Wednesday, 30 May 2012

May's Challenge

May has been a big month. Work has ramped up with everyone taking leave one after another. Frog turned three. WonderMan finally landed a steady, well paid job. 

So you could imagine nothing much else has been going on behind the scenes... but in fact I've spent the last 29 days challenging myself to Buy Nothing New In May!

Sounds scary doesn't it? In our fast paced world where you can have anything you want, customised to match your decor, your hairstyle, your dog... not buying anything new can seem a bit crazy. The world is at your fingertips! Buy! Buy more! You want this! You neeeeeed that!

We don't really. There are things I would like to have. There are things I have I don't particularly need, but they make life comfortable, and entertaining.

But we don't need all those little things that creep into our lives, piece by piece, until one day we turn around and shout "Where did all this stuff COME FROM??"

It's the small things, the insubstantial, the fast and cheap.

I challenged myself to be more mindful of what I buy, when and why.

With just two more days to go I have to say we have done pretty well.

Maybe it's because we don't have a lot of spare money. 

Maybe we have just become adept at looking at an item and working out the true value it is going to give, aside from the dollar figure on the price tag. 

Maybe we were just grizzly old cheapskates anyway.

Whatever. It worked.

I picked up on this challenge via the My Budget Money Talks blog.

(For those of you who haven't heard of them, My Budget are a company committed to helping ordinary Australians take control of their finances and build a stable future - I will be sharing our story and how we came to be involved with MB in the coming weeks, and no, they haven't been paying me to write about them, I love them so much I am paying for their services and choose to write about our experiences.)

I'm always up for a challenge. I'm always enthusiastic and drive everyone nuts for the first couple of weeks... and then I generally go quiet and forget about it as the next new one comes along. 

I've had a small fear in the back of my mind that once we did come out of the financial dark times and had spare cash occasionally that we would go crazy and it would all disappear on nothing as it so typically has in the past.

So I was sticking it out come rain or shine, come whinge or whine.

We made one exception for Frog's birthday, because as I said here "Mummy is a consumerism nazi" was not going to cut the mustard come present time.

Aside form that we have been getting more creative with our time and money.

Tiger had a birthday party to go to and I was not keen on buying some random present costing us an arm and a leg, plus I have a hard time coming to terms with the "Here's $20, go nuts in the cheap shop" thing which they seem to have going on nowadays - I believe in quality and thought going into a gift.

Instead Tiger chose some gorgeous teal paisley fabric from my stash and I made her friend a knotted fabric necklace and matching bird softie. From the squeals of thanks I received when I walked in the door to pick Tiger up the next day the birthday girl was thrilled.

After unsubscribing to all the Deal of the Day websites, and removing myself from all those mailing lists you have to sign up for every time you buy a pair of earrings in a chain store, I thought I was free of marketing.

Not so. Our letterbox is a seething mass of consumerist tree killing. 

After a week we had at least 15 flyers and catalogs, so we cut them up and made origami bows and paper chains. An afternoon well spent with my girls, and didn't cost a cent!

I have always been one for meal planning but could be guaranteed to bring something extra home in my trolley just because.  This month has seen me gradually decrease our weekly grocery spend, and consistently return home with only those things that are ON THE LIST. My biggest win was the week I carefully added up everything in my trolley and the final total at the checkout was more than $10 lower! Score!

I stopped taking the family to Woolworths because I can control my "but you really want that Top Gear dvd" urges but cannot contain a 6 1/2 foot man with go go gadget arms who can have a trolley filled with nothing but Tim Tams and fancy coffee sticks in a minute flat.

I am already an avid fan of op shops and garage sales, taking lesuirely walks around strangers gardens, turning over the excess from their lives and finding the gems under the rubbish.

Especially here in wine country, where even the rubbish is interesting. 

We have had some additions to our walls in the form of cute and quirky artwork, hiding away in dusty corners waiting for someone to love them.

This month I have picked up numerous tops, dresses, and the obligatory beads I seem to bring home every time I even walk near an op shop. I've been groaning quietly about the coming winter, and the realisation that every single member of this family need a coat in addition to a big wardrobe boost so we all don't turn into ice sculptures. Last week I unearthed a fabulous red wool coat for myself for $4.50! There's $100 I won't need to be forking out in the near future.

We even found an old fashioned biscuit press and spent the weekend trying out all the fancy biscuits we could make, while the rain fell down and we reveled in each other's company.

And what have we learned?

We've learned the simple life brings the most enjoyment.

Laughing with each other is worth more than anything we spend money on.

We've learned to appreciate what we have, and think carefully about what we want, and need, so that every purchase we make in the future will be made with care.

We've reset our thinking away from the now, and put our long-term spectacles on.

I'm proud of our efforts to stick to this challenge. But most of all I'm re-energised for the next stages of our journey to financial freedom.

So how would you go? Could you Buy Nothing New for a week? a month? a year?


  1. I love this! I am a shocker for buying lots of little bits. Things that are supposed to make our life easier/simpler/better but really just cause me more stress because I have to find a home for it or whatever it replaced. I don't think I could commit to a year or even a month but I will definitely be more mindful, do some more op shopping and I am totally looking up a knotted necklace tutorial for a lucky birthday girl I know! Thanks for the inspiration x

    1. I found the tutorial for the necklace at Mahli Moo Me & Three -

      It's simple and easily explained :) Have fun!

  2. I would find this hard, but I'm keen to give it a go. Maybe in August though, as between now no then we have no less than six birthdays.

    1. EEK! That would make it a pretty tough challenge!

      It wasn't easy on some days, but we were helped by a lot of factors - spare money wasn't to hand, we have little left over after the budget is paid, and we are used to "going without", so saying no wasn't as difficult as it would have been years ago.

  3. Great post, and well done on a month. I love a challenge, and I love the idea of not spending money, but a month!? Wow. That's a long time. You should be feeling very pleased with yourself. I'm looking forward to reading more about the My Budget company.

    1. It is a long time, and there were a few moments where I just wanted to pick up a magazine, or spotted a nice pair of shoes in a shop window and just said "Why? Why don't I just buy it?" My answer was "because it will be there tomorrow, and the next day and the next.... if you truly want/need it... it will wait"

  4. Good on you! We should take a leaf out of your book. I'm particularly guilty of the Straying From The Shopping List crime. You have inspired me to stand strong and resist the temptation to buy that 5kg mega bonus pack of sultanas just because it's half-price...

    1. Where do you find mega packs of sultanas? We go through a gazillion in our house!

      I think it's fairly true of most of us, maybe it's a way of trying to brighten the drudgery of grocery shopping, which is really just another chore we have to do every week!

      The biggest help was just walking past the things I didn't need and paying them no attention. I don't go down the chips and soft drink aisle. It's not on my list, so why tempt myself? If I write my list in the basic groups I am able to bypass the extras by focusing on the next things on my list :)

  5. Sounds like it was wonderful for you.


    I've been seriously cutting back (given I have no income and am living off savings) and so, it's been interesting noting how much more I used to spend on clothes, and shoes and jewlery and takeaway coffee.


    Rather it wasn't necessary, but ut;s great for my furture.

    Once I get through this stage.


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