How I Saved $600 in a Month With a Shopping Ban — and How You Can, Too

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I never thought of myself as a shopping addict. But if I’m honest, I’m pulled into sales gimmicks easier than I’d like to admit.

It’s hard to resist those “Free Gift With Purchase” items. There’s always a promo code you can use. Coupons make things less expensive. I’m basically saving myself money, right?

Wrong.

But I know I’m not alone. In 2010, the average American household spent over $700 on shopping, according to CreditLoan.

It was time to take charge of my spending; after reading about the benefits of a shopping ban, I decided to try one of my own. A no-spend month seemed easy enough — but it was a lot harder than I thought.

8 shopping ban tips to get you started

A shopping ban can be a great experiment — even if, like me, you don’t think you have a spending problem. But diving in without knowing what you’re getting into could set you up for failure.

The point of a shopping ban is to save money, but also to track your spending and notice patterns so you can learn from them. If you’re thinking about trying one yourself, here are some shopping ban dos and don’ts to help set you up for success.

1. Make a list of approved items

It’s easy to forget the difference between needs and wants — and that can get you into trouble.

Your first step is to create a list of approved items you’re allowed to purchase during your shopping ban. Here’s what mine looked like:

  • Bills and utilities
  • Food
  • Toiletries and cleaning supplies (that I’m absolutely out of)
  • Anything bought with a soon-to-expire gift card that I already have
  • Items needed for an upcoming trip (not clothes or bags, but real necessities)
  • Work expenses (only if I’m reimbursed in full)

I was pretty general in my list. If I were to do it over again, I would be more specific (and add more rules).

For example, I could have included “sunscreen” on the list instead of “items needed for an upcoming trip.” That way, I wouldn’t put myself in a position where I try to justify a purchase I shouldn’t be making.

Keep your needs in mind and don’t deprive yourself of the basics, such as bills, food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and clothes you must replace. (If you have holes in your socks, don’t go without — buy some new socks!)

2. Set realistic goals

Some people successfully complete year-long shopping bans, but you don’t want to burn out right at the start. Start with a month-long ban. After you successfully complete one and feel motivated enough to do another, you can move on to a 90-day ban, 120-day ban, and so on.

The month you decide to do it matters, too. I missed out on Record Store Day in April because I failed to realize it was during my shopping ban.

Don’t pick a month where it will be too difficult for you to abstain — if you have a vacation planned or out-of-town guests visiting, for example, it may be harder to meet your goals. Set yourself up for success by carefully choosing your no-spend month.

3. Tell your friends and family

Let everyone know that you’re doing a shopping ban. Tell your mom, your spouse, your sister, your best friends, your kids, your neighbor, your co-workers — everyone you interact with regularly.

This is helpful for a couple of reasons:

  • You’ll be held accountable. This will ensure you’re sticking to the ban and not giving up.
  • Your friends and family will know not to invite you on shopping sprees while you’re doing the ban.

Who knows? Maybe someone will even want to take part in the ban with you. The buddy system works wonders when it comes to accountability.

4. Watch out for triggers

Quitting shopping is similar to quitting smoking. Your shopping habit may be an addiction, so pay attention to what triggers you to shop.

One of the triggers I discovered during my spending freeze was that bored shopping is a problem for me. I was working at a cafe one day that happened to be right next to a Target and TJ Maxx. I wanted so badly to “just go look around” — but, luckily, I didn’t. An innocent trip to simply browse could have easily resulted in me blowing $200.

Avoid putting yourself in a position to be triggered. Whether that means staying away from your favorite mall or avoiding Amazon altogether, a simple change in routine can help you fight the urge to needlessly shop.

5. Unsubscribe from store emails

You probably receive tons of emails sent to you daily from your favorite stores. It’s great to know when those stores have special sales or when that item on your wishlist is finally 50 percent off — but it’s also dangerous.

Even social media can be detrimental. Don’t let Instagram pull you in with their ads or with what your friends or celebrities have. If you’re trying to save money — or, in this case, not spend any at all — these reminders will only sabotage your efforts.

Unsubscribe from all of those emails before you begin your shopping ban. You’ll be glad you did.

6. Find a new hobby

I soon noticed shopping was a vice of mine: I shopped when I was bored, I shopped as a social activity with friends, and sometimes I even shopped online at two in the morning after a couple glasses of wine.

Instead of shopping, pick a new habit. When I did my shopping ban in April, I started walking a lot more. Maybe you decide to take a cooking class or take up knitting. Perhaps you take your kids to the park or plan a Netflix night with your friends.

Ditching your old habit for a healthier one will help you successfully survive a shopping ban.

7. Don’t go into a spending frenzy once it’s over

I cannot stress this enough: Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. After your shopping ban is over, don’t immediately buy everything in sight to make up for lost time. You’ll ruin the point of the whole exercise.

Think of it this way: If you lost a bunch of weight, you might want to reward yourself by adding certain foods back into your diet. But if you’re not strategic about it, the next thing you know, you’re sitting in your car in the Whole Foods parking lot, eating an entire cheesecake.

Same goes for spending money. Once your spending freeze is over, it’s OK to make some purchases now and then, but don’t go overboard.

8. Put what you would have spent in savings

I saved about $600 just by doing a shopping ban for 30 days. That surprised — and embarrassed — me. Little things add up.

During your spending freeze, every time you have the urge to spend money or see something you wish you could buy, write it down. Document what it is, how much it would cost you, and why you have the urge to buy it. Then, put the money you would have spent into a separate savings account.

This way, you’ll have something to show for all your effort. After resisting the urge to buy everything you want, it will feel amazing to have that extra money in the bank — proof that you worked your butt off and overcame temptation.

A successful shopping ban

By sticking to your budget and saving more money than you spend, you can ignore the tricks retailers use to try and make you spend more.

Although I might never go a whole year without spending, what matters most is what I got out of my first shopping ban. I realized the key to spending less wasn’t promo codes or the deals — it was shopping less and saving more.

Sure, it’s easier said than done. But I think everyone should try a shopping ban once, just to learn more about their spending habits. I saved $600 in a month — and you can, too. Just think about what that could mean for your savings account.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal LoansFixed rates from 7.08% APR to 15.37% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.81% APR to 14.11% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of August 10, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.81% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. Terms and Conditions ApplySOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS #1121636.
    (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 34.49% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

7.73% – 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
5.81% – 15.37%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
6.87% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upgrade
8.00% – 25.00%2$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
4.99% – 29.99%3$10,000 - $35,000Visit FreedomPlus
5.99% – 18.99%4$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
15.49% – 34.49%5$2,000 - $25,000Visit LendingPoint
6.16% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.49% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000Visit Earnest
9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000Visit Avant
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.