Welcome to Lost Letters

“No Buy” Overview: What & Why?

When I moved to Japan in 2019, I brought only two suitcases with me, and I was determined to eventually leave the country with even less. Although I have really limited myself in a country that is a veritable stationery heaven, I nevertheless purchased enough new stationery that I ended up needing storage for it all. 🚩 That was the red flag, signaling it was time to severely limit my stationery shopping. In the stationery community, we call this a “no buy” or “no spend”, and we tend to fail them quickly. 😅

Terms of My Year-Long 2022 No Buy

These are more like a list of exceptions to just generally not buying stationery, but just go with it.

  1. 🪙 I was allowed to buy 1 item per month - this seemed like a reasonable compromise, and I allowed myself to rollover the purchase if I didn’t get anything that month
  2. 🤔 I was allowed to buy 2023 planners that I’ve determined will best serve me after completing my techo kaigi - I’ve never had any problem with thoughtful, intentional purchases like these.
  3. 🙈 I was allowed to buy whatever I wanted from the 2023 Hobonichi release - Enjoying the annual release in person as I live in Japan is a highlight of every single year, so there was no way I was going to limit myself with this. However, this exception didn’t end up being that expensive (there were no covers I had to have), so I hardly spent anything in comparison to last year’s wallet carnage thanks to the must-have tweed and holographic lace temptations.

Keys to Maintaining the No Buy

Unfollowing suppliers - I noticed I was repeatedly engaging in an anti-pattern, wasting hours clicking through a sticker shop’s entire catalogue just to build and abandon a huge cart every time they posted about an update, so I unfollowed and unsubscribed from TONS of sticker and washi sample shops. All my go-to favorite shops were committed to memory anyway, so I could always support them if I deemed a potential purchase truly necessary.

Changing the Framing of My Hobby - Shifting my perspective and framing of my hobby from “stationery” to “planning and journaling” was critical as well. For me, stationery is inherently consumptive in nature, whereas planning and journaling are processes that can evolve creatively over time in a way that isn’t defined by mediums/material goods. That mental shift gave me the space I needed to step back and see if a new product really would serve my system and process needs. It also enabled me to enjoy watching the stationery community use and enjoy a vast variety of planners and journals as well as the latest trends and products without FOMO.

Daily Observations Through Use - By using my stationery stash every single day to decorate and fill out my planners and journals, I slowly developed a sense of which tools I lacked over time, which led to fewer, but much more deliberate and useful purchases later on.

My Stationery Pen Pals - I was greatly aided by my many extremely generous pen pals, who sent all manner of stickers, PET and washi tapes, and ephemera to use in decorating my spreads via snail mail. Every happy mail my friends sent was a fresh injection of creativity and potential, making me treasure these hand written and curated gifts even more.

2022 Purchases - ¥31617 (~$236 USD) total

2023 Planners - ¥8866 (~$66 USD) total

Hobonichi Release - ¥2362 (~$18 USD) total

Monthly Allowance - ¥20389 ($152 USD) total
Uniball One Limited Series Gel Pens - ¥10333 (~$77 USD) total

  • ¥4,949 - Study (mercari: all 3 sets sold together)
  • ¥2,900 - Fruit Tea (mercari: all 3 sets sold together)
  • ¥396 - Autumn/Winter (50% off: both sets)
  • ¥900 - Classical (mercari: only French Antique set)
  • ¥1188 - City Pop (all 3 sets)
  • ¥924 - Fika

Mildliners - ¥1100 (~$8 USD) total

Miscellaneous - ¥8956 (~$67 USD) total

Final Thoughts

🤯 I was shocked by the degree to which my spending did not match my expectations, and I wouldn’t have realized that without writing out all of this. I hope this serves as inspiration to keep more of a life budget in the future, because it would surely be illuminating too.

💸 I spent a boat-load on limited release Uniball One pens, because I started collecting them after many were discontinued. I’m still missing the spring/summer packs, but they’re stupid expensive on mercari, so I will simply be satisfied with the huge rainbow of pens I have now. I adore them and use them daily, but I still favor some colors more than others (such is the nature of buying pre-set packs). Since mildliner blessedly does not sell limited edition color packs AFAIK (if they do, do not tell me, I BEG YOU), I was able to test every color before purchasing specific ones that best suited my needs and color schemes, which increased my usage and satisfaction later on.

🗑️ There are two products on this list that I still have wrapped in their original packaging, which are definitely items I could have gone without: the San-X Sumikko Gurashi Mt. Fuji Letter Set and PLUS Mt. Fuji Eraser: Pink, but that only accounts for ¥528 (~$4 USD).

💪 Overall, I’m so satisfied with the results of this no buy and highly recommend the practice to fellow stationery lovers. I feel like it increased my love and appreciation for stationery and happy mail even more. I did break my 1 monthly purchase rule no matter how you slice it, but not by an egregious amount in my opinion. Aside from the two items I haven’t opened, I’m using all the other items regularly, which is a huge improvement over past years. Given how great this experience has been, I will continue to keep the no buy going for 2023 along with a log of my spending as well.