal and kept myself distracted with friends and family, my new blog and anything else that didn't involve shopping. My mantra became 'just because you like it doesnt mean you want or need it'. I honestly didn't fully recognise at the time just how hard this whole experience was going to be.
First I realised how impulsive my purchases were. I became aware of the burning desire that crept up underneath my skin when I went shopping. Tempation was the devil and it was lurking deep inside of me. I found on some days I had to drag myself away literally before I was corrupted.
I made it hard for myself to shop. I no longer picked up a basket but held my mobile phone in one hand to make it really difficult to pick up more than one item. I banned myself from shopping websites. I banned myself from sales racks, shopping malls and op-shops. I wrote lists constantly of the things that I wanted as a way to help myself get through the emotions behind the motivation, to acknowledge the impulse and then let it go. I did a lot of breathing and counting down from 10 when I felt the temptations too strongly.
I became more present in the moment of shopping by asking myself a lot of questions. I was able to reassess what I really needed. Could I just make do with something for a little bit longer? Do I really need this item right now or could it wait until 2013? Do I already have one at home? Do I want it because I like it? Will I actually use it? A lot of the time I realised that I enjoyed the giddy rush of the hunt more so than the actual item itself.
I purchased only two unnecessary items during the entire challenge. I felt terrible and was honest with myself by telling my friends and family what I had done. Each slip up gave me a chance to learn from the mistake, assess my emotions at the time of purchase and be more motivated to not do it again. I found the desire and impulses to buy slowly diminished over time as I formed new habits.
So I did it, I went 2 whole months without shopping! I reached my savings goal and my bank accounts are looking peachy. Today for the first time in a long time I let myself go crazy and shop. I was able to reassess my needs and wants and was able to talk myself down from buying all the things that I'd been cataloging in my mind since the challenge started and instead bought one new dress to celebrate.
It has made me realise what is truly important in life does not include the things that you wear or the objects that fill your house. But simpler things like a relaxed and loving family, laughing with friends, challenging yourself to be a better person and striving to make a difference in the world or your little community. All of these things in the end are worth more to your life in the long run.
(image from the thecalmgallery.com if you are interested!)