A few of my friends and I joined a Facebook group where we “buy nothing new for the month of January.” This was started because one friend had read an article about a woman who went for some time (I don’t know how long) without buying *anything* new. (Groceries and staples were obviously allowed.)
I joined the group and didn’t think I’d have a tough time doing this. Trust me when you have 6 kids, you figure out, as my grandmother would say, how to :use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” It was years and years before my youngest saw a new winter coat (and then only because it was on sale and I had a coupon.) That’s what you get for being at the end of the line of 6 kids.
Every Sunday I sit down and write out a food menu which includes breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the week. I look in my pantry and see what wasn’t used from the previous week and try to incorporate that into a few of the meals. From this menu, I create my shopping list. It’s rare that I buy anything that is not on the list and it’s even rarer that I spend more than $180/week for 6 adults (granted the youngest is 15, but she’s an athlete and eats her fill.) In the summers, even when I have 2 extra home from college, I rarely spend more because we eat so much local produce.
With regard to “things” I’ve never been one to go shopping just to “buy things” (unless of course it’s at a bookstore which is my arch nemesis when it comes to keeping to a budget.)
But I have to admit that even though I’m in this challenge, I have been buying a few things this month. I bought my son to Norwich yesterday and that meant I stopped by King Arthur. I had a coupon and a list of things that had been broken and/or needed to be replaced. My biggest indulgence was a kit for a King’s cake (but to be fair if I didn’t make it, I’d order one from a bakery) That’s the bad news, the good news is that you wouldn’t believe how many things I picked up and then put back down – thanks to the this challenge – because I didn’t need them. They were “nice to buys” and “not need to buys.”
The challenge has made me pause before a purchase.
I need a new belt – my pants are falling down even with my belt on (yeah me!). After waiting, a $10 off coupon finally came from Bob’s. I went to buy the belt and was told the coupon didn’t start until Sunday. After calculating the time and gas, it still didn’t add up to $10 so I put the belt back and said, “see ya Sunday!” I’m willing to wait, but if I need a belt, I’m going to get a belt.
I don’t see the “no buy challenge” as much about deprivation as much as I see it about what my Grandmother would say – “use it up, wear it out, make do, or it do without” (editor – unless it’s something that you really, really need.) It’s a way to make you take a breath and pause before you pull out your money to ask yourself, “do I really need that?”
And even if you don’t really need something, sometimes you really, really just want something and that’s fine – as long as you recognize that and you are in control of the purchase. A new scarf that would complement a vest you were given over the holidays might be an acceptable purchase to make with your money (provided you have the money to make that purchase and are not borrowing (charging) to get it) – chips and candy by the register as an impulsive buy because you’re hungry (or stressed out about buying the scarf) is not.
That’s the key here, you don’t have to deny yourself anything. You simply need to be aware of what you are buying and where your money is going. But in a culture where we are bombarded with advertisements to “Buy, buy, buy” sometimes, that’s just not as easy as it might sound.
Consider this another lesson in “living tiny in a big house.”
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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