A while ago, I stood in a dressing room of my favorite clothing store, wearing one hot red dress. It looked perfect on me, a rarity when you have a unique body type like mine. But there was one problem: I couldn’t buy it.

It’s not that I didn’t have the money. The price wasn’t a factor either, since it was on clearance. The issue was a promise I made to myself at the beginning of 2016 to stop buying clothes until 2017.

For all of 2016, I was on a clothing fast, just like a nutritional one. I restricted myself by not buying any new pieces of clothing unless necessary. The rules of this spending freeze were simple: Stop buying clothes of any kind, including shoes or accessories. I could borrow or trade (which I did somewhat frequently), but I couldn’t use money to purchase anything.

While it’s easy to understand the rules of the clothing fast, sticking to the plan was much harder than I anticipated.

The Challenges of My Spending Freeze

The temptation was everywhere! Because I’m constantly shopping for my growing daughter, it’s not as if I could avoid places like Target or Walmart, where women’s clothing screams for your attention. Then there were needs I couldn’t foresee, like having to sell and buy some of my shirts as part of a fundraiser.

About two months into my spending freeze, I had to make a few adjustments. For one, I allowed myself to replace clothes if they fell apart (past the point of my limited sewing abilities).

I also gave myself a small quarterly budget for special events for which I couldn’t recycle clothing. Luckily, I had to tap into that fund only once — for a networking event that required me to wear a blazer I didn’t own and couldn’t borrow.

The Benefits of My Spending Freeze

So how much did I save from buying no new clothes for a full year? The average family spent $1,803 on “apparel and services” in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Based on my estimates, I saved over $550 that year.

It may not seem like much, but it certainly contributed to paying down $20,000 of debt that my husband and I had!

How to Stop Buying Clothes for a Year

A clothing fast doesn’t have to last a full year or start on January 1. You can begin your spending freeze by remembering these five tips:

1. Clean Out Your Email Subscriptions

I fall easily for flash sales and mega clearances, especially when they’re delivered to me first thing in an email. So unsubscribe from marketing emails. What you don’t know won’t hurt you!

2. Get Yourself an Accountability Shopping Buddy

Though I do most of my shopping alone, my husband was great about checking in to make sure I was honest. I hate to admit this, but he shamed me every time I felt compelled to cheat.

3. Track Your Savings

I’m a numbers person. I need to see the savings to continue the spending freeze. I estimate that I saved $40 to $50 each month — an amount that I would’ve spent on clothes otherwise. 

4. Learn to Shop Your Closet

I used to roll my eyes when my husband suggested this to me. Nothing in my closet was new or different. Everyone had seen me in this dress or that blouse already!

But when I forced myself to get creative with what I had, I realized I could make five or six different looks from just a sweater, a dress, and a pair of leggings or tights. Pinterest in particular helped me play around with my basics.

Further Reading: Learn how to save money on your wardrobe through minimalist fashion.

5. Understand Why You Shop

People fast to learn something about themselves. And for me, I learned that I shop when I’m emotional or bored. When I wasn’t allowed to shop during those times, I had to face my issues head on. I started to do more yoga, work out, and spend more time outdoors.

A Final Thought On My Spending Freeze

Not long after I started my yearlong clothing fast, I stopped noticing the lack of shopping bags and credit card bills. Instead, this spending freeze gave me a year of better budgeting and self-satisfaction for what I already had.