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Entries in Buy nothing (4)


A new challenge

Last year I challenged myself to buy nothing. It was a really interesting experiment, and although I wasn't all that successful I learnt some interesting stuff about myself and my relationship with buying stuff. Turns out I do swap money and time, and expect rewards to be in the shape of stuff. Who knew?

At the end of the year we headed off to Florida, and I fell off the buy nothing challenge with a bump. In fact, we spent New Year's Eve shopping at the outlets. And I have to be honest, it just wasn't all that much fun. I filled some holes in my wardrobe, but ended up over stuffing a load of other drawers at the same time! It felt a little like I'd broken my shopping habit, and didn't really want to get it back again. 

So, what about this year?

Well, this year starts with a novel financial situation for me. I am finishing up my PhD, and although I am funded through to the end of March I received my last paycheque just before Christmas. I have almost nothing coming in now until I'm done and get a job (barring the odd bit of teaching work). I'm not that worried - I have enough savings to see me through a good chunk of time, I have a lot of clothes and toys to play with, and I'm generally pretty cheap to run these days. But it's still something to think about, especially in combination with not really enjoying the shopping much.  

This year I've therefore decided that instead of concentrating on not buying stuff, I'm going to spend my energy on the stuff I already have. I'm going to try and iron out minor irritations with stuff, like trousers being too long, or that irritating thing on my bike where my toe clip hits the mudguard on my front wheel on tight turns. I'm going to try and fix things I like to keep them in use, like darning the place on my running socks where my left big toe rubs holes, or repairing some seams, or truing my bike wheels. I'm going to try and learn how to alter some clothing too, so rather than being a bit meh it actually fits. 

Some of this will need bits buying. And that's ok. But where there's a choice between paying someone else to do it or learning how to do it myself, well, I'm going to get a little mustachian about it. And things don't have to end up perfect (perfect's too much pressure, although nice if it happens!). I'm just aiming for better than when I start. 

I guess you could call this the 2014 "Make it better challenge"? It may have similar outcomes in a way, but I'm hoping that by phrasing/framing it in a more positive way it will feel better!


Buying nothing still

I thought I'd write a brief progress report on my Buy Nothing Challenge, what I've noticed etc. 

Buying nothing has not been going smoothly. It's having an impact, but I'm not sure it's quite what I'd expected the impact to be. I don't browse Amazon much any more. I'm still massively irritated by ads. But I still occassionally trip and buy things. Some (most?) of them I justify. The small neoprene pouch I bought that houses my iPod and earbuds I justify by saying it will increase the life of both, and I certainly use it a lot. The scraps of leather I bought were definitely not for a new project, but for putting soles on my homemade slippers and has increased the life of them for sure (they'd both have holes in otherwise). Only trouble is I then came up with other projects for the leather (hello watchstrap) which meant I ended up buying tools. But the tools are reusable, and mean I can make myself new watchstraps instead of buying them - not to mention adding extra belt holes that mean I can carry on using one of my belts. 

The tights, well, yeah. I probably could have done without them. But the cold dragged on and on and on, and I wanted to wear my skirts and without tights that would have been impractical. If the cold weather had broken just a couple of weeks earlier I probably could have resisted, but it's just a pair of tights! 

And that's been one of the unintentional side-effects. I feel guilty about buying things. The joy I might get from a small purchase has been horribly tainted by the guilt, which in fairness has stopped me making a lot of small purchases. The Stuffa jacket I bought is definitely tinged with guilt. I didn't need it, but it was half price, the concept and packing it makes me smile, it seems to suit me, and yet I still feel a little... silly actually, as well as guilty about it. 

The big purchases too, the ones I've waited for, ummmed and ahhhed over, researched out of all sense of proportion, when I finally plump for something I am worrying that it won't be what I really want or need, because I really don't want to have to go and re-buy. The golf shoes I've just bought are a bit like that, even though the shoes I've been playing in are slightly too small and not waterproof in the slightest and that's pretty miserable. (All the rest of my new golf gear is only new to me, and I didn't really pay for it - it's other people's cast-offs.)

Plus what about rewards? I had a major milestone in my PhD in May, and at the end of reaching it I was exhausted. I wanted a reward, but felt that I couldn't buy anything. I felt I had no time for rewarding myself with a trip somewhere, or even a day off (although in hind-sight I probably should have taken time off to recover). I just ended up feeling a bit flat, like I had no recognition of this big achievement. It was very strange. I probably shouldn't associate stuff with achievement, but I wanted something. 

I can also feel a really big splurge coming on. The problem with researching is that you eventually find what you want. And when you do you can justify it in all sorts of ways. I want these boots from Conker. I need some winter boots to go with smart skirts/be less noticeable under trousers, because I'm rather assuming that I'll be needing to go to interviews again at some point (I'm thinking about the black ones - although I'd love the red it's not practical). I've checked, and they make them on a natural last and can make them totally flat. As luck would have it, we have an appointment in Exeter in October, which would be a good time to go and try them on. But boots are well outside my rules, and I do have a pair of smart shoes that would be ok. But if they fit and I like them, challenge and price be damned they are coming home with me! 

