My husband and I both work freelance and so our income fluctuates widely. Sometimes I can afford to buy new, and sometimes I can’t, but either way I still try to buy used first.
Being a non-consumer isn’t just about being frugal. It’s also about simple living, green living, and taking care to tread as lightly as we are able on the planet. If you’re reading this blog, I’m sure you’re aware of the grim statistics about how the U.S. uses approximately 25% of the earth’s resources, while our population is obviously nowhere near that. I’m a pretty optimistic person, and I believe strongly in human ingenuity, but it’s tough not to be worried about the future of this planet.
So while saving money was part of my decision to be a non-consumer, it really wasn’t even the biggest one. I enjoy a lifestyle that is not about materialism and is rather about art and ideas and relationships and experiences. I like using what I already have until it’s no longer usable, and when I need something finding a way to get it without buying it new. This habit is like a muscle, and when you start asking yourself whether or not you really need something you’ll get used to figuring out an alternative most of the time.
Sometimes you can get the item used, either at a thrift store, on Craigslist, or at a yard sale. That’s often the case with clothing, appliances, and furniture.
Sometimes you can borrow, especially when it’s a one-time deal. Maybe you need a fancy dress to wear to an event, or a food processor to make an elaborate dessert. You probably have a friend who’d be happy to loan you what you need, especially if you’re willing to reciprocate in the future. And definitely if you thank them with some freshly baked cookies.
Other times you can rent, and many times you can do without. Go a couple of days and ask yourself if you really need the item in question. This is where long term savings come in handy, because often you’d rather save the money for your dream vacation to Paris than buy another pair of shoes you might not even wear.
If you’re new to this blog, or if you’ve somehow missed The Story of Stuff, I highly encourage you to watch it now. This video explains the whole cycle of how we work to get money to buy stuff that ends up in the trash. It’s what made me continue as a non-consumer long after my original commitment to a year of not buying new was over. Once you know how it all works, you can’t go back.
So when I do buy new, I don’t feel guilty. I’ve gone through the process of considering alternatives, and I know that means that I really do need the thing in question. If I can buy local, I will. But if even that is not going to happen, I gladly fork over my cash.
Because this is not a contest. And it’s not about being a martyr. It’s about living a thoughtful, meaningful, conscientious lifestyle and feeling like you are walking the walk and living your values.
And that makes me happier than new shoes ever could.
Are you a Compacter? Do you consider yourself a non-consumer? Please share your thoughts about your own non-consumer, frugal, or simple living path in the Comments section.