Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ten Days Without Purchases


About two weeks ago I reflected on my own desire to own things and committed to not buying things for a week. My husband and I actually managed to go about 10 days without buying anything except groceries. I think it was easier for him than it was for me, to be honest. Of the two of us, I am more interested in things: buying them, owning them, collecting them, caring for them. I found myself wanting quite a few things during that 10 day time period, although it also felt freeing in a way to just tell myself "no, you can't buy that." I made a list of the things I thought about buying so that I could reflect on it at the end of the experiment.

New Phone – wanting a new phone was what started this experiment for me. I wanted a new phone even though my current one works perfectly well and I honestly couldn’t see an advantage to upgrading. Even the salesperson couldn’t give me a solid reason to spend the $200. But somehow I still found myself wanting a new phone periodically during the week. Overall, I’m glad I didn’t purchase this but I think it's interesting how I can continue to want something that I know will not actually be rewarding for me.

New Tablecloth –I thought about buying a new tablecloth prior to a holiday meal we were hosting for a large group of family and friends. We already have a tablecloth that serves perfectly well and has for the past 13 years. I didn’t buy a new one before the dinner. However we discovered when setting the table that the old tablecloth now has a small hole in it. We were able to arrange things to cover it but now I will probably go ahead and buy a new one, at least before the next holiday.

DVD Cleaning Kit – This has been on my list for a while, ever since my toddler learned to open DVD cases with her sticky fingers. We’ve taught her not to do it (I hope, anyway, I haven’t caught her at it in a while…) but the damage was still done. I actually did end up buying this after the 10 days were done and using it to repair a few of our favorites.

Soap Dish – My husband actually wanted this one, for the hallway bathroom.  Sometimes our daughter wants to use bar soap when washing her hands, and the soap bar gets sticky and icky on the side of the sink. We ended up buying it.

New Towels – I think I really do want these, since our current towels are pretty faded and worn. I haven’t bought them yet because I haven’t found a complete set in the sizes I want in colors I like when I’ve gone looking. So I probably will end up buying these but maybe not anytime soon. The old towels are still serviceable even though they are ugly.

Recumbent Exercise Bike – I wanted this because my orthopedic surgeon said it might be a useful way to work on ankle range of motion. I held off because we live in an apartment and have limited room for large items. I’m glad I waited because a week later, after our experiment was done, my physical therapist suggested that a pedal exerciser would work just as well and be more compact and less expensive. I did end up buying one of those (for about 1/5 the price of a bike) and he was right. It works well and stores nicely in a closet.

DSM-5 – This is the new diagnostic manual for my profession (psychiatry), which will be released in May. I went ahead and pre-ordered it (from Amazon, since they beat the price my professional organization offered by 17 dollars and threw in free shipping) and it will ship when it’s available. This is a book I know I will need to have at work, particularly since my job involves a teaching component.

Wallet for my husband – I didn’t buy this yet. He doesn’t really want one, I’m just concerned that his is falling apart and he might lose something. However the situation doesn’t seem critical, so I may save this purchase for a gift-giving occasion in the future.

Box to hold newspapers to be recycled – I wanted something more attractive than a cardboard box. We don’t have recycling where we live so we have to take the paper to a collection point, which means they sit around the house for a while. When I mentioned wanting to buy this to my husband he actually managed to find something we already owned and repurposed it to holding the newspapers. So that was a good purchase to avoid.

What was the first thing I bought after the 10 days? I bought a couple books for my kindle, which probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me. I am not sure if this counts. It is spending money, absolutely. However it is not acquiring another thing, since the books are just data files added to a device I already own. Still, that's the first thing I purchased besides groceries.

What have I learned from my 10-day experiment? I don’t think I’ll be committing to a year of not buying anything. Despite the sense of freedom over the past week I think I would be pretty frustrated after more than that. There were quite a few things that came up on my list that were actually useful purchases. However I did notice quite a few things that when I thought about it, I didn’t really need or want, at least not right now. So I may institute a policy of delaying purchases for a few days or a week so I can think it out better, and decide if I really want to commit to owning that item or if I can work things out with what I already have. And perhaps I will take a break from buying on a regular basis, to remind myself that the things that make me happiest can't be bought at all.