The Buy Nothing (new) Challenge

I tend to freak out about money.  Here’s how it happens.  I keep good track of my finances for a while, and then something happens… an illness, a trip, a wedding, SOMETHING to knock me off my budget and make it a bit muddy to figure out just where I stand.  And then I make like an ostrich and REFUSE to look — dread growing with each purchase (or refused purchase on the certainty that I’m near financial ruin) until I have an anxiety attack for a few days that finally, FINALLY leads to a near-breakdown and I figure my books out and realize that I have no money (just as I thought).  But I also have a clean slate and promises NEVER to do that again.  Of course, if I’d just sat down with my checkbook register and receipts the first time I realize I’ve blown it again, it would never be as bad as it ends up. 

And yet I never learn.

And I do it again.

It’s the impulse spending that kills me.

This doesn’t work so well when you’re only getting paid once a month.  Instead of a paycheck bail-out and fresh start every two weeks, my cycle’s now stretching for an entire month.  And each month I’m a little more in the hole to be bailed out.  Meaning that each month I have a little LESS money in my working budget because of the pay-off I need to do.

These are my specific money troubles.  My partner has others.  Together we’re misappropriating hundreds of dollars from our monthly budget.  Given that we were just handed a big bill for something we desperately need and want to do ASAP, this needs to stop NOW.  We need to get control of our finances.  We know that we make enough to cover our needs.  And when we’re on budget we even have stuff left over for, oh, I don’t know… savings.  And to help us pay for the Desperately Wanted and Needed and Expensive Thing.  So last night we came up with a plan.  We know it’s going to be hard.  Very hard.  But we both think it’s also going to be very, very good for us.  Like a sugar binger going on the master cleanse.  

We’re going cold turkey on all “unnecessary” purchases.  But wait!  Not exactly!  For the next 3 months we will only buy food and toiletries (including “household toiletries” like cleaning supplies) new.  If we find that we need to buy something else: books, clothes, toys, whatever.  We will buy them used or get them free somehow.  We’re also going to stop eating out.  Now I can look forward and see that we’ve got trips planned (a wedding, my residency in Seattle, a work conference) that are going to require meals out, but other than that, no.  Cooking at home.  The whole thing is a bit like The Compact, only for a shorter period of time (though if it works out we’ll keep going) and with a bit more flexible rules (for instance if we break a window, we’ll go buy a window — unless we can find a used or free one right away — but we’re not going to angst about it).  Starting today (because I have no money today to buy anything anyway…)

Also a good thing about starting today is that I’m riding high on my hand-me-down and dumpster-diving bliss.  Recently it was Big Garbage Day here and as I was driving to work I noticed a faded and dirty, but still safe and sound, plastic kid-sized picnic table.  I’ve been wanting one of these for the last couple of years, but didn’t want to pay for it.  So I screetched to a halt, opened up the hatchback of the prius, and shoved that thing in.  And, in just the next pile over there was an intact and rather cute glass punch bowl complete with little punch cups!  We’ve been having to borrow hipiegrl’s and my mother’s punch bowl every time we throw a party and I’ve been complaining that we need to get our own.  And right there!  It fell out of the sky (practically).

Not only that, but my brother, He Who Could Sell Snow to Polarbears, and his wife finally finally brought us their daughter’s hand-me-down clothes.  6 WHOLE BAGS!  And they’re kinda anal people, so the clothes were in really good condition, and clean, and frighteningly free of stains.  About 1/3 of them were too small for Sassa, so we’re passing them down to our friend who just had a baby girl, and the rest will keep Sassa in clothes for the next year at least!  I love hand me downs.  Just like a shopping spree with no consumer guilt or buyer’s remorse!

I know it probably sounds weird to put this challenge on a product/book review blog.  Consider it a lifestyle-product review, and join me for the ride!

Plus, just because I got it for free or from a thrift shop doesn’t mean I can’t review it… (and I’m more than happy to review presents and freebees)

So, what do you think?  Have you done this?  Are you interested?  What new items couldn’t you live without if you were to try this?


10 thoughts on “The Buy Nothing (new) Challenge

  1. Pingback: New blog, new post « An Accident of Hope

  2. I’m interested. I don’t know that we’ll do it, but I’ve always found it intriguing.

    I really identify with your money cycle. DEFINITELY.

    and meanwhile, our biggest problem is that we enable each other. That’s the biggest hurdle, and one I’m not sure we’d be able to overcome to successfully partake for 3 months.

