What are your tips for staying on a no- or low-buy?

I’ve touched on my tips and tricks in longform with a recent post on curating a makeup collection you love, but I also have a guide to going on a low- or no-buy here.  At a high-level, these are three things that I think help to stick to a serious change in purchasing behavior:

1) Set specific goals and/or rules; the more specific you are, the less room you’ll have to wiggle out of what you’ve set up. It’s good to give yourself some “if this, then that” kind of rules–like “I can rollover this month’s budget to next month” instead of it being a “use it or lose it” policy (whatever works better!). Identifying WHY you’re changing your behavior helps in goal-setting and setting tangible goals like, “I want to boost my savings by 20%!” or “If I stay on my plan, I can take that vacation!” are very visible goals that are easy to check in with.

2.) Become a dupe-a-holic. Whether you use Temptalia’s Vanity system (very useful, if I do say so myself, if you tend to purchase from the brands I’ve reviewed, for making dupes handy) or methodically go through what you have and dupe what you saw and were tempted by, the key is having a sense that you most likely have something similar enough in your collection already.  If you don’t, then try layering and mixing products to get there.  Still don’t? Really drill yourself on why that’s absent from your stash–maybe you wouldn’t wear it often after all!

3.) If you break your no- or low-buy rules… don’t throw the whole plan away!  It’s a journey, and some people might experience more bumps than others.  Assess what you did, why you deviated from the plan, and how could you do things differently to be better at sticking to the plan in the future.

— Christine


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AB Avatar

I rarely consciously go on low-buys, but rather manage my expenses pretty tightly all the time. A few tactics… I do keep a running wish/to-buy list, and try not to buy anything that is not on that list. If I find something that’s not on the list, I make myself wait at least a day, and that often takes the edge off the impulse.
I always stay within my budget lines, and sometimes if I have a big purchase — say a trip or piece of furniture — that makes for a low- to no-buy for everything else that month, or the months prior if I’ve needed to save up.
Storing all my makeup in plain sight, on countertops, has made a big difference. For instance, every time I’m in the mood to buy a lipstick, I see that bin I keep by my door of all my lipsticks and glosses to pick from every day, and that usually takes care of that.

Deborah S. Avatar

I don’t have any tips, really so I am mostly reading this and commenting so that I can get ideas from Christine and other readers.
This has been a new experience for me as I have never seriously tried to curtail my beauty purchases. I was really worried when I visited Sephora on Wednesday that my no/low buy would run off the rails but it wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated and frankly, as I walked around, I really didn’t see anything that really had me salivating. The Sephora in Spokane doesn’t have Pat McGrath, Natasha Denona or Viseart on a regular basis and I didn’t find any of them while there. That might have been a real test of my resolution.

Nancy T Avatar

Since this is a work in progress for me for this year and beyond, I still am trying to get a better handle on it and do better. So far, some things that have absolutely worked for me have been religiously checking The Dupe List “My Vanity” feature to see if I have anything like it (provided, of course, that it is something I really want or love!). This can very effectively quell the lemmings for me! Another one is thinking about my future goals, as you mentioned above. I do wish to move back to NJ at some point in the near future. Or at least take a long vacation back to visit my friends, the beach, and other places I miss or would love to see. Making memories is of far more importance to me now than having thousands of dollars worth of makeup. Just being on a low-buy for 2 months allowed me to be in a position to bring my son and myself to go enjoy MUSE in concert this past Tuesday and have a total blast!
I did have one hiccup the other day when Sephora had those UD Vice lipsticks on sale, and my phone was low on battery so I didn’t check for existing dupes for Ravenswood. I have 4 already, at minimum. Oh well, I’ll try to exchange it for either Crisis or Venom. Still trying to get this whole thing right and stay on course!

Seraphine Avatar

I’ve been on an almost-no-buy since the beginning of the year, only allowing myself to replace something that ran out that can’t be replaced by something from my stash. So far, over the last two months, all I bought was an eyeliner pencil. I’m very proud of myself!

