A Low-Buy Year in Review

In 2019 I embarked on a low-buy year to try to use up all the beauty and body care products that I had stashed away in our apartment. My plan was not to buy anything unless I used up everything in that category and needed a replacement.

Looking back it was a pretty ambitious project and I’m glad I stuck it through and continued to post my empties and new purchases on Instagram throughout the year, even if I ended up with a lot of new items!

In tandem, I participated in a “Project Pan” where I tried to finish open products and see how many I used up each month. I saved all empty products for the whole year of 2019 so I could take a photo of everything together which actually really satisfying!

I realize it is now midway through 2020 and I never actually gave the results so for those who have been following my updates, thanks for sticking with me! Here we go…

The Results

Overall I was successful at using up products and keeping the empty containers for documentation purposes, but since I brought in way more than I used up, the project can not be considered a complete success.

Pros of the project:

  • I used up what looked like a considerable amount of product
  • Many of the products I finished were older items in my “collection,” and I was glad to use them up
  • I passed along products I wouldn’t use to family and friends rather than holding on to them
My empties for all of 2019!!

Cons of the project/where I did not succeed:

  • I purchased many full sized items throughout the year, and many of the items that I finished were sample/mini sized
  • Family and friends gifted me a lot of products (this didn’t help me use things up, but I really appreciated it so actually this could be a pro – yay! Folks, if you’re reading this, keep it up!)
  • I used a lot of coupons to get free items, adding to my stash even more

And a few reflections on what I used up:

  • I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. Some products took a really long time to use up. For example, skincare products such as serums, and perfumes, take a while to use.
  • I have a set regimen (when it comes to skincare, less is more for me) and don’t often try new types of products. I was gifted a body scrub sample, which I used up, but I wouldn’t incorporate into my overall routine. Therefore I don’t think I need too many different item types in my collection.
  • Regardless of the above, I do like to have a variety certain products such as shower gel, lotions, and perfumes. For these, I like to switch up scents otherwise I get tired of them. Finishing a single full-size perfume took me an incredibly long time because I didn’t want to use the same scent every day.

Looking back on 2019, although I accumulated a lot of product, I didn’t spend an unreasonable amount. The largest portion of what I spent was at Bath and Body Works. I don’t buy their products full price (does anyone?) and always use coupons, especially during their semi-annual sales. As a result, I’ve amassed a collection of their products that I believe will last me a few years given my rate of use. While their products may not be sustainable or the most environmentally-friendly nor natural, I love the scents and just really get so much joy collecting and using them!

Just one of many ‘hauls’ from Bath and Body Works during the year.

I had also planned on not purchasing new clothes as part of this low buy, but ended up ordering a number of new shirts, sweaters, pants, and jewelry during sale periods. Most things for work so they all went to good use.

What about all the trash?

I put larger bottles in the recycling bin (typically those 8oz and up) and brought the smaller bottles/vials to Origins for recycling (I can’t find information on their US site, but on their Canadian site it says they will accept empty makeup/products from any brand and will recycle). Unfortunately I didn’t know if there was a way to recycle foil packets or plastic wrappers, so those were thrown in the trash.

What’s Next

I’m doing this project again in 2020 and I will be curious to see what happens towards the end of the year. For monthly updates, check out my Instagram and also to see photos of what I purchased each month. Overall I was very good about keeping empty containers in 2019 and even over the past six months. I am curious to have two years of data to really have an even better sense of how much I use each year.

A recent purchase from a French brand Yves Rocher! Fun fact, I have purchased their items in 4 different countries, and this purchase was the first time I bought something in the US.

I also recently went through my collection carefully, and mailed a box of skincare goodies and more to a friend. Since I don’t experiment much with my own regiment, it felt great to send her products that I hadn’t opened, and maybe she’ll find something she loves!

Have you done a low-buy or Project Pan? How did it go for you?

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