Monday, February 28, 2011

What I didn't buy

Every time I thought of something I want/need this month, I wrote it down. Here's the tally:
Week one:
A new throw rug for the kitchen $40; gift for a friend, just because $40; black skirt $70; Funnels $12; Shark Steamer $60; Egg beater (mine broke) $12. Total: $244
Week two:
Cute note cards for mailing swapped seeds $15 (Fail. Bought them after all); those neat cloth boxes at Target to sort my mittens, scarves and hats $60; Kindle cover $28. Total: $88
Week three:
Books! Seven new novels by my favorite trash authors (perpetually out at the library), Ripe by Arthur Allen, Word Press for Dummies, $68; soda siphon (for making carbonated water) $93. Total $161
Week four:
Fell off the wagon: $35 for a jacket from the resale shop; Computer mouse: $25. Lost my favorite travel mug, new one $20. Total $45.
Total cost of things that I didn't buy: $538.00. We did go out to eat five times, and went to the movies twice. Oddly, this is more than we normally eat out or go to the movies. Not sure how that happened.

Some of these things I wouldn't have bought anyway. My family doesn't tend to accumulate stuff, on the "we've lived without it this long" principal. Some things we didn't buy we really do need, and will now buy. Some of them we really don't need, or could get free, or have an adequate alternate already. But because we don't tend to buy stuff, even though I imposed the proscription on myself, I found myself arguing-- "not fair, I never buy anything, it's all those people with the $7,000 credit card debt that need to stop buying stuff."

There are pages and pages of articles, digests, and scholarly works on how to reduce credit card debt, avoid credit card debt, make credit card debt work for you; about what the average debt is, or what a "typical" family's average monthly credit card payment is. You can find out how much the average family spends on housing, or food, or clothes.

Nowhere can I find a statistic on how much NEW debt people are adding to their balance each month, or how much they are spending in cash. It's like we don't even think about what we are spending, but only about what we owe. You can find out what we buy and when we buy, but not how much it's costing us. We have accepted it as normal to be owned by someone else. We have little or no concept of doing without anymore.

Our culture has trained us to consider shopping as a right, if not a patriotic duty. We have elevated immediate personal gratification over community health and called it "personal responsibility." We need a new paradigm, one that rewards creation over consumption, and tribal or familial relationships over the superficial relationships of the marketplace.


  1. Well done! What a great challenge this has been. I plan on writing my own blog about the experience a little later (after coffee!).

    It's interesting to me because we actually don't have debt and have a healthy disposable income (which frankly we dispose of with amazing ease!).

    So it's been difficult to get my husband on board because he's of the "well we have the money" mentality. In the end he decided to laugh it off and humour me as it being one of my social experiments.

    It did remind me of a few practices I used to have when we were much less financially secure and I must say, those were GOOD practices to have (e.g. eat out less, try it before you buy it, borrow instead of buy).

    Anyhow.. before I write the whole blog in your comments section.. I'll just say Thank You. It was tough, but I enjoyed it!

  2. Hi Xan

    I just did my own overview and a thank you for hosting but I will say it again.. Thank you! for having the no buy feb, it was great to really have to stop and think about it, and amazing to me to see just how much belt tighting we could do in our budget.

  3. farmgal, I had the opposite experience. I was amazed at what I actually don't buy. We seem to live pretty lean. And then, I was all excited-- I could go buy some stuff. So what do I do? Lose the power cord to my MacBook. Ninety-three bucks for a new one, and there goes the budget.