A quick update on my no shopping, no buying March experiment: things are going fairly well, though I slipped up once and bought some locally made artisan chocolates (we were the only people in the shop, and having accepted a free sample, I found there was no getting out of it graciously — not that I tried very hard). I’ve also window shopped socially twice — a craft fair with a friend, a used bookstore with Kevin. Nothing too egregious.
Mostly what I’m finding out is that not buying is a matter of attitude. Previously, when I needed anything, my first impulse would be to go out and get it. Not having that option is making me explore other possibilities before buying. I’m thinking this is a good habit to get into and may extend my experiment into April. Here are four questions that I’ve been asking myself whenever I want to buy something:
1. Do I really need it? (This question, by the way, is a lot easier to ask before you see something you desperately want, so avoiding temptation is a good precaution.) I thought I needed a new oven mitt because the neoprene bit on mine seemed to be melting, but I do have another oven mitt and lots of pot holders. I thought I needed a super lightweight cardigan/wrap to keep mosquitoes away in Hawaii, then realized that most of my wardrobe is lightweight but long sleeved anyway. I’m getting better at telling the difference between what I want and what I need…and I realize, once again, that I don’t need much.
2. Can I make it? I cook, sew, and, er, potter. (There must be a better verb for ‘flinging mud around and shaping it into usable items.’) Between the three of those things, the answer is often yes. (And if not yes, that I can jerry-rig something that works fairly well.) Two of my favorite potter’s tools at the studio are what used to be the steel binding straps around a package and an Ikea butter knife with a bent tip, made by my teacher. What the heck am I doing buying $10 tools at Clay Planet?
3. Can I get it for free? If I can’t make it, I might have friends who can and would be willing to swap. Or they might have it and be willing to lend or give it to me. Then there’s always Freecycle and the library. I was tempted by a book at the used bookstore yesterday called The Concise Book of Lying, all about the ins and outs of this most interesting human phenomenon. I put it down when the brilliant thought occurred to me that I could probably borrow it from the library. The fact is, our society is brimming with free resources that we often don’t even think to draw upon.
4. How much of my life energy is it worth? This question is taken from Your Money or Your Life (join the book club going on at Min Hus if you’re curious). It makes the simple but important point that we put a lot of our lives and energy into earning money, so we’d better make sure that what we’re spending it on is worthwhile. Pottery is absolutely worthwhile to me. But a new dress that will spend most of its time in the closet? A new oven mitt? Not so much.
There are other questions, of course. Questions about the item’s impact, about my long term plans for it, about how ethically (or not) it was manufactured. All of them are worth keeping in mind, too, but these four questions are often enough for me to decide not to buy something, and everything else becomes superfluous.
If you’re cutting back on your buying, how do you do it?
(Also, I’ve been thinking about either adding a page on this blog or starting a separate blog for my pottery. If you’re interested in keeping up with my projects, which form would you prefer? Here’s my latest…)