I can’t think of any real tips to share. It’s been all about willpower and talking myself out of shopping. I stay away from makeup counters. If I see something I like online, I think about what I already own that is similar. I remind myself of the all the obsessive must-haves that I bought and never use. And I have a lot of willpower.

zeezee Avatar

i think you are absolutely right – it’s all about willpower. no matter how consciously i check for dupes or shop my stash, i can always be weak and give myself reasons/excuses to buy something. just gotta learn to say no and move on, which applies for most things in life too. willpower FTW!

Stephani Avatar

I have been on a low/no buy since 2015 because I had accumulated a really big stash that I have been rotating and purging/donating from ever since. This year I already purged 63 items, 2018 – 60 items purged, 2017 – 67 items purged etc. So you can imagine how big my stash is. I never went over budget but it became too big and wasteful.

What works for me is staying off youtube reviews and blogs so that i don’t have the urge to try new things and shop my stash.

Genevieve Avatar

For me it’s fairly easy to stick to a low or no buy because the cosmetics you have in the States are so much more expensive here, so you do think twice about whether you really need it or not.
Secondly, because I am really fussy about my shades and the predominance of red/pink/orange themed palettes, which don’t work for me, it’s relatively easy to stick to a low/no buy.
My tips are:
1. Shop your own stash and rotate your eye palettes.
2. Use Temptalia’s dupe list – which I regularly do and find that I can easily dupe the new shades from my own collection.
3. Finish what you have opened before purchasing anything else – re blushes, mascara, foundations etc.
4. If you see something that you really love- wait for it to go on sale. It ususally does. And make sure that the product is worth your while – it has to have a great rating.

Eileen Avatar

Readers have made some excellent suggestions, but I also think we need to acknowledge the powerful role that advertising plays in our spending habits. Those of us who are online regularly are constantly bombarded by advertising (The Hidden Persuaders by V. Packard is a dated book but it offers interesting insight as to how consumers are manipulated by advertising). Anyway, the biggest piece of advice I’d give to anyone who finds their spending has gotten out of control is to put aside beauty blogs, Instagram, and You Tube tutorials for awhile and regain focus. It’s easy to forget that there are many beauty bloggers, Instagram “influencers”, and You Tube personalities who are making money convincing us we simply must have the newest products even though we really don’t need them. The never ending parade of beautiful products, filtered and photoshopped “looks”, glowing reviews, limited editions, etc. all promote FOMO which causes us to spend, spend, spend. So, yes, I’d suggest simply stepping away for awhile and enjoying what we already have.

Brenda C Avatar

The reason I went on a low/no-buy is that my collection was so large it was unmanageable. I am trying to downsize, we would like to move to the west coast and I am de-cluttering the whole house. So my reasoning is if I don’t need it I am not going to purchase it. I keep shopping my stash and it will last me a long time, so all I will need to do is replace what I run out of. I am very stubborn when I set my mind to something. Pat McGrath is my weakness so, so be it, we all have a little flaw or two.

Priscila Avatar

I did a no buy last year for around 9-10 months and I’m really proud I stuck to it! It was very hard in the beginning and I felt I had to disconnect from all “social media” and beauty news. After the first 5-6 weeks, I’d say it got easier to do and I started using up my collection more instead of just buying new products. I realized I got a huge thrill out of ordering and receiving packages in the mail, so my no buy extended to other things as well in my life (no clothes, purses, shoes, books, etc).

I felt like I needed to curate and edit down my things (my life!) and see what really worked for me.

At the end of my no buy, I had separated lots of makeup and clothes to donate or to give away to family which felt good. This year, I want to continue the trend, I’m not officially on a no buy, but I’ve only made one beauty purchase thus far. If I feel like it’s getting out of control, I will institute I no buy again. I was lucky to have family and friends who knew of my no buy and supported it as well. My grandma even joined me for 6 months herself! ?

My rule is: a no buy is a no buy is a no buy! If you’re getting tempted, temporarily disconnect from all things beauty. When you feel stronger, you can introduce it back slowly, and you’ll gain a more critical eye.

