How to Start a Low Buy Year: 4 Steps to Living More Minimally

The Wandering Elf
by The Wandering Elf

I do my best to live simply and minimally, but I don't want to limit myself to buying only the bare necessities. I like to eat out a few times a month or buy art supplies and yarn for crocheting when I’m inspired.

This is why doing a No Buy Challenge does not appeal to me. But a Low Buy Challenge appeals to me.

What does Low Buy mean?

A Low Buy Challenge is less restrictive than a No Buy Challenge. I began my Low Buy Challenge back in 2020 to cut back on my credit card bills and start saving for an emergency fund.

A Low Buy Challenge works for me because it allows me flexibility while achieving my goals. You can set your own rules with this type of challenge. You can do a monthly challenge or three- to six-month challenge or do a Low Buy Year, as I do.

There are three reasons why I do a Low Buy Challenge every year:

What is a low buy year?

First is to live intentionally by buying only the things that add value to my life.

Low buy challenge

Second, I dislike clutter. If I only buy things I need and use, it minimizes clutter in my home.

Low buy rules

Third, I realize I buy things with not only my money but also with my time. A frivolous expense can cost a lot of money, which means working longer hours to pay for it.

If something was only $10, I used to think it was a good deal even if I didn’t need it. This habit of justifying impulsive buying ended up costing me hundreds of dollars on my credit card.

I want to share the four steps I used to start a Low Buy Challenge. Living this way has improved my life and finances.

How do you start a no buy year?

1. Take an Inventory of Your Monthly Expenses

First find out where most of your money goes every month. I used to spend over $200 a month on eating out and take-out, which is excessive.

I also spent money on bottles of supplements from other countries, which is double the price. When you find out where a huge chunk of your money goes each month, that's the best place to start cutting back.

Defining categories where you can cut back

2. Create Categories to Cut Back

Once you’ve figured out where most of your money goes, these are the categories you’ll create your rules around. Here are categories I include in my Low Buy Challenge:

  • Eating out
  • Supplements
  • Hobby products (crocheting, art supplies)
  • Fancy groceries (chocolate bars, organic corn chips, quinoa, etc.)

I don't buy clothes more than twice a year, and I buy shoes every two years so clothing wasn’t a problem. Add as many categories as you want, such as makeup, kids’ toys, books, art supplies, plants, or whatever you feel the need to set a budget for.

Planning for future spending such as holidays

3. Plan for Future Spending

It’s important to look at your future spending to add into your budget, including upcoming holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. 

Making gifts and holiday cards for friends

Cut back by making gifts and holiday cards for family and friends.

Keep rules for the Low Buy Year

4. Keep Your Rules Simple and Clear 

It’s hard to stick to a goal when the rules are complicated and unclear so keep your guidelines simple. Determine your limited budget per category for each month. My main challenge is the temptation to eat out, but I set a limit of $100 a month to enjoy the experience and I’ve kept to that goal.

How to start a Low Buy Year

A Low Buy Challenge can be boring. When I’d get bored, I’d grab my phone for online shopping or food delivery. Find more meaningful activities you can enjoy during your challenge that won't cost a lot of money, such as taking walks, hikes, gardening, reading, or doing anything that uplifts your spirits and sparks joy in your life.

How to start a Low Buy Year

The success of a Low Buy Challenge really comes down to your “why.” What is your goal and motivation? Share your reasons for wanting to start a Low Buy Challenge in the comments below.

Join the conversation
2 of 17 comments
  • Maria Maria on Jan 01, 2024

    My best advice is to shop in your own house pantry to make sure you use your supplies before they go bad or expire. Like to tell my husband “ I am going shopping in the basement” and come up with paper towels and my basket with today’s lunch and dinner.

  • Lisa Lisa on Jan 01, 2024

    I take a picture of my inside of my frog and pantry before going to the store. It saves doubling up on supplies. Also, I have 5 gallon sealable shipping tubs that I bought a few years back. I have 1 for sugar(s), flours(s), beans, and 1 for rice(s). I buy those when they are on sale. Fill up the tubs and then I know for those things, I’m good for a VERY VERY long time. Haven’t had to buy rice or dried beans/peas etc for a few years!