Sunday, January 26, 2020

Our Year of Buying Nothing: The First Month

At the very end of December 2019, I made the last minute decision to enact this resolution: to make no purchases for the entire year. Of course, we'll still buy food & toilet paper; we'll still go to the occasional restaurant, and if necessary we'll buy replacement items if something essential breaks. This decision followed on the heels of a string of random purchases I made during November & December, more than my usual. We spent not only money on these items, but time in installing and learning how to use them, moving things around so they had a proper place in the house, and storing associated paperwork and processing the packaging. While I don't regret these purchases, I have seen how dangerously easy it is to get into shopping online sales; one click and something new and exciting is on its way to your door. I feel our family is pretty well taken care of materially and should be fine for some time. I'm excited to see how long we can go without buying anything more.

A Life Unprocessed

We are a family of four (plus this lovely cat) with one full-time earner and myself, a mostly stay at home parent who is just transitioning to working more regular hours. I've been able to be home with my kids their whole lives, an honor I don't take for granted. In addition to raising & educating the kids, being the stay at home parent has also meant that I have more time to make our meals from scratch, as well as finding other ways of being frugal through the years (which you can read about in my previous articles). Many years ago, I started a Buy Nothing Facebook group in our community, and it took off like wildfire. This group, and the others like it that have since sprung up, is an amazing resource for neighbors to gift all kinds of things to each other. I love being able to offer up anything we find we no longer want or need to the group. Anytime I want to buy something, I ask first in my gifting group to see if I can find a similar item that a neighbor no longer has need of.

This resource in no small part enables me to go most of the time without buying anything. Last year, the only clothing items I bought for my kids were two pairs of jeans for my older son who had shot up like a weed, new shoes for my kids & partner, and new slippers for myself. Oh, and for Christmas I bought my partner a sweet new flannel shirt. For all our other clothes, our needs were more than met by the offerings in our neighborhood groups. In addition, because I personally love clothes and getting together with friends, twice a year for the past 5 years I have hosted trading parties, where everyone can bring their nicer castoff clothes to give away and come home with bags of new things to try for free.

So, here we are nearing the end of the first month, and while my hasty resolution has presented no real hardship, there have been a few challenges. For example, I have a Christmas cactus that has been in a horribly ugly plastic pot ever since two naughty kittens knocked it off a windowsill and it's original beautiful ceramic pot broke. I've looked for a replacement pot for years on my Buy Nothing group, and even at yard sales, but they never seem to be big enough. Suddenly, a few days into the new year, I felt I *must* get a real pot for my otherwise lovely plant. I think the constraint of not allowing myself to buy something made this desire for a replacement pot feel suddenly urgent. However, I just reminded myself that, as it's been doing fine in its plastic pot for so long, it can surely go another year without any horrible repercussions.

Another challenge was not buying my cat a scratching post. He transitioned to an indoor-only cat a year or so ago, and since then has found lots of places around the house to scratch up, some approved by us (doormats) and some we would much rather him not (the nice wool carpet and the door frames). He doesn't have a real scratching post, and it occurred to me recently, after seeing an ad for a cute cactus shaped cat tree/scratching post, that this would be just the thing. I went so far as to click on the ad, and ever since then my Facebook feed has been inundated with ads for cat-related items. Of course, as all pet parents must, I want the best for my kitty so if something would be good for him or useful, I can often justify the expense. Fortunately my partner is very practical and reasonable, and by running purchases by him I have often saved myself the regret of being stuck with an unhappy selection. Also, we visited his family earlier this month and they told me how easy it is to make your own scratching post, with some twine and wood. I have not pursued this, but knowing I can make something myself is often enough for me to not want to buy it.

I look forward to future challenges. I'm sure I'll be faced with more difficult decisions than those that have presented themselves to date. Perhaps my son will grow another two inches and we won't be able to find any decent pants for him from our gifting groups. Perhaps something that seems quite essential will break and we'll have to decide how necessary its replacement is. I'll try to keep track of these challenges as they come up, and document here how I deal with them. In future posts I'll also speak to how this resolution affects us as a family, whether it becomes a hardship at all or if we notice positive effects beyond the obvious of saving money, reducing clutter, and reducing waste.

Update: Click here for my article on buying nothing through the Coronavirus quarantine.

We buy many of our bulk foods from Azure Standard, a natural foods distributor. Below are Amazon Affiliate Ads. Any purchase made through them helps support our family. Thanks in advance!

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