July 24, 2010

What Aren't You Buying?

As current economic conditions continue to change our world a lot of people are getting closer to not buying anything. Who can afford it? We're not buying houses or Hummers, cottages or caviar. As catastrophic as it all seems, it is a shift in the right direction. Something is obviously not working in our current system when the few have so much, and the many so little. I am not buying that.

It is always possible to buy less. One persons extreme budget is another persons luxury living. However, if the goal is toward living with less, each small step counts. Wandering holy people get their possessions down to a piece of cloth and a bowl. It is hard to get more basic than that. They are truly not buying anything. It is something I aspire to - to live as lightly as possible, and be free of encumbrances.

Then we can follow our own unique adventure, unscripted by society or the marketplace. You can't buy a life, or be forced into one against your will - you have to make a life of your own choosing on your own. Each of us is writing our own story. For a long time my story has been about working toward not buying anything. It is going to take longer than I thought.

The following is a list of things I haven't been buying the last 5 years, or in some cases, have never spent money on. My life is better without them. When things are uncomplicated and uncluttered we can focus on what is important to us. When we live better with less, others currently scraping by can live better with more.

I'm Not Buying:
  • cable TV
  • individual car ownership
  • meat... still with me?
  • movies
  • new clothes
  • caffeine
  • concert tickets
  • restaurant meals
  • credit
  • inflated real estate
  • vacations
  • big bank financial advisers and the mutual funds they peddle
  • the Wall Street Casino
  • ultra soft toilet paper made from 300 year old trees
  • disposable products
  • popular culture
  • mainstream media
  • granite counter tops
  • processed food
  • having kids, unless you really, really, really want them
  • working a job you don't like
  • christmas presents
  • endless upgrades
  • fast food
  • fashion
  • planned obsolescence
  • non-participatory democracy
  • stainless steel
  • alcohol
Congratulations if you made it to the end of that. You must be a non-conformist yourself.

So many things not to buy. It is a challenge in a materialistic world, but is also satisfying in a way that buying things never can be. It feels like self-control, restraint, and thrift. It feels right, like an instinct.
Are there things you are cutting back on? What aren't you buying?


  1. Anonymous2/11/2012

    I just discovered this wonderful website, which I am about to "bookmark." I love this list. My parents were frugal, and so am I. I have chosen to not have children, not own a house, and have never owned a car. Over the years, some friends have thought me weird, for my frugal ways -- I don't care, since it is has always been the right lifestyle for me.

    1. Anon,

      My parents were also frugal - they were not motivated by stuff, and instead focused on learning (self-improvement), community, and nature.

      Frugal has always been the way to live, but it is even more important now as global population spikes, and consumption rises.

      Thank you for sharing your story. I have great respect for simple living people that don't give in to consumer culture and peer pressure.

  2. Anonymous12/23/2012

    While I agree with much of this list, I find the inclusion of kids as an excess to be fairly misguided. I just can't imagine putting a dollar amount on a human being and the love and joy they provide. That's akin to cutting out friends in your life, because all you see is the added cost of another birthday present each year and gas money to visit them.

    Kids also cost a lot less than you would think. Most people buy them way more crap than they'll ever need. Hand-me-down clothes and toys, thrift stores, cloth diapers, breastfeeding -- these all keep the cost of raising kids low.

    That being said, I respect your decision not to have children. Hope you don't view this as an attack. Just wanted to put another perspective out there.


    1. You are so right - kids don't have to be expensive. And we do have to watch out what we are cutting from our lives as we simplify. The objective (for most people) is usually not to become a frugal hermit. And kids do add a joy to the world.

      We take kids from their natural state, which is to be content with very little, and train them to want more. The more we give them, the more detrimental it can be for their future happiness. Bloated expectations are creating unprecedented inequality globally.

      Children are bold, creative, and resilient, and adults could learn a lot from them. These are qualities we will all need to embrace as we confront the challenges ahead.

      Thank you for the reminder that kids are magical. Here's to kids... and friends.

  3. Anonymous11/03/2013

    They say 'less is more' and I am inclined to agree.

    Less time buying things I dont need means less time working to pay for them means more time to appreciate life and doing things I enjoy.

    1. Anon,

      Well said. Words by which to live. Life is too short to spend all your time earning and spending money. There is so much more.

      Or is that "so much less"?


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