Tuesday, March 11, 2014

not buying

This year I'm making a concerted effort to cut down on purchasing things. It's for several reasons: I've made a financial commitment to support a non-profit on a monthly basis, storage constraints, a desire to create less packaging waste and to simply live with fewer possessions.

While the benefits of not buying stuff are compelling and described eloquently here at Becoming Minimalist, it's the day to day, how to stick to the goal that keeps the wallet in the pocket.

So, how does one accomplish this not buying? Logically, to not buy, one must surely start by not shopping, right? Turns out shopping is really fun. Retail therapy produces an actual measurable high in the brain. Early man was adept at searching for food. I think it's that basic instinct of gathering things that comes up for air when we shop. But it's the shopping that produces the high, not the buying. Buying things can actually make you unhappy. 

It's ok to shop, just not buy. I've discovered a few ways to do this. I use Pinterest to collect pictures of things I like to shop for. I can not buy dresses for hours. This has turned out to be more fun for me than actually buying dresses. I don't have to find my size, I don't have to justify any expense and the dress doesn't have to look good on me. I can visit my dress collection anytime and I never have to wash any of them.

Another not buying tool is to create a wish list. I have wish lists for all kind of things, mostly books. Adding an item to a wish list lets me acknowledge that, yes, I'd like to have the item. The key word here is "like". Just because I want an item, doesn't mean it has to be purchased. Lists are all about prioritization. Once an item has a place on a list, it can just hang out there. Usually it lives on the list long enough for me to realize that I really don't want the item that badly after all. I have wish lists and abandoned shopping carts in every corner of the internet. The "gimmies" eventually pass on.

The best not buying tool I've found, though is the tradeoff concept made popular in the early 1990's by the book, Your Money or Your Life. The authors looked at income and expenses in terms of what they called life energy: how long it takes to earn the cost of the item you are thinking about buying. I customized this approach to make it more meaningful for me. I think about the item I want to buy in terms of beers (for smaller items) or visits to family (for large items). For example, would I rather have this dress or 4 cases of craft beer? Beer usually wins. Would I rather have this awesome folding bike or visit my family? Clear winner there. (just for the record, I would get the bike in the orange/pink combo)

Eventually, though, not buying does come around to not shopping. Happily, I've found the shopping urge starts to atrophy. It has become boring to go into a store. I'm not spending so much time on the usual vendor sites online. It's March and the overall wish list I created for 2014 has only a few items on it and I already know that most of them are never going to get purchased. 

I'm shopping less. 
I'm buying less. 
I'm reading more. 
I'm writing more. 

I'm outside walking.