And just like that, November is drawing to a close. When I decided that I wouldn’t buy anything for the entire month of November, I admit it was mostly just a reaction to the plethora of stuff in my house, and the overwhelming commercialism of the upcoming holiday season. I wasn’t sure how it would go, or how I would feel about it when it was all said and done. Some of the results of a month-long kibosh on spending were as you’d expect, while others really surprised me. In a nutshell, here are my takeaways from Buy Nothing November:
- Sales-shopping isn’t saving me money. See, I’m typically a pretty frugal person, and will almost never buy anything that’s not on sale. But what I’ve learned is that if I buy something because it’s on sale that I didn’t need and wouldn’t have bought had it not been on sale… I’m not actually saving money. I’m just spending a smaller amount. I realized what a problem I had during all the sales after Thanksgiving- my fingers were just itching to order stuff online because of all the “deals”. But can I tell you something? Just a few days later, I can barely remember those things that I really wanted to buy. If I remember them in December, maybe I’ll buy them. Or maybe by waiting a bit, I’ll realize I don’t need them. Which leads me to my second realization:
- Impulse purchases are a problem. Mine are mostly small, but wow, they add up. I can’t even tell you how many times I caught myself and put something back, or cleared my online cart because I realized it was Buy Nothing November. If it had been a regular month, and I had bought all those things, it would have really added up. This month has helped me to realize that I need to be more mindful about the little stuff (I’m looking at you, cute banners in the Target dollar aisle!), and not just the big stuff.
- My kids don’t give a crap. Seriously. Did they realize it was Buy Nothing November? NOPE. Not once were they like, “Hey, Mom, I noticed no new clothes this month- what’s up with that?” or, “So… no packages from Amazon today?” All those casseroles made with leftovers? LOVED ‘EM. Pulling out some old puzzles from the basement to keep them busy? SWEET NEW TOYS. This taught me that my kids not only could do with less, but they’d be perfectly happy doing with less.
- It’s nice to have a reason to say “no”. Before this month, I could talk myself in and out of buying something maybe ten times before I went ahead and bought it or didn’t buy it. But this month, it was actually nice to have a reason to pass. It was liberating and saved me a lot of mental energy. Sure, it was hard and frustrating in the moment sometimes, but I found that I was able to move on so much more easily.
- There’s no new stuff in my house. Yay! Because I need more stuff in my house like I need a hole in my head.
- I’m putting my money where my mouth is. It’s one thing to say to my kids, “You know, some people can’t afford new coats every winter, so you’re lucky that you have new ones.” It’s another to say, “Hmm, your coat still fits pretty well, so we’ll make it work until next year. But let’s pick out a new coat to bring to someone at the shelter.” People are always bemoaning the entitlement of the upcoming generation, but we can’t expect any different if we never let our kids go without. And speaking of going without…
- It won’t kill you. Because lots of people go without all the time, and they don’t have the choice. Not shopping on Cyber Monday is paltry next to the real hardships that so many other people are facing. It puts a lot in perspective to say no to things for just a while, knowing that some people go their entire lives without ever having to make that decision- because the decision is made for them by their lack of means. Living with disposable income, however limited, is a privilege. And somehow, this month has made me acutely aware of that.
- My privilege extends far beyond what I can purchase. So, my husband’s birthday was this month. I didn’t buy him a gift. But instead, I asked my parents to watch our big kids for a night and we had a chill night in watching tv and eating appetizers. He loved it, said it was the best birthday present ever. But I couldn’t have done that without help from my parents. I’m super lucky to have them nearby and always willing (begging?) to help with the kiddos. Last week, I was having a particularly rough time with the whole at-home-parent gig, and a surprise package arrived from a friend with a sweet note and a necklace I’d been admiring in her shop. How lucky am I to have friends like that? I could give you twenty more examples of the ways in which my cup was filled this month, all without my spending a dime. And I felt so much more appreciative of the kind things people did for and with me because I couldn’t pay them back.
- A confession: I failed. I made it almost through the month without buying anything, and then I heard about that Amazon book coupon and unthinkingly clicked over to my cart, which was already loaded with a few books that I had already picked out for the kids for St. Nicholas Day and planned to buy in December, and used it to check out. Boom. Done. Then I was all, “OH NOOOO!” I didn’t cancel the order because it seemed silly when all was said and done, but… Lesson learned: Checking out on Amazon is WAY too easy. So easy that you can do it while barely registering what you’re doing. Scary.
- Failure, in this case, didn’t feel that bad. I bought something that had been a planned purchase, that I had already given some careful attention to, and lovingly picked out for my kids for a special celebration. I’d been out of the habit of buying things needlessly, so it wasn’t just feeding an addiction to consumerism. It showed me how spending money should be- on things that you care about, for people you care about, that are either needed or will be very much loved and well-used.
And this friends, is really the point. This month wasn’t about making myself uncomfortable (although I was, sometimes) or purging my home of stuff (I didn’t). It was simply about being mindful and letting that mindfulness turn into gratitude for what I already have. And I am. So grateful. I thought I was appreciative of my many blessings before, but saying no to my own desires for myself and my family really put my heart in a place where my words became actions. This month, I spent a whole lot more time serving others than I ever have before, because it felt like the natural extension of what I was doing. If a call to service doesn’t flow out of your feeling of gratitude, it’s time to dig in and decide if your heart is really grateful, or if you’re confusing gratitude with a feeling of entitlement. I sure was. I think we all have room in our hearts for a little more gratitude and a little less stuff. At least that’s been my experience this month.
So tell me… how did you do? What were your major successes? What were your “failures”? Would you do this again? If you didn’t participate this time, would you like to in the future?
And for those of you who did participate, tell me… is there anything you’ll be buying first thing tomorrow? 😉