In 2019 I am focusing on having a ‘low-spend’ year. It’s not quite a ‘no-spend’ year, but it’s realistic for me. I hope it will help me save money and spend out on things that bring me real happiness.
If you haven’t heard of a no-spend year, it’s basically when you commit to not buying anything new, other than from specific categories or against certain criteria that you have set. It’s typically used to help curb people’s clothes or beauty shopping habits by turning it into a challenge.
A low- or no-spend year focuses on only buying necessities, and encourages you to really thinking about your purchases. I want to spend 2019 saving money so that I can reduce clutter in my home, spend money on travel and experiences, and pay off loans and have some saved for a ‘rainy day’.
In my low-spend year, I am aiming to be conscious of what I’m buying and ask myself if I really need the item or whether it ‘sparks joy’ (à la Marie Kondo). One of the best ways for me to do that is to dramatically cut my spend on ‘fast fashion’ by instead only shopping in second-hand or vintage stores, or supporting independent, small businesses.
Although I don’t think I’m particularly a ‘shopaholic’, I do enjoy clothes and fashion. It certainly plays a big role in shaping my identity. However, I was getting bored of losing time scrolling endlessly through ASOS or spending money on trend items that I would shortly find myself bored of.
Since December, I have only bought from vintage shops or stalls and it has been so refreshing. I know we’re only 2 months into the year at this point but I’m already enjoying it so much and want to share some of the perks of shopping second-hand, in the hopes that it might inspire you to give it a go!
The thrill of the find
Second-hand shopping can become a bit like a competitive sport as you root around for the best items at the lowest prices. There’s something exciting about finding that perfect item in a shop knowing that there’s only one and it’s in your size. It feels like it was meant to be!
Feel the value
Unlike the ease and convenience of finding something in a well-known brand (which you could find in any store), finding a second-hand item helps you to really value it because it’s never guaranteed what will actually be available. After hunting for a new piece and eventually finding it, you’re much more likely to treasure it as a rare find for your wardrobe and take care of it.
Depending on where you shop, you can find some great bargains by shopping pre-loved items.
In many vintage stores you can find items that you would otherwise have to pay a lot more for if they were in a big brand shop. You can continue to style your wardrobe and identity, without a big price tag attached.
…and save the planet
Not only are you saving money but you’re helping cut down on the clothing ending up in landfill sites. You’ll also reduce your contribution to the demand for fast fashion (inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers) which exploits workers with incredibly low wages, adds to the second biggest polluter of clean water globally, textile dyeing, and endangers wildlife with harmful materials such as plastic.
Read this important article on the environmental costs of fast fashion by the Independent for more information to help you understand the true cost of fast fashion to animals, people and our planet. It seems that there’s little more than financial gain at the root of this culture.
Discover unique, exciting pieces
You’re more likely to find really unique pieces that you wouldn’t find in big brand shops by shopping second-hand. Whether that’s old styles that you can’t easily find any more or DIY/up-cycled pieces that have been transformed, they add something special to your wardrobe.
For example, one of my favourite pieces in my own wardrobe is this DIY bleached Harley Davidson t-shirt from a small business selling from a tent at a community festival in Fishtown, Philadelphia. It’s creative, unique and there’s a great story behind it which I remember every time I wear the t-shirt… you don’t get that with a t-shirt hanging on the rail of a mass-market retailer.
Explore your style
I think there’s a lot more scope to play with your own style when you shop at vintage or second-hand stores. I am, personally, more likely to try on the ‘odd’ items that you wouldn’t look twice at in a big brand shop. You find new ways to work these items into your wardrobe, and can play around with how you make something unique part of your every-day style.
Be more discerning about how you spend
When you buy in a big brand shop it’s easy to pick something up, because of it’s price and easy accessibility. If you only wear it once, it’s cheap so it doesn’t matter. If you don’t like it, you can always bring it back with the receipt. But, how many of us end up with closest full of clothes that we don’t really like, care about, or know why we bought them? How many of those ‘maybe’ items were never returned and are still sat there with tags on?
I have certainly done this before, and been that person. However, since de-cluttering my wardrobe (and donating approx. 5 bags of clothing to friends, family and charity) and changing my shopping habits, I have found that I am much more conscious of what I am buying and why.
When you only have items you love in your wardrobe, it’s easier to be more critical about the new items you add into it. With a full wardrobe, you can shove a new jacket it and forget about it pretty quickly. However, with a more curated or streamlined wardrobe, any ‘regrettable’ purchase would be easy to see.
When you spend the time and effort on making your wardrobe a selection of items you love, you only want to add new pieces to it that will make you happy when you see it on the rail. Otherwise, what was the hard work and rooting around for?
Of course, second hand shopping isn’t always easy or straight forward. It might take you a while to find an item you need, or you might struggle getting used to this change if you enjoy shopping with friends in high-street stores.
Changing your shopping habits is a process that takes time, but in the long run you’ll be helping to make fashion more sustainable – not only for your budget, but for the rest of the world.
Look good and feel good? It’s a win-win.