29 Dec, 2009
Shopping Embargo 2009-2010
Christmas is over and we’re in the throes of Boxing Week. The media has been full of images of people falling over themselves to snag some deals.
I certainly understand why this happens. If you want to buy something (computer, Xbox, camera, wrapping paper for next Christmas etc) and have the money to spend, this is the ideal time to do it. This is especially true for people who receive money for Christmas or those who don’t celebrate Christmas at all.
Confessional Sidebar: I am still very much wavering on a purchase of a MacBook Pro, something I’ve been coveting for ages. With all of the writing I’ve been doing lately I know it would be a very useful tool (right?), and something I can bring to meetings (right?) but, sadly, it’s not exactly realistic for me to go out and buy one. My desktop will have to do for now. *sigh*
What’s more, we’re planning a holiday within the timeframe of the Embargo and I will probably need to buy stuff in preparation for that too.
Many of us (including me!) have been spending out this month - on gifts, travel, baking and eating - in addition to bills and mortgages and swimming lessons. For many of us it might be a good idea to take a break. And this is it.
I know there are many who don’t understand why anyone would want to take a self-imposed haitus from shopping. Last year a fellow accused our group of hating ourselves. And I quote:
“Why are you people doing this? What will this accomplish aside from hurting businesses and slowing the economy to a grinding halt while lowering your overall quality of life?
Look, it’s great to want to be more responsible with your money. But only buying necessities means living off Ramen soup, turning the heat off and piling on sweaters, walking instead of driving, etc. Why suffer when you don’t have to? Do you all hate yourselves or something?
If you have extra money and you want to spend it, then spend it! Just accept that if you need money later and you spent it all, it’s your own fault. It’s that simple. Don’t subject yourself to pointless embargoes against happiness like this, it will do no good for anyone unless you’re completely irresponsible and need something like this to stop yourself from making stupid purchases. But if that’s the case then it sounds like money is the least of your problems. There is nothing honorable or virtuous about denying yourself happiness.”
The Shopping Embargo is not about denying oneself happiness. I don’t hate myself, and I think life is too short to live like a ramen-eating sweater-wearing monk. And I think the economy will survive just fine without my trips to the dollar store. This isn’t about ceasing all spending (although saving money is a nice side effect) it’s about thinking about what I’m buying before I buy it.
Confessional Sidebar #2: I debated whether or not to post about the Shopping Embargo again this year. I thought I’d said everything I needed to say and was feeling burned out just thinking about it. Then I had a chat about it with a longtime reader and commenter who gave me the boost I needed to post again. (You know who you are!)
In past years I found it tough to be the consultant or should I say, the conscience for a legion of shoppers and non-shoppers alike, as well as myself.
“I just bought a new tube of mascara - does that count?”
“I can’t play along because I need to buy a new bed.”
“What’s your feeling about gift cards?”
“I can’t participate in the Shopping Embargo because I just bought a laptop.”
My answer: make your own rules and stick with them the best that you can. If you decide you really need something, buy it. And this is important: if you feel like you’ve fallen off the horse, get back on. As I said, the point is not to stop spending (at least is isn’t for me), it is to (1) think about my shopping habits and (2) consider our real needs and wants as it pertains to manufactured goods. (And yes, I’ve seen the Story of Stuff!)
I’ve been doing this for awhile. Here’s last year’s post about the Shopping Embargo (along with conclusions and last thoughts!) and here is 2008 and here is 2006-2007. (Holy cats, I can’t believe I’ve been doing it this long!)
I have learned a lot about myself, and I now know what my biggest failings are. I like a good sale (but whenever I ask myself if I NEED that thing that has been so deeply discounted it’s almost always a NO). I struggle with birthday gifts. I have a greater tendency to shop when I’m bored or feeling blue. I like pretty things. (A little too much, in fact.)
In the spirit of the Shopping Embargo I am recycling my guidelines from past years. (See below.) And like before I will update in the comments of this post. So if you’re curious and and want to check on my progress come back to this page (which can also be accessed by the “piggy” button in the sidebar).
