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Episode 24: The Year Of LESS

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After reading Cait Flanders’ book, “The Year Of Less”, I was inspired to participate in my own 365 challenge (alongside ditching booze for the year) of a shopping ban.

The rules are simple: For the year of 2020, I will only buy necessities like groceries, gas, etc. as well as the things on my approved shopping list and I will not buy anything that doesn’t fall into either of those two categories.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

I definitely thought so at first!

But the reason WHY I decided to pursue this shopping ban for 2020 is to see how much of my income I can save, that would have otherwise been spent on (probably not vital) stuff.

Bran and I have really decluttered and minimized our possessions the last 5 years and this past year especially, I found myself getting rid of everything excess.

So word to the wise, if you are JUST starting out on your journey and have yet to declutter, go watch Marie Kondo on Netflix (or better yet, pick up the book at a used book store or library) and get to decluttering! It is THERAPY for your soul! But that’s another topic for another time.

So I read “The Year of Less” in 3 days, which should tell you how fascinated I was to learn about this woman’s story and how she handled her not-drinking AND not-buying (it just so happened that she talks about both of these things in the book, which was crazy, because we had already decided on the no booze challenge prior to reading it! If this is news to you, go check out Episode 20 also available on the blog: New Years' Resolutions and the Problem with Booze)

And I was really inspired to take on my own challenges for 2020, especially ones that would help me regenerate a new liver, feel the best I’d ever felt AND save a boatload of money not buying non-essential things out of habit.

In the book, she shares her rules for the shopping ban (which she edits slightly to include gardening supplies later on in the year when she discovers a newfound love for gardening and going back to her roots). I mention the edit because I think it takes the hard edge off of it: if something really does change for you, and it's good for your soul, you can always edit.

So, this led me to create my own “approved” shopping list and I wanted to share it with you today in the hopes that it inspires some of you to question where your money is going as well.

On my “allowed to buy necessities” list?

- Groceries

- Gas

- Cell Phone

- My monthly health supplements

- Rent

- Car registration

- The essential subscriptions that I use

(ps - subscriptions can sometimes be a really insidious money leak for people, so check which ones you’re still using and cancel the ones you’re not!)

Also on my "allowed spending" list:

- Travel! Yay! This FULFILLS ME and we travel multiple times a year for company events

- 2x/month massages or facials or pedicures or other spa treatments. Pick one / month

- Toiletries (only as they run out)

- Cleaning supplies (only as they run out)

- Gifts

- Events

- Outsourced work

- Supplies for a retreat I’m hosting in August

- Wedding purchases

- Car maintenance

- Getting my hair coloured twice (just had it done today, so one more time in 2020 only)

- Getting my hair cut 2 times

- Website / Podcast / Other Biz fees

Okay, I also have an “approved shopping” list, which entails a couple very specific items that I’ve been searching for for awhile now and didn’t want to just not get, so I thought about them and put them on my approved shopping list, so that when THE ONE shows up, I’m allowed to purchase it.

I’ve already noticed that I’m hesitant to buy these things because I want them to be the best of the best and also I want to save them for when I really feel the urge to buy something. Like an Ace in my pocket or something.

On my approved shopping list is:

- Eating two meals out per month

- ONE new outfit (to be worn for my birthday / an event this summer)

- A pair of navy slacks

- A new oil diffuser and two essential oils

- Very specific Rayban Sunglasses

- New underwear

- In the spring, getting up to $50 worth of plants for my patio

- A new plant based cookbook

“Okay, Marie,” you might be thinking, “that’s a lot of stuff. So what are you not buying then??”

Here’s what I’m NOT BUYING in 2020, like AT ALL:




Educational courses (I still have two to finish lol)

Journals or Planners (I’m all set up for the year with the ones I have)

No new books until I’ve read all of mine

House decor

Office decor


“Spontaneous goodies” from Dad’s Organic Market (a place I’m inclined to dropping a few more things in my basket than is on my list)

Backpacks / purses


Phew. Isn’t that refreshing? And kind of intimidating?

I’ll be honest, I *almost* screwed up my buying challenge like three days into the year.

Bran and I went to Hudson’s Bay because we had a couple of gift cards from Christmas and both had specific things we wanted to buy. For him, a black hoodie and new black tee, and for me, a white cotton hotel robe.

I walked by these GORGEOUS, MASSIVE white cotton hotel robes in the men's section and omg I almost died. They were perfect!! They were also $80 and not on sale…. But my gift card was only for $50. So what’s a girl to do?

I walked around that department store with that robe in my hands humming and hawing about the extra $30 I would be spending after using the gift card. Finally, I decided it wasn’t worth breaking my shopping ban for, and decided to give ONE last look in the ladies’ section to see if I couldn’t find a nice robe for under $50.

Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I put that expensive robe back and went over to the ladies’ section, I FOUND AN EVEN BETTER ROBE. And the best part?! It came to $49.50 ha! So I used my gift card, didn’t ruin my shopping ban AND I HAVE A GORGEOUS ROBE THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

I also had a gift card for Lululemon, so we also stopped by there after the Hudson’s bay “wins”.