DVa Avatar

1. I do check your site for dupes all the time!
2. I’ve started removing myself from temptation (not temptalia): email lists. I am on half of what I was a year ago. I maintain only those that I can easily buy from and I already use their product, ie: Canada shipping friendly, prices in CND$$, etc.
I’ve found that many US sites that offer me 25% off, still end up being more expensive once you factor in shipping and exchange and border duty costs. So why bother.
3. I’m actually in a rut right now. I don’t feel like there’s anything I’ve seen recently that I need. Spring is coming tho, so I’m sure there will be!

Jill Avatar

Being a furloughed federal employee in January gave me some time to reflect on what’s important to me. I did have a good bit of savings so I wasn’t exactly living paycheck to paycheck but without going into details it was staggering how quickly even “necessities only” can burn through your savings. I also spent my time organizing my house and I was able to take stock of what I had on hand and what I had too much of–makeup and toiletries being high on the list.

Since then it’s been pretty easy to talk myself out of stuff. I unsubscribed from a crapton of email marketing lists, sales don’t excite me anymore because I tend to “buy to try” and I’m not doing that anymore. I’m not going to fall for those “4 hour flash sales on these ultra rare unicorn products get them now before they’re gone!!!!” type things. No thanks…

Pamela Avatar

Since I became a mom in 2012 (and for a second time in 2014), I’ve found there is little time for wearing lots of cosmetics. So I remind myself that if I purchased another eye shadow or lipstick, et cetera, it would just gather dust. Prior to motherhood I amassed a large collection of color cosmetics that are still in their packages. Also, I unsubscribe from mailing lists for cosmetic companies and stores. Because, well, if I don’t know it’s out there, I’m not going to buy it. Similarly I stay away from (or limit) visiting blogs for the same reason. Rave reviews and brilliant photography make the must haves seem even more desirable. But, oh man, it’s TOUGH!

Susan Avatar

Lots of good suggestions already. One thing that has helped me is to follow fewer bloggers and vloggers, including any who start most of their posts or video titles with “You need this!,” when they are talking about makeup. No, you don’t, and I don’t, and I have come to resent that pushiness of buybuybuy.

Another thing that helps me — and might you, if you’re stubborn and contrary like I am — is not to tell myself I can’t have something, but instead to give myself permission that yes, I can get something, but only if I really, truly LOVE it. Not just like it or think it’s the newest thing. I have to LOVE it. The Konmari method has really helped me realize the difference.

Jenny Avatar

I’ve always been conservative with my buying habits (never had too much I was able to spend), and pretty good at resisting limited editions. In the end, it really is all about discipline and self control! But things that have helped when I’ve been tempted:

1. Consider your make-up wearing habits. I rarely wear any eyeshadow, so I find it easy to focus on a handful of versatile singles and avoid palettes.

2. Consider gaps in your collection that you want to fill, and focus on finding that ‘fill’. It helps you avoid buying habitually (yet another blue-red lipstick!) and focus on buying what will be truly unique to you.

3. Restrict access to temptation, be it stores or blogs or brand pages. You can’t buy if you don’t go near a cash out and no one is waving a limited edition in your face.

4. If you have a large collection, shop your stash, but also curate your stash. Be aware of the shape and range of your collection.

5. Worse comes to worst, live with the regret of not making the purchase! There will always be something else.

For me personally, I bought the most make-up (quantity wise) when I first started really wearing it, and then the most (quality-wise) when I figured out how I enjoyed presenting my face and wanted to find products that worked better. These days, I am focused on replacement or repurchases, and only buy anything new after researching and sitting a few days on the idea.

Jane Avatar

I’ve done n°2 & 3, but also I’ve simply stayed away from stores, makeup counters and blogs (yes, including Temptalia). I find I can take visiting them just a little and then it may entice me. However, if I overload (that is, I read and look until I’m saturated) then it has the opposite effect and actually helps me not want to purchase anything. 😉

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