How I Survived a Clothing Shopping Ban

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Last year I did something strange. I went on a self-imposed clothing shopping ban. After years of believing that my favorite hobby was shopping, I somehow managed to go an entire year without buying a stitch of clothing for myself, and I’m going to be honest with you: it wasn’t even that hard. In fact, the whole thing was almost accidental.

In January 2015, I decided to track my annual clothing expenditures for the year so I could pinpoint what I realistically needed to spend on clothing for an entire year. This also coincided with the start of my turn to minimalism, and the two events ended up meshing quite well together. After assessing what I already owned and loved and realizing that I had enough to last me for a (long) while, I ended up buying no new clothing for the year and making do without a few things I thought I wanted, with only one exception (which was a bridesmaids dress for a wedding I was in.)

If you’re thinking about doing a shopping detox of your own, before you put your closet and wallet on lock-down, consider these tips on how to survive a clothing shopping ban.

Clean Out Your Closet


I know it seems counter-intuitive to think about cleaning out your closet before starting a clothes shopping ban, but I think it’s a crucial step to surviving a shopping ban because it will help you pare down to your favorite pieces as well as force you to be honest about your past shopping mistakes.

We’re all guilty of only wearing about 20 percent of our clothing the majority of the time, and cleaning out the items that you don’t wear because they don’t fit you well, because they’re uncomfortable or because they’re just not your style will help make more room for the clothes that you do love to wear.

Opening your closet to see only your favorite clothes will help you curb your desire to shop because you’ll be happier with what you already have and you’ll always feel like you have something to wear.

This will also give you an eye-opening realization of how much money you’ve wasted in the past on low-quality impulse purchases that you’ve picked up online or at the mall. It’s kind of like taking account of all your expenses for the first time; it helps you see what you’re actually spending. It sucks to throw out items you’ve rarely (or never) worn, but if you clean out your closet before your ban, it’ll force you to be real with yourself about how much money you’ve blown on poor clothing purchases and help remind you why you need to do a ban in the first place.

Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe


Because I am the queen of unsubscribing, I get exactly zero emails from clothing retailers. I also don’t subscribe to any fashion magazines or blogs that encourage me to spend more money or change my style every season.

I don’t need the temptation and neither do you. Before you start your clothes shopping ban, unsubscribe from any and all marketing campaigns that manage to land in your inbox. Save your future self from the agony of temptation now and you will thank yourself later.

Take Care of What You Already Own


Another important step to a successful shopping ban is to take great care of what you already own and love. That means re-wearing clothing that’s not dirty yet (I do it, and I’m pretty sure I don’t smell), washing most of your clothing on the gentle cycle and line or air drying when possible, because washers and dryers are really hard on clothing.

All of these preventative measures will collectively help preserve your favorite pieces of clothing that you already own, and save you money during the shopping ban.

Don’t Deprive Yourself of Basic Necessities


If you set out to do your own clothing shopping ban, especially if it’s a year-long venture, then you should be proud of yourself. You are taking a great step towards breaking your consumerist tendencies, and that’s a very worthy goal. But don’t be so rigid with it that you end up depriving yourself of basic necessities.

While shopping when you don’t need anything is always a bad idea, if you find that you really need new underwear or socks during your ban, or if your only pair of workout shoes develops a hole in the toe, then by all means, go out and buy yourself what you need.

This is not about deprivation but about breaking bad shopping habits, and replacing some holey socks with a new pack probably isn’t going to set you back from your ultimate goal of curbing your poor shopping habits.

A clothing shopping ban is a great way to curb spending tendencies. Here's how my clothes shopping ban saved me money and be minimalistic.

When You’re Done


Once your shopping ban is over and you start buying new clothing only when you need it, commit to only buying quality pieces from here on out, even if it costs you a little more now. Source them from reputable companies or (my personal favorite way to shop) from second-hand consignment shops where you can find tons of quality pieces at affordable prices. This is honestly one of the best ways to not only get what you need at reasonable prices, but also to fake an expensive wardrobe.

Now that I feel like I’m “cured” from wanting to buy new clothes all the time, I don’t see what the draw was for me before, because today I actually dread going shopping when I need something. I am proof that it is absolutely possible to change bad shopping habits, and if you’re considering your own clothing shopping ban, I’d highly encourage you to start now. It might just be easier than you think.


Are you thinking about doing a shopping ban? What is holding you back? Have you ever done a shopping ban before? What was hard for you about the process? 

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Robin McDaniel

Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog says:

    Unsubscribing to retailer promotional emails is a huge one. I have a second email address that I use just for those promo emails so that I am not constantly bombarded with sales.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      It was huge for me, too. I really don’t miss them or the temptation! Now I only buy stuff when I need it, and not just when it’s on sale.

  • Liz says:

    These tips all work for me as I have kind of adopted most of them after I noticed how many things I have bought in the past that didn’t look good or fit right and ended up in the Goodwill box. I still give myself a $600 a year clothing and shoe allowance but end up only spending about $200. I work at home and have found that work-out clothes and medical scrubs are practical and economical everyday clothing choices. Plus I can run to the grocery store or gym in them.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      $200 per year on clothing is amazing, Liz! And I’m with you on the no-fuss, everyday clothing. Now that I work from home, I rarely dress up and instead opt for jeans or shorts and a t-shirt. It’s too comfy!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I think you are right on with the unsubscribe tip. If you are constantly getting those deal emails you are bound to eventually give in. I know because I’ve been there and done that!

  • Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    I haven’t challenged myself with clothing shopping ban. I think I would one of these days or this year as I am aiming to hit saving my 30%-40% of my income, and this challenge would help me get there.

  • Ramona says:

    I’ve banned myself from clothes shopping, even if it wasn’t a conscious choice. I just have enough stuff to wear and since I work from home, I really don’t need too much stuff anyway.

  • The Finance Games says:

    I gave myself a clothing budget as well, and I’m finding that it really curbs my appetite for online shopping sprees – I really think about each purchase and how it fits into my life and wardrobe, and so a set budget turned into accidental minimalism!

  • Emily @ JohnJaneDoe says:

    Going through my closet last fall and paring down showed me how many of my impulse buys were really unwise. There were a lot of clothes that weren’t worn often or didn’t fit well (and never had). I don’t think I’ve bought any clothes since, and have tried to adopt an “if something comes in, something needs to go out” mentality.

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