A recent trip to IKEA to buy a bookcase ended like oh-so-many trips to IKEA can end. Hours later, I arrive home with nearly an entire day behind me, exhaustion creeping in, and, of course, more than just the bookcase to show for it.
IKEA is two and a half hours away, so the trip to the store itself lasted nearly as long as my time inside. It was an all day affair. The best part of the day was, hands down, an entire day with my friend Claudia. Both of us have two daughters, and we get our families together regularly, but having a whole day to chat without interruptions was a luxury indeed.
But, back to the bookcase and all its tag-along items. I think the fact that neither of my credit cards would work when I got to the check-out, and that Claudia had to spot me the money and talk me down as I went into full panic mode trying to write her a check while wrestling with my purchases and worrying about my bank accounts, was the first sign. Realizing once I got home that many of the purchases (other than the bookcase) would not work for me, or I did not need them and would have to return was the next sign. My buyer’s remorse, coupled with the knowledge that Claudia would have to return the items per IKEA’s return policy, inspired me to have a “That’s it!!” moment: I was going to embark on a Buy Nothing Season.
I’ve heard of others taking on challenges not to buy things (by “things”, I mean non-consumables) before, and it seemed interesting but not too compelling. I’m not a big shopper anyway, so I felt that taking on such a challenge would not be that significant for me. But I have started, even in just the two weeks since my “That’s it!” decision, to see the benefits, some more anticipated than others:
- Saved money. Obviously. Even though purchases don’t make up a big part of my monthly budget, I can already tell that there will be a difference – the $20 here and $20 there adds up!
- Saved time. There is no need for me to poke around Target when I go there for toothpaste. No need to see if there is something on clearance that I could get for a good deal. No need to browse my favorite online stores for mark-downs or to “get ready for Spring.” I did not realize until now how much time I spent browsing, even if I did not purchase anything. There was always the possibility I might find something that made sense to buy. Now, there is no possibility, so I can spend my time other ways.
- Ease of saying no to the kids’ wants. I’ve told them of my pledge, and they actually respect it. They know that this time they won’t sway into buying something for them that they don’t really need. I did not see this as a huge issue before – they’ve never been kids to beg. But the absence of even their occasional nagging is delightful.
- The spiritual benefit of discipline. I have been an on-again, off-again participant in Lenten fasts, but during my on-years I have felt that it was a very edifying practice. One year, I resolved to have water be my only beverage during Lent. Every drink I took reminded me of my pledge. I used those reminders to center myself and think for a moment about my spirit, which is not something I do regularly enough at other times. My current pledge did not start out as a spiritual practice, but I anticipate it becoming one naturally as I have to remind myself of to consider needs vs. wants.
With only two weeks into this Buy Nothing season, my temptations have been few. There will be the time when I have to decide if the pair of shoes the kids outgrew needs replacing just yet or if they can make it in the others that still fit until my buying fast has ended. Maya is in a huge growth spurt, so she may outgrow her clothes overnight and I’ll have to weigh whether a few weeks in high-waters will damage her, or if I should buy her some more jeans.
This Buy Nothing Season will last until April 1, when I will address any needs that have arisen, assess the state of spring wardrobes, and perhaps cycle back into a Buy Nothing Season until summer. In the meantime, don’t expect to run into me in IKEA, REI, Ten-Thousand Villages, Great Outdoor Provision, or any of my other usual browsing hang-outs. I’ll be spending time with my friends in the woods or having tea or playing games…instead of panicking in a check-out line!