Category Archives: General

My Shopping List

Today is the first day of my fiscal month. I only get paid once a month on the 15th, so I have to budget carefully to last through the month. I’m not too worried about this next month as I’m not spending as much as I usually do. Since I’m getting paid today, I get to got through my shopping list and decide what to buy.

Ever since the start of the project I’ve been keeping a list of things I feel I ‘need’ to buy. I had the brilliant idea of holding off on buying these things until the beginning of my fiscal month in order to give myself time to evaluate the true ‘need’ of said items. Here’s my current list with items crossed out that I’m not going to get after all:

  • Post-It Notes
  • Electric kettle
  • Tupperware
  • Shea Oil
  • Faucet-mount water filter
  • Dish brush
  • Brush for cleaning laptop
  • Tub stopper
  • Sharpie pen
  • Paper for my printer
  • Findings for jewelry making

My roommate is going to split the cost of the filter and Tupperware with me since they’re house needs. Other items fall under “work” – sharpie pen, paper, brush, post-its – and “Toiletries”. The one item that isn’t obviously necessary is the electric kettle. I have that on the list for cooking purposes – it’s good for more than boiling water. And it’s incredibly helpful when making risotto, which means I’ll stay away from my favorite risotto restaurant. My next step is to look on Freecycle and Craigslist to see if I can get it for nothing.

Last fiscal month we bought a much-needed stand for the microwave we’re getting sometime soon (hopefully for free) and I bought a book about Stretching. Sadly, that last purchase was a complete cheat. The library didn’t have any copies and I couldn’t find the information I wanted online. 15 days in and already I’m being a bad girl.

At any rate, the Shopping List is the best idea I’ve had on this project so far. By restricting my ‘need’ buying to one time during the month I can curb impulses. I may even continue this once the year is over.

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Book Review: Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less

After reading Not Buying It, I took Amazon’s suggestion to read Give It Up!, too. I didn’t have high hopes for it, though, based on the many negative reviews on the site. Had I not been reading the book in preparation for this project, I would have returned it to the library after finishing the first chapter. For you, my dear audience, I read it all.

Give It UpIn Give It Up!, author Mary Carlomagno decides to eliminate “unnecessary facets of life” by doing a year-long über Lent. Each month she gives up one thing she enjoys or can’t do without. The idea is that, by giving these things up, it will force her to evaluate her dependence on them or otherwise transform her outlook on life.

A lofty goal and a worthy project, but this book suffers from a major flaw: the author is annoying.

That’s an unfair value judgment based on nothing but my own opinion. But, as she is presented to me in this book, I feel it’s a apt assessment. Firstly, Carlomango is an incredibly privileged person (that sounds familiar…), thus, her struggle to give up things like alcohol every night and taxis every day doesn’t resonate with me. And she never acknowledges that this might be the case. Her world might as well be the whole world as far as this book goes.

As I said, the first chapter nearly did me in. January was no alcohol month and Mary’s first step was to reschedule her many appointments labeled as “Drinks With…” in her date book. Apparently no one will talk to this woman over coffee, only over martinis. That’s a red flag right there. She cancels a dinner date with her brother because there’s “no point” in eating food at this very fine restaurant if she can’t have wine. She also discovers that it’s a lot easier to wake up in the morning when she’s not hung over (no, really?) and how catty and annoying her girlfriends are when they’ve had a bit to drink. Her strange cravings for alcohol after Yoga class plus her inability to go 10 minutes without being tempted plus her feeling that she could not have “fun” while drinking club soda all smacked of a serious problem to me. One not easily solved and one that I’m not sure many people have.

Other appalling chapters included August’s ban on taxis in which our heroine discovers that she needs “sensible shoes” in order to survive the horror of mass transit with her toes intact. It also reveals that she regularly (read: at least twice weekly) takes $50 cab rides home because she can’t be bothered to take the train (or is too drunk to). She admits to not knowing where things are in the city in which she works because she never walks but hails a cab instead. An expensive habit at roughly $300 per month.

Some months she chooses genuinely interesting things to give up: elevators, cell phones, television, multi-tasking. Her observations on how people rely on cell phones instead of making definite plans is particularly eye-opening for me since I’ve been trying to bully a friend into joining the 21st century by getting one. The multi-tasking chapter made me mindful of how often I am unfocused because I’m trying to do too many things at once and to work on correcting the habit. So the book isn’t a total loss. The author still manages to be annoying, though.

A book like this – written from one POV about the struggles of one person – hinges so much on who that person is and how well they can speak to the reader. No one can be all things to all people; no book can, either. However, the author’s personality and predilections don’t seem to resonate with most kinds of people. At least, not the way they’re presented here.

My conclusion: another library book. As I said, some of the chapters were eye-opening. If you can separate the wheat from the chaff without tossing the book away in disgust you may come away with food for thought.

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One Year Without Buying – An Introduction

Last year I heard and read a lot about a book out called Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping – a non-fiction tome chronicling one woman’s experiment in not shopping for or buying unnecessary things. Clothes, shoes, dinners out, even movies were off the list. The book is one woman’s perspective on American consumerism, the buying impulse, and the social aspect of spending and buying amongst her acquaintance. One of the main criticisms I kept coming across was that the book wasn’t a how-to guide. The author isn’t interested in teaching others how to live without shopping, she’s only interested in telling us about what happened when she did it. Many people pointed out that she was coming from a position of privilege, which allowed her to start with a baseline most others don’t have.

When looking over the reviews, Amazon helpfully pointed me to another book in a similar vein: Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less. In this narrative, the author, over the course of a year, gives up one thing she really loves for a month. Alcohol, chocolate, taking taxis, reading the newspaper, etc. This book garnered similar (but harsher) reviews. It isn’t a how to guide, the author is very focused on herself, she gives up things many people consider an unaffordable luxury, anyway.

The statement I noticed more than anything was this business about the books not being how to guides. They weren’t advertised as such, nor were they meant to be. Yet this is what people complained about. Seems people really want to know if any person, regardless of income or class, could really spend a year or a whole lifetime not shopping and buying? If so, how would one go about it? What resources are there for those who voluntarily take themselves out of consumer culture? Is it possible to escape without becoming a hermit in the woods?

I have more than a passing interest in these questions because I am the Ultimate Consumer (so my mother tells me) and yet I don’t have much money. I’m not hurting for cash because I buy too much. In fact, my spending is severely curbed by my lack of funds and lack of credit. Yet I do manage to spend every penny I make, and not just on the necessities. If I find, toward the end of my fiscal month, that I have some extra money, it flies out of my bank account as if by magic. I am embarrassingly ruled by my wants and desires.

Though I know this about myself, I have not changed. If I see something I want, I buy it if I can. Amazon is my enabler, New York City a den of temptation. Maybe taking a year off from buying things I just don’t need will force me to observe my buying and wanting habits.

However, my personal journey to salvation is probably not all that interesting to most. The people want a how-to guide, not another whiny New Yorker going on about temptation. Thus, this blog won’t be just about how I navigate not buying. It will be about collecting and sharing resources, experiences, and approaches. Of course, I can’t come up with a universal path to lessened consumerism or greater simplicity. I won’t limit the resources I search for or share to those that only work for people like me (a single woman living in New York City). And I invite readers to share their experiences and resources as well.

Starting today, January 1, I am spending One Year Without Buying. Let’s see how far I get!

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