Running on wallet fumes?

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 29

Product: Only in the last 100 years have people been willing to buy this particular thing. In fact, we used to have so much surplus of this product, anyone trying to sell it would be laughed out of town.

Nowadays we pay monthly for the right to simply run in place. We plug our ears and focus our eyes on pictures of things as far away as possible from where we really are. We exercise with no purpose except because our doctors tell us we should.

What has changed? Years ago we worked with our hands and backs because we had to. If we didn’t keep moving we didn’t eat. Now we have so much convenience that if we don’t force ourselves to move we die from all sorts of ugly diseases caused/aggravated by lethargy.

It’s not all bad. No one would purposefully want to go back to the days of sewing all our clothes and making every meal from flour, sugar, salt, and rabbit backstraps. Convenience is just too darn convenient to not appreciate it.

But how do we keep ourselves from dying of convenience while living well in the meantime?

How about we choose as many of the beneficial aspects of exercise as we can get?

The movement is good, we got that part. You know what else is good? Fresh air, sunshine, comradery, accomplishment. Add as many of those things into your exercise regimen as you can. You don’t have to weed the ½ acre canning garden with your daughter but you can run a 5K with your neighbor.

Strangely enough, when you exercise with these additional benefits it all the sudden becomes free! You don’t need to pay a gym. You don’t need special equipment. Even if your goal is muscles you can do that without fancy equipment. Check this idea out- I love it.

So quit buying your exercise and find a way to utilize the free outdoors or find physical volunteer work or just think outside of the box instead of paying a monthly fee. Just because everyone else does it this way now doesn’t mean that you have to.

Reason to buy less: Somewhere in your house is that $5 bill you misplaced.

Suggestion: It can be done. You can go through life and never pay full price for a product. You can always find some deal on some thing. Buy it used. Find a coupon. Wait for it to go on clearance. There’s always some way.

Can you challenge yourself to do that?

Now, this does not mean you should buy something because it’s not full price. “Oh look, those shoes are 15% off, I should buy them.” Don’t do that.

If you want a product, search and wait until you can find a deal on it. The point is to not go out and buy something without careful consideration that you’re getting the best deal.

Be very careful and intentional with your purchases. It can mean big savings.

I counter your doubt with today’s example

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 28

Product: When we bought our cabin we got a very, very run down place. It’s been over a year now and, as much as we love to come here as much as possible, we’ve been repairing it very, very slowly.

The countertop had this huge crack right in the middle of the sink, front and back. The sink itself sprayed water everywhere when you turned on the water.  And we’ve been living with it for over a year. We are finally getting it fixed and boy am I excited.

We’ve been looking at new countertops for awhile but now we’ve finally decided that we’ve earned the new countertop/sink.

Yesterday Mr. WW headed to one of those warehouse/flea market places for building supplies. There were huge buildings full of scraps/incorrect special orders/damaged/reclaimed goods. He found a countertop that would work with a big bubble right in the middle. Since our sink would go in the middle, that bubble doesn’t bother us a bit.

He then brought it home on a trailer borrowed from a friend. See, he and the friend took the trip together so the friend could haul some of his scrap to the dump. We supplied the vehicle, the friend supplied the trailer. Both got something they wanted out of the trip as well as spending time together.

When it arrived home our ten-year-old was keen on watching and learning how to install the whole deal.

Mr. WW pulled the sink from the shed he’d bought almost a year ago. It’s extra deep and a nice style so when he saw it for cheap at a thrift store he had picked it up.

While they where figuring out how to caulk the new sink it was the 10-year-old who had the idea to put it in then turn it over and caulk from underneath so that’s what they did. They then recruited the 7-year-old to help by moving things out of the way and the mom (me) to lift the whole shebang high enough to get it onto the counter. All in all it was very much a family affair.

Now there were some issues. There were boards that needed trimming, the faucet that came with the sink ended up being kaput, and the sink had an extra hole than what we needed. But we worked through them. The wondrously weird clan used their noggins and figured things out.

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Here’s the eldest trying to recapture the cord to the refrigerator I so flippantly tossed aside as we were placing the counter top. He had to hold the flashlight in his mouth but he got it. 

