Sometimes it seems as if people in our society are in a contest to see who can fill their house with the most stuff. Because our culture trains us to be consumers, we are often unaware of the many, many benefits to being frugal. Remember, everything you own owns you.
Everything you buy you must maintain, store, repair, clean, and perhaps insure. Our stuff quickly becomes a psychological burden. The more you buy, the more money you need, which increases your work time at the expense of your family and friends. Finally, all of our stuff takes natural resources to produce, making everything we buy environmentally costly. Here are a few pointers to help you buy less stuff:
1. Fix broken things. Our disposable culture encourages us to replace broken items even when they are relatively easy to fix. Just because you can afford a new lawn mower doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to fix your old one.
2. Reuse stuff. You can reuse many so-called disposable items, such as paint brushes, sandwich bags, and plastic containers.
3. Borrow from friends. Borrowing saves resources, money, and time and also helps build community. Check our books, movies and CDs from your local library. Ask your friend id she has a pipe wrench, since you only need it for a day or two.
4. Ask yourself, Do I really need it? Advertising makes us feel as if we’ll be left out if we don’t have the latest gadget or name brand clothing. When it comes down to it, we don’t need much of what we buy.
5. Take a shopping list. Plan ahead before you shop. Decide exactly what you want before you go; otherwise fancy displays, colorful packaging and salespeople might convince you to buy something you don’t need.
6. Avoid impulse buys. Companies actually design their stores to encourage impulse buying. Do you really need any of that junk that surrounds you in the check-out line? One powerful technique to avoid impulsively buying big purchases, such as a new stereo, is to wait two weeks before you buy it. If you still really want it, then get it.
Adapted from The Better World Handbook: Small Changes That Make a Big Difference by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, and Brett Johnson (New Society Publishers, 2007).