Last week my newly engaged colleague bought her first house.
She told me she’d be happy when they had a new kitchen and bathroom, a bigger dining table, a larger TV, a four-wheel drive and a trailer tent.
There’s plenty of research and endless books on the pursuit of happiness and none of them suggest shopping or buying as the answer. That’s why in 2014 I undertook a lifestyle choice and an experiment: I didn’t buy anything new or second hand for one whole year.
My ‘journey’ has not been without error. I tried it in 2013 and lasted until the end of April. I failed. In 2013 I saw buying nothing as a hardship filled with doom and gloom. Like a year of punishment. In 2014 I saw my year without buying (with the exception of food, essential toiletries and experiences like going to the movies) as an awesome opportunity, an adventure and a whole new way of life—and I loved it! I even wrote a book about it. I loved it so much I’m doing it again in 2016.
I saved 38% of my take home salary in 2014 so I now have a bit of authority on the subject of anti-consumerism and saving money. The seven things I love about quitting buying is this:
- You use up everything that you already have
I’m using up what I already have. I used to travel a lot. I discovered 20 five gram tubes of high brand toothpaste lurking in the back of the bathroom cupboard, so I’m using them up now, not saving them for ‘later.’ Psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses, who works with extreme hoarders, says there’s a little bit of hoarder in all of us and even I questioned my sanity when I counted 84 bars of hotel soap.
FYI I always used the soap during my hotel stay and then wrapped them up and brought them home ‘cos I knew the hotel cleaners would just throw the soap away— and that’s a complete waste of a bar of soap. Now I am using them all up, rather than buying shower gel!
- You make better use of your existing assets
I’m making better of use of my existing assets. I’m no Imelda Marcos but like most western women, if I’m honest, I only wear 50% of the clothes that I own. So I got ‘them’ all out – the entire contents of my wardrobe that is – I looked, pondered, sorted, re-arranged and put it all back and now I’m wearing them all this year. And the things I really don’t like. Well, I’m having Clothes Swapping Parties with my friends
- You swap and share
I like sharing. A book “Who stole my mojo” I had wanted to read for ages turned up on the share shelf at my block of flats. I read it, I gave it back and now I’m swapping and sharing the books I already own with neighbours, friends and colleagues. Like Rachel Botsman says “we don’t need to own a drill we just want a hole in the wall”.
Why do 400 people with 400 lawns, all in the same suburb, each own a lawnmower?
- You have more time
I’ve got more time—and cash—to spend on awesome days out at the beach or horse riding. I’ve learned that lots of people spend a lot of time managing their stuff and it seems they’re desperate to share their pain. My friend Julie told me how she spent her entire weekend moving the stuff she doesn’t use from one side of her garage to the other. My bestie Sarah emailed with tales of finally clearing out ‘under the stairs’ whilst my colleague Jodie tells me it’s her family’s lifelong ambition to ‘sort out and downsize all their junk’
- You value what you have
I’ve learned to really value what I have. When I was growing up I only got new things on birthdays and at Christmas. I got second hand clothes from older cousins and neighbours (that was exciting and cool!). I got my first job two weeks after my 13th birthday. I worked hard and saved even harder. I made lists of what I wanted and when I had enough saved, and only then, did that item become mine. Now credit cards, debit cards, pay pass and instant credit means anyone and everyone can have everything right now. The saving, the wanting and the waiting has gone—we get what we want when we want it whether we want or need it or not.
- You really want what you are waiting for
We don’t need much ‘stuff’ to be happy. My sister Louise always laughs—I’ve always been a bit frugal—because I’ve lived my life writing down what I want to buy on a ’3 month waiting list’. If I still wanted and needed said item when the 3 months passed I’d buy the item. 9 times out of 10 I no longer wanted or needed it. This ‘no buying’ experiment has really reinforced that we need very little to be happy. I’ve learnt that if I wait one whole year for something, I really will want it.
- You can inspire others
We can set a trend and inspire others. What I’ve learned most is that you need just one person to get out there and be brave and try some new to inspire many others. What was once seen by colleagues as a ‘crazy’ and ‘alternative’ venture is now encouraging people to buy less, save more and think about that they want and need.
What could you buy less of?
Could you give up buying for a month?
Could you use up things you have before buying more?
Underspent: Changing Spending, Transforming Savings.
Buy the 85 page BOOK Underspent in e-book or Kindle formats. Price $2.99 or £1.92
I’ve intentionally made it inexpensive, so that even the people with the smallest budgets can afford to buy it.