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Want to spend less money this year? Try a minimalist low-buy or no-buy period

Select spoke with YouTuber Christina Mychas about how people can use a no-buy or low-buy period to save money and spend less.

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The Mint app has shut down as of Jan. 1, 2024. For alternatives, check out CNBC Select's ranking of the best budgeting apps.

With 2022 underway, you might be feeling the pressure to create a New Year's resolution: Maybe you ate out too frequently last year and you're still behind on paying off your credit card bills. For many, a new calendar year might be the time to save more, reevaluate spending habits and cut down on excessive shopping. 

If you're interested in getting your finances in order this year, you might try implementing what's called "a no buy or low buy" period. During a low buy or now buy period, people restrict their spending for a certain amount of time. No buy and low buy is popular in the minimalist movement, which is a lifestyle movement focused on buying less, decluttering and only purchasing and keeping items that bring you personal value.

Below, Select looks at how people can make financial resolutions they can actually stick to and how to successfully cut down on excessive spending and shopping by using a no buy or low buy period. 

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Making a successful no buy or low buy New Year's resolution

New Year's resolutions help us identify what we want to improve about our lives. However, not meeting those resolutions can sometimes leave us feeling like we've failed ourselves. Even taking small steps towards our goals can still make us feel inadequate if we're not accomplishing our goals outright — like when we hit the gym twice a week instead of our plan of going four times a week.

While you may be sick of making promises to yourself that you can't keep, there is a way to make a no buy or low buy New Year's resolution you can actually follow. 

If you're making New Year's resolutions with an extrinsic goal — which may be related to appearance, materialism, and power — you're less likely to keep those resolutions, Dr. Richard Ryan, professor at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at Australian Catholic University, told The Cut. If, however, you're making resolutions that focus on your intrinsic motivation for personal growth, community and fulfilling relationships, you might be more likely to stick with it.

So if you're struggling with paying off your student loan debt or have accumulated more 'stuff' than you actually need, consider what's motivating you to pay off your debt or to cut down on your excessive shopping. 

Do you no longer have enough room in your apartment to store your stuff? Do you want to start investing for your child's education? 

Once you've identified why you're doing a low buy or a no buy period, you'll want to set a clear, realistic and achievable goal for yourself, says Christina Mychas, a YouTuber who participated in a low buy period between 2019 and 2020 and still practices minimalism. You'll want to figure out whether you want to do a no buy period or a low buy period. 

A no buy period is more restrictive than a low buy period. With a no buy period, you're only allowed to spend money on essential expenses like food, rent, transportation and healthcare. With a low buy period, you can also spend money on discretionary expenses, but you set restrictions on certain areas of spending. 

For example, your low buy rules may be that you're allowed to eat out no more than twice a week, that you can buy replacement toiletries and that you can purchase one used clothing item a month.

You'll then want to set a time frame for your no buy or low buy period. You'll want to think about what's realistic for you. Will you be able to refrain from purchasing new clothing for an entire year or is three months more doable for you?

Mychas emphasizes that the goal of a low buy or no buy period is not only to achieve your financial goals but to change your mindset around shopping. After your no buy or low buy period, you might be more intentional about your purchases and may be able to delay instant gratification by waiting to make new purchases.

She also recommends that people treat themselves with compassion and empathy when doing low buy or no buy. If you find yourself spending money you weren't supposed to, don't view the setback as a reflection on your character. Instead, people should return to their intentions and reframe their rules so those guidelines are more moderate and less restrictive, says Mychas.

Whenever you do end up making purchases, it's a good idea to track how you're spending by using a budgeting tool. By tracking the purchases you do make, you'll be fostering a more intentional attitude around spending.

If you like seeing all of your expenses and the date of purchase in a spreadsheet, you could opt for Google Sheets which provides budget templates with third-party add-on software that fills in details about your financial transactions. Or, consider Mint, a free app that allows you to sync your bank account and credit card, so you can get a complete picture of your finances in one app.

Lastly, you may be able to find a community of people partaking in this challenge to hold yourself more accountable. Mychas covers how to stick to a low buy period on her Youtube channel, and she drew inspiration from YouTubers Hannah Louise Poston and Use Less. There are also groups on Facebook and subreddits where people share their own setbacks and successes when doing low buy and no buy.

Bottom line

New Year's resolutions can be a fraught topic for people who feel like they're not able to stick to their goals. However, if you're looking to save some money or to cultivate a more intentional mindset around shopping and spending, partaking in a no buy or low buy period could be a good option for you, you'll just have to be kind to yourself in the process.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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