Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I've been sort of fascinated with the Compact since I read about it. Essentially a group of people pledge not to buy anything new for a year, except things like groceries, toilet paper and essentials that can't be bought used. Otherwise, they barter, trade or substitute with what they already have.

I had a significant amount of credit card debt from my grad school days, and it's finally almost paid off. Actually, it is paid off, but I'm still working on the plane tickets to AZ. When that's paid off, I'll be totally out of debt. I was stupid about money in my 20's, and I'm determined not to make the same mistake again. Unfortunately, it goes against my nature, which is to roam Target aisles aimlessly looking for bargains on stuff I like but don't need.

I think it's a really good idea to think about what we need versus what we want. Don't get me wrong - I love stuff. I love new stuff. Cute stuff. Pretty stuff. But the problem with liking shopping is that the glow from the new stuff wears off and you have to go out and get more new stuff. A columnist I like once said something like, "Luxury is always one step above what you're used to." I remember that often because it means that you'll get the same pleasure from 300-count sheets if you're used to cheaper sheets as someone who's used to 300-count sheets would get from 500-count. You know? I try to keep my life simple so I'll really appreciate the more indulgent things. Starbucks is indulgent. My iPod is super indulgent and I'm so grateful for it. Dinner out is really indulgent. We had dinner at the Elephant Bar on New Year's Day and I'm still enjoying it (and I don't mean that in the indigestion-kind of way). Getting cable in a hotel room is indulgent.

In my quest this year to reduce my consumption, I joined the Yahoo Group for the Compact. I'm going to un-join it pretty quickly here, because there has been about 400 posts TODAY. Just today. They're debating WalMart & capitalism, dryer sheet toxicity, and shampoo made from baking soda. Where do these people find the time? I'm searching for hedonism and pleasure among reduced consumption. As A., quoting Jack Johnson, says, "Reduce, reuse, recycle."

You know, ideally, I'd save enough money to pay for services instead of goods. Like a housecleaner. That'd be a fine goal.


Sarah O. said...

Your entry reminds me of this by Amy Dacyczyn (rhymes with "decision"). I followed her advice for a while when my kids were small and we were broke. It did help and I felt good about that. But it involved lots of extra work. And lots of her strategies were impractical and even gross. I mean, who wants to eat peanut butter that expired a year ago? Even if you can get a case of it for free?

I have a quasi-friend who only buys used clothing. It's great in theory but she and her family always look like, well, shit. They buy only second-hand everything: Consequently their house and all their posessions look as worn as their clothes. Frankly, going to their house is depressing.

I've developed a couple of money-saving Target shopping strategies. First, I go there only once a week or so. Second, before I check out I recheck the items in my cart and quickly decide what I don't really need. Then I dump the excess stuff.

Yeah, the Target employees probably hate me for dumping merchandise in the wrong department (I've even abandoned entire carts!) but at least I'm not accumulating unnecessary junk.

Lunasea said...

Oh, the Compacters LOVE the Tightwad Gazette. Very on the list. Yeah, I generally don't buy stuff at Thrift stores unless it doesn't look like it came from a thrift store. You really have to hunt. But there are some great kid's resale shops around here that only sell clothes in perfect condition.

I'm certainly not making the Compact committment. I just don't want it that much. But it is good to reevaluate my purchases and think about what I really need and what I can do without.

template by