Committed to a ‘No-Buy Year’ in the U.S.

New York, USA – A 35-year-old Brooklyn resident has stopped buying new clothes. A 22-year-old from San Diego has given up shopping sprees at Target. A 26-year-old English woman has cut carbonated drinks from her shopping list.

These three women, who do not know each other, started the year determined to spend money only on necessary purchases, a strategy popularly known as the no-buy challenge. The self-imposed rules of the challenge are simple: participants commit to stopping the acquisition of non-essential items, whether it’s unnecessary shoes, additional beauty products, or other impulsive buys for a set period, usually 12 months.

What began years ago as an experiment on a budgeting blog has become a popular trend on social media. A Reddit group where people share their experiences has 51,000 members. The challenge has gained significant traction on TikTok, where some user videos tracking their spending have garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

Elysia Berman, a creative director living in Brooklyn, decided she needed to drastically change her spending habits after amassing a collection of vintage designer clothes and five-figure credit card debt. Her no-buy pledge included not purchasing new clothes, only buying makeup and hair products after completely using up what she had, and limiting her social outings to low- or no-cost activities.

Changing Lifestyle

For Berman, adopting a more frugal lifestyle has a clear goal: paying off her credit card debt. “It wasn’t like I wanted to challenge myself. I’m really in a position where this is the next necessary step for me,” she said.

Sticking to the challenge and moving towards her financial goal has been more challenging than Berman anticipated. Two weeks into the challenge, she couldn’t resist buying a new beret. Then came a new pair of boots. While the challenge has helped her reduce her spending, she isn’t saving as much as she hoped, but rather living within her means.

“By making this lifestyle adjustment, I expected it to make a significant difference in my ability to pay off my debt,” Berman said.

Discussing personal financial issues is difficult for most people, but Berman tackled hers head-on by examining them with friends and family and then posting about them on social media. This last action resulted in more exposure than she originally anticipated: she has over 60,000 followers on TikTok, where a video showing her empty skincare and hair products received over 1 million views.

While the trend has been growing for some time, the beginning of 2024 offered another opportunity for people to regain control of their finances after the “doom spending” of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Courtney Alev, a consumer finance advocate at personal finance company Credit Karma.

“It’s simply people trying to regain control over what has been an unchecked cycle of excessive spending, to put their financial situation in order, and to save money,” Alev added.

Although the challenge is set to last a year, those who try it say they learn new techniques that help them avoid excessive spending in the future.