February 22, 2019
In a few hours, I’ll turn 35, and this year is a special one for me. I’ve decided to give myself a gift I had never imagined before.
In a few hours, I plan to start a “buy nothing” year.
When I announced my project to my very pragmatic parents, my mother simply said: “You know you have a 5-year-old child growing up who will need clothes?” Of course, this decision wasn’t made on an impulse, and I fully intend to clothe my child!
How It All Started
This decision stems from a long process that my friend likes to describe as my “30s-Life crisis.” After my daughter was born, I began to second guess myself a lot. The question that came up most often: are my actions in line with the values I want to pass on to my daughter?
Every time I’d come across some type of contradiction, I’d take action. I changed our eating habits to include more fresh, local products. I reduced the quantity of waste we were producing, by buying in bulk. I made the decision not to have a car to reduce our ecological footprint.
I needed my actions to make sense. There was only one issue I didn’t dare to address: my relationship to objects, more precisely to consumption.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved shopping. And my daughter rapidly became an excuse to justify what I purchased. I bought her new clothes regularly because “she loves to express herself through fashion so much,” new books every month because “they’re essential to a child’s development,” new art supplies every time we passed by a store because “she’s so creative, I have to nurture this interest.” In short, I was myself quite creative when it came to making up all those new “needs”!
My spending habits weren’t healthy and I noticed I was passing them on to my daughter, which shocked me. So, I analyzed my budget to see clearly the extent of the problem.
Percentage of my income dedicated to each budget item
Retail stores: 14%
Hobbies and Vacation: 12%
Savings and Insurance: 6%
Daycare and RESP: 2%
Once again, I was shocked! I spent more in stores than I put aside in savings or spent on hobbies and trips. Elements that, in my book, are much more important than owning objects I don’t really need.
The Big Decision
I told one of my good friends: “I think I’ll do a buy nothing year.” It was now concrete, real; I’d said it out loud. Imagine how surprised I was when she spontaneously decided to take this challenge with me. This is simply proof that you don’t need to go through a big process like mine to commit to such a challenge.
I had said the words; I now had to walk the walk, and report to a friend.
Details of the Challenge
My buy nothing year starts and ends on my birthday. During the year, I will commit to the following:
- I will not buy any clothes, accessories, furniture or decorations, makeup, etc. EXCEPT to replace a lost, broken or not mendable item that is ESSENTIAL.
Definition of ESSENTIAL
- Absolutely necessary, indispensable.
- Of significant importance.
- I will not buy any gifts. If the situation doesn’t allow it, I will favour experiences or, if inappropriate, opt for used objects.
- I will not accumulate food or cleaning products needlessly. I will only buy what I need in sufficient quantities.
- I will reduce my restaurant outings.
- I will maintain my credit card balance at zero at the end of each month.
- I will fill my emergency fund.
- I will put money aside for a down payment to buy a house.
So my mother shouldn’t worry, I won’t send my daughter to school naked, but I’ll make sure that if I need to buy her a piece of clothing, it’ll be because it’s essential.
Also, I’ll ask myself these questions before I spend money:
- Is this a needless expense?
- If not, can I mend the object that needs to be replaced?
- If not, can I borrow it from someone?
- If not, can I buy it second-hand?
- If not, can I buy it new, but local/durable/eco-friendly?
Finally, I also commit to sharing my experience throughout this challenge and to writing a summary of this buy nothing year.
A Universitas mom
Interested in learning more about this type of challenge, the minimalism lifestyle or methods to simplify your life? Here are some recommendations to read or watch:
- Vivre simplement by Elisabeth Simard (French only)
- Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (web series)
- A Year of Less de Cait Flanders
- Goodbye, Things de Fumio Sasaki
- Minimalism, a documentary about the important things de Joshua Fields Millburn et Ryan Nicodemus