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My Year of Less, Week 2: Is There ANYTHING I Can Buy?

This is the third post in my “Year of Less” series, where I’ve vowed not to purchase a whole slew of things for the next eleven months. Last time, I posted a list of things I’m not allowed to buy: clothes, shoes, accessories, hats, small appliances, body lotion, electronics, etc. Today’s post is about what I can still buy.

Many of these “allowed” purchases stem from our three major vacations each year. One is always to the USA, in the summer to visit family. One trip is to Bali, Indonesia, which has become a cherished family tradition once a year. The third trip is to “somewhere else.” This year, we will make a second trip to The Philippines, this time to Cebu to see whale sharks in their natural habitat.


  1. Groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies. Because we don’t want to starve, stink, or live in filth.
  2. Eating out. While we do a lot of this when traveling, we don’t really eat out so much in Shanghai. Eating out is more than just food; it’s social and sometimes work-related. Better yet, it’s part of living abroad and experiencing Asian culture, and it has helped our boys open their minds to a variety of different foods. Our 11- and 13-year old boys are pros with chopsticks, a skill they gained from eating out in China. We also need to eat out when we travel, so it isn’t really practical or necessary for me to ban eating out.
  3. Takeout coffee. A year ago, takeout coffee would have been on my banned list. We have plenty of coffee shops in Shanghai including Starbucks, Costa, and Pacific Coffee, and until I became vegan last year, I got takeout coffee several times each week, even as often as every weekday. But being vegan limits me to plant-based milks, which just aren’t that common in Shanghai coffee shops. They usually have soy milk, but I don’t like soy in my coffee. Therefore, I can get takeout coffee if they have plant-based milk options other than soy (cashew, oat, almond, coconut, pea, etc.) That’s like finding a needle in a haystack, so if I find it, I’m free to get a coffee. There’s also no way I’m passing up the Cashew Cappuccino at Bali Buddha in Ubud.
  4. Headphones or earbuds. I walk to work and listen to music, audiobooks, and podcasts for at least two hours every day. If my earbuds break, I can buy some new ones.
  5. Souvenirs for my family. My Dad is our only family member who has been to China, and we’re already planning his next visit. For everyone else, we’ll have to bring Asia to them.
  6. Anything needed for my blog or my TPT business. This includes web hosting fees, email hosting, software, licenses, downloads, clipart, stock photos, fonts, etc. I’m pretty judicious about my blog spending, it’s all digital (and takes up zero space), and all of it comes out of a separate business account specifically for my blog expenses. I will need to spend money on my blog and TPT to stay legal and continue posting quality content.
  7. Homeschooling supplies. We’re homeschooling our boys for the first time this year, and we will need to buy homeschooling materials. This includes physical books for the boys, online programs, software, computer upgrades, school supplies, art supplies, puzzles, board games, field trip materials/tickets, online materials, and probably a million other things I’m not thinking of right now.
  8. Online courses for myself. I am currently enrolled in a Chinese characters course, as well as a course on how to use Adobe Illustrator. I have my eye on the R.L. Stine and Judy Blume Masterclass series, but I’ll need to finish my current courses first. My rule has always been for two courses at a time. Otherwise, I know I will buy too many courses and never finish them. It’s like reading in that just because I purchase a book, that doesn’t mean I’ve read it. Courses are the same way–I have the best of intentions, but I can only take so many at once. Future courses for me include courses in writing, guitar, more Chinese, cooking, crochet, graphic design, digital art, drawing, and maybe even singing. So many interests; so little time!
  9. Bones and toys for our puppy Cisco.
  10. Birthday and Christmas gifts.
  11. Professional hair color. My hair is long and thick, and I’m not going to skimp on it. Call me vain if you want, but I’m covering that gray. The blue, purple, and pink highlights I have right now are just an awesome bonus.
  12. Pedicure tools. Since I’m cutting out salon pedicures, I *might* need to buy some basic foot care tools. I currently have nothing beyond nail clippers and a pumice. I’ll be watching some YouTube videos on pedicures to see what else, if anything, I might need. I have decided leave my toenails natural, so nail clippers and a pumice might be sufficient anyway.

Now that I’ve established my rules and how all this will (I hope) work, my next post will be about my challenges with buying food in Shanghai. This will include both grocery shopping and eating out. Until next time!


One Comment

  • Hi Leigh,
    Thanks for the inspiring challenge. I too have decided that I just have too much STUFF. I sorted through my "to be read" closet (not shelf… CLOSET) and realized that I am a bookaholic with a serious problem so I've put myself on a severe restriction – no more than one book per month! (I used to be a middle school librarian, but I chose to return to the classroom and teach math and science. I've spent a crazy amount of money creating a classroom library for my students because even though I don't teach language, I still want them to have a flood of books in our room.


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