And that bag I was looking for? Meet Matthew. There may be one of these in grey-blue on order for me right at this moment. Just maybe. It's for my birthday. It's just a little early. 

So overall this has been an interesting way to examine my relationship to buying things, even more than my relationship to stuff. Actually, not buying stuff is easier for me when I am not earning much than I suspect it would be when I'm back to gainful employment. But this added layer of guilt is not something I was expecting. I will continue to try and mostly stick to the rules until the end of the year (splurges aside), but I recognise that there are limits to my dedication, and that actually feels pretty healthy. 


Buy nothing update

The challenge has begun. I can't really say it's begun entirely smoothly. It's interesting how many times I've caught myself starting to type amazon.co.uk into the address bar, and how many times I've then thought "Well, how do I waste this time now then?".

Actually, that has come as quite a shock. Turns out that browsing Amazon is one of my grade A procrastination measures. Heh. 

I've also kind of broken the rules twice already. I bought a new pair of running shoes on special offer, when my current ones should be good for at least another 4 months. And after running in the cold and the rain on Saturday I bought a pair of warm compression shorts. I'm going to get rid of a different pair I have which leave me with rubbed patches, but it's a bit of a cheat at best. 

I'm still wasting a certain amount of time reading bag reviews too. I have this idea that I will splurge a little on my perfect backpack, and not have to think about bags again for 10 years plus (and before you say this is ridiculous, it's kind of worked for bikes). I want a backback, around 18-20l capacity, some pockets for organising stuff, preferably a pocket for my iPad and at a pinch my 15" Macbook Pro. Ideally there should be space for a water bottle, and a nice large internal section that I can put my Eagle Creek 15" folder into for one bag travel. At the moment I'm leaning towards the Tom Bihn's Synapse, probably in black. The GoRuck bags have caught my eye, but the sizing is not there, the price tag is enormous and the overt military/American theme is a little offputting for this Brit! 

The nice thing here is that I'm not actually intending to buy any of them imminently. I can really enjoy the searching (hello Carryology!), the reading reviews, the refining of what I need, knowing that actually I have a bag that's doing pretty well right now and I'm just playing. It's one of my favourite parts of buying stuff anyway, so I shall just choose to revel in it for a little longer than normal. (If anyone knows of a British company making nice bags, please let me know! I seem to be having some difficulty finding them...)

So, it's started, but not entirely well. Fingers crossed for better efforts from here on in. 


A pause

In posting, clearly! I got another sinus infection this week. First for a couple of months though, and I've been happily running and riding a lot until this week. Even now, the infection stayed put in my sinuses, and I don't have a cough or streaming nose (although interestingly I was still left totally unable to concentrate - apparently that isn't mucus-related!). 

But actually, I meant in the buying of stuff. Earlier I was noodling around on Twitter (as I do far too frequently), when Adam Greenfield made one of his infrequent entrances and we had the following discussion: 

His challenge was to make 2013 a "buy nothing" year. My reaction (other than a bit of quibbling as I thought this through) was "no way I could do that". Since that's the kind of reasoning that got me into running marathons, this was never going to end well

So, next year, I'm going to try and buy as little as I can. Naturally, there will be exceptions. I've had a preliminary stab, and here's the list I'm going to start with:

  1. Food and drink. This includes random coffees, snacks, meals out etc. 
  2. Tickets for things. Gigs, visits, etc. This isn't about staying in and saving all my cash for a year.
  3. Work stuff. Mostly, I anticipate this is going to be posters and the like.
  4. Replacement stuff, when things break/wear out. For example, my running shoes are going to hit 500 miles sometime around the middle of next year I reckon. They may be fine, they may need replacing.
  5. Presents for other people. Come on, I can't not buy presents. Although I am trying to find non-physical ways to do this. No point just generating clutter for other people!
  6. Stuff to finish projects (zips, thread, buttons etc.) Note that this does not include stuff to start new projects. Time to use up the stash. I have more than enough wool for a year of knitting and sewing (although I may cheat and buy myself one projects' worth before January). 
  7. Kindle fun reading - but only once I've read the unread books that are around. I know there's a few. Actually, at the moment I'm rereading a Kindle book because I couldn't decide which sample I wanted (and Robert Penn is right - it is all about the bike).

This ties in really nicely with my decluttering kick at the moment. I waste so much time looking at stuff I could buy, and hopefully that will cut that out too. Really, I have more than all the stuff I need (I think I have 30 short-sleeved t-shirts for goodness sake! I could wear one a day for a month, and that's not even starting to look at the long sleeved, the running tops, the vests...). I also think I have built in quite a lot of leeway in my rules, so I hope I don't just "justify" my purchases. 

It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's one worth trying. January, bring it on!