How I quit shopping—and what I learned from it

Budgeting by values

One decision led a 20-something on a journey to financial confidence. Through saving, investing, and living mindfully, she’s changed her money mindset and is focusing on her future.

After years of living abroad and in New York City, Becca had accumulated a lot of stuff—and a penchant for shopping. But after getting clear on her values, she quit shopping and decluttered her home and life. Now, her lifestyle allows her to travel the world, save for her future, and thrive in the Big Apple.

Several years ago, I asked myself a very important question: If I had a closet full of clothes, why was I still shopping every day on my lunch breaks?

I’ve always loved a good sale, and in my 20s, going out to eat was my way of socializing. It’s very easy to spend money in a place like New York. (Food! Transportation! Entertainment! Rent!) But at a certain point, I had to take stock of my spending and all the stuff I’d accumulated.

I made a quick and final decision to stop shopping. I still popped into stores on my lunch breaks, but I wouldn’t try anything on or take out my wallet. After this decision, the greatest change wasn’t in my bank account—it was in my mindset.

Why I quit shopping

In my 20s, I knew that I needed to save money for the future. But the future—like retirement—seemed really far away. But I had three experiences that gave me a wake-up call and pushed me to start making decisions with my future in mind. Here’s why I stopped spending so much and decided to adopt a minimalist lifestyle.

1. My stuff was out of sight, out of mind: At 22, I moved to Shanghai—the global heart of manufacturing—for work. There was so much good shopping, and I had a big apartment that could easily fit all of my finds. But when I moved back to the United States, I packed only the most important things and mailed everything else home. I knew that shipment wouldn’t arrive until months later, and when it finally came, I realized I hadn’t missed any of it. Even worse, I realized that some of it didn’t fit me or was actually of terrible quality. Plus I had spent a fortune to ship it across the world—more than the items themselves were worth. 

2. I traveled long-term: In 2017, my husband and I started a travel and lifestyle blog called Halfhalftravel as a hobby. In 2018, we were lucky enough to be able to scale back our full-time jobs to go part-time and remote so that we could focus more on our blog and traveling. This gave us time to travel the world for 10 months and see four continents. 

When we were packing for our travels, we knew we could only take what would fit in a large backpack. So, we stopped buying new things, sold some of our stuff, and put other things in storage. As we were working remotely around the world, we realized these experiences—not things—are what’s most important to us.

3. I went paleo: The paleo diet focuses on eating clean and cutting out processed foods. I found it easier to stick to the diet when I cooked for myself at home. The few times I would go out, I’d limit myself to just one drink: a glass of red wine. My health and my money were my two priorities now, not socializing over expensive dinners.

Making those changes helped me save money, which gave me a ton of confidence. For the first time, I felt in control of my spending and comfortable managing my money

Transforming from a materialist to a minimalist mindset

After I reduced my spending, it was a relief not to feel the pressure of “keeping up with the Joneses.” I realized no one cared about the brand of jeans I wore. And my friends were just as happy to split a bottle of wine in my apartment as they were to go to a trendy rooftop bar.

Not mindlessly shopping was also easier once I adopted an attitude of gratitude. Reflecting on what I already had, rather than things I wanted or what I saw on social media, was a game changer. I was grateful to have the basics: shelter, food, a stable income from my blog and my job, and a supportive partner. Everything else, like my business, extra income from casual hobbies, and the ability to travel, was just icing on the cake.

With these mindset changes, I began to build a more intentional life for myself and spend my money mindfully. I learned about investing and personal finance and turned my attention to building wealth for my future. I took all my energy that had gone toward shopping and eating out, and I put it into tracking my net worth and investing in the stock market and ETFs. And let me tell you: Taking control of your finances feels great.

How I’ve leveled up my financial confidence

One decision changed my life for the better. Here’s what I do now that I’ve kicked my shopping habit to the curb.

Invest: I started taking investing seriously. I looked at my 401(k) as a vehicle for supporting my future and I made sure my savings goals were aligned with my renewed focus on mindful living. My approach as an investor became all about sustainability and ensuring my long-term success. I’d ask myself: What can I do today that can help me 40 years from now?

Educate myself: After I opened my eyes to the world of investing, I learned as much as I could. I read books. I listened to podcasts (1,100 hours of them, according to my 2021 Spotify Wrapped). I followed personal finance content creators—especially ones who focus on women and money. I learn best by listening, but I encourage you to figure out what works for you. Now, investing is a hobby for me—one that my husband and I can bond over.

Talk about money with my partner: It’s so important to be financially compatible in a relationship, and I’m grateful to have a partner who supports my money mindset and prioritizes our future as much as I do. We talk about our finances as a couple and actually have fun working on our financial future together. It’s been a 180 for me. At one point, I felt out of control with my money. Now, I have multiple streams of income and know where my money’s going. Plus, my partner and I are like teammates working toward our common goal of financial freedom.

Declutter: In 2019, I discovered a new hobby: selling my stuff. I started small with just a few clothes, but I loved the freedom that came with it. More cash and less clutter? Win-win. Since my husband and I started, we’ve sold 340 items and have made $10,000. (Full disclosure: Some of it was from selling high-end photography gear. We didn’t make $10K selling T-shirts.) Decluttering our home has been a cool way to make money together and get rid of things that don’t, as Marie Kondo would say, “spark joy.” In fact, it brings me joy to get rid of things and have more cash on hand, to boot. This hobby, plus our Halfhalftravel side hustle, allows us to earn more money while doing what we love—together.

Avoid lifestyle creep: Living in a city like New York can be expensive, but it helps to live within your means. Even as we increase our income, my partner and I try to keep our habits consistent. This makes it easy to budget—and it means our entrepreneurial journey is smooth sailing instead of a month-to-month financial rollercoaster.

Cutting down on my shopping and spending (and the mindset shifts that came with it) helped me gain control over my money, and I started feeling so much better. Feeling good about your money can be addictive: As you see your wealth and your savings grow, you’ll want to do more and more to find financial freedom.

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