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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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The Compact

by Sierra on June 15, 2009 · 4 comments

in green living,money

I started doing The Compact about a month ago. The Compact is simple: for one year, buy nothing new.

There are exceptions of course. These things were written into the Compact as exceptions:

  • perishable goods (food, cleaning products, personal care, medicine)
  • underwear and socks

I’m a generous sort, and I think five is a nice number, so I’m giving myself a few others:

  • art and school supplies (another consumable good that we use a lot of and depend on)
  • garden supplies as needed
  • something else I have not thought of yet that will doubtless prove to be Very Important

While part of the goal of the Compact is clearly to live simply, it doesn’t require one to give up all shopping. You can buy things used, you can freecycle to your heart’s content, etc. It’s more about sustainable living and saving the planet than it is about saving your pennies.

I’ve been enjoying it so far. I wasn’t a big shopper anyway, but I’ve several times caught myself thinking, “I need to buy this thing…but wait! I can’t! I’m Compacting!” Only a few times have I been tempted to get someone else from my household to buy it for me as a cheat. :)

Benefits of the Compact:

  • It’s kind of a huge relief to me, because every time I think, “Should I buy that book/t-shirt/gadget/toy?” the answer is, “No.” and I don’t have to expend a lot of emotional energy on coming to a decision about each item it occurs to me I might want to buy.
  • It’s inspired me to be more creative. The Compact was in the back of my thoughts when I made Rio’s birthday gift instead of buying something for her.
  • It’s a good check on shopping impulses. It’s not that I can’t buy anything – most of the things I would buy I can get used – but it adds another layer to the process, another checkpoint I have to go through before getting out my wallet. That seems to be a good thing, because I have mysteriously been stockpiling cash for the past two weeks as my spending money goes largely unspent.

I’ve joined the Yahoo group, but it’s high traffic and a lot of the posts are off-topic; I admit to not reading it much. What I do read are a few simple/frugal living blogs that I do get a lot of value from. My favorites are Get Rich Slowly, the Simple Dollar and the Non-Consumer Advocate.

Have you been cutting back on your spending, or shifting towards more second-hand shopping? How’s that going for you? I’d love to hear about it, or answer any questions y’all have, in the comments.

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  • Abbe

    I explicitly did something like this during the “christmas season” ™, starting sometime when I thought of it and determined to do it until January. Less extreme, it was more about not buying anything new and especially anything new and made of plastic and coming from any kind of big box/chain retail store – I did buy such stuff as paper, even some plastic safety scissors, and some other things I don’t remember, but I did not enter into Giant Retail Store Land.

    I think I have fallen off the wagon since then, though, even though I don’t remember January coming and having a giant wellspring of “I need so many things I didn’t allow myself to buy before now” built up. Lots of books, some computer equipment, an energy efficient air conditioner, a small kitchen appliance, new clothing I could have bought used, etc have all come into our house and out of our wallets this spring. sigh.

    [Reply]

  • Abbe

    I explicitly did something like this during the “christmas season” ™, starting sometime when I thought of it and determined to do it until January. Less extreme, it was more about not buying anything new and especially anything new and made of plastic and coming from any kind of big box/chain retail store – I did buy such stuff as paper, even some plastic safety scissors, and some other things I don’t remember, but I did not enter into Giant Retail Store Land.

    I think I have fallen off the wagon since then, though, even though I don’t remember January coming and having a giant wellspring of “I need so many things I didn’t allow myself to buy before now” built up. Lots of books, some computer equipment, an energy efficient air conditioner, a small kitchen appliance, new clothing I could have bought used, etc have all come into our house and out of our wallets this spring. sigh.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.beingshadoan.wordpress.com/ Rachel Shadoan

    This idea makes me really happy. It seems like it would simplify decision making so much!

    I’m in the process of simplifying my life by getting rid of as many possession as I can stand to part with, which includes a load of books. I know many used bookstores will let you sell your books for store credit, which is a spiffy way to get books that are new to you.

    Craigslist is a godsend for getting things used. I have been able to find pretty much everything I have needed to furnish my home on craigslist… (Though I have to admit that I think part of the mark of real adulthood is not sleeping on a thoroughly beaten mattress bought used off craigslist.) My favorite Craigslist find is probably this ridiculous Disney Cinderella toaster, which imprints the image of a glass slipper on the side of your toast and plays the Waltz of the Flowers when the toast pops up.

    My friends and I also organize regular closet swaps. That way, everyone gets new clothes, and we get to get rid of the things we are tired of looking at!

    I am also fortunate in that my father’s parents are packrats in the extreme. Pretty much everything I could ever dream of needing (tomato cages and cast iron cookware being the most recent examples) is stashed somewhere in a closet or barn on their property. If one does not possess one’s own Depression Era packrat relatives, I bet estate sales are awesome for that. There is no better place to pick up kitchen supplies, particularly cast iron stuff.

    This sounds like such fun! I think I will try it. Thanks for the inspiration!

    [Reply]

  • http://syntacticsugah.blogspot.com Rachel

    This idea makes me really happy. It seems like it would simplify decision making so much!

    I’m in the process of simplifying my life by getting rid of as many possession as I can stand to part with, which includes a load of books. I know many used bookstores will let you sell your books for store credit, which is a spiffy way to get books that are new to you.

    Craigslist is a godsend for getting things used. I have been able to find pretty much everything I have needed to furnish my home on craigslist… (Though I have to admit that I think part of the mark of real adulthood is not sleeping on a thoroughly beaten mattress bought used off craigslist.) My favorite Craigslist find is probably this ridiculous Disney Cinderella toaster, which imprints the image of a glass slipper on the side of your toast and plays the Waltz of the Flowers when the toast pops up.

    My friends and I also organize regular closet swaps. That way, everyone gets new clothes, and we get to get rid of the things we are tired of looking at!

    I am also fortunate in that my father’s parents are packrats in the extreme. Pretty much everything I could ever dream of needing (tomato cages and cast iron cookware being the most recent examples) is stashed somewhere in a closet or barn on their property. If one does not possess one’s own Depression Era packrat relatives, I bet estate sales are awesome for that. There is no better place to pick up kitchen supplies, particularly cast iron stuff.

    This sounds like such fun! I think I will try it. Thanks for the inspiration!

    [Reply]

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