Resolutions – Final Report

1. Stop driving. Done and done.

2. Clean out the cupboards. Still working on this one. Food wise, I can check this off. Product wise… well, lets just say I still own four deodorants, and I’m not that smelly. Will continue using stuff up before I buy new stuff.

3. Have no fun. I actually had more fun than I was planning on. Besides Rocky Horror Show and the Funkraiser, I caught three films (Children of Men, Last King of Scotland, Pan’s Labyrinth) in the theatre and a couple of short plays at Stoppard Fest. Not the greatest for the bank account (except that I got treated a couple of times, and one was a cheapie matinee). Probably should have done more work on the ol’ thesis, but the panic should set in any day now and then I’ll really start cooking on it.

4. Buy Nothing. This went really well. Better than I expected, actually. Did not cave, except on the aforementioned junk food. Bought no goods. I did pay soccer and yoga fees, but I’m not counting that as stuff. And I bought two bus tickets into the big city to visit the love of my life, but since I’ve taken my car off the road, it’s either buy bus tickets or be sad and lonely. And nothing was created (in terms of pollution) that wasn’t being created anyway. That bus was running with or without me. The only new item to come into my possession was a fair trade t-shirt that my mother-in-law equivalent gave me as a gift. So how’s that for not too bad?!? Going to keep going with this buying nothing thing for as long as I can.

And now, in that fine bloggie tradition, I tag Melissa. Well, not really. She’s already decided on her own to have a Buy Nothing February. I happen to know that she likes to shop, though in her defence, I also know that she is a serious thrifter. She’s a little scared about the whole thing, but I promise, it doesn’t hurt, and your bank account will thank you. The planet might too, though the planet is a little pre-occupied right now.

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update #3

Things are back on track since I remembered the stash of leftover Christmas baking. Still munching away, but not buying any treats. I’ve been avoiding stores and magazines. I find that I “need” much less when I’m not constantly being told what to buy. I don’t have television, which helps. I do have a tv and dvd player, but no chanels.

Watched “The Island” on Sunday, borrowed from my sister. Couldn’t help but notice the tons of product placement. There was so much of it and it was so blatant. Because the movie is set in the future. I kept thinking, ya, right, you wish Nokia. Think you’ll be around in 2019? Remember Atari?

Product placement is very much on my mind these days as I am slogging away at an undergrad thesis on the commericalization of breast cancer. Reading everything, including marketing magazines. As if I wasn’t jaded enough, now I know why those Ford ads are aimed at women in their mid-30s, such as myself. I thought I knew a lot about this stuff already, but this project has been an eye-opener. Want to be jaded too? Check out Think Before You Pink.

Positive side effect: all this jadedness has put me in the right frame of mind for not buying anything. Negative side effect: I feel grumpy.

update #2

This not buying stuff is harder than it seemed at first. I haven’t bought anything but food since January first, but some of the food I’m buying has been pretty unnecessary. Like chips. And M&Ms. That stupid things like this should be my downfall kinda bummed me out, so I gave myself a talking to and now (I’m trying) I have stopped making purchases out of vending machines.

So on the health side, and the eco side of things, I’m not doing as well as I’d like. Overachiever that I am.

On the money side, however, things are brighter. Have $246 in the bank, and it is only two days until payday. Have set myself a goal of having $500 in the bank by the end of February and cutting my Visa bill in half. Totally do-able, as long as Buy Nothing January extends into Buy Nothing February. I’d really like a little breathing room. In case my furnace goes, like poor Mama D’s.

Elliott linked to an article about a woman who is living on $12,000 per year. I’ve been trying to feel inspired by her, but I honestly don’t quite believe the story could be true. It is so far beyond my ability that it seems impossible. I did note that she had to give up school in order to live on so little, which I’m not willing to do.