The bottom line? The counter top that normally would have been at least $150 was only $50. The sink that would have been $250 was only $8. I have no idea how much it would have cost us to pay someone to put it in for us and we got to keep that experience for free. We also kept good things from going into a landfill somewhere.

When it comes to building supplies there are tons of ways to minimize. Think outside of the box. A lot of things are made for others and they can’t use it like our counter with the bubble in the middle or the leftover tiles after a job is completes or a door that the distributor put the handle on the wrong side or a 2-year-old off-white microwave after someone decided they want their kitchen to have black appliances.

For those do-it-yourself projects your problem solving skills are already getting a much-loved workout. May as well flex that muscle a bit more and see how you can save your wallet some money as well.

Reason to buy less: It’s hard to focus on small quiet things when a house full of clutter looms large.

Suggestion: I don’t know if I’ve made this clear yet: a manufacture’s job is to make as much profit as they possibly can. Everything they do, EVERYTHING, is with the point of making more money.

You can’t blame them, that’s their job. Just remember that that’s their job.

They don’t have sales or deals to help you out. If they can convince you to buy something of theirs it is for their profit, not for your benefit.

That weekly grocery store trip to stock the trash can

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 27

Product: So how’s today gone for ya’? Besides being a day retailers have devoted you to shopping all day, it’s also leftover day.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever done the full Thanksgiving meal all myself. 9 dishes and 2 pies all made from scratch and ready at the same time. Besides a little fear that the potatoes weren’t boiling fast enough, it all came together wonderfully. The turkey was falling apart moist, my self-described pre-teen was sucking down the gravy wondering why it kept disappearing on his plate as he mixed it with every dish, seconds (and sometimes thirds, and fourths) were had by all.

Thanksgiving is the day we celebrate our blessings by intentional decadence. If we live with this kind of decadence all the time Thanksgiving wouldn’t be special.

That’s why during every other meal I make sure the turkey is dry- maybe a little charred.

No. Of course that’s not what I mean.

I mean that expecting and getting everything you want to the point of uncomfortable bloatedness is not done at every meal. We respect the food and limit ourselves unless it is some special occasion.

I’ve got some horrific statistics for you.  40% of the food produced in the US is thrown away—that’s almost half! The average American throws away 25% of the food they buy. That equals 96 billion pounds of food every year that would be worth $165 billion. The average American household, retailer, and farmer is very wasteful.

It’s not really our fault. It’s what we’re used to. Farmer’s can’t sell produce that’s ugly. Retailers sell more with overstocked displays. Individuals think that food past the best by date is unsafe.

We need to change our thinking and we can do a lot at the home level. I could do a series on food alone for a whole month. Here are a few things:

  • Those best by dates are totally arbitrary. Besides baby formula that is regulated by the government, suppliers set their own date standards for their products. It is more financially beneficial to them to hold those dates as tight as possible. That product is not going to magically go bad the moment the calendar rolls over to the day it says on the package. Use your good sense God gave ya’. If it smells, is slimy, or looks different don’t eat it. Otherwise dig in.
  • Eat leftovers. Please. Who do you think you are that you need freshly prepared food every meal? Eat some humble pie that was made two days ago. It’s still perfectly good.
  • Don’t dig around in the produce department. I know this is a hard one. We want the most for our buck but let me tell you, if you don’t buy that smallish head of lettuce no one will and it will rot in a landfill. It is likely that if you buy the biggest head you won’t eat the entire head and the difference will end up in your trash anyway.
  • Buy ugly produce and funky packages. Just two days ago I was buying a two liter of soda. I grabbed one and went to move along when I noticed one without a label. The missing label was sitting next to it, apparently victim of some faulty glue. I put my good one back and picked up the naked one with the loose label for the clerk to scan. If I hadn’t rescued him he would have certainly headed to the dumpster.
  • Just buy less. Make a list and stick to it. If your meals are planned you don’t have that broccoli sitting in the fridge just waiting for you to notice him when you’re in the mood to be healthy. Plan when you are going to eat that broccoli so he isn’t stood up and ends up wilting and leaving dejected to your trash can.
  • Don’t toss the entire product if some is bad. Of course this doesn’t work for milk but you can safely cut mold off cheese, black spots off cauliflower, and bruises off of apples.

