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@HannahLouisePoston is taking over our channel for four weeks with "The Beautiful Budget!" In this first episode, she talks us through the money and mental health lessons she gained during her year-long spending ban.



06:02 → LESSON 1
08:48 → LESSON 2
12:08 → LESSON 3

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And now, please enjoy our takeover of my Tuesday show with a very special guest, Hannah Louise Poston, bringing you our four week series, The Beautiful Budget. Hey, y'all, hi. My name is Hannah Louise Poston.

And you're probably wondering what I'm doing here. I'm taking over The Financial Diet for the next four weeks. I'm going to be filming a series called The Beautiful Budget, where I talk about beauty, consumerism, overspending, compulsive shopping, changing your financial habits, and the intersection of money and mental health.

In today's video, I'm going to be telling you about three life-changing lessons that I learned when I quit shopping for an entire year. And to give you some context, at the beginning of 2018, I started my YouTube channel. And I also stopped shopping.

So my first year on YouTube was a documentation of what it was like for someone who was a compulsive spender on things like makeup, skin care, clothing, and homewares to quit shopping for those things cold turkey. If you want to get the full breakdown of my no-buy year, check out my full no-buy year chronological playlist. Leading up to my no-buy year, my compulsive spending maybe wasn't bad enough to technically be called addiction, especially according to the most stringent and technical definition of shopping addiction.

But it was definitely bad enough for me to be endangering my financial future. I was essentially on track to ruin my life if I didn't make a change. The things that I bought compulsively were beautiful things, makeup, skin care, clothing, and homewares, particularly, but things adjacent to that as well.

Anything that made me feel like my surroundings were more beautiful, my life was more special, my person was better adorned, or I was turning myself into a more idealized version of myself was so compelling to me that sometimes, it felt like I couldn't keep myself from buying it, no matter how much I knew intellectually that that expenditure was unwise. Going into my no-buy year, I had a little bit of credit card debt. I wasn't severely in debt.

My main problem was that I wasn't able to save. My habits were such that I would spend pretty much every dollar I ever got my hands on. I didn't have a very high paying job.

I was working for myself, getting by, but only just. And I realized that if I continued along the way that I was going, I would absolutely never be able to save anything or build anything. And worse than that, the habits were getting more and more entrenched.

And I felt like if I didn't address them, it might get to the point where I was getting myself deeper and deeper in debt. Because I wasn't really earning enough, or on track to earn enough, to support the spending habits that I was forming. The basic ground rule of my no-buy year was that I wasn't allowed to buy any of my vices, makeup, skin care, clothing, homewares, accessories, those kinds of things.

I was allowed to have experiences. I didn't have problems spending on experiences. I wasn't overspending on concert tickets, and spa visits, and things like that.

I knew what my problem was. It was really specifically stuff. So those were the things I wasn't allowed to buy.

I had an exception, which was that if I ran out of a single type of product, like if I used up all of my shampoo and I had absolutely none, I was allowed to buy one item to replace that. So that I didn't have to go without shampoo for the rest of the year. But I wasn't allowed to buy anything new.

I was creating for myself a desert of newness, because as I think I might have known, but as I learned much better as I went throughout the year, it was that newness, that chasing of the next new thing that I couldn't unhook myself from. For a no-buy project, especially a big, year-long project, I do think that clear and extensive rules are really important. So my rules were more detailed than what I have told you now.

But that's not what this video is about. I do have several videos about that, again. And we'll make sure to link some of the specific videos that are about my no-buy rules.

So if you want to know everything about how I shaped my no-buy, you can click through and watch those. But today's video is about the outcomes of my no-buy year, three things that I learned from my no-buy year that have absolutely changed my life. So the first lesson that I learned from my no-buy year is that compulsive shopping isn't just about a desire for material goods.

It's a dependence on the entire process of finding something to buy, and then buying it. And for me, I think, for a lot of people, that process includes scrolling, searching, finding, comparing, discerning, deciding, wanting, fantasizing. All of that happens before you actually push checkout on your cart.

