Apr 22, 2013

Buy Nothing — My April Challenge Update, and Earth Day Musings

We picked up this frame for free at a community event.
The art was paid for.
On the third of April, I began my personal challenge to buy nothing for the rest of the month. Food, drink, parking, etc don't count, but stuff and events do.

It didn't take long before there was a temptation—that lovely print you see to the right. As I mentioned in my first update, this was something that B wanted, and so I (forgetfully) encouraged him to get it. He isn't the one taking the challenge, it is true, but since we share funds and the print is up for both of us to enjoy, I think that it's only fair to call this a small challenge slip-up. That sweet frame, though? We picked that up for free at this fantastic little "free" sale in a local park. The event was pretty small, but I picked up a couple of great finds like this one. More on those in future posts.

Things went pretty well after the print purchase. But then... my laptop began slowing down. A lot. I was waiting for minutes after each click, which was seriously impeding my internship work with GIS. To be fair, my Mac was really old in computer years. I had purchased it about six years ago, and it was the lowest-priced option at that time. It wasn't built to be upgradable, so I couldn't do much to help this problem. I had to face facts: In the middle of my buy-nothing challenge, I was going to have to fork over $1,000 for a new MacBook Pro. And so I did.

Besides the fact that working on the new computer is hugely better and I'm unsure how I tried to do this internship work on the old one for so long, I realized that this is what an emergency fund is for. I don't have one of those. I should work on that. Because if you really can't do your job with the equipment you have, I'd say getting the right equipment becomes an emergency if you want to keep said job.

I realize that this is a big purchase when you aren't in a buy-nothing challenge, and so I'm not discounting its impact. However, the rest of this challenge has gone quite well. I haven't purchased a book, or a ticket to a movie. I haven't bought any clothes, new or used. Save for the two confessions above, I've avoided buying any other stuff, even when it felt more like a need than a want, or was a one-time opportunity.*

I have a few more days to go on my challenge, and I have to say I'm really glad I took it. When we needed something, we improvised. When we looked for something fun to do, we found that there was a ton of free entertainment to be had. And when I really wanted something, the challenge forced me to sit on it for a few weeks, which helped me think hard about whether I wanted it badly enough to spend my money on it or not. There is a little more money I'll probably spend. Our family cell phone plan is overdue to be renewed, and with it we need to get new cell phones since ours are on the fritz. But we'll be getting the oldest model available of our phones, which will cost 1¢ each, so I'm ok with that.

Total unexempt purchases during Buy-Nothing Challenge:
$10...............Print by local artist
$1,229.43.....New MacBook Pro (purchased from a local family-owned computer business, and
including a $50 educational discount because I'm a grad student)


April's challenge, even with the two "stuff" purchases I made, has been a wonderful experience. At the beginning it was hard to say no to purchasing something that was "only $20." But now, it has almost become habit to think of that $20 spent as longer in debt. My natural inclination now is to find something that I already have, or wait for something free, or try to borrow to fill the need if one arises. And it turns out, being resourceful is fun. It has been great for my wallet, and pretty good for the planet too. It's easy for me to think I need something, and then want the one that is made out of recycled goods to make it earth friendly. But really, not buying new shit is the most earth-friendly act I can take, isn't it?

This Earth Day, I'm reminded about how important this holiday was to me as a teen and twenty-something. And I am encouraged that it isn't that big of a deal to me anymore, because (whether I am successful at reducing it or not) I think about my impact on this earth all the time. And isn't that awareness really the purpose of Earth Day in the first place?

What is one thing you want to try to focus on this year to reduce your environmental impact?

*B also purchased some items from the local hardware store to repair both a leaky toilet and a broken shower drain. I think repairs like this should probably be exempt, and I'm pretty sure we'll be reimbursed by our landlord anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment