Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Putting Your Foot (and your pocketbook) Down

Crunchy Chicken can always be counted upon to lay out a great challenge.

I just signed up for Buy Nothing Month. This is the kind of challenge I've been thinking of doing since I heard about Buy Nothing Day and then read the fabulous book by Judith Levine, Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. A day seemed too short--but a year seemed to long. But here in the Buy Nothing month, as the clever Miss Crunchy says, we have sort of a "sub-Compact".

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008

I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the amount of advertising that surrounds us. On my recent flight to a conference and book signing, I put my shoes through security in a plastic tub with an advertisement in the bottom. After we took off, I lowered my tray table to find yet another advertisement. Neither of these places are particularly heinous places for advertisements--not like ads on a school bus or something-- but it certainly does add to my feeling that I am constantly under siege by the corporate world.

This challenge is just a little way of fighting back, of resisting.

* * *

On the other hand:

I spent a little time Sunday at a yarn party in my neighborhood. There were about a dozen local completely independent vendors there, selling hand-spun yarn, hand-dyed fiber, hand-sewn knitting bags, and self-designed patterns. I don't want to stop buying things that support the makers. The yarn party is the fiber world's equivalent of the farmers market. THIS is the way I want commerce to be.

But sometimes, we need a little kick to get us to reset our priorities and help us see things from a different view. So I've signed up for this month--a month, I might add, which is conveniently situated smack dab between the yarn party and Maryland Sheep and Wool.

* * *

Buying nothing means:

* No new clothes
* No new gadgets
* No new furniture or housewares
* No salon services
* No makeup
* No tools
* No whatever the hell else people buy

There are exemptions for edibles, supplies for vegetable gardens, household necessities (like toilet paper for visitors), necessary fuel, and anything else we need for our survival. And if participants must absolutely acquire something else, we must try to borrow, barter, or buy it used. Preplanned (or emergency) home repair is also exempt, as is anything already ordered.

April is the month of the both my son's birthday and my own. I've already ordered special presents (ones that are sort of relevant, in their own ways), so I think this first barrier will be easy enough to get past.

April is also the month of Passover--and therefore my in-laws will be visiting for a week. The visit might be a harder challenge than the birthdays, since shopping is something my in-laws enjoy and therefore we do more when they are visiting than we do otherwise.

Of course, you can always set any caveats in advance that make one of Crunchy Chicken's challenges more appropriate for you. In this case, mine is that at the yarn party, I told one of my favorite fiber pushers that I wanted to order a particular color and would contact her soon. So that, I think, is my exception.

And Crunchy Chicken does give an option for the weak among us: "If you end up buying something new that is non-essential, I'll be hosting a weekly Sunday Confessional for you to justify your purchase. So, just think about having to confess to the world what you couldn't hold off on buying."

* * *

Of course, I am not signing up my partner or son for this adventure. Perhaps they'll join me--but perhaps not. Son has his cat-sitting money burning a hole in his pocket--but even if he spends it, it is likely to be at the charity-supporting thrift store.

But I'm here to recruit all you readers to join me in whatever way feels right to you. Let me know what you think!


LizKnits said...

Good for you taking on this challenge. I think it will be that, a bit of a challenge, but hey if we don't stretch ourselves we never make progress!

Martha H said...

Great challenge! May I add that I owe you your yarn winnings, which I will be giving you tonight. That's two skeins of yarn that you may want to consider as new possessions without having to purchase them!

Anonymous said...

I love this challenge too...I will do it in baby steps. one day at a time. and see how far I get. It should be easy for me as the disposable income is very low..

Mikaiya said...

I think I'm in! I'm going to have to make an exception already for a birthday gift (since my sister and I vowed to go in together on it already), and it is going to be HARD to spend Passover with the parents and not go shopping. I can't imagine a better time to try it, though, having just moved and increased my debt load from that...

Lola said...

What about the people who make a living selling these products, as well as making these products? Some of these folks have to pay the rent, feed their kids, and so forth.

The Purloined Letter said...

Yep. These are always hard decisions in a complex world of reality.

Still--buying cheap products made overseas in unregulated factories and sold in big-box stores gives precious little money to people trying to earn enough to pay the rent, feed their children, etc. A more localized economy would do that very well (and that is why I am such a fan of the farmer's market/yarn party economy). But in the more corporate way, the vast majority of the money goes into the hands of the multimillionaires at the top. And the scary thing is that these huge chain stores really hurt local people. Mom-and-Pop businesses fail because the chain is cheaper--then the money that locals spend in the chain just winds up leaving the area instead of supporting the town and its people, as it would if spent in truly local stores.

You are absolutely right that these are decisions that are difficult and inherently problematic. But at the same time, that very fact can remind us that each decision we make, even the little ones, can have an enormous impact on our world.

Sheepish Annie said...

While I"m not down to buying "nothing," circumstances have dictated a radical change in my purchasing habits this year. I think it's actually been good for me to spend more time considering what needs to come into the house before handing over the credit card. It's even impacted the way I eat. I'm cooking!

Carrie K said...

This is a really eye opening project. After I read Judith Levine's book (which I think I'd read about on your blog in the first place), the Lent before last (2007), I gave up buying for Lent. It was much harder than I expected in some ways and easier in others. I'd already exempted my Knit Night Out at the cafe but I didn't realize I spent so much money on books and yarn trapped at my computer.

Wendy said...

If misery loves company, and not shopping is misery, all of us non-buyers should be ecstatic :). The thing I love about this challenge is exactly what you've pointed out - that it's long enough to make you think about how you're spending your money, but not so long that you start to feel deprived.

My hope is that after this month of buying nothing, I will be able to better define "need" and "want", and will have learned how to make do with what I have.

I've also joined Chile's Declutter challenge. So, at the end of the month, I should have a few dollars in the bank and a more austere home ... at least that's the goal ;)

Good luck to you!

Crafty Green Poet said...

this is a great idea, I buy very little non-essentials except for my weakness for second hand books. I'm too late to make April my own Buy Nothing Month but I'll see what I can do another month.

Stefanie said...

Thanks for contributing to All Things Eco. Your article and others were posted yesterday, I hope that you will check out the other contributors :)

How did you end up doing for the month? I'm not sure I would able to pull it off!

The Purloined Letter said...

Things went well--easy, actually--until the last day of the month where I made a purchase merely because I was angry and wanted to rebel against the world. Not very rational, but there it is. I still need to write that post....


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