I Gave Up Shopping for 40 Days and This is What I Learned

Posted April 4, 2018 by Prairie Wife - 9 comments


This Sunday, the 40-day period of Lent in the Catholic church ended. Lent lasts 40 days and is a time of contemplation for Catholics. Besides fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays, Catholics often give up something for the next 40 days. This is not supposed to be a punishment but rather a way to deepen our understanding of Jesus’s sacrifice and an opportunity to remove a habit or vice that hurts our relationship with God.

Many of you may have noticed friends that gave up sweets, coffee or Facebook for this time…and my regular readers may recall that I gave up online shopping for Lent a few years ago. This year, I decided to take it further and give up shopping entirely….yeah…ouch.

I obviously had to buy groceries every two weeks, and we have three Cowkids with birthdays in Lent, so I still bought them gifts. The main focus of this was not buying anything for myself.

No clothes, no makeup, no subscription boxes, no lotion and bath products, no extra treat yourself goodies, no online shopping, no new fit bit bands, no makeup, no shoes…NOTHING.

To make it extra hard, I didn’t stock up on anything beforehand.

So, how did it go?


I’m not a shopping addict, and my shopping has in no way forced us into any kind of debt, but I admit that I totally use shopping as my feel-good “drug” of choice.

I look forward to my quarterly subscription boxes immensely. Anyone who has watched our unboxing videos knows how much I love trying our new styles and brands. The absence of unboxing videos on the blog has been noticed by several readers (don’t worry—there will be some this month)!

I use Amazon.com more than I should for little things here and there that I can do without, and I’m blessed to never think twice about throwing a fancy lotion or bath salt into my cart.

I knew that giving up shopping would make me grateful for the things I have, help me appreciate the blessing of being able to get just about anything I want when I want it, and force me to look at the real reasons I make all these technically unnecessary purchases. Not to mention, it would be a major exercise in self-control and honesty.

The Cowboy was (of course) TOTALLY behind this plan but expressed some concerns about what would happen the first week after Lent.

The first week was fine. I was filled with the holy feeling of self-denial that comes with making a choice to do something as equally good for you as it is painful.

The second week, I realized that I had run out of lotion. I was faced with the choice of using all my travel-sized lotions or finishing up all those half-empty jars of face cream. You know, the ones I’m talking about, the ones that get relegated to the back of the drawer when you find the newest, latest, and most fantastic must-have product. It felt good not to let those jars go to waste, and I swear my elbows are looking and feeling more incredible than ever before.

Then, in the middle of week three, I broke my pop socket. You know, the popup thing on the back of your phone that you don’t really need, but once you have one, it causes you to wonder, “How did I ever live before?” No biggie, right? Except it really bugged me that it was gone. It made taking pics for Instagram so much easier. Then I saw a cheap knock-off in the checkout line at Walmart, and a little gruff voice in my head said I should buy it; no one would know…

woman crying

I resisted the temptation, but the blows kept coming.

We had two formal events to attend, and I couldn’t buy anything new! My phone was dying a slow and painful death, and I couldn’t replace it. I was stressed and felt like a fun floral dress would boost my morale. I traveled to Denver for three days without kids, and my hotel was within walking distance from some of the best shopping destinations! We attended a charity auction, and I couldn’t bid on anything. My favorite author released a new book that I hadn’t pre-ordered. My friends had their first trunk show for their new business, and a baseball hat that read “Not today Satan” was screaming my name…the irony was not lost on me.

I admit that halfway through Lent, I broke down and bought some deodorant. You can watch me share the whole tale with you on this Facebook LIVE. That evening as penance I did an entire Rosary.

As Lent drew to a close last week, I realized that a sense of peace had come over me.

Yes, I was looking forward to purchasing a few new items, but overall I noticed that the stress-inducing feeling of “I want that but I can’t have it” was gone.

My first thought when I saw an adorable outfit on Instagram was no longer “ohh, I wonder how much that is?” When I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I put down my tempting phone with its easily clickable Facebook shopping links and read a book instead. The clearance racks at Target no longer gazed at me accusingly as I walked by without a glance…

This week I made a few purchases online and locally, a new dress that had been on my mind for weeks, and some desperately needed new bras.

I even went to Target kid free…I was giddy with the power and the freedom…but I walked out with only two things that weren’t on my list. Yes, I know it’s an Easter miracle!

happy woman

Giving up shopping for 40 days helped me to adjust my overall attitude.

I found myself repeatedly grateful for our family’s financial stability and The Cowboy’s hard work that has put us in this position.

I learned to control the “I want that” impulse I had grown so used to giving into.

I fell back in love with the process of shopping. The fun of slowly wandering around a store (or website) looking for an item, thinking about it, and mulling the purchase over, rather than a simple click and it’s on the way.

And when my mother sent me two super cute flowered tops for my birthday, I was so much more excited to receive them than I would have been before. They were my first new clothes in over a month, and the joy her gift brought surprised me!

I may soon slip back into my old habits of thoughtless purchasing and mindless consumerism…

But maybe not…or at least, I hope not.

I’ll leave you with the quote below and ask you to tell me in the comments if you could give up anything that may lead you to develop a new perspective.

“Self-denial in the pursuit of purpose generates true pleasure, while self-indulgence in the pursuit of pleasure generates true misery.”

Orrin Woodward

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9 thoughts on "I Gave Up Shopping for 40 Days and This is What I Learned"

  1. Valerie says:

    I applaud you and your strength. If I could find clothes that fit my current body, I know I wouldn’t be able to be in Denver and not shop. But I digress. Shopping with a “need” is easier and more fulfilling then the fleeting “want” shopping satisfaction. Recycling what we own or updating with accessories, painting a room or adding throw pillows instead of all new furnishings are better on the pocketbook too! Now if its Kendra Scott – I may need intervention!

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Denver was by far the biggest test, and I even walked around the mall with a friend and resisted 🙂

  2. Ingrid says:

    I am heading to Medjugorje in Bosnia Herzegovina in less than three weeks. I’ll take your prayer intentions. email me at ikborah@vcn.com. I get the paring down. I haven’t worn makeup in years and you see how I dress…gotta when on your knees cleaning up the stuff. Our Lady put me in line years ago and it is refreshing… Peace in Christ.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      What a trip Ingrid I can’t wait to see about it. And it IS freeing to be comfortable walking out of the house makeup free and not worried about clothes. GBY

  3. Bennie says:

    Good for you! Giving up shopping is something I would never think of.

    I usually do try to give up something but only last for so long. My go to is chocolate. I gave up chocolate – at work. There is always chocolate at our receptionist ‘s desk. I managed to keep this Lenten promise – at work.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Chocolate would be a hard one for me, I love to grab a handful of chocolate chips from the pantry 😉

  4. Alma says:

    I dyed this year and it had been ok for the most part because I can’t go nowhere but it has been a challenge.

  5. Aurora Valdez says:

    Love to share articles like this

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’m doing it again this year for lent!

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