I lived below the poverty line for a number of years, from 1989 to 1992. Then I mooched off my mom for a year (while recovering from illness, so not really mooching). Then I was below the poverty line from 1995 to 1997 while I was in college. I ended up in all kinds of precarious living situations during those times, and while I obviously survived, it was so stressful. I remember running into the mother of an ex-boyfriend and when she asked how I was doing, being nearly in tears as I told her I had nothing to eat and no money. The next morning I woke up to a litre of vegetarian chilli and a block of cheese hanging on my doorknob. It got me through the week and her absolute kindness still makes me want to weep.

No voluntary simplicity then. Forced simplicity. Voluntary simplicity is for those who have money.

I would now count myself as someone who has money. Despite being broke and complaining about it. I have the option to choose simplicity. I have the luxury to choose not to buy anything. Which, it turns out, is harder than it seems.

update

This not buying stuff is great! My bills are paid and I actually have money in the bank. Not a lot, mind you, but I’m not in overdraft either.

I survived two temptations over the weekend. The first was a fair trade t-shirt situation. I received a JustShirt for Christmas but it didn’t fit. The lovely person who gave it to me offered four shirts in the right size to chose from. I really like two of them. Briefly thought about buying a second one, but somehow resisted. Went with the style she originally chose for me and (mostly) put the other one out of my mind.

The second temptation was on a trip to the mall to return a gift my sister received for Christmas. In my state of heightened awareness, I was easily able to turn up my nose at all the mall had to offer… until I walked through the food court. All that junky badness! What evil person put the popcorn place and the pretzel place right across from one another, so that no matter which way I turned my head, I saw something that I suddenly craved?!? But they were no match for my iron will. Gift returned, I hopped back on the bus having bought nothing.

“There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” -G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Our whole society is set up to buy, buy, buy, and to not be a consumer takes a great deal of unlearning. I’m unlearning to want more and learning to desire less. And as much as being broke prompted me to put a moratorium on spending, it’s not really about the money.

I hereby resolve to…

This year’s resolution isn’t exactly about being green. It’s about a serious lack of green. Or since I’m in Canada… purple, red, blue, beige and green. In other words, I’m broke. Have been teetering on the cusp of financial despair since I went back to school six years ago, but up until this December, I’ve been managing to stay in the black. Last month I went into overdraft for the first time. Only by $30 or so, but it really stressed me out. My credit card is maxed, my student loan has been used up. Drastic measures need to be taken. It just so happens that those measures are also good environmental choices.

Measure #1:
Stop driving. When my insurance came due at the end of November, I let it lapse. I’ve been car-free in the past, so this hadn’t been too much of an adjustment. It has, however, been a huge savings. No insurance, no repairs, no gas. Hurray!

Measure #2:
Clean out the cupboards. I’ve hardly grocery shopped at all since the beginning of December, instead living off all the stuff that’s been sitting around in my kitchen. This has meant a lot of rice and bean dishes, but I like to cook and I’m creative, so it’s okay. Will feel really dumb if there is a major storm and I’m stuck without supplies, but otherwise, this has saved me about $100 so far, based on previous monthly food expenditures. Taking the same approach with my bathroom. Using up lotion, shampoo and deodorant that I already have rather than being wooed by sales or pretty packaging into buying new stuff.

Measure #3:
Have no fun for 30 days. I’m not going to eat out or go out except for a few select events this month. Rocky Horror on the 6th. Marquis Funkraiser on the 20th. But I have a ton of schoolwork to get done, so I’m going to focus on that rather than, you know, having any fun.

Measure #4:
Inspired by an article about these folks (linked on the Worsted Witch’s blog), and of course, Adbusters’ Buy Nothing Day, my New Year’s resolution is to buy nothing that isn’t essential for the month of January. I’ll start with January. See how it goes after that. I’m going to use a fairly strict definition of essential. Food (including cat food… for the cats… things haven’t gotten that desperate yet), meds and feminine hygiene supplies. That’s it. A good friend sent me the link to this. My cards are tucked inside and staying that way.

Will be updating this blog once a week to let you know how it’s going. Whether I’ve cracked under the desire for a new do-dad, or if I’m managing to stay off the wagon. Or is it on the wagon? I’m never sure but you know what I mean.