NO BUY 2019: Trip to Toronto, and advice for those travelling on a low buy or no buy

Travelling while on a no buy can be…challenging. I recently had the privilege of travelling to Toronto for the Jack Summit 2019 national youth mental health advocacy conference. It’s an annual summit where around 200 or so applicants are selected to attend a three day long conference of panels, guest speakers, workshops, and networking events related to mental health advocacy for those under the age of 25. I decided to extend my visit by a few days to see more sights around Toronto, visit a few friends, and take a break from work stress.

For those who live in larger cities, this may not be a big deal. But coming from small-city-Saskatchewan where the shopping isn’t bad but definitely isn’t impressive; this posed quite a challenge for my no buy. In the past when I’ve gone to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, I have always flown home with a suitcase ready to wrench itself open at moment because it is so filled with purchases that I normally can’t get at home. Usually I’ve done a mini-clothing spree and have half a dozen Sephora purchases, alongside the usual post cards and Chapters/Indigo things I pick up at the airport or for the plane ride home.

This year I was determined to enjoy myself, but still do my best to stick to my no buy. I budgeted myself $100 per day maximum for sightseeing, eating out, transportation within the city, and shopping. Surprisingly, I did manage to stick to this budget! I think the thought of overspending, coming home to even more debt, and then letting that guilt ruin my holiday and conference, kept me in check. There were a few days where I was slightly over my budget, but this was balanced out by the few days where I was significantly under budget. By braving my public transportation anxieties (I am SUCH a country mouse in the city, as we don’t even have a subway system in my entire province) to take the subway and walk to the majority of my destinations, I spent maybe $45 total on transportation. To my recollection it was about $21 for the half a dozen subway rides I took, about $7 for the Uber my roomie and I took the last day of the conference when we were absolutely exhausted and overslept, and about $15 for the UP Express from downtown Toronto to the airport. For food, it fluctuated between cheap meals on the run and a few really nice sit down or order in meals, and I didn’t go too wild with any alcohol purchases, which is what usually hurts the food budget the most. For sightseeing I did a few free attractions like local art galleries and the Allen Gardens Conservatory, with a few paid entrance attractions like Casa Loma ($30 or so), which were worth the price because they were not only enjoyable but filled up so much of my day.

I think what was most impressive is that when it came down to shopping, I didn’t buy anything that violated my no buy. My purchases included: postcards to thank my conference sponsors from Casa Loma, an eye roller serum from Pixi by Petra (I was entirely out of any eye products for multiple weeks prior), a Laroche Posay Cicaplast hand lotion because I had forgotten mine at home and the hotel lotion was doing nothing to help my cracked hands, a 10 year goal planner from Indigo, and some bandaids and Polysporins because I absolutely destroyed my feet with the boots I was walking kilometres in.

It was really satisfying because when I flew home I didn’t have to worry about fitting everything into my carry-on bags, I knew that I hadn’t created a ton of debt to add onto my already existing debt, and I was going home with a few well-needed and well-wanted purchases that I was genuinely excited about!

My advice for anyone going on a tantalizing and tempting trip while sticking to a no buy:

  • Create a realistic (key word: REALISTIC) budget. Consider food, transportation, sightseeing, the taxes added onto those totals, and whatever shopping that fits into your rules. Make sure your estimates are realistic to the actual cost of those items in that area, and make sure to give yourself a bit of wiggle space. I like to round up my daily travel budget by about $15 to $20 to account for miscalculations or surprise expenses, like getting lost and having to take a cab, etc. Consider whether or not you will be eating in sit down restaurants or more so fast food and on the fly, whether or not you will be making your own food at where you are staying, and whether or not you’ll be consuming alcohol on your trip (that adds up quickly), but don’t deprive yourself of an enjoyable vacation. It’s a tricky balance, but I’m always reminded of my mom’s advice. She always says that you can eat inexpensive bologna sandwiches for weeks when you get home for a trip, but you should enjoy the brand new sights, scents, and tastes of your destination while you’re there.
  • Look for tourist deals or coupons before you head out on your trip. For example, Montreal has a MTL Passeport where tourists can by a two day or three day pass that gives them unlimited access to public transportation and a number of museums, galleries, and other attractions for the amount of time specified. If the attractions on that list are what you mainly plan on doing for that number of days, it can save you a fair bit of cash on admission to all of these attractions.
  • Research free attractions in the city. Toronto’s Allen Gardens is a beautiful example! I spent nearly an hour wandering around the glass conservatory checking out the plants and turtles, enjoying a break from the cold outside, and taking in the warm temperatures of the conservatory.
  • Take a breather when you are close to impulse buying. Take a lap around the mall, or take a moment to head to the bathroom and come back before purchasing something. It can be easy to get caught up in the mentality of “We don’t have that back home, I need to buy it, now or never!” with things that we don’t need or even want that badly. Taking a moment to think about how it will be a pain in the ass to haul home with you, or to remind yourself of the similar items you have back home, helps.

That’s about it from me today. How is everyone else doing on their 2019 no buys? The majority of folks seem to be on month three (except for those who started earlier, like me!). Has it gotten more difficult as time has gone on? Easier? I’d love to hear how you all are doing!

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