Then, if you buy something, say, online, there's the anticipation of the thing before it arrives in the mail, hoping that it will live up to your fantasy. Then when it finally arrives, you experience being united with it finally. Owning the thing and using the thing are only the last little piece of this multi-phase cycle of shopping.

And the entire cycle, every part of it, soothes the brain and activates dopamine. As a compulsive shopper, I didn't just want new clothes and new makeup. I actually wanted to want those things.

I thought that I was fixated on the prize of owning the thing that I wanted. But I learned that I was actually fixated on being in the state of desiring the thing. Because in that state of desire, I had something to fixate on, something to obsess over.

And that made it easier to avoid facing the demons and responsibilities of my actual life. So how and why did this information change my life? It changed my life because making the shift away from thinking about compulsive shopping as pure acquisitiveness to thinking of it as a multifaceted activity that numbs, soothes, and distracts, it helped me to forgive my past self for my behaviors, because I really understood all the facets of what I had been doing.

And it also helped me to strategize in a more holistic way as I rebuilt a new relationship with shopping going forward after my no-buy year. These days, in the wake of my no-buy year, if I ever find myself slipping down that rabbit hole of compulsive shopping, not necessarily buying, but even just browsing, even just that state of wanting to want something to focus on, when I find myself going down the shopping rabbit hole, I can catch myself in the act and ask myself some questions. And these are the questions I tend to ask myself.

What am I trying to avoid with this behavior? Is there a way to process what I'm going through right now instead, of ignoring it? Is there a healthier way to self soothe right now?

The second thing I want to share with you that I learned from my no-buy year, and this was absolutely wild how true this turned out to be, and how strange it is to me that I didn't know it before, during my no-buy year, I learned that most desires for new things, no matter how real they feel when they first strike you will fade eventually whether you buy the thing or not. Stopping shopping for an entire year gave me an opportunity to witness so many of my desires fade over time. There were so many things that I wanted during my no-buy year, hundreds of things that I wanted, and that I put away on a wish list to go back to and remember to at least consider buying, if not buy, after the no-buy year was over.

And all of those desires, each and every one of them, felt urgent when it first struck me. I mean, my heart would be faster. My hands would sweat.

I wanted that thing so badly in the moment. But three or four months into my no-buy year, the craziest thing happened. I would go to visit my wish list, the list that I was keeping.

And I would look over the list, and I would realize that most of the things that were on it, I didn't want them anymore. And I would delete them from the list. So I was adding things I wanted so badly to the top of the list, but things were dropping off the bottom of the list.

And by the end of the year, there was almost nothing left on the list. A year of desperately wanting things, and by the end of the year, there was almost nothing that I actually wanted to buy. So how did this lesson change my life going forward?

Learning that I can't trust that fresh, urgent desire when it first strikes me has helped me to be much more patient in the process of deciding what to buy. So my wish list and wait strategy, which I started during my no-buy year, because I didn't want to forget all of the things that I wasn't allowed to buy that year, but that has evolved into an ongoing strategy, even though I'm not on a no-buy anymore. That has helped me to avoid so many purchases of things that I thought that I wanted, or that I initially think that I want, but that would have lost their luster over time after I had bought them.

Because I waited, because I put those items on my wish list and waited, they lost their luster without me having to buy them to find out that that's what would have happened. This is especially true in my experience of online shopping. Because so often, when we buy something online, we're buying a fantasy.

And then the real life item doesn't live up to that fantasy. Putting that thing on a wish list gives you time for the bubble to pop before you've spent a dollar of your money. Now, in my life after the no-buy year, even when I choose browsing online as a form of escapism, which I do from time to time, not nearly as much as I used to, but still from time to time, when I do that, I always put the things that I discover that I think I want onto an online wish list, instead of buying them.