I am keeping it all contained in the comments of one post because there are days when the act of not doing something doesn’t give me much to write about. Someone once made a remark about the unsatisfactory conclusion of one year’s Shopping Embargo … I guess because there wasn’t a big summary/wrap-up post at the end. Well, I’ll tell ya, sometimes it’s hard to come up with the clever ribbon that ties everything together. :)
So here are my guidelines.
Between December 29, 2009 and March 31, 2010 (YES, I am extending it by one month) I will only purchase essential items for myself and for my family. This includes groceries, consumable items, gas, basic hygiene (shampoo, soap, not cosmetics), medicine and essential clothing. If I am tempted to buy something new, I will ask myself a few critical questions first. (These follow below.)
These guidelines will break down differently for different people. For me, groceries are ok. Even pricey groceries. I will continue to buy $12 wedges of Parmesan cheese. I will try to decrease the number of times we eat out but am not making any promises :) A reduction in the amount of - or types of - food we eat is not really part of my Shopping Embargo but it might be for you. (Some people have used the Shopping Embargo as a way to eat cut out processed foods and eat healthy - I say go for it!)
My library card will continue to get a workout but books and magazines are ok. As a writer I need to support my fellow writers. Otherwise, I will do my best to ask myself those critical questions before I reach point-of-purchase:
Do I really need this? Or is it a want?
- Do I already own something that could serve the same purpose?
- Can I borrow one, find one used, or make one instead of buying new?
- Was it made locally?
- Was it made with environmentally preferable materials?
- Was it made with fair labor practices?
- Will it serve more than one purpose?
- Is it made well enough to last a useful length of time?
- Will it be easy and cost-effective to maintain?
- Will using it require excessive energy?
- Does it come in excessive packaging?
- Can I recycle or compost it when I’m done with it?
- If I’m still not sure, can I wait a month before deciding to buy it?
If I need to buy new I will spend extra and buy a quality product that that will last longer. In terms of clothing, I will avoid the trends and spend a little more on classic cuts and good quality goods which will last longer.
I will continue to support small business instead of the big box stores. Here in Westboro we have a lot of really nice little shops, run by some really nice people, many of whom have been part of this community for years. Shopping there is better than shopping anywhere else!
You can also participate in other ways:
- Consider buying handmade (like for birthday and hostess gifts). Buying handmade is a great way of supporting local artisans.
- Brown-bag your lunch and use a reusable mug for your daily cup of coffee.
- Use your cloth/reusable grocery bags.
- Ditch single-use water bottles (the kind you buy at the grocery store, 24 for $3.99) and fill a reusable container at the tap instead.
- If you don’t already, track your purchases in order to give yourself a better overview of what you’re buying.
This is what has helped me in the past.
- Leaving my wallet at home.
- Switching grocery stores to one that only sells groceries, not other merchandise i.e. kid’s clothing, toys, etc.
- Not giving in to shopping as a form of recreation.
- Not reading the flyers.
- Avoiding the malls.
- Finding other things to do before the urge to shop hits: reading, going to the gym, phone a friend etc. Instead of meeting your BFF at the mall why not meet for coffee at home or at a coffee shop? Instead of shopping over your lunch hour why don’t you go for a walk instead? Or get a manicure? Or meet a friend?
As always, I would love it if any of you wanted to participate. Like any journey, it’s good to have companions along for the ride.
If you have any questions or comments about anything here, please ask. If you just want to use the comments area to commiserate or keep everyone updated, go ahead. If you want to blog about this too and would like to use the graphics associated with the Shopping Embargo (the big one at the top of this post or the smaller one in the sidebar - go ahead - I would just appreciate credit as the content creator. :)
Twittering about this? Consider using tagging your tweets with #shoppingembargo so the conversation is easily searchable.
Hmm. I guess I did have a lot to say about this, didn’t I? :)
Over to you…
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