Are you thinking of doing the no new clothes challenge for 2023?
Today I’m sharing how I survived not buying clothes for a year and the 8 lessons I learned along the way.
But first, let’s cover what exactly is the no new clothes movement and why you might want to try it.
Table of Contents
What is the no new clothes challenge?
The no new clothes challenge is when you pledge to not buy new clothes for a certain period of time.
This could be for 30 days, three months, six months, a year, or longer – it’s up to you!
The rules are simple. You can choose to not buy ANY clothing, shoes or accessories during the challenge, or you can decide to shop secondhand if you need to buy something.
For this challenge, these are the guidlines that I followed:
- I will not buy any new items of clothing, shoes, or handbags for a year, including secondhand items.
- Essentials like underwear and socks are an exception to the above.
- If I find gaps in my wardrobe, I will make a list of items that I can purchase once I finished the clothing challenge.
You can adjust the rules to match your lifestyle and goals.
How can I be stylish without buying new clothes? During the no new clothing challenge, I shopped my closet and repurposed items that I already had. This is the best way to practice sustainable fashion and be stylish without spending money.
Why I did the no new clothes challenge
The first reason why I bought no new clothes for a year was because I quit my job to go back to school.
While I was working, I saved up enough money to cover my tuition and travels. Once I quit, I didn’t have an income anymore and I needed this money to last for the next year until my graduation.
The second reason why I did the no new clothes challenge was because I was addicted to shopping and needed to go cold turkey.
This meant no more shopping or buying unnecessary stuff. I wanted to transistion to a minimalist lifestyle and use what I already owned.
Initially, I was just thinking about not buying clothes for a month. But I knew that a month wasn’t long enough for me to really see a positve impact. That’s why I challenged myself to buy no new clothes for a year.
In the past, I thought that I lived within my means and tried to make mindful purchases. However, it seemed like EVERY SINGLE WEEK there was another excuse to shop online and buy new clothes.
My BIGGEST spending trigger was sales and exclusive promotions.
- Half-off those designer shoes? – Yes please!
- Zara is having a sale? – Don’t mind if I do!
- Free shipping on every order, plus receive an additional discount off sale merchandise? – You don’t have to tell me twice!
It was an addiction and I couldn’t control myself. Moments before I clicked the “buy now” button, I got a rush of excitement. Then I became obsessed about tracking my package and that feeling of anticipation that it was on its way.
If you want to learn more about how to identify your spending triggers and get to the root cause of why you shop, consider checking out my new e-book, The Intentional Spender.
I absolutely loved the feeling of buying something new. Having a new work outfit or a new dress to wear out with friends gave me such a high. It was a temporary source of happiness and I felt richer than I actually was.
But that’s exactly what it was – I was creating a false sense of wealth that came through cheap and easy consumption.
I didn’t even wear all the new clothing and accessories I was buying. I bought things just because they were on sale and I didn’t want to miss out on a good deal.
It became all too familiar for me to wear something once, get bored of it, then tossed it in my closet and never looked at it again. It was such a waste of my hard-earned money and time.
Yes, I know that shopping with a credit card, buying unnecessary things, and having a closet full of clothes is a privilege. Choosing to stop buying clothes for a year is a privilege. Choosing to quit my job to go back to school is also a privilege.
My overspending was sabotaging my future success and I needed to stop these bad habits. The truth is – I hated the way post-shopping made me feel.
It was exciting to shop, find a deal, and buy it. But afterwards, I felt frustrated and guilty about my spending.
I kept telling myself that “I deserved it” – that I worked hard and deserved to treat myself. But doing this no-buy challenge showed me that I also deserve better.
I deserved to invest in my future by improving my spending and taking responsibility for my finances. There was no knight in shining amor coming to save me. I needed to save myself.
I didn’t have an income when I quit my job. This forced me to track every single expense in my Budget Planner. I could no longer hide from (or deny) my previous spending habits.
Each time I was tempted to spend money on clothes, I would immediately transfer the money I would have spent on them to my savings account. This helped me to actually see the benefits of not buying clothes.
