Well, we gave it the old college try.
Low Buys and No Buys are all the rage right now, with a lot of creators on YouTube creating videos, series, and sometimes entire channels around their desire to buy less makeup and skincare. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and so I decided, with the best of intentions, to have 2019 be the year of the Low Buy. I knew a No Buy would never, ever work for me – I don’t finish enough stuff to wait until all of the products I had in a category were used up before buying more! – and I still wanted makeup to be fun. That’s important to keep in mind as we go – makeup is one of the places where I “play” and I enjoy shopping for products, testing them out, reviewing them, etc. Yes, I wanted to spend less money and I wanted to make better shopping decisions and not just buy a little bit of every-damn-thing that came out, but I still wanted to have fun and be able to keep going with the makeup-related content that I create.
So I created my list of rules, making sure to give myself a few little loopholes for additional purchases outside of the 5 item slots allotted per month. I gave my self special rules for things that were on clearance and things that came in collections, and different types of income that could all be applied to my shopping without sacrificing one of the few, coveted item slots.
That really should have been my first clue: if you need that many “special circumstances” to buy additional products in order to committing to only buying 5 products a month, then maybe committing to only buying 5 products a month is the problem.
February was a perfect example of this: because of some unexpected income, which I decided could be used to buy drugstore brand products, I ended up with more than a dozen products that month, but still only used 4 out of my 5 item slots.
Another thing that contributed to the failure of my Low Buy was the content creators on YouTube who I was using for inspiration. I used Hannah Louise Posten’s suggestions video in crafting my rules (video included below), but the primary inspiration that I was using was Swedish YouTuber Angelica Nyqvist. Now this is no shade to her, and I still love and watch her channel regularly, but she wasn’t really a great inspo for my Low Buy. Why? Because although she was committing to only buying three products a month, she is currently getting a fair amount of PR, all from the key brands that she probably would have been purchasing from if she weren’t on a low buy.
Angelica does a weekly roundup video on Sundays, talking about new products and whether or not they are going on her wishlist. I like to watch this and see what kinds of new products are coming out and maybe put together a little wishlist of my own. I do have to say that these have gotten a little bit stale since she started her low buy (the premise of the video is “Will I buy it?” and that’s not very exciting when you know in advance that the answer is pretty much always going to be no), but what I noticed is that there were lots of products in those videos that she indicated she had some interest in but wouldn’t be picking up because of her low buy, and then a little while later there would be a dedicated video about them. Why? Because she got the product in PR. Sometimes she even already had the product before talking about it in the Wishlist video. So on the one hand, I was watching her videos to hear her reason out why she was or wasn’t going to spend the money to buy certain products, and then on the other hand, she kept getting all of the products she was interested in anyway and using them to make content.
As I started looking around at other creators who were doing similar sort of low buy and no buy projects, I noticed that most of them were getting some sort of PR, even if it was pretty minor. I actually can’t think of a creator that I’ve watched on YouTube who is doing a Low Buy or a No Buy that isn’t either 1. getting at least some amount of PR from brands, or 2. isn’t using gift cards as a loophole to the shopping rules, and receiving a fair number of gift cards with which to shop, or have significant others and family members who buy them large amounts of makeup.
It made me think about the purpose of a Low Buy or a No Buy, and why everyone who is doing them, myself included, seems to need to build in a lot of specific exceptions to increase the amount of products they can acquire in a given month.
For me, I wanted to spend less money on makeup overall, and I also wanted to be more thoughtful about what I was buying. And although the first part was a bit of a disaster, I did have some success in relation to that second goal. For the first couple of months, when I was really trying to stick to the rules of the Low Buy, I spent a lot of time considering products: if I only get to buy five things this entire month, is this really something that I want to spend money on? I started to think more critically about the items that I was picking up. Am I immune to hype? Absolutely not. But I’m more critically minded when thinking about the products that I want to bring into my collection. There have been some products that I have been on the fence about, and the ones that I ended up picking up, I spent at least a month considering them, swatching them, playing with the colors, etc. I’m more comfortable with not having to jump in and purchase something on release day. It’s hard to say what the long term experience will be, but I think this bodes well for me making some positive changes in my cosmetic buying behaviors.
But if there was one main reason I think the Low Buy crashed and burnt, it’s because it gave me too much stress and worry around makeup when I was actually looking to make makeup more fun.
I am a bit of a compulsive eater and a compulsive shopper. When I have emotions that I don’t really want to muck about with, I like to have a little treat. Sometimes it’s something sweet, and sometimes it’s a new lipstick or an eyeshadow palette. The strange thing about the Low Buy is that when I started it, I didn’t magically stop having emotions, and I didn’t immediately become a master at managing emotional crises. So now I was still having emotions, but I didn’t have one of my coping mechanisms. On top of that, I also started to feel more worry and anxiety around purchasing makeup: was I sure that I really wanted this product if I only had 5 products that I could buy for the whole month? Never mind that I had made all of these little loopholes and exceptions, I still felt this pressure around whether every single product I was looking at was the best choice or not. Sure, I wanted to make better decisions and buy less stuff and spend less money, but I didn’t want makeup, something that I generally found playful and stress-relieving, to become yet another source of stress.
In the end I decided that it was about balance. Do I have more makeup than anyone in their right mind needs? Probably. Do I buy a fair amount of products using the excuse that I would review them for my website, regardless of whether I wanted to have them for the long term? Also a yes. But do I also genuinely enjoy buying and testing and playing with makeup? Yes. So while I want to keep some of these lessons in mind, and want to spend more time evaluating some products before I just add them to my collection, I don’t want to set such strict limits on what and when I purchase. I’m going to give myself permission to buy products without being beholding to a completely arbitrary number, and I’m also going to give myself permission to let things pass me by – even if they are limited edition, even if they have a ton of hype and I think they might get me some traffic, even if every makeup channel I watch just insists that I have to have it.
Makeup Struggle had said something similar to that in one of her videos; I would include it below, but all of her videos seem to have disappeared from YouTube (that’s a stress for another day!). But I should have listened to what she said and known that I would feel very similarly. It’s not about a number, it’s about changing behavior and becoming more comfortable with the things that really do make me happy and getting rid of the impulses that are just about acquiring more.
Then some day, we might want to also look into those pesky emotions that are helping to feed the shopping sprees. But where’s the fun in that?!