If you can’t bring yourself to do all these things just think of this: what would it be like to have a 25% larger grocery budget? That’s what it would be like if you didn’t throw food away. Eat it all. As your mother would say, there are starving children in Africa who would appreciate that good food.

Oh here’s another statistic: 1 out of 6 of Americans are food insecure and reducing food waste in America by just 15% would provide nutrition to 25 million Americans. Maybe mom was onto something.

Go eat those Thanksgiving leftovers.

Reason to buy less: You don’t want any extra reasons for a thief to be in your house longer.

Suggestion: When you buy things it is important to carefully think through your needs and decide when quality matters. Sometimes (only sometimes) you will want to spend a little more for a higher quality item.

I’m a big fan of dollar stores but sometimes they are just landfill fillers. If that product doesn’t work for you and you have to go back and buy it again you are just perpetuating waste.

This is why I am a huge fan of buying used. If a product has survived someone else’s use and is still going strong, you are buying a quality product.

Now, not everything you own should be the high-end type. A good way to see what you should buy for quality is to buy the first one the dirt cheap version. If you’re use trashes it too quickly to make it worth it, then allow yourself to buy a nicer version. That way you’ve basically earned the right to make that decision.

That black, black day is coming up

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 26

Product: Let’s see. What else can be buy less of? How about other people’s love? Do you have people in your life you feel obligated to buy love from?

That’s not how love really works and you know it. We all know it.

Holidays are so horrible when it comes to obligation and guilt. For more on this one you can go back and read when I gave you the suggestion of releasing others from feeling that guilt about you.

You can also go and watch this clip. It describes it all.

Don’t you want to be a person who buys your friends gifts when you see something that makes you think of them fondly and you know they’ll love instead of saving it for the next holiday or birthday or- worse yet- feeling like you have to buy them something when you don’t know what to get them. We can never balance the pressure right in socially pressured situations anyway.

Please do what you can to help break the sticky web of obligation that is now normal here. Buy out of the blue gifts for your friends. Be generous all the time. Don’t spend so much on socially pressured situations and it will be more enjoyable to be naturally generous.

Reason to buy less: It’s much harder to lose your car keys when you don’t have a lot of other stuff around.

Suggestion: Sleep on it. Don’t buy anything that’s not consumable without sleeping on it first. (I will allow the situation of being in a store and stopping dead with the realization that you’re on your last roll of TP. By all means, run back and grab more toilet paper without sleeping on it.)

Give each purchase the weight it deserves.

Do you know how much work it is to adopt? They don’t just let you waltz into an orphanage and pick up a ward. They make sure you’re serious about it.

Think of this grossly overstated metaphor next time you’re contemplating a purchase. If you are going to be dishing out the cash and being responsible for a product that will stick around with you, you need to be sure you are ready for the responsibility. This is something you will have to live with and care for. Once it wears down you will need to repair it. Are you okay with that?

Or can someone else give that thing a better life than you can? Were you just going to throw it in a drawer until one day you happened to need it? It is just a sparkly flash that is pretty today and will be boring to you within a week?

Don’t take in products that you’ll be putting back up for adoption for the remainder of its useful life once the initial interest has worn off. They deserve better than being jerked around like that.

The lights are on. Is anyone home?

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 25

Product: Thomas Edison didn’t try to get that lightbulb thing right 1,000 times for you to be flippant. For that matter, electricity itself is so amazing, powerful, and dangerous and the ability we have to rein it in and use it for something as wonderful as light is something to be seriously appreciated with humble wonder.

How can someone just mindlessly slap at a switch on a wall and then walk away from that awesome wonder that is so cautiously contained in such a small space yet shooting out in light all around the room?

We waste electricity all the time. It’s yet another area where most people spend more money than we need to.

The most obvious electricity waster is lights left on when we’re not in the room. It takes a lot of effort not to fall into the bad habit of leaving on the lights. Just ask kids. It is NOT natural for us to turn off lights. Kids need 78,560,003 reminders to turn off their lights before they remember to do it themselves once.

You can break it down into two categories: making sure you don’t consume electricity you aren’t using (like the turning off of lights or fighting vampire charges) and making sure you are not consuming more electricity than you need to for your purpose.