Creating a plan for your money is the first step in taking responsibility for your finances. Below are the same budgeting worksheets I used to help me break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, stop buying unnecessary things, and save my first $100,000 in my mid twenties. If you’re interested, you can grab them here.
I immediately unsubscribed from every shopping website so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy anything. I missed shopping a lot, but I was determined to stick to the no new clothes challenge.
Whenever I was tempted to buy something, I always asked myself, “Do I really need this? What else could I do with this money?” Whenever it came to clothing and accessories, the answer was always the same: I don’t need to buy this.
I’ll be honest with you, it was SO hard to stop buying new clothes in the beginning. But saying “no” gave me a sense of empowerment.
I stopped caring about trying to keep up with the latest trends. Eventually, it started to become easier to resist the temptation to shop.
One thing that I kept reminding myself was this – my money has a job and it’s not to be spent frivolously. I realized that I had lots of perfectly good clothes at home and I didn’t need new stuff right now.
This was a HUGE change from my previous shopaholic mindset. For example, when planning a vacation in the past, I would always buy a new wardrobe for my trip. It was an easy excuse to go shopping! Can you relate?
This meant if I was going to a beach destination, I would buy new sandals, swim suits, dresses, tank tops, shorts, and so on. It was pretty ridiculous.
During my no-buy year, I learned how to get better mileage from my existing wardrobe by shopping my closet.
This can help you wear more of your clothes (instead of buying more stuff) and allows you to get creative while finding your personal style.
If you want to learn more about how to overcome a shopping problem, check out my free audio training.
Benefits of not buying new clothes
- If you stick to the challenge, you could potentially save A LOT of money. In the past, I used to spend up to $1,000 a month on new clothes, shoes or handbags. By doing this challenge, I saved over $10,000! This was huge for me!
- You’ll feel more grateful and not take what you have for granted. Because I was not buying clothes for a year, I was able to focus on getting better mileage from what I already had.
- You’ll discover your own personal style. By using items that I already had, I learned what I enjoyed wearing (things that felt good and flattered my body) and what I didn’t enjoy wearing (trendy pieces that didn’t match my personality). This helped me to be more intentional when shopping after finishing the challenge.
- Your relationship with clothes could change for the better. In the past, I used shopping as a way to cope with stress and boost my mood. When doing this challenge, I found healthier ways to manage negative emotions and was able to identify my triggers for buying. This helped me to stop buying clothes to impress others and foucs on building my fantasy self with action instead of material stuff.
If you want to learn more about how to successfully do the challenge and shop more intentionally, consider checking out my new e-book, The Intetional Spender.
With all that said, here’s what I learned from not buying new clothes for a year.
- How to do a low-buy year successfully
- Why do I buy new clothes and never wear them?
- 5 reasons why it’s so hard to stop shopping + how to fix it
1. Buying experiences brought me more happiness than buying things
Buying a new outfit or pair of shoes always made me feel good initially. But that feeling of happiness wore off pretty quickly.
Spending money on experiences though, such as a weekend getaway, brought me happiness during the planning stages, happiness during the actual vacation, and happiness afterwards when reminiscing about the trip – even a year or more after the experience had happened!
That’s pretty incredible! Plus studies have shown buying experiences brings us more happiness than buying things. I’ve learned to let go and not base my self-worth on material things. Below is a guide on how to stop buying friviulous stuff.
Read Next: How to stop impulse buying for good
2. When items are out of sight, they’re out of mind
What you see is what you’ll wear. If something is tucked away in the back of your closet, it probably won’t see the light of day. Am I right?
When I used to gravitate towards the same old favorites, it felt like I had nothing to wear. However, once I spent time decluttering and organizing my closet, I discovered lots of items that I forgot I owned.
How can I improve my style without buying new clothes? Shop your closet!
If you have a wardrobe full of clothes, but feel like you have nothing to wear, I encourage you to try my 30-Day Shop Your Closet Challenge. Each day for the next 30 days, follow the different themes to help you put together a fun outfit. If your goal is to not buy clothes this year, then you’ll definitely find this challenge helpful!
