Freelance writer Cait Flanders is in the midst of a self-imposed two-year shopping ban. She says it has kept her out of debt and made her more confident.

She started her blog, Blonde on a Budget, four years ago to document her experience of paying off $30,000 in consumer debt. Within two years, she had climbed out of debt by saving more than 50 per cent of her income toward repayment.  

Now, Flanders is taking it one step further by deciding to not shop for two years — although with the holiday season coming up, she says she still buys gifts for loved ones.

Here are some finance tips she shared with Rick Cluff on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

1. Don't buy non-essentials

"The first year of life after debt, I would only save five per cent," Flanders said, even though she had set the goal of saving 20 per cent. She says she realized that spending was going toward things she didn't actually need. This list included "new clothes, new shoes, things for around the house, home decor, candles, no books," she said. She also stopped buying take-out coffee.

2. Get rid of stuff you don't use

"Coupled with the shopping ban, I also, at the beginning of this, got rid of 75 per cent of my belongings. In doing that, I realized how much stuff we all have that we never use," said Flanders. "There was really no reason for me to hold on to it if someone else could be using it."

3. Think in terms of spending, not saving

Flanders says instead of aiming to save a certain percentage of income, people should calculate how much they need to spend for necessities, and save everything else. "We should all have a really good understanding of what our spending looks like, so that we know the exact number that we need to live off."

4. Be true to yourself

Flanders says she used to buy things she thought would make her a better person.

"I bought clothes that I thought professional-Cait should wear, or books I thought smart-Cait should read." The shopping-ban has given her newfound confidence. "I realized I had to become comfortable with who I am and [be] okay with that," she said.


To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Cait Flanders on why she isn't shopping for two years.