If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably seen me describe myself as an "aspiring minimalist" at least once in the last couple years, ever since I tried spring-cleaning with the KonMari method and some strategies for shopping less. One of these strategies was writing down all the non-consumables I purchased so I could better track how much I was spending on what. Looking back on a year's worth of data about my random purchases has been both enlightening and appalling, to say the least, and I'm sharing details today along with pie charts (because yes, I am type A and proud of it) in the hopes it will help you on your journey towards living with less.
What's a non-consumable?
In this post explaining the method behind my madness, I started out by tracking non-consumables, which I defined as: "Anything that's a trifle or an unnecessary purchase that's not meant to be consumed or used up; in other words, it's something I don't strictly need that's going to stick around for a long time. Groceries, toilet paper, AA batteries, shampoo, or a green juice from Whole Foods don't count. A lipstick, a fancy scented candle, furniture, or a T-shirt do count."
As the year progressed though, my accounting became more erratic because sometimes I simply forgot to write down an item. (For example, I only remembered I'd bought a rug while telling my husband about this post and asking him for help with pie charts.) Then there were the purchases that seemed to defy classification, like e-books and music: I wasn't buying something with a physical artifact, but did these count as non-consumables? Sometimes I wrote these down, sometimes I didn't. I input my wedding shoes and silky getting-ready robe but not the rhinestone sash. You get the idea.
Despite a few slips here and there, I tried to be as faithful as possible in recording my purchases. And while the final amount I spent on "stuff" might vary a couple hundred dollars, the percentage ratios below are more or less accurate.
The high-level numbers
Clothing comprised the biggest chunk of my discretionary shopping at 77%, followed by "household, decor, and books" (19%) and "beauty/wellness" (4%). When I looked closely at the entries in every category, I realized:
- I still spend a lot more on clothing than anything else. That was really surprising for me because I felt as though I'd been spending more on decor what with redoing our patio and redecorating our living room. Plus, I didn't have that many new clothes. It turns out that yes, I did have more new clothes than I thought, but not in the categories I traditionally think of (more about that in a minute).
- My beauty/wellness spending would probably be much higher if not for beauty blogging. Thank you, PR samples!
- My aromatherapy spending shot up. It went from non-existent to a couple hundred, which seems insane. As I noted in my Saje Pocket Farmacy review though, I use these products every day and they really do soothe my minor discomforts.
My clothes shopping in 2016
The pie charts speak for themselves, don't they? If you look at the first chart breaking down my clothing spend in dollars, you'll see that I'm spending most of my money on clothes and shoes. But when I broke it down by item counts per category in the second chart, clothes and shoes comprised a smaller number of items overall. I like to think these are encouraging signs that I am learning to shop more thoughtfully, especially when I reflect on the purchases behind the numbers:
- A lot of my clothing purchases were functional, like socks and underwear and workout wear (43% of total items purchased).
- A big chunk of my clothes spending went towards replacement. I replaced outerwear that didn't fit anymore, three pairs of jeans that simultaneously tore beyond repair (I know because I got them patched and they tore again in the same spot), and worn-out tees. These are categories I'm willing to spend more on because I know they're investment items that get worn constantly.
- I only bought 4 pairs of shoes this year: 3 pairs of sneakers that now get worn everyday, and my Stuart Weitzman sandals for the wedding.
- The frequency of my shopping skyrocketed during the fall/winter. There are a bunch of reasons for this and they're not very pretty. The long dark days and unusually snowy winter made going out a dreadful prospect, so I was spending a lot more time indoors in stores and online shopping, where I was constantly drawn to thick cozy sweaters because it was so damn cold outside. The hormone medication I was taking for my health condition made me sleepless and emotional. I was working on a big project that made me feel more stressed out, and when that happened my willpower waned and I'd feel the urge to treat myself for working so hard. And then there are all the temptations when you're a blogger putting together gift guides or shopping for Christmas presents for others. Gah!
Looking ahead to 2017
I've definitely made progress with not buying things "just because," but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Here are my consumer goals for this year, in no particular order:
- Stop buying underwear, socks, and workout wear. If last year's metrics are any indication, I have plenty and they're in great shape!
- Reduce the number of clothing items I'm buying overall. If something wears out this year, I'm going to see if I can do without before taking the plunge and replacing it.
- Avoid shifting my shopping into other categories because I feel "deprived" over not buying clothing. That's another reason I thought my decor and household spending was higher than anticipated: Sometimes when I'd feel tempted to buy a shirt, I'd buy a candle or hand lotion instead because it was meant to be used up and therefore not as "bad." It's still consumption though.
- Get out of the "You deserve a treat" mindset. It seems when I'm dealing with one or two things I can handle it by working out more or turning to an experience, but in the face of stressful and/or dispiriting stuff from all directions I still turn to retail therapy. To be honest, I don't know how to deal with this, but at least I'm aware of it now.
Writing down a year's worth of purchases is admittedly weird, but it has taught me so much about my own consumption habits and where I could do better. (When I told the husband about it, he was fascinated and horrified. "I don't even want to know what I spent in a year!" he said with a shudder.) Minimalists out there, I'm curious: Have you ever tried this or is it something you would do?