What I learnt from my year of buying nothing new

One year ago I set a goal to buy nothing new (read my first month update here and six month update here). It was a very interesting experience to go through and one I would recommend to everybody so that you can get some distance between yourself and compulsive consumerism. First of all I want to point out that I did buy a few new things during the year:

  • ski gloves – bought on sale (see my six month update)
  • ski goggles – bought on sale (I somehow managed to scratch my old ones so I couldn’t see through them)
  • summer hiking boots – bought on sale (my normal hiking boots are a bit big and I therefore wear two thick pairs of socks in them but with the heat this summer I couldn’t wear them without my feet totally overheating)
  • high heels (I realized that I needed a pair of heels for the wedding I attended this summer and probably for the many weddings to come)
  • wedding gift for above mentioned wedding
My new ski goggles

What me and Mr LIL have bought together:

  • christening gift (dining set made from bamboo instead of plastic)
  • things for our garden (pots, compost, hose, seeds)
  • a hiking harness for the LIL wolf and a new flexi leash because ours broke

Considering this is a full years worth of purchases (not including food, toothpaste, schampoo, vitamins and the like) I think I did very good and am very pleased with myself. So with that out of the way I will move on to how this year of shifting my mindset taught me.

Changing mental pathways

Rewriting my mental pathways was by far the most impactful experience of the year. I have gone from pretty much buying things that I felt I needed instantly which seemed to be a couple of things every month to now being able to control the impulse and rarely buy anything. I instead think of our big picture plan of financial independence and our own homestead and in the light of postponing that plan most purchases seem totally unnecessary. I love the new found freedom of not getting sucked into thoughts and actions that consumer society places upon me. I don’t need something new, better, bigger, smarter or prettier – I have learnt that what I already have fulfills my needs just fine and that I am great for who I am, not because I have the newest phone or a pretty necklace.

Delayed gratification

To be able to say no to short term “needs” delayed gratification is a very important concept. From Wikipedia:

Delayed gratification describes the process that the subject undergoes when the subject resists the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later

Having a goal for your money is the first step of practicing delayed gratification. It is very hard to motivate yourself to say no to that coffee to go if you dont have a clear goal of where that money is going to instead. Everyones goals are different, but having some kind of long term goal be it a house, a longer vacation, a wedding or like us to buy our time is a huge motivator. Being frugal for frugals sake is hard to keep up over time. Often  lifestyle creep starts happening if you don’t have a designated place for your money. It usually goes like this: now that I earn more/am older/work hard I deserve a new top/phone/apartment. So set a goal for your money.

It doesn’t feel like deprivation

What is interesting is that while it felt hard to deny myself things I thought I needed at first it quite quickly became second nature to set my brains fleeting impulses aside. One of the more ridiculous I want to buy impulses was a stand up paddle board (which costs around 4000-6000kr) which I just let go. During this year I have instead learnt to use and be grateful for what I already have. I have divorced things from feelings of happiness which means that a lack of things doesn’t make feel sad, envious or like I am missing out. Instead for example a phone becomes just a phone that I use for calling people, texting, taking photos and accessing the internet. To do that I don’t need have the absolute latest and most expensive phone or to change phones every year and hence not having that doesn’t feel like deprivation. I derive happiness from other aspects of my life like sharing lazy weekend mornings with Mr LIL, going for walks with the LIL wolf, talking to my friends, swimming in the ocean, picking berries, eating home cooked meals, writing on this blog. All of which I can do without having the latest gadgets.

 

This year has lead to a permanent change in my behaviour around buying new things. As you saw above I have bought some things that I needed during this year so it is not that I have made a list of lots of things that I have been pushing off buying and now that the year is up I will  run out and buy them. Instead I will continue to carefully sort through the wants that pop up and only buy what I really need which will benefit both the environment and my wallet. 

2 thoughts on “What I learnt from my year of buying nothing new”

  1. Very cool, and good work completing the full year! We just started a similar challenge, but we have set it for 3 months. Seems like a very short period compared to yours but I hope I will have similar insights like you shared in your post 🙂

    1. I started to notice the changes I wrote about after a month (the first couple of weeks are the hardest with any change of habit you are trying) so 3 months should be more than enough time to get some insights into your automated behavior 🙂

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