To make sure you’re not consuming more than you need to there are lots of tips. Here are a few:

  • Insulate your hot water heater (if it’s a gas heater that won’t help with electricity but it’s still a good idea.)
  • Don’t use your clothes dryer when it’s nice out and the sunshine is free.
  • Use LED lightbulbs.
  • Turn the temperature up a little on your fridge.
  • Use a rake and manual set of clippers instead of an electric leaf blower and electric clippers.
  • Use Energy Star appliances.
  • Run the air conditioner as little as possible. Shading your house with plants, closing shades, and just being tougher and not so wussy helps with that.

Reason to buy less: You don’t want to be identified by your things.

Suggestion: If you fully appreciate what you already have you will not need nearly as much stuff. Just a few key details shifted will draw attention to different details each time.

So learn to accessorize. You can even accessorize with the things you already have without having to buy more. Be adventurous and think outside of the box.  It makes those old things seem new again and you won’t feel so drawn to buy new stuff.

More trash talkin’

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 24

Product: For several days this month I focused on things that were literally just trash. I know it sounds silly but sometimes we need encouragement to have and create less trash.

A lot of things that don’t start off as trash end up there as well.

These things are like anything you would find in a dollar store. You might buy a cheap plastic serving bowl there but only use it a handful of times and then try to lift it from the edge with too many oranges in it. (That, sadly, happened to me. The plastic split right down the side.)

Anything else you don’t have the capacity to care for properly can end up as trash before its time. For my boys it’s CDs. They love them and actually listen to them every single night as they go to bed, they just don’t care well for them. (I’ve discovered that it’s wise to rip CDs to my computer before giving them to the kids. That way when it starts skipping creepily in the night, I can just burn a new one to give them. I don’t know when boys are able to keep CDs without scratching them.)

Do you know you actually benefit from being conscious and limiting how much you throw away? This time I’m not talking about the wasted money on buying or bringing junk into your home in the first place. I mean it costs money to throw things away!

In my city charges are added to every city water bill for every extra bin you have. There are homes in my area which consistently put out two carts every week of trash. In fact, when we moved into this house there were two bins and it took me several months to realized that we were getting charged for that second one!

My city also recycles. It’s not the best city, by far, but they do offer it. I am happy to report that when I had them come retrieve the extra garbage bin I had them bring another recycle bin. Recycle bins do NOT cost any more to have and we do our best to fill those up. Conversely, when our one trash bin gets picked up it is less than half full. I don’t know how other families fill two every week.

Even if you don’t have curbside garbage service, you should limit your trash creation. In fact, you probably realize this more than those of us who do because you are much more aware that if you create trash it needs to go somewhere and you have to deal with it.

Here’s how we can limit our trash:

Reduce- This is covered in every post I’ve given this month. Limit the amount you bring in. Don’t buy it. Don’t get it. Don’t take it in. Find a way to live with less. It’s not difficult to make small changes and small changes add up.

Reuse- This one is actually my personal favorite. A lot gets said about the other two popular R’s but this one is the fun one. It’s hard to teach though. It just comes down to looking at an item that is naturally labeled as trash and then rethinking it. It can be as simple as using the bread bag to wrap the sandwich in when you’ve used the last two slices to make your kid his sandwich for school.

I was tickled pink with Chopped did several episodes on food waste. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s a reality show that gives chef contestants special ingredients that they must use to make delicious on-the-fly dishes. For a few episodes they gave ingredients like coffee grounds, orange peels, and bacon grease. For those of us not ready for such extreme food salvage challenges, just learn to make soup. Almost any leftover can be incorporated into soup. If you make soup once a week you can use up leftovers.

FIXING THINGS also falls into this category. By all means, do not throw away that pair of pants just because the button came off. Care for your things. If you spent precious money on it, you have an obligation to care for it. If you really can’t handle a fix-it project at least donate it somewhere. Somewhere there may be someone willing to fix it and use it properly instead of it collecting in a landfill.

On the topic of donating realize that this is another way to reuse. Don’t just collect items in your house because they may have some value to you someday. If you are not using it now, it’s a waste and you’ve just effectively made your house into a landfill. Don’t let your home become the sad island of misfit toys. Find a new home for those things so they can be appreciated now.