I was after one thing and one thing only: a pair of great pants to spend my gift card on. When lo and behold, on the SALE rack, was the most perfect pair of navy slacks (something I had on my approved shopping list) ever!! I tried them on, loved them, AND since they were on sale, I didn’t spend all of my gift card on them and have enough to go back sometime “when the urge strikes” to use the rest of the gift card and not break my shopping ban. YAY!

After that initial week, I didn’t put myself in any situations that made it challenging to not buy anything.

I purchased a couple flights and hotels (approved), as well as my usual necessities and Bran and I have both laughed at each other this week, joking “what if we accidentally bought or drank something and didn’t even realize it until after.”

It’s such a weird feeling to describe. But I think, because we never really scrutinized the occasional glass of wine or extra thing purchased, this “all or nothing” ban is really challenging aspects of our habits in the best way possible.

One of my FAVOURITE parts in Cait’s book, was when she talked about the intention behind purchasing.

And it really resonated with me.

She asked, “who are you buying this for: the person you are or the person you want to be?” and to me that translated to “the person you think you should be”

I remembered how I had held on to my Shakespeare book collection for years after University just because I thought someone who is an academic would own these, and I already did.

I held on to old dresses and shirts and outfits “just in case” I would feel confident enough to wear them one day, or lose weight or gain weight or blah blah blah.

I held on to papers and receipts and random gifts just because I didn’t know what to do with them.

I had three black long sleeves for Pete's sake. I'm quite sure one is plenty.

And when I read those words of hers, I realized how common it is for us all to hold on to or buy things for the vision of the person we think we SHOULD be, rather than who we actually are and what we really like.

Should really is a shit word, isn't it?

(Give Ep.14 of The Live On Purpose Podcast a listen if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

For example, something I’ve learned about myself during the last few years of really decluttering and figuring out who I am is that I genuinely don’t like wearing high heels and tight dresses. They’re uncomfortable, I feel trapped when I wear them, and because I have wider feet, I get sore when wearing the heels. I think they look FANTASTIC on other people, I just don’t really love wearing them myself.

So when I started getting rid of my shoe collection, those were the first to go. The option I choose most often?? My converse sneakers, black leather loafers, flip flops or Nike runners.

(and in the winter, I obviously wear boots)

Which brings me to my next example from real life recently to bring the point home!

My pull on Ugg boots ripped this year in the back of one boot badly enough that anyone on the street might question if I was recently in a fight with a small dog. Or mouse...

But I LOVED those Uggs. They’re warm, comfortable, easy to pull on and honestly one of the best winter boots I’d ever owned.

But when Brandon told me they were looking a little “hood”, I knew they had to go.

I was sad at first, because I really didn’t want to add another thing to my approved buying list. BUT THEN, I remembered I had an almost NEW pair of Sorel winter boots at the back of the closet, just sitting there, not being used.

I pulled those suckers out and with a newfound sense of appreciation, I’ve been wearing them for the last few weeks.

And then it happened again the other day, when I was looking for a frame for a picture I’d been wanting to hang up for some time. I knew we didn’t have any extra kicking around like we used to. So I contemplated going to buy a frame for this picture.

Again, I really didn’t want to add something to my approved list or break my shopping ban, so I sat on it for awhile and then the other day, as I entered my office, I realized that the frame on the wall that I’d been meaning to swap the pictures out for anyways might just be THE PERFECT FIT for the new piece.

I took out my scissors and adjusted the matting slightly so the new picture would fit nicely and when I hung it up on the wall I felt SO PROUD. The resourcefulness really attributed to my sense of accomplishment. And I thought to myself, “damn. If we weren’t doing a shopping ban, there’s no way I would have made that work with what I already had.”

And I think that’s what this is all about:

Making your life BETTER by living with LESS. And APPRECIATING what you already have.

So, my challenge to you is to go through your things.

Start with your clothes and move to your junk drawers, closets, shoe cupboard and kitchen. Just start going through your things and ask yourself, “Is this something I love and use? Does this bring me joy? Am I holding on to this for some weird “I should” reason?” and then start allowing yourself to donate, throw out or repurpose your old stuff.

(A word to the wise, often your discards are another’s treasure. In the last month alone, I’ve made almost $300 selling things that I decided I didn’t need or use anymore that were gently worn. The Internet is an amazing space.)

Okay last but not least, something that is SO HELPFUL if you’re going to embark on your own year of less, whatever it means to you, make sure you’re willing to start TRACKING your stuff.

This might look like tracking what you’re eating and how it makes you feel (this is legitimately how I found out about my adverse reaction and sensitivities to corn, eggs and booze)

It might look like tracking what you’re spending each week and tallying it up.

It might look like taking out cash for your groceries each month.

Or ditching take out (starbucks, tim hortons, etc.) coffees for 6 months to save yourself millions…..

But whatever you decide to do for yourself, if anything at all, just know that the INTENTION behind it is the most important bit.

I’m committed to my year of no booze and no shopping because I desire to FEEL as good as humanly possible, health-wise. I ALSO desire to pay off my credit card FOR GOOD and pad my savings account while travelling all year long and planning our wedding.

What would a year of less look like for you??

I would LOVE to hear about it!!!

Tag me on social media @mariebarkerwellness and let’s start a conversation about this!

PS - My FREE MASTERCLASS: Stress Less and Rock Your Morning Routine is coming up February! 27th, 2020!! Want the details on this epic FREE training?

Email me at for details!


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