The best part is, this challenge is completely free to try! This is your chance to get creative by using items you already have. There’s no need to buy anything new. This can be a great way to get better mileage from your wardrobe.
If you’d like more guidance in getting started with the no new clothing challenge, consider checking out my e-book, The Intentional Spender: Why We Buy So Much Stuff and How to Stop. I’ll walk you through the entire journey of your shopping hiatus. From helping you set your goals, to decluttering your wardrobe, to understanding and managing your shopping triggers, and learning how to shop with intention.
3. I became more productive
Because I wasn’t spending my spare time shopping online or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I became more productive.
I focused on my studying for school, traveled more, and read more books – all of which brought me more happiness than shopping.
If I need to buy something, such as for traveling or a new hobby, instead of paying out of pocket, I use Swagbucks to earn free gift cards. If you’re not already a member, you can join for free here. Make sure to verify your email so you can start making money right away.
Another great way to distract yourself from shopping is to start a side hustle in your spare time. I started this blog as a creative outlet when I was doing the no new clothing challenge. Now I make a full-time income from this tiny blog! It’s pretty amazing how special blogging can be.
If you’re interested in learning more about starting a blog, check out this in-depth tutorial on how to get your blog up and running in minutes.
For my fellow Canadians, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start a successful blog in Canada. Below are some more creative ideas to make extra money:
- 24 things you can sell to make money right now
- 15 fun hobbies that make money
- 25 easy ways to make money from your phone
4. I learned how to take better care of my clothes
Before doing my shopping hiatus, I didn’t take the best care of my clothes. In fact, I’ve shrunk quite a few sweaters in the dryer and accidentally turn a white blouse pink in the wash. Oops!
Once I learned how to proper take care of my clothes, it’s helped me save time, money, and extend the life of my clothes. It also helped me learn how to be grateful for the things I already owned. Here are some laundry tips for washing your clothes:
Read the label – I know it sounds obvious, but many of us forget to read the label on how to care for our garments. Or worse, we remove the tag before reading it! Knowing if something is dry-clean only or needs to be washed on the delicate cycle is important for making your clothes last longer.
Use a delicates bag – When I first started doing laundry, I learned the hard way that some items need to be washed in a delicates bag. These mesh bags help protect delicate fabrics in the wash, such as lingerie and socks.
Use a drying rack – Using a drying rack like this one can be a great way to make your clothes last longer. Some materials will last longer when you hang-dry them instead of putting them in the dryer.
Reduce the amount of laundry detergent – Using too much detergent can make your clothes more dull and stiff. It can also discolor your clothes or leave a residue on them, which isn’t good. I like using this natural laundry detergent.
Use better hangers for your clothes – The best way to hang clothes is to use wooden hangers. I use these for my heavier items, such as jackets. For lighter items, I use slim velvet hangers to save on closet space. Using the same hangers in your closet looks better and makes it easier to find your clothes, because everything is hung evenly.
For more tips, check out this in-depth guide I created sharing 20 ways to make your clothes last longer.
5. I learned the truth about fast fashion
When I stopped buying new clothes, it helped me become more aware of what and how I consumed. I wanted to know where my clothes came from, what they were made of, and how my shopping choices impacted the environment.
I watched The True Cost documentary, which was eye-opening about the fashion industry. Here’s some interesting things I learned from this documentary:
- The fashion industry is the second largest polluter, right behind the oil industry.
- One in six people work in the global fashion industry – the majority being women earning less than $3 per day.
- The world consumes nearly 80 billion pieces of clothing per year (up 400% from two decades ago).
- Only 10% of the clothes people donate to charity and thrift stores gets sold. The rest usually ends up in landfill.
6. Keeping stuff “just in case” is silly
While doing the no new clothing challenge, I learned that all those “just in case” items laying around in my wardrobe weren’t beneficial. They were just taking up precious space and making me feel guilty that I wasn’t using the items.
Here’s the thing – if you don’t love something, let it go. If you love something but don’t use it, make a plan to wear it in the near future. Every day is worth celebrating.
If you’re holding onto something hoping that it will come back in style, let it go. When stuff comes back in style, it’s usually given a makeover and updated to the current trends.