  3. we enable each other, too, telling each other that we “deserve” said item, or that we “really DO need” other said item, or that we don’t really need the item, but that “it’s such a GREAT deal that we can’t afford NOT to buy it”… this is how we ended up with a motorcycle in our garage…

    maybe we can hold each other’s hands through this together, N?

  4. and then, just after writing this post, the first temptation: I decided to make bread. Because, you know, we’re out of sandwich bread and it’s cheaper to make than to buy these days (YIKES!) and so I pulled out the old bread maker machine (that we got for free from an old roommate of Klove’s). We don’t let the breadmaker actually bake the bread, but we do let it do the mixing, kneading, and the first rise before turning the dough out and shaping it and baking it (the machine, if left alone the breadmaker make the bread into a weird cylindar shape that’s hard to cut and impossible for sandwiches).

    And… the machine broke. Leaving me to have to scrape out the dough and knead by hand (exhausting). Wishing the whole time that I had a stand mixer and wondering how I could get one and how I “really need it” if I’m going to be making bread each week…

    I’m resisting because I have no money at the moment, but I could totally see myself rushing out to buy it if I was a little more flush at the moment. *sigh*

  5. Sadly out of necessity, we are always on the don;t buy “diet.” We have little to nothing left after we pay for food, house, daycare, car, gas (yikes) and transit passes. We order in sushi once a week. We make food plans on saturday and buy ionly what we will cook with (oh, how I miss the days of picking up things that made me feel excitied and just cooking some new exciting thing with them).
    Yet, I find the idea of this challenge to be an exciting idea. Maybe it would be more fun if I could feel like our “budgeting” (or lack of funds for fun) were because I was be RESPONSIBLE instead of broke… hmmmmm something to think about!

    As for the mixer (and any of your other needs) you may want to check out If you don;t already know them, its like craigs list, but free. We have gotten/gotten rid of lots of things that way….

  6. I LOVE the freecycle. We’ve never gotten anything off there, but we’ve offered up a LOT of stuff. I think we should have some freecycle karma credit, yes?

    The interesting thing is that with the economy downturn, I noticed that Big Garbage Day wasn’t as exciting this year. Yes, I scored two great finds, but most of the piles were only full of yard waste (more than usual — perhaps indicated that people are trimming their own trees more rather than hiring a crew who would bring their own chippers.) and completely unusable stuff (at least unusable by most people — even the professional scavengers seemed to be having a harder time than usual.

    I wonder if the same could be said for Freecycle… I should go pay attention to the listings and see if people are holding onto more stuff.

  7. We’ve had to do this for the past few months because of a missing job and shrinking paychecks. It’s great, though! We have these wonderful thrift stores where we live, and we go on shopping trips to them all the time. Sometimes, we’ll come home with new napkins (seriously new–still in the package new) or a t-shirt or a handful of books. It’s fantastic. We also have an area in our apartment complex where people place their big garbage (which isn’t really garbage). We were in need of a new dining table and chairs, and this perfectly good set from Ikea showed up in the garbage spot one day, so we snapped it up! It’s fantastic!

    Before we moved to our new hometown, we contributed to the other side of this notion by holding a free sale. We had people come to our garage and take what they wanted–all for free. We advertised on craigslist and got rid of so much unwanted crap for just a couple of hours of our time. I’m like a freesale evangelist now. I swear, it’s the most liberating thing. Yes, yard sales are good, but with a freesale, you get rid of twice the crap in a quarter of the time. It’s well worth it, I say!

  8. I’ll echo the comments on They’re great–we got a front door, and have gotten rid of some things as well. Re dumpster diving, if you check the dumpsters of reasonably nice apartments at the end/beginning of the month, when people are moving in and out, you can find some great stuff. Also check out dumpsters by the dorms at the end of the semesters–college students get rid of crazy good stuff. And I have to put in a plug for Goodwill (or DI, or Salvation Army)–just last week I got a brand new Rachael Ray cookbook for $2.

  9. Jen, you’re RIGHT! I was missing quite a few words. The paragraph has been edited to clear up the mystery. I also noticed quite a few other mistakes, this is what happens when you try to blog with 2 little girls clinging to you, but I’m not going to fix them right now as there’s still a little girl clinging to me.

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