How to Actually Keep Your Perfume No-Buy Resolution This Year

Photo collage of a bright vermilion red-orange paper shopping bag, a bunch of sliced oranges, and a fresh fuzzy peach.

It’s a new year, and with new years come new resolutions.

In the world of perfume and cologne enthusiasts, that’s often a resolution related to fragrance.

And, for a lot of people, it’s a no-buy year. Or month. Or week.

A deep blue cluster of small hydrangea or hortensia flowers.

A no-buy resolution is a promise to yourself to avoid buying something. Some people actively pursue a no-buy or lo-buy lifestyle in all areas of their lives, avoiding purchasing anything other than the bare necessities, like food and toiletries.

Others take a no-buy approach specifically to a certain hobby or space. That includes fragrance. Each year, dozens of people on forums like Basenotes boldly proclaim their no-buy resolution.

And then follow up ashamedly to say that they caved and bought a bottle of something or other.

So, if you’re determined to make a no-buy resolution in 2023, what can you do to make sure you stick to it?

A leather-bound book with yellowing pages flipped open to a page near the end, with a pair of glasses sitting on top of it.

As a full-time minimalist and broke person myself, I’m sort of on a semipermanent no-buy. I’ve only ever bought one full bottle of fragrance, several years ago. I buy small samples a couple of times per year, but otherwise, I don’t spend money on perfumes or colognes.

My secret? Well, besides being an inherently cheap person with no money, I’ve put together some other tips based on my experience. I hope they help you achieve what you want in your no-buy journey.

Determine It’s What You Want

A no-buy resolution may or may not be the right goal for you.

Perhaps you’re really looking to clear out your existing collection. Or maybe you just want to organize it. Or maybe you just want to be more intentional about your fragrance purchases.

All of these are really great, valid goals that don’t involve swearing off fragrance. If you feel that you need to make a change this year related to your fragrance habits, a no-buy year (or month, or week) may or may not be it.

If you think your buying habits are becoming a problem, a no-buy is great. It’s easy for everyone to fall into lifestyle creep, shopping habits, and compulsive and thoughtless buying.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t afford to shop the way you do. But maybe it would be responsible to save more money or spend it elsewhere. And most people would be better off being more attentive to what, exactly, they are buying, and why.

Just as mindfulness of the body helps people be physically and mentally healthier, mindfulness of your spending patterns helps you improve your financial life.

Creating new saving habits and cutting out thoughtless spending can be incredibly rewarding. If you think your fragrance habit could use this kind of mindful examination, trying a no-buy challenge could be great for you.

A stack of shiny silver coins.

Decide Why You’re Doing It

Maybe it’s your budget. Maybe you’re trying to be more conscientious and get yourself out of compulsive and thoughtless buying habits. Maybe it’s even a stance for the environment or against consumerism.

Maybe you just really want to complete a challenge. It’s fun, isn’t it? The determination and satisfaction of joining others in on a dare or contest. The sense of control in your own life is so empowering. And what resolution could be easier than not doing something?

Or perhaps you just want to enjoy your current collection. Maybe that means working through a pile of samples you haven’t tried yet, or just enjoying all of your bottles. Maybe you want to pay more attention to what you have so that you can organize it or give some of it away.

Whatever it is, write down the reason why you’re making a resolution not to buy fragrance.

A pile of bright red strawberries with green tops.

“I’m not walking into any perfume stores this year so I can save money.”
“I won’t look at new fragrances because I want to enjoy wearing what I have.”
“I don’t want to buy new cologne until I’ve tried all of my samples.”

Whatever it is, make it clear to yourself what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Put that note in a visible place. A scrap of paper on your fridge or a virtual note on your laptop. Keep it somewhere you can look at it regularly.

Narrow Down Your Goal

A no-buy resolution sounds great. But what does that mean to you, really?

Have you ever heard of SMART goals? It’s a popular mnemonic acronym for setting good goals. It stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

So, you want to avoid buying fragrances. What does that mean for you?

