Thursday, May 1, 2008

April Buy Nothing Challenge

Now that April is over, it's time to give a short synopsis of my experience with the "Buy Nothing" challenge. A group of bloggers challenged each other to try to buy nothing unnecessary for the entire month of April. Their reasons for joining the challenge varied widely, with some coming at it as a path to debt reduction, some as a way of making a break with mindless consumerism, and some just purely as an environmental effort, seeing wastefulness as a contributing factor in environmental degradation.

For me, it was just a good chance to practice the discipline of frugality, and get a picture of where I am most tempted to spend mindlessly. I didn't have the"stick it to the man" or "boycott Target because I can't stop myself from spending there" thing going on. We try pretty hard to live within our means, and for me, I just wanted a little check-up. Also, as some of you know, I have kind of a thing about tossing things in the landfill, so that also was something I wanted to look at; how much flimsy disposable stuff are we bringing into the house?

For April, we averaged $65.00/weekly for food. The only non-food items we bought were all essential, and the total was about $25.00. We spent another $65.00 for gas. We bought tickets to a couple of concerts our daughter was performing in. That's it. We couldn't keep this up indefinitely, but we didn't feel uncomfortable forgoing anything.

The good news is, we have pretty good habits. We've never been big spenders. A year or so ago, we noticed, when we scrutinized our spending while creating our budget, that we tend to overspend on books and eating out. We've pretty much solved the book thing. I think we've only bought three or four since July, so that's all good. The key is to stay out of bookstores and to use the library religiously. We used to go spend a Friday evening browsing and eating fun food in the little cafe each store now seems to have, which is our idea of a wild weekend night, but we can surely come up with something else equally exciting! If we can't we're a sorry pair of losers, and there's nothing to be done with us.

Where we still need to work on changing habits is the area of eating out. We don't go anyplace expensive at all, but for several reasons, we have fallen into this habit. For one, after cooking for a large family, most of whom were distance runners, I really have hard time thinking about cooking for just two people. It seems like such a puny affair, and we have leftovers that don't always get used up before they morf into science experiments in the back of the fridge. For another, it's nice to get out of the house, and possibly bump into friends at Panera or the Courier Cafe, so it's a social thing. I don't mind cooking, but it's not a form of self-expression for me like it is for some people, so I can take it or leave it. And I've been leaving it, a lot! Time to discipline myself, and get back in the kitchen more.

So that's the summary. We can live contentedly on little, which is good to know. As the Bible says, "Godliness, with contentment, is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6-8). Now, if only there was a "Godliness" challenge!


CindyW said...

Congrats for completing the challenge! The only thing I bought was a pair of running shoes. My old ones had been 5 years old and hurting my knees. Unfortunately running shoes don't exactly have a used market. Now I have to figure a better way to dispose my old one than landfill them.

Joyce said...

Cindy, locally we just had this big drive by one of the TV stations to turn in shoes to be made into athletic tracks. They collected 35,000 pairs of shoes! There's someplace in Oregon that recycles them. Maybe someone in your area is doing that, too.
I just had to replace my athletic shoes too. My feet and knees wereletting me know it was time.

Going Crunchy said...

I liked this challenge! I only bought metal water bottles, a birthday present and 1 pair of shoes for Lukie. I couldn't find sandals used and the metal bottles served a greater good.

With our little bit of padding for the month we joined Morton Arboretum so we can go every week now and it supports an amazing cause.

I'm wowing at your $65.00. Holy Cow!

Joyce said...

Shannon, I love Morton Arboretum! That should be a great place to get the boys out and they could learn how to identify trees when they are a little older.