Some people celebrate “Buy Nothing Day” — which aptly falls on Black Friday — as a protest against the rampant consumerism in modern culture. The idea is to avoid buying unnecessary items and, instead, to spend more time with family and friends, and, literally, “live freely.”
A British woman took the concept more than a few steps farther, and decided to go for a year without buying anything beyond the basics. That meant that she paid her mortgage and utilities and not much else, bought food in bulk and cooked her own meals, and rode her bike to work rather than taking the subway. No dining out or drinks at the pub, no trips to the movies, no new clothes, no travel or vacations, and no luxury items like fancy foods. She also turned down friends and family who wanted to buy her gifts.
To her surprise, she made it through the year, with the winter months being the toughest. She saved a lot of money — about $27,000, all told — and found that she had come to enjoy simple things, like a picnic in the park or a walk through a museum that didn’t charge admission. She also feels that she became closer to her family and friends. In short, she says she learned that money didn’t buy happiness.
The most instructive part of the woman’s story of consumerist self-deprivation is this admission: “I’d set myself budgets and spending plans in the past and they’d always fallen by the wayside on my next night out.” People spend themselves into oblivion because they don’t have the self-discipline to control their behavior, whether it’s sticking to a budget or simply exercising good judgment on spending and refraining from making impulse purchases. And then, at some point, they look around at a place cluttered with stuff they don’t use and clothes they don’t wear, and wonder where all the money went.
I wouldn’t want to go for a year without traveling, or enjoying a drink out with friends, or savoring a good meal on a special occasion. Those are some of the things that make like special. But avoiding unnecessary spending, living a more minimalist, possession-free life, and feeling a certain sense of pride that you’ve got your finances under control affords its own satisfaction, too.