Specifically, what are you going to avoid buying? Any sort of fragrance product? Just full bottles of perfume or cologne? Full-price products?

A yellow wax tea light candle with a single lit wick.

How do you measure whether you’re succeeding? This is pretty simple if the goal is just “do not buy,” but if you’re looking for a low-buy compromise, be sure to specify what counts as succeeding. For instance, you can come up with a specific number of bottles you’re allowing yourself to purchase in a year.

Is your goal achievable? Avoiding purchasing non-essential, luxury items should be quite achievable for most.

Is it realistic? Even if it’s technically possible, this sort of goal might be quite difficult for some. If you’re involved in fragrance for work in some way, the goal you’re setting may or may not make sense.

And, finally, is there a specific timeframe around your goal? Specify whether you’re sticking to this for a year, a month, a week, until your birthday, or for some other time frame. That way, you know exactly how long you’re avoiding buying and when the experiment is over.

It’s easy to say “oh, I’m just going to never buy anything again.” But timeless goals are hopeless ones. Write down the specific timeframe of your resolution, and suddenly everything feels doable.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Once you’ve made your resolution, tell someone about it.

Here’s the catch: loudly declaring your new goal or idea to everyone in earshot can make your brain feel like you’ve already accomplished it, which makes actually doing so feel much less appealing.

So don’t just Tweet out your goal to all of your followers. Don’t loudly declare it to all of your friends.

A pair of red lips.

Instead, choose just one close friend or family member to tell about your goal.

You can also join a group of people that are working towards the same goal. Right now, there’s an active thread on Basenotes holding no-buyers accountable.

Once you’ve told someone or joined a group, you can keep them updated and celebrate your progress and successes throughout the year.

Find What Makes You Buy

Intrigue. Desperation. Sales. Rumors of discontinuation. A really fantastic vanilla.

What makes you pull the trigger?

How do you shop? Online? In stores? Do you let employees guide you toward something new? Habitually check fragrance sites for new releases?

A tall cedar tree. It is coniferous, with a rounded shape.

Maybe there’s an emotional trigger that really gets to you. Do you find yourself habitually shopping when you’re sad, or lonely, or embarrassed? Do you buy to impress others? Or try to feel better about yourself?

I bought zero bottles of fragrance in 2022. The one time I was incredibly tempted was in the last weeks and days of the year, when I fell entirely in love with Sarah Jessica Parker’s Stash. Lovely’s cool, edgy older sister.

I’m someone who generally can’t do signature scents or daily “dumb reach” scents. I just can’t stand to wear the same thing every day. But Stash felt like one of the very few fragrances that could make it into a calm, sensible, non-irritating regular rotation in my life. It was cool and clean and acceptable for wearing to the office. It was versatile and light and lovely. It made me feel like a Sex-in-the-City-eque cool girl.

But what really made me come close to impulse-buying a bottle was reading rumors that the fragrance had been discontinued due to an IFRA ban on the use of massoia wood lactone in scent products. And then searching for “buy Stash SJP” and promptly seeing a great discounted bottle listed on Mercari.

For a day, I felt so urgently that I had to order that bottle. Compared to the bottles listed most places, it was a steal. And if the fragrance was discontinued, this sort of opportunity might never crop up again.

That sense of urgency is what really makes me itch to buy. It makes me feel incredibly anxious to think I might be missing out.

But then I remembered that I had a decant of Stash I hadn’t yet finished, and told myself I could order a bottle after I finished the decant.

I haven’t finished the decant yet. I didn’t buy the bottle.

Reflect and investigate how you shop and what makes you buy. With this information, you can adjust your habits and activities to stay away from temptation.

Eliminate Temptations

If you examine your habits, you’ll probably find things you do that bring you into contact with fragrance shopping.

Think about where you go, both in person and online. What sorts of spaces do you visit that lead you towards purchasing perfumes? Make a list of these. Then, take steps to avoid them for the timeframe of your no-buy resolution.

