If you have clicked on the top button on my left sidebar (Buy Nothing Challenge), you may already know that I have committed to not buying anything unnecessary in the month of April. When I first made the commitment, I thought it would be no big deal...I really wouldn't have to change anything, because I am a naturally pretty frugal person, who doesn't enjoy shopping as recreation. But upon further examination, I have realized that isn't entirely true. Case in point: this morning, we were headed to the park for playgroup that is right next to the "dented can store". Oh, Dented Can Store, how I love thee. Just last week, my friend, Stacy, found eight boxes of the dishwasher detergent I use, Seventh Generation. It is $4.99 at Target. The "dented" had it for $1.15 a box. I had her buy them all for me. I now have about three years worth of dishwashing detergent! :)
So, back to my story. As I was driving down to the park this morning, I decided that I should stop in at the Dented first. I mean, it is about 15 minutes from my house, so I should go while i was already nearby, right?! Well, yes, except for the fact that as I was driving, I couldn't think of a single thing I needed. But, that is where my Dented addiction comes in. They get one truck a week, and unload it all week, so you never know when new stuff will be out...so you (I) go alot, to try to catch the great stuff. Today, I found 17 ounces of olive oil (extra virgin, cold pressed, first quality, raw) for $2.50. I just paid $7.99 for 8.5 ounces of THE SAME STUFF, three days ago at Bi-Lo. Good deals to be had, I tell you. But the point is this: I couldn't think of a single thing I needed for our family before I went there, yet still managed to drop $50 while there (and it takes A LOT of stuff to add up to $50 in that place!).
My pantry is the most well stocked it has ever been. I have five jars of Organic, all natural peanut butter. Three jars of capers. Five jars of sun dried tomatoes. All good stuff, that I will use. Stuff that I stock up on when it is at the Dented, because you don't know when it will come around again. But, after taking stock of my pantry this afternoon, I realized that this is just another form of consumerism. It has crept back into my life, subtly. I have called it other things, rationalized it, making myself feel good about it. "I am saving money in the long run", I have told myself. "I had better buy them all, because who knows when they will have more!". And for awhile, when I was doing my experiment, those things were true. But I also had set boundaries for myself...with a goal of spending no more than about $50 a week.
So, with today being the first day of the challenge to not buy anything unnecessary for the month, I am setting some new, stricter parameters for myself. For my family, I define necessary as food and household items, at least for this month. We have plenty of clothes and no other purchases on the horizon that would fall into the "necessary" category. But, because food shopping is my consumerism trap, I am also going to:
1. Not shop at the Discount Food Store for the month of April.
This is going to be hard for me to stick to. But, we have so many pantry items, there is no reason for me to go there.
2. The only food shopping I will do is for fruits and vegetables at the produce stand. If we need milk, butter, or other items I can't get at the produce stand, I will go to Bi-Lo. Normally I choose to shop at IGA, which is locally owned, but it is right next to the Dented Can Store, and that is just too much temptation. So, for the month of April, I will make a shopping exception and go to Bi-Lo.
3. I am going to go through my pantry and freezer and plan out my meals for the month. I have not been cooking much lately, because I have been too lazy to plan my meals. But, this step really helps our home run more smoothly, so I will be doing this again. Plus, we are much less likely to eat out if I already know what is for dinner.
You might think that I am being a little rigid and making too many rules. "Why not just shop when and where you want to shop, not make such a big deal about it?" you might ask. Well, I could do that. But this is a system of checks and balances for me. Each time I have done a challenge like this, or an experiment, I have always learned valuable lessons about our spending habits. Sometimes I can get in a housewife rut, and challenges like this always leave me feeling excited again about doing my job better, and more efficiently. I guess if I were in the corporate world, this would be similar to my boss giving me a sales incentive. It's motivation. As an added bonus, we are planning several family trips for this summer, and could use the money we aren't spending in April to go toward our vacation expenses.
Are you doing this challenge? What are your thoughts on compacting? Is this something you would enjoy trying for your family?
*Image from R.A.M.O.N.E on flickr.com