Even after she managed to climb her way out of $30,000 in debt, Cait Flanders reverted back to her old ways and started to spend again. As she bought more and more stuff, the personal finance writer eventually came to the realization that she was stuck in a vicious consumerist cycle and she wanted out.

In her new book ‘The Year of Less,’ Flanders details how she went a year without shopping and what she found out about herself during the process.

Flanders told CTV’s Your Morning that she still bought essential items such as, groceries, toiletries and gas for her car during the challenge, but she stopped buying anything she didn’t really need.

In order to determine what was “essential,” Flanders created a simple flow chart with questions designed to force her to carefully consider every potential purchase. She said the chart helped her come up with alternative avenues for obtaining items without buying them.

“We don’t think ‘I could just borrow that from my next door neighbour’ or ‘I could just ask my mom or someone in my family if they have that thing’ because sometimes you only need it for a few days,” she explained.

During her year of less, Flanders said she embraced a minimalist lifestyle and disposed of nearly 70 per cent of her belongings. She realized that she had purchased clothes and books for an aspirational version of herself.

“I bought clothes that I wanted professional Cait to wear or I bought books or classics that I just thought this more interesting version of myself would read. I thought that owning them meant I was that person,” Flanders said. “[But] you just have to accept yourself for who you are.”

For anyone interested in spending less, Flanders recommends taking stock of everything you own so you’re aware of it all.

“Just go around your home and take inventory of the things you own the most of and how many you have,” she said. “It will then stop you from making impulse purchases.”