Please note, updates are posted in the comments. Feel free to chime in. Let us know how your shopping embargo is going!
Yes. I’m doing it again. It’s a shopping embargo and this time I’m extending it by a month. (!)
Here’s last year’s post about it.
This is my promise to myself:
Between January 1 and Feb 29, I will only purchase essential items for myself and for my family. This includes groceries/consumables, gas, basic hygiene (shampoo, soap, not cosmetics), medicine and essential clothing.
I will borrow books and magazines instead of buying them. I will rent movies and games instead of buying them. And because there was some discussion about it last time, I will continue to go on family outings; like ice skating or museums, because those aren’t things that will eventually end up in a landfill and I think they’re worth it.
Why am I doing this? My reasons are twofold: because we need to save some money around here, and the more I think about it the more I realize our perceived need for stuff has gotten way out of hand. Why is it that so many of us head to the malls after Christmas just to buy ourselves more things we don’t really need? It’s become almost automatic. When did shopping become our national pastime? Why do so many people consider it a form of recreation?
I would love it if you (yes you!) took this challenge and made it your own. Can you stop shopping for two months?
Start by saying no to Boxing Day. :)
But if you don’t think you can go cold turkey for two months you could consider making these small changes for the same stretch of time:
1) Consider your purchases carefully. Before you get to the register, slow down and ask yourself:
* Is this something I need?
* Do I already own something that could serve the same purpose?
* Can I borrow one, find one used, or make one instead of buying new?
* Was it made locally?
* Was it made with environmentally preferable materials?
* Was it made with fair labor practices?
* Will it serve more than one purpose?
* Is it made well enough to last a useful length of time?
* Will it be easy and cost-effective to maintain?
* Will using it require excessive energy?
* Does it come in excessive packaging?
* Can I recycle or compost it when I’m done with it?
* If I’m still not sure, can I wait a month be fore deciding to buy it?
(from http://www.newdream.org/walletbuddy.pdf … You can print these out and tuck it into your wallet as well.)
2) Buy second hand.
3) Brown bag your lunch, and use a reusable mug for your daily cup of coffee.
4) Use cloth/reusable grocery bags.
5) Ditch single-use water bottles (the kind you buy at the grocery store, 24 for $3.99) and fill a reusable container at the tap/your Brita-type container instead.
6) Track of your purchases.
7) Support small business instead of the big box stores.
If you can do any of those things you can consider it a small victory.
Here’s an interesting blog post about controlling impulse spending.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why we shop so often. For many of us it’s because we’re bored or unhappy and we want to reward ourselves. If that’s the case with you, consider doing something else when the urge hits. Call a friend, write a letter, take a bubble bath, do something fun with your kids … anything!
This is what helped me last year, and could help you too:
1) Avoid the malls. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
2) Leave your cash/credit cards at home.
3) Avoid fashion/consumer magazines. Looking at them will suddenly make you want to redecorate your living room or buy a new pair of shoes.
4) Watch less television. Same reason.
5) Switch grocery stores. I often shop at the Superstore, and they sell a lot more than just groceries.
This year’s challenge is also forcing me to consider some issues that (I think!) are worth are worth discussing in more detail. I would love to hear your thoughts.
- I am a big fan of small neighbourhood stores. Here in Westboro we have a lot of really nice little shops, run by some really nice people, and many of them have been part of this community for years. I hate to advocate not shopping in those places. I love them!
- Related: on a larger scale, if everyone stopping buying things, how would that change our economy?
- I’m going to Jamaica in January. If I buy my kid a t-shirt from the Bob Marley museum will that make me a big fat hypocrite?
- I find it hard to be a non-spender when there are other people involved. For example, if Emma or and Sarah are invited to birthday party, obviously, gifts are expected. Will anyone look askance if we show up with a handmade card, a macaroni necklace, and a donation to the humane society? I hate that that bugs me, but it does. I should be stronger than that. Gah.
- I realized last year that some of my, ahem, desired expenditures were ones that I was just putting off until after my self-imposed deadline. Postponing a purchase is not the answer to the big question – can we consume less - but overall, I know I did consume less. And we saved a lot of cash as well. That’s what matters, right?
So. That’s it. Everything is on the table. Who will join me? And help spread the word? Let me know if you’re playing along. Further discussion/progress will be posted in the comments.
ETA. Some sites worthy of a browse for motivation and inspiration:
- The Simple Dollar
- Get Rich Slowly … Are you a Shopaholic?
- 5 steps to taming materialism, from an accidental expert
(Welcome! And please let me know if you’re participating and have written about The Shopping Embargo of 2008 and I’ll add you to the list. The more people that know about it, the better!)