So I'll choose online browsing as escapism, but I won't buy anything. I'll just wish list everything. This way, even if I waste some time browsing online, I don't also waste my money on ill-considered purchases.

OK, lesson number three, and this one is kind of a doozy, this is a big lesson that I learned from my no-buy year. Shopping can be an obstacle to self care. So this is potentially confusing, because there are many circumstances in which shopping is an aspect of self care.

Buying something special for oneself is, for many people, a legitimate source of actual joy. And in many cases in our modern world, a little bit of shopping is actually required to acquire the tools that you need to take care of yourself in some specific ways. Items that you buy that help you take good care of your body or that help you make your living space more conducive to good mental health, for example.

I think it is totally fair to say that shopping is sometimes a form of self care. However, you cannot shop your way out of an unhappy life. New makeup doesn't give you a new face.

New clothing does not make your body healthier and give you more energy. New furniture will not change the nature of your marriage. And if you're stuck in a state of unhappiness with your life, if you haven't learned how to love yourself, if you aren't taking good care of your body, if you aren't communicating well with your partner, shopping cannot and will not improve on any of those things.

But the thing is, a lot of times, it seems like it will. As silly as it sounds to say it out loud, furniture advertising does make it seem like new furniture will change the nature of your marriage. And buying new furniture is much, much easier than being brave enough to work on your relationship.

Buying new makeup is much easier than the slow lifelong work of learning to actually love yourself. So we are all too eager to believe the lie of marketing, which is that the stuff you buy can actually change who you are. When you believe that lie, then shopping becomes an obstacle to self care.

Because you find yourself, and this is what I was doing before my no-buy year, buying stuff instead of taking the steps to change your life, and pretending that buying stuff is changing your life. So it's the shopping itself that keeps you in a holding pattern. This is especially ironic if the thing you're trying to change about your life, or one of the things that you want to change, has to do with money.

If, like I did, you feel shame about your spending and you want to avoid looking at that shame, you don't want to think about your bank account. You don't want to look at it. You don't want to get into the numerical and financial details of it, because you're so ashamed, then you might be doing what I was doing before I no-buy year.

I was literally spending money to avoid the shame that I felt about spending money. And the shopping is self care narrative was bolstering that behavior. It was helping keep me trapped in that cycle.

So since I learned from my no-buy year that shopping can be an obstacle to self care and I articulated it to myself that way, with this piece of knowledge going forward into my life, how has that helped? What has it helped me change? It has helped me to distinguish between what I see as two kinds of shopping, shopping that is actually connected to real self care or can be, and the shopping that is an obstacle to real self care.

It's not always easy. But here's one of the ways that I kind of bring myself back down to Earth and help myself to distinguish between the two or to catch myself in the act if a little bit of the second thing is going on. When I'm considering buying something, say, I'm considering buying a blouse, I love a blouse.

I'll hold up the blouse and I'll ask myself why do I want this blouse. What do I imagine, really imagine in my mind's eye, that this blouse is going to do for me? Do I imagine that owning and wearing this blouse is going to change my behavior?

Do I imagine that owning and wearing this blouse is going to change my identity, change the way I communicate with people, change my relationship? If even a drop of any of that kind of fantasy is going on, I'll catch it when I ask myself those questions. And that's a red flag.

And then I'll step back from the purchase and give myself a little or a lot more time. The other thing that knowing this has helped me with, and this is actually probably even more important, it has helped me to prioritize the kind of self care that actually does change a person. Things like meditation, journaling, reading, writing, cultivating friendships, working to establish healthy routines, and unsurprisingly, the more time that I spend on those acts of actual self care, the less viscerally appealing shopping becomes.

I still love to buy beautiful things from time to time. But I no longer delude myself into thinking that shopping is some kind of cornerstone of health. Revisiting these lessons makes me, as always, really grateful to my past self for deciding to do a no-buy year.

And I'll be unpacking more aspects of that, more details of that, through some other lenses in the upcoming episodes of The Beautiful Budget here on The Financial Diet.