If something fits too small or too big, let it go. Unless you plan on getting it tailored to fit properly, it’s not worth keeping.
If you’re saving something for a special occasion, wear it now. Don’t wait for a moment that may never come. Life is short, so celebrate now!
Below is a simple step-by-step guide on how to declutter your clothes.
7. I have enough. I’m not missing out on new stuff
When I started the no new clothing challenge, I struggled with FOMO (fear of missing out). However, once I got involved with more productive activities, such as starting this blog, my FOMO quickly disappeared. I was able to put that extra energy into growing my blog and boosting my income.
Seeing friends, family or fashion bloggers buying new things didn’t make me jealous anymore. I recognized that buying new clothing wouldn’t make me a better person, or more likeable. It was just a means to create a false sense of wealth.
On days when I felt like shopping, I reminded myself of everything I already owned. I was grateful and felt happy to have the wardrobe that I did.
Stuff will always be there, it’s not going away. But I have the power to make a choice and be mindful with my purchases. This mindset helped me stick to the no new clothing challenge.
8. Buying trendy pieces are fun, but not a wise investment
Those trendy pieces I bought last season are no longer in style now. While it was fun to buy and wear those items in the moment, they quickly became yesterday’s news.
Do I actually like the trend or am I just a victim of savvy marketing tactics? Those Instagram ads and influencers have their hand in my wallet again.
Since doing the no new clothing challenge, my shopping mindset changed. Instead of getting sucked into buying trends, I choose to invest in items that are timeless and won’t go out of fashion.
I also like to wear neutral colors (black, grey, white). This makes it SO much easier to mix and match items. It’s funny because I can wear the same black dress several times and nobody knows! I’ll just jazz it up with a different accessory.
Below are some questions that I always ask myself before buying any new clothes.
No New Clothes Challenge FAQs
How can I improve my style without buying new clothes?
Here are a few tips to help you feel stylish without spending money:
- Take inventory of your wardrobe. This can help you know what you actually have in your closet.
- Be creative and try new outfit combinations. If you need ideas, check out my 30 Day Shop Your Closet Challenge.
- Swap clothes with friends and family. This can be a great way to declutter and get new clothes
- Create a capsule wardrobe. If you find yourself saying, “I need new clothes”, consider putting together a capsule wardrobe using items you already have. This can help you dress simple but stylish.
How can I go a year without buying new clothes?
The first step is to figure out your WHY. Why do you want to do the no new clothing challenge? This can help you stay motivated, especailly on days when the going gets tough. Check out more tips here: How I went a year without buying new clothes
Why do I buy clothes and never wear them?
Recognizing your shopping triggers can help you understand exactly what motivates you to buy new clothes. Perhaps it was because you had a bad day at work, or you’re bored, or you saw someone on social media wearing an outfit that you “needed” to have too. Check out these tips: How to stop buying clothes you never wear
How many clothes does the average woman have?
According to recent survey from ClosetMaid, the average woman has 103 items in their closet. This survey also revealed that 12% of the average woman’s wardrobe comprises of clothes they’ve never worn. Doing the no new clothes challenge can be a great way to get better mileage from your wardrobe.
How do I stop buying new clothes?
If you’re ready to start the no new clothes challenge, I have an in-depth article sharing helpful tips for doing the challenge, including how to stay motivated and successfully reach your goals.
Whether you’re not buying clothes for 6 months or year, I’m certain you will find these tips helpful!
Check it out here: How to stop buying clothes for a year
Introducing: The Intentional Spender
In The Intentional Spender, you’ll learn insider secrets on how to conquer your impulse spending for good. As a former shopaholic, I know all too well how emotions can easily influence your spending.
Studies show that is takes 21 days to form a habit. That’s why I’ve put together this 21-day program to help you form and implement healthy spending habits. This includes shopping with intention, living within your means while still having fun, and feeling comfortable and confident with your personal style.
I don’t believe in depriving yourself or living on a bare bones budget! I believe that you are 100% capable of transforming your mindset by discovering the root cause behind your spending habit and developing a game-plan that actually works.