Stop habitually visiting fragrance shopping sites. Go into your browser settings and turn off the auto-filling of your credit card details. Avoid watching long haul videos and reading extensive buying summaries. Unsubscribe from email newsletters and subscription services. If necessary, block websites and uninstall apps.

Wherever you go to let yourself be tempted, leave it be. Find somewhere else to go.

An old-fashioned black alarm clock with a cream-colored analog face.

It’s a little easier to do this categorically with a strict no-buy than with a more relaxed low-buy experiment. If you’re looking for more of a low-buy than no-buy experience, you’ll need to come up with some rules as to when and why you are buying. These will help prevent impulsive buying and choices you might later regret.

For instance, I have a rule that I have to finish an entire sample or decant of perfume before I decide to buy a larger bottle. Then, I can order the smallest full bottle if I still want it. Most of the time, I don’t.

You could also set a strict numerical limit on how many bottles of fragrance you will buy in a year. Or pick certain days on the calendar when you will allow yourself to make a celebratory purchase. Or set a hard upper price limit. Or create a required waiting period of a day or a week or a month before buying.

Whatever it is, write down those rules and stick to them, and you’ll be able to avoid impulse distractions.

Do Something Else

The Eiffel tower bathed in golden light.

The time and energy (and money) you invest into shopping can be poured into so many other things. You can simultaneously distract from buying and enrich other areas of your life by redirecting that time and energy.

Maybe you want to reconnect with some friends or family members or a partner. Or there’s a hobby you’ve been meaning to pursue. Or you’d simply be better off spending more time taking care of yourself: cooking, cleaning, sleeping. Whatever it is, stepping away from buying perfume frees up resources for it.

This isn’t about distracting yourself to an unhealthy degree. Instead, consider this an opportunity to invest in yourself elsewhere.

In this year of no-buy growth, try finding joy in something entirely new.

Enjoy What You Have

When you’ve sworn off buying, turning to what you already have can be an enormous and unexpected source of joy.

You know the excited way you covet something new you’ve just bought? The way you look up every little thing about it? Revel in every single picture of it? Wear it out every day? Show it to your friends?

Those are all things you can do with items you already own. You can treat them like they’re new, cherishing them as you look at them in a new light.

The planet Jupiter, with its large red spot visible.

If you just can’t make your old fragrances feel new, try radically changing their setting. Wear them to a different sort of occasion, with a radically different sort of outfit. Play with things you think will clash and never work, and you just might be surprised.

You can also try blending and layering fragrances. There’s a whole world of addictive combinations in your wardrobe. If you have just ten perfumes or colognes in your wardrobe, there are three million, six hundred twenty-eight thousand, eight hundred possible permutations and combinations out there for you to explore.

That’s a lot of entirely new fragrance experiences to try, based entirely on what’s in your wardrobe already.

And, if you’re truly convinced you’ve enjoyed wearing your collection in every way you can, consider enjoying it in another way. You could try giving it away, or organizing it, or selling it. Giving perfect fragrance gifts, organizing your collection, and starting up a fragrance-selling business are all incredibly gratifying ventures in their own ways.

TikTok logo on a black app icon.

Or you could write about it. Writing reviews is quite fun. You can even start your own blog if you want. Or YouTube or TikTok, if that’s your thing.

Or maybe some other sort of self-expression feels right to you. Painting portraits of your bottles? Choreographing bottles based on their scents? Perhaps even dabbling in composing perfumes yourself? There are so many ways to create. If you think you’ve had enough of consuming, try making something new.

The joy of buying something new can be great, but there are so many other kinds of joy you can find in what you have. Which is why a no-buy challenge can be a really fulfilling thing to try for absolutely anyone, both with fragrance specifically and just generally.

And that’s it!

Best of luck on your low-buy or low-buy journey. These challenges can be incredibly rewarding. I hope you find exactly what you’re looking for.

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