Side rant: Please just don’t donate only junk. I know I am saying that many things have worth after many people normally would feel they would. I know that poor people are much more appreciative of your coat with the broken zipper than you would be. Just think how it would be to be poor and have to fix every zipper on every coat you ever got.

Think of it this way: if you are rich enough to donate a box of food just because the arbitrary date on it says it’s past its prime, you are rich enough to also donate some higher quality food as well.

Better yet. Eat the food yourself, even the outdated stuff, and donate money instead. Organizations can do much better with cash to buy from cheap sources than trying to shuffle, organize, and deal out the items you gave them.

Recycle- If they can take it and remake it into something else, let them. Paper, glass, metal, plastic, batteries, ink cartridges, electronics, etc.

Rot- I threw this one is for the fun of it. Normally it’s the three r’s but every once in awhile I hear this fourth one. Rot is really a superhero version of recycle. If you take your food and paper waste and compost it you get more earth! Buying and consuming things all takes away from the Earth and this one actually adds back to it. It’s super nifty.

Mr. WW actually built a prototype of a waste digester once. It was SUPER, super nifty. It turned compostable waste into both earth AND energy (specifically collecting methane gas.)

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Here the oldest learning from our own learning experience of the methane digester.

What happened to it? Well, it got trashed because we thought the collection process wasn’t working. However when it was pulled apart for recycling,  we realized one of the spots wasn’t sealed like we thought it was so it probably was working.

The friends we were visiting in another country we were working on it for decided they’d rather have Mr. WW build them a pool table instead anyhow. Which is cool because supporting relationships trumps even recycling. It was a cool pool table and I hear they still love it.

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Some preliminary pool table testing. 

Reason to buy less: No one likes a show off.

Suggestion: Beware of ‘free’.

“Hey, stop.” You might be saying. “You told us that yesterday.”

But I’m not talking about free things; I’m talking about ‘free’ things. The word ‘free’ is thrown around a lot. Rarely does it mean that something is really free.

“Buy one get one free” does not mean free. It means, “you must buy two to get 50% off.”

“Free samples in the mail” does not mean free. It means, “small, crappy version of a product in exchange for your mailing information we can sell to others.”

“Free rewards” does not mean free. It means, “Use our product/service many, many times over to earn these rewards.”

“Call in the next 5 minutes and get free shipping” is not free. It means, “We’ve done the math. We can’t hook a customer that takes any time to think, so we’ve covered all our costs in the main charges so we can rush customers without experiencing loss.”

“2 more free in every package” is not free. It means “Our package size is larger/we’ve made our product smaller but with more servings so that you will get excited and buy it.”

“Free soda with adult buffet” is not free. It means, “Fill up on soda so you don’t have room for the questionable meatloaf that costs more.”

“Free trial” does not mean free. It means… wait that one does mean free. It means “Thanks for letting us trick you into a super long, complicated, near impossible contract to get out of. Have a free month of what you will soon be begging us to take away.”

Okay, I’m a little cynical. May I remind you all that I am debt free including any mortgages and we even bought our last property with cash? Cynicism can be very helpful.

Just don’t dare let the word ‘free’ talk you into anything.

If you weren’t going to get it in the first place, don’t get it with the word ‘free’ attached.

Hairy situation

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 23

Product: The people who have stumbled on the joy of this next trick stick with it. If you could possibly figure out how to cut hair, you can save a lot of money.

Boys cuts can be super easy. Clippers give an easy buzz cut. If you want anything different, it definitely more difficult, but there is good news: every six weeks you get another chance to practice.

Mr. WW just cut our own boys hair last night and he’s been cutting his own hair too for many, many years.

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Sure the seven-year-old’s hair would look better with a comb run through it, but he is seven years old. Otherwise, it’s a nice haircut.

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A few years ago Mr. WW’s cut was shorter while the boys’ were longer. It’s amazing the range you can do at home. 

Girl cuts are also easy, straight cut across the bottom and an optional straight cut in the front for optional bangs. If you want fancier, let me introduce you to my personal self-layered haircut.

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Just make a ponytail at your forehead, yes, this in a picture of the front of me, then cut a straight line as short as you like (for the first time be cautious and start small. You can always try again if it’s too long.)

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Tada! Layers coming higher around the face.

