28 Dec, 2011
Shopping Embargo 2011-2012
Can you go a day without buying something? A week? A month? Why or why not?
There was a really insightful post about shopping addiction posted on BlogHer recently. You can read it here. Shopping can be like any other addiction, and this lady is obviously trying to fill a hole in her heart with something from a store instead of some other substance, and because it’s not working she just keeps trying.
I don’t want to give my kids the impression that retail therapy is healthy. I’d rather they find solace in their friends and family and work off steam by finding another outlet, whether it’s by taking a long walk with the dog or writing or drawing in their journal, or taking up jogging.
I want my kids to focus on the things they have, not the things they don’t have.
As regular readers might know, every year around this time my family takes a long break from shopping. My motto for this year’s Shopping Embargo is shop mindfully.
Past versions of the Embargo are contained in a separate category. You can read back here.
As per previous, this is how our Embargo will work:
Until Feb 28, we will only purchase essential items for ourselves and for our family: groceries/consumables, gas, basic hygiene (shampoo, soap, but not cosmetics), medicine and essential clothing.
The Shopping Embargo, for us, is about spending money on the right things, in the right amounts, in the right places. We will continue to spend money on events which bring us joy and don’t end up in a landfill, like tickets to museums, movies and shows, bird seed for our backyard friends, the odd ice cream cone or bottle of wine.
I’ve always felt that where kids are involved, money spent on experiences is better than a toy anyway… because that’s what they remember.
I’m not advocating we all stop buying things. Not at all. But during the Embargo I pledge stop making impulse purchases of things we don’t need. I will carefully consider the things we buy and why we buy them. And when we do decide make a purchase I will ask myself some important questions before I get to the register:
- Do we really really need this? (Frankly, it’s amazing how often the answer is no.)
- Will I get a lot of use out of this?
- 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 before deciding to buy it?
For us, the Embargo is about saving money, examining my family’s needs and wants, and abstaining from buying things we don’t really need.
I love beautiful things. But it makes sense to spend more on less. If I buy myself a couch it will be a great couch. If I buy a sweater it will be one I can wash and wear for years to come. If I buy shoes I will spend a little more on one pair knowing they will last more than one winter.
I don’t classify myself as a recreational shopper. If you are (and by “recreational” I mean that you shop when you’re bored, feeling depressed, or you shop to have fun with friends) going cold turkey might be tough. If you don’t think you can stop shopping for two months you could consider making the following small changes for the same stretch of time. Every little bit counts!
Support small business instead of the big box stores. Here in Ottawa we have a lot of really nice little shops, run by some really nice people. Shopping there is better than shopping anywhere else. I will go there first when I need to buy something.
Don’t shop at Wal-Mart. Sure, they have some cheap stuff there, but Wal-Mart isn’t doing our economy any favours. I know there will be some people who get upset at this suggestion and I urge them to watch this Frontline documentary BEFORE hitting publish on their comment. Wal-Mart’s quest for the lowest price means the goods are outsourced to places where working conditions are often sub-par. In 2004 alone, Wal-Mart purchased $18 billion worth of Chinese goods. Bye bye American manufacturing jobs! And I haven’t even touched on food and toy safety, or wage violations. Many of their employees cannot afford proper health insurance. The owners, the Walton family are worth a combined total of $93 billion (as of December 2011). (Wiki) They’re billionaires, BILLIONAIRES, while the regular folks who work at their stores, helping them make their billions, earn poverty-level wages, you know, to help keep prices down.
Buy second hand.
Brown-bag your lunch and use a reusable mug for your daily cup of coffee.
Ditch single-use water bottles.
Track your purchases. It might surprise you.
Need new clothes? Avoid the trends and spend more on good quality goods that will last. That trendy $14.99 sweater you’re thinking of buying probably isn’t going to last you until next year.
Consider buying handmade. It’s a great way of supporting the local economy.
Know your weaknesses. I am unsubscribing from every Groupon type list I’m on and throwing the flyers right into the recycle bin. I shop when I’m bored and edgy so I will think about other things I can do if I’m feeling tempted. Go out for a walk around the block, pick up a book, organize something, whatever! Don’t give in to shopping as a form of recreation. Avoiding the malls is the best thing I can do. (Out of sight, out of mind, right?)
Leaving my wallet at home.
Watching less television.
Switching grocery stores to one that ONLY sells groceries. I often shop at the Superstore, and they sell a lot more than just groceries. I need to physically avert my eyes from the displays of cute merchandise they sell there. (Sunglasses, socks, slippers, lip gloss!)
As always, I will be updating my progress in the comments of this post. There’s a graphic in the right hand sidebar that will bring you to this post while it’s active. I’ll be tracking any slip ups and adding updates here!
Anyway, there it is. Wish me luck!