Shopping Smart

7 Things I Cheated On During My 3-Month Shopping Ban

By | Tuesday, March 29, 2016


During my recent three-month shopping ban, I decided I wouldn’t buy clothes, shoes, jewelry, makeup, hair products, and any nonessentials. The experience taught me a lot, and I wrote about it here on TFD last week. But in the interest of full transparency, while I stayed strong for the most part and learned a lot of things about myself during my shopping ban, I did cheat a couple of times. Here’s exactly what I cheated on during my shopping ban (and why).

1. Earphones.
I only use one brand of earphones. Earphones are vital to my hour-long commute each weekday, and when I broke my old pair at the beginning of my shopping ban, I had to make an exception (to maintain my sanity and block out loud conversations during my commute) and buy another set. I went to a lot of stores before finding my brand of earphones behind a dusty counter. I paid about $10 for the pack, only to realize that the sound quality was not as top notch as I expected, possibly because the earphones had been sitting on the shelf for a long while. I was passing by a store in the city, saw a newer looking set, and bought it for about $8.

Cost of two packs of earphones: $18
Cost of restoring my quiet commute: priceless

2. Events.
I couldn’t decide if buying tickets for events fell under “shopping” or not, but I got tickets through my Gilt membership to see Serena Williams play an exhibition ($30 for a ticket and $22 for two beers at Madison Square Garden). I also saw The King and I at Lincoln Center for about $35 through my LincTix membership, which gives cheap theater tickets to people under 35.

Cost of events: $65 minus the beers. $87 if I must account for all my indulgences. (Though, to be fair, tennis matches are long and best enjoyed with alcohol.)

3. A skin care regimen.
One of my favorite YouTubers recommended Paula’s Choice products, which is the core of her skincare routine. While I wasn’t ready to spend hundreds of dollars on products, I thought I needed to revive my skincare regimen with better products. Luckily, Paula’s Choice offers samples, so I picked up a few samples of exfoliants, toners, and face wash to decide if the brand was for me. I didn’t quite like any of the samples, but they came with a little book about skincare regimens, beauty myths, etc. that helped me create a new regimen (using products I already owned), which is doing wonders for my skin.

Cost of samples: $4.08
Cost of a new skincare regimen that didn’t require new products: joy, so much joy.

4. An (expensive) serum.
Last season, I received a box of Estee Lauder samplers which had the advance night repair serum. I tried using it for a week and fell in love with it. My tiny sample lasted about six weeks even though I used it every night. I was about to run out and, in the middle of a mild panic, I contemplated going without it until my ban was over, when I’d buy a full-sized bottle ($73). I did some more frantic googling however, and found a set of samplers through Poshmark and Ebay that will last me for at least six more months.

Cost of Estee Lauder’s Advance Night Repair samplers: $30
Amount saved buying sample sizes that add up to the same amount that comes in a full bottle: $43

5. Essential oil diffuser.
Halfway through my ban, I had a meeting in a room which had an essential oil diffuser, releasing the calming scent of eucalyptus into the air. I’d never used an electronic diffuser before, but after that meeting, I knew I had to have one in my bedroom. I went for a cheaper brand (though I suspect I might want a larger, more expensive diffuser later on), bought two brand-name essential oils, and I now use the diffuser to help me relax after a long day.

Cost of diffuser: $20.
Cost of essential oils: $10
Cost of a new source of relaxation (or a very, very good placebo): worth it.

6. Makeup.
While I was picking up the diffuser, I caved and also bought some new setting powder to replace my almost-finished pack ($7), and a new primer to replace my also almost-finished one ($9).

Cost of makeup: $16

7. A book.
I use a reading list to keep track of books I want to read, and the books I’ve read. Throughout my ban, I got books I wanted to read from the New York Public Library: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Being Mortal by Artul Gawande, Daring to Draw Near by John White,  4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, and #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso. The book 4-Hour Work Week had such a different way of thinking about work and our relationship with work that I knew I’d eventually want to re-read it, so I ordered a used copy online for $4. I also made a small donation to the NYPL as a “thank you” for enabling my reading habit. 

Cost of 4-Hour Work Week: $4

Etinosa lives in New York City and tweets here

Image via Unsplash

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