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The Counter Consumerism Challenge

This post has been a long time coming.

For months now, I’ve been very focused on our finances. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but early in 2017 I fell hard and fast down the rabbit hole of personal finance, starting with Dave Ramsey and moving far into the tax – avoidance strategies of the Mad Fientist. It’s quite a spectrum, and there’s a lot of noise, but in recent months I’ve finally felt that while there’s still SO much I have to learn, this is indeed a real and true passion for me and that I finally have the tools I need to confidently make decisions (with Sam, of course).

Counter Consumerism Challenge | www.savoringsimple.comAs we’ve evaluated our goals, assessed our budget, and taken a deeper look at our spending, I’ve learned a few hard lessons about myself. I’ve found that, while I’ve always considered myself ‘good’ with money, and frugal in nature, I am a natural spender. I LOVE SPENDING. I love bringing something new home, I love getting packages in the mail (who doesn’t?), I love swiping my credit card, I love browsing Amazon, and I love the thrill of bargain-hunting.

I want to be clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending or consuming. After all, spending and consuming drive our economy. For me, though, spending-while still limited and frugal-was no longer conscious. It was usually driven not by needs, but by petty wants or spur-of-the-moment decisions that were cluttering my life and home. It was unconscious and added no value to my life.

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At the same time I started noticing our consumerism add more “stuff” to our lives, I was also doing a lot of reading on the power of positive mindsets, and “Deed before Creed” has become a personal mantra. For example, if I want to, say, be more thankful, I should start acting more thankful, because it is easier to act your way to new thinking than it is to think your way to new acting (paraphrase of Millard Fuller).

So if I want to feel more satisfied/more grateful for all the wonderful things in my life, maybe I can get there by acting more satisfied and grateful-and since I tend toward extremism, I started thinking about 2018 and what I’m calling “The Counter Consumerism Challenge”

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So. For one year, I’m not going to consume ANYTHING that isn’t 100% a necessity. I’m not going to buy anything that doesn’t contribute to the basic needs in my life-food, water, shelter, health, etc.

I started a list of acceptable vs. non-acceptable items so I don’t accidentally break any rules as the year goes on:

The Counter Consumerism Challenge

Not Allowed:
Haircuts (!!)
Clothes (see exceptions below)
Make Up or Toiletries except basic (mascara, eyeliner, tinted chapstick) when out
Coffee/Tea from Coffee shops
Fast-food
Candles <–tough!
Books/Movies/Magazines
Home Decor
Excess beauty items: hair dyes, fingernail polish, etc.
Hair products (except shampoo when out)
Workout Classes/Gym Memberships (except when free)

Allowed:
Summer clothes (only if needed) <–will evaluate once closer
1 pair winter boots*
Gifts for others
Food (basics only)
1x coffee purchase each month, with Sam**
Basic building supplies for house reno (unfortunately, that can’t stop)
Ingredients to make deodorant, lotion, soap, and toothpaste (have been making my own for years)***
Toiletries as needed (basics only)
Business Items as needed ****
Necessary Bills (mortgage, utilities, phone, wifi)*****
A few Experience-based adventures
Replacement items as needed

*Because I live in MN and this really is a necessity since mine broke last year.
**Sam and I vowed a long time ago to always hold our monthly budget meeting (yes, we’re nerds) outside of our home-it makes it more fun and prevents me from getting distracted by the dishes. We agreed to stay away from coffee shops in 2018 except for our monthly budget meeting-and even then, we usually share a coffee.
***Because chemical free, yo. Better for us and environment.
****I run a small side business and we plan to rent out or AirBNB the basement once it’s finished, so will need to purchase a mattress, bedding, etc.
*****Thought really hard about cutting the internet, but I work from home some days and since I can’t go to coffee shops except for our monthly budget meeting, it’s out of the question.

Expected Challenges of the Counter Consumerism Challenge:

  • Explaining this to others. I’m also excited about this part, but I’m nervous for what happens when a family member or friend wants to meet at a restaurant/coffee shop/see a movie, etc.. Obviously we aren’t going to ask them to pay, so I’d like to have some alternatives in place like “hey we’re doing this weird thing, but we’d love to have you for dinner and game night instead.”
  • Omg. Home decor. My weakness. I’m actually contemplating cutting pinterest from my life because I don’t think it helps me NOT buy things, and it definitely doesn’t make me content with what I have, which was a huge motivator for this challenge.
  • Nights I really, really don’t want to cook. To prep for this, I think we will actually buy a few freezer meals-something easy, fun, and different that I can pop in when the basement has us both down and we’re hangry AF (happens often). Even a frozen pizza would cut it, honestly.
  • Not having a place to escape. While we love our home, it can be a big source of stress since we’ve been in constant reno mode since we bought 1.5 years ago. We use restaurants as an escape-it’s not often, but it breaks up the monotony and gives us a chance to breathe clean, sawdust-free air. We are still determining if restaurants fall under ‘unnecessary consumption’ or ‘experiences/adventures’, but we’d like to expand our outings either way. Alternatives include: libraries, museums, free ice skating at the park, cross-country skiing, visiting family/friends, volunteering, and a few small vacations/trips to see long-distant family.
    I’m all for suggestions here, so send ‘em my way!
  • Travel. I do a lot of traveling for work, and usually extend my stay for a mini-adventure since the flight is covered. I’m pretty good about bringing my own food, but I do foresee having to spend some money at restaurants while I’m not at home. I’m not against this, since the goal was simply to decrease my unconscious spending, but it will be challenging. That’s one reason restaurants is not on my list of hard “no’s”.
  • Unforeseen costs. With so much changing in our lives (I know I sound like a broken record but THE BASEMENT RENOVATION is the bane of my existence), and four seasons to account for, I’m curious to see what changes that I didn’t account for in my ‘rules’.

I have a lot of thoughts on this and could go on for pages-but I think it’s better to update you as I go along.

And no, the irony is not lost on me that this idea happened to come to me at a season that is typically the height of American consumerism, but this challenge was honestly not sparked by the Black Friday/Christmas season (although that did strengthen my resolve).

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am not against consumption. This is a personal challenge to become more mindful of what I’ve been given, to become a more conscientious steward of my money and time, and to hopefully eliminate the unnecessary from my life. I realize I’m privileged in my ability to take this challenge, and that there are millions of families who do not have that choice.

I’m hoping to learn some cool stuff in 2018, guys. As always, please send any thoughts my way.

How about you? Have you thought about embarking on your own Counter Consumerism Challenge? What are your thoughts on consumerism in first world countries?

I’m going to be posting soon about some of the changes I’ve made -mostly getting rid of items around our home and minimizing my closet. Stay tuned!

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