If none of these options appeal to you, take to the internet. YouTube is full of tutorials.

And cutting your own hair is strangely appealing and fulfilling. Just ask any two-year-old. You know you want to.

Reason to buy less: Contentment. Yes, that’s it. Be content with that reason.

Suggestion: Beware of free. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should get it.

This one is difficult for me. I hate things going to a landfill. If someone is going to throw something out I feel like I have an obligation to give it a home. Thankfully we have these places called thrift stores that take in poor orphaned items and helps them find a new loving home. If there is value yet, it should not go into a trash can.

Just remember that free is only worth it if you gain anything from the product. If it’s just going to be another piece of clutter to clog your life, even with its $0 price tag, it’s is not worth the costs.

Just say no.

Toying with a lesson

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

 Day: 22

Product: So yesterday we covered that we shouldn’t put our value in the stuff we surround ourselves with. We should make sure to restrict buying too many things that we think will make us happy like electronics, motorized vehicles, blatantly extravagant gear, or other types of toys we adults like to indulge ourselves with.

This is such a good lesson to learn to keep grounded. To find value in life instead of things, it can be really important to limit the things so we don’t get distracted.

This is such a good lesson why aren’t we teaching our kids?

You know what I mean, right? It is the common thought that we need to buy our kids as much as we can to give them a full childhood. We buy them learning toys. We buy them princess everything. We buy them iPads and cell phones. We buy them brand name clothes. We buy them video games. We buy them whatever the going fad is.

What is this teaching our kids? If we want them to learn that value is not in the stuff, we can’t be buying them so much stuff.

Have you ever noticed how much guilt is created by the holidays when it comes to getting kids the going gifts? How many times have you heard “Christmas is about the children” in relation to pleas to buy them gifts? Let’s teach all of them, even (especially) those who don’t live in families with extra funds, that we need stuff to be happy.

We have to quit perpetuating this. We have to give our kids life, not things.

Try this: for the next gift buying time for the kids in your life, give them things of value. Give them your time. Truly help them understand you love their handmade gifts by handmaking something for them. Give them products they can actually use and need.

To teach our kids we start by providing an example ourselves (be okay with the small, deep TV you have) then continue by limiting the things you buy them. Tell them you love them. Tell them you have enough money to buy them lots of things. Then buy them only one or two things this holiday season.

As someone who’s practiced limiting gift giving to my kids for several years now, I can attest it’s not as big a deal as you might think it is.

Plus, think of this: This has gone on for generations. Where has it all gone? Where is all that stuff from when you were a kid? Where are all those troll dolls? Where are the Jordache jeans? Where are the Pogs? They’re in a landfill.

Don’t buy the kids in your life extra things. When they grow up they’ll put those things in a landfill while they move on to other empty pleasures and the cycle starts again.

Reason to buy less: Because MacGyver is cooler than Inspector Gadget. “Go, go gadget tripping hazard!”

Suggestion: Today’s suggestion is to appreciate uncomfortableness for what it is: a tool to help you appreciate the finer things in life.

Were you one of those kids growing up with a game console? Atari? Nintendo? Nintendo 64? Did you ever go to a friend’s house that had a different console? Wasn’t it amazing?! When they let you play it you noticed every cool feature, appreciated every special button, were taken in by every extra pixel. The one you played on at home didn’t have that much draw. You played it but you didn’t appreciate it. It was just what you had.

When you live with less any more is amazing.

It’s almost become addictive for us. We keep our house cold in the winter so we can appreciate the warm air in every other building. We don’t update anything unless we absolutely have to. When we experience the extravagance elsewhere, we fully appreciate it.

Mr. WW got a rental car not long ago when I tagged along with him on a business trip. The weather was in 70’s yet we turned on the air conditioning and I had my seat warmers going constantly. I loved it. I curled up on that heated seat like a happy kitten. Is that what people do that have heated seats in their everyday cars? I’m guessing not.

Toying with an idea

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 21

Product: Yesterday I gave a small-potatoes suggestion for limiting money wasted on entertainment. Today, here’s a big one. We are really good at spending lots and lots of money on toys.

But, you say, you don’t have kids? Well I’m not thinking about the kids’ toys.

