Piggy bank representing no-spend January
At the end of 2023, I decided to sit down and carefully audit my finances. I was eager to understand my spending and saving habits to make changes before the new year. Within a few minutes of eyeballing a year’s worth of credit card transactions, it was easy to see that most of my purchases happened on Amazon. I knew that I turned to the app when I needed quick buys, like household items or last-minute gifts, but I had no idea how much I was spending every month.
After totaling it up, I had the facts in front of me. In 2023, I purchased over 300 items and spent over $7,000 on Amazon. I was shocked. In an effort to spend half of that amount this year and curb my online shopping impulses, I decided to commit to not using Amazon at all in a "no-spend challenge" in January.
Inspiration for the No-Spend Challenge: My Impulse Spending Was Out of Control
When I looked over all of my Amazon transactions for 2023, it was clear that over 50% of them were impulse buys. In the middle of my work day, I’d browse the site, add a bunch of things to my cart, and hit the buy button. A few days later, a handful of packages would arrive at my door and my memory could hardly recall what was inside of them. The ease of buying things on the website often made me purchase items on a whim.
I easily spent over $1,000 on items last year that I’ve never opened or used, from a karaoke microphone that looked fun for a girl’s night to a motivational knit potato that I bought when I was feeling down because it looked cute. I needed to put an end to browsing and buying so I could significantly lower my Amazon balance this year.
What Happened When I Did the No-Spend Challenge in January
I Didn’t Think I’d Be Able To Do This
When I set out to make January a no-spending-on-Amazon month, I truly didn’t think I’d be able to do it. By the second day of the month, I found myself on the website adding things I thought I really needed to my cart. I didn’t want to cave and ditch the challenge, though. I was eager to not repeat my spending habits from last year.
I put strict boundaries in place and asked people in my life for help. First, I actually blocked the website on my computer by changing a setting in my internet browser. I also deleted the Amazon app from my phone. In case I was tempted to access Amazon on my husband’s phone or computer, I asked him to change our account password and not tell it to me. That way, he could help me make it through this challenge without finding a sneaky way to access the site.
I Wanted To Break My Shopping Habit as a Whole
By the end of the first week of January, I realized that shopping on Amazon had become a habit that was part of my daily routine. At least three times a day, I’d find myself browsing a handful of websites to take a break from work. Amazon was at the top of that list.
When I didn’t allow myself to go on the website, I found myself trying to go to other online shopping websites instead. That’s when I noticed that if I wasn’t going to shop on Amazon, I was going to exercise this habit somewhere else.
In order for me to take a break from spending on Amazon, I realized I needed to also stop all other online shopping. I wanted to put an end to this excessive online spending habit. I added a few more websites to my browser’s blocked list.
As of January 5th, the challenge was no longer about not spending on Amazon, it now included not spending online at all.
I Started To Think Twice About Purchases
Instead of browsing websites and buying items the second I needed them, this challenge helped me slow down. I was now forced to think deeply about the purchases I was making. Every week, I kept a notepad next to me and would write down truly essential items that I needed to buy.
On Sunday, I would head to those stores and make those purchases. I noticed that because I had time to really think through these items, I would end up buying less than I would online.
Because Amazon makes it so easy to add things to your cart, I’d find myself just putting in anything that came to mind. Now that I’m more intentional about what I need and have time to think through those purchases, when I finally head to the store, I’m only buying what’s on the list because I know it’s really what I need.
It Helped Me Stick to a Budget
In 2023, I was spending around $600 a month on Amazon buying miscellaneous items like household essentials, gifts, clothing and random impulse buys.
Realizing how easy it was to splurge each month made me realize I needed to set and stick to a much lower budget instead. This will allow me to be more intentional about my purchases and won't give me a chance to make any impulse buys.
Thoughts on Spending for the Rest of the Year
By the end of January, I didn’t find myself missing online shopping as much as I thought I would. Aside from convenience and quick delivery times, I enjoyed creating a list and being intentional about having one in-person shopping day a week.
When February starts, I will go back to using Amazon but will integrate a lot of habits that I picked up from this challenge. I’ll only allow myself to have one shopping day a week and will stick to a $250-a-month budget for essentials.
Being able to save more money in 2024 is a financial goal I’m sticking to. So if I find myself going back to my old ways, I’ll incorporate another challenge like this to reset my spending habits.