Boats, snowmobiles, extra cars, fancy lawnmowers, big TVs, fancy grills, fancy grills (er, teeth)—all this stuff is an easy way to blow lots of money.

 

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The snake is crafty. 

People who like to have these things usually have the same argument for buying them, “you only live once.” Well that’s true. You only live once. So why would you waste your limited resources on things that are so empty? One fancy TV in your twenties can equal 24 TVs in your retirement if you were to invest the money instead.

I am not advocating for no extra money spent on products used just for fun. Just don’t crazy with it. Buy used, buy infrequently, and by all means share what you have.

If you get the big TV, invite others to your house for the game; if you have a pickup, lend it to friends when they need to move furniture; if you have the fancy grill, invite others over for BBQ—so they can see and appreciate your shiny teeth, ha ha.

You have to use your resources to enjoy them for what they are truly worth. Money is not meant to be hoarded. We shouldn’t translate it into empty stuff and surround ourselves with empty reminders of what we have. We shouldn’t even stash it all away in a bank and keep it forever just so we can look at the numbers and feel successful.

If we use our money wisely we can limit the time we have to work. We can put in less overtime and put in less time overall (if we want, although no matter how much you enjoy your job, not many people want to work into their 70’s.)

We can’t be wise if we collect more and more toys.

Reason to buy less: A smaller house holds less stuff. A smaller house is cheaper in mortgage/rent payments and in property taxes (which continue on even if your house is paid off,) and in utilities.

Suggestion: Experiences—it’s where it’s at. The only place you have to store experiences is in your memory and your memory is a rockstar at storing experiences. It’s been studied time and again that kids remember what their parents did with them, not what they bought them.

The same goes for you. You will remember that time your Uncle Lenny did a belly-flop when all the family decided to meet at the neighborhood pool on that hottest day of the year. You will remember when that physics professor actually launched a catapult in the classroom. You will remember when you stopped and climbed over the cool looking rocks with your kids.

Now, sometimes memories do get attached to items, and that’s fine. However, if you do that too often you become a hoarder. Do you want to find worth in the 1,000’s of knickknacks you’ve collected over the years or in your ability to belly-laugh while pulling your spouse out of the snow hill he/she got himself/herself stuck in?

I’m not saying you have to go and get rid of everything you find close to you (although getting rid of a few would make that drawer not get stuck.) Just don’t buy more with the intention of using it to make you happy.

Experiences are very often totally free and if you find it worth it to spend money on an experience your dollar will go much further than on another gadget or pair of shoes.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/39415470@N02/8264213903″>Jewelry</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

It’s time to face the music

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 20

Product: Another form of entertainment we don’t need to spend money on is music. There are lots of ways to buy music but there’s also lots of ways to get free music.

The only reason you need to buy music is if you need instant gratification. And you don’t. Unless you’re somehow involved in the music industry, you don’t need to be able to listen to a particular song just because you decide to.

You can however, listen to great music very easily anytime in the genre you like. Over the air radio is free. You don’t need to pay for a satellite radio subscription.

There are also several free sites online that stream great music. The library also has lots of CDs (yes, they still make those) so you can listen to specific songs you enjoy.

Before you spend another $1.99 for a song you can hear for free, try buying a gift for a friend or donating to pay for several meals in a third world country or put it in your savings account and have it for something important later.

Reason to buy less: You want to be spontaneous. Whether it’s a friend dropping by unannounced or an unexpected day off that you can drop everything and head out camping, you don’t want the messiness of your stuff to hold you back. Either grab the gear and go or grab the tea and stay; but you want it easy to grab.

Suggestion: It’s easier to spend less when you learn to find joy in creativity. The more products you have, the fewer times you are faced with reasons to be creative.

Remember when you got your first dorm room/apartment/ home? Remember trying to figure out how you could make a pizza with just a hot plate? It’s amazing what you can accomplish with very little. Just because you slice bananas for you cereal every morning, doesn’t mean you need to have a banana slicer. You can use one or two brain cells to figure out how to slice your banana some other way.

Before you buy a new product, figure out how many brain cells it would take to figure out a way to do without it. Then go home and give those cells some exercise.

It’s fun to be creative. It gives you a sense of capability and triumph.

Try living without that thing for awhile before rushing out to buy it.