Every purchase comes with an extra item to deal with

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

Day: 1

Product: Plastic bags. We get these at almost every store. Without asking, the clerk whisks our purchases into these conveniently handled bags for us to carry home. Often they even take that bag and put it into ANOTHER bag so we don’t have to worry about the plastic ripping.

But we get them home and they accumulate under the sink or in the closet or in our trash cans. We may realize the negative impact they have on our environment, but we have to store them until we have a chance to take them back to the store for recycling. And recycling, although a very good practice, is still at bottom of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto because it still requires tremendous energy and resources to recreate our trash into… new things to trash.

Hello! I don't like to live under your sink. And by the way, your drain is leaking. It may be my fault. I bumped it. Sorry.

Hello! I don’t like to live under your sink. And by the way, your drain is leaking. It may be my fault. I bumped it. Sorry.

One of my very first jobs was as a bagger at a grocery store. This was nearly 20 years ago. I still remember some of our regulars and one was a lady who came in every Saturday morning. She always handed me four heavy canvas bags, “Please use these.” No one else did such a thing– just this one lady in the entire town. She was religious about it too. Her groceries always went into those same bags every week.

Nowadays this is not at all uncommon. Stores have discovered this is another way they can make a buck—they are all selling reusable bags. It’s easy to do and now I fondly remember that regular from my early working years as I hand my bags to the clerk, “Please use these.”

And they’re great. They have nice long handles you can put over your shoulder. They don’t blink an eye at boxes with corners that would have a plastic bag terrified. They’re also unafraid of watermelons or even two or three gallons of milk at a time. They are faithful workhorses to accompany us on our errand days.

And we can use them over, and over, and over, and over again and never allow another plastic shopping bag into our house if we don’t want to. We reduce the amount of plastic we use and we reuse our fabric bags many times over. Two points from the top of the earth saving mantra.

Good for the earth and doubles as good for us with less things accumulating in our houses. Win, win!

Reason: Minimalism rocks

Suggestion: This is an oldie but a goodie. It’s been shown over and over that shopping with cash helps keep us in line—so do it! It’s a lot easier to overspend if you have magical plastic that takes care of everything uncomfortable in the checkout lane… and diverts it to the end of the month.

Set a budget and take the cash. It keeps the purchases in the realm of reality. The reality is this: when we choose to take more things into our lives, it costs money of which we each have a limited amount. When you use cash it is much easier to accurately gage if the reward from the purchase is in line with the proportion of funds you allocate to the product.

And you will be much happier with yourself come the end of the month.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/21222992@N00/2110613434″>Christmas @ Eden 2007_S12567</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Let’s buy less!

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October is almost over and November is just hours away. November brings increasingly cooler days (especially here in the Northern Midwest) but most people think of November as the start of the holiday season.

If you’ve lived in the US for more than a year, you realize that we take our holidays pretty darn seriously. And as Americans, what do we do if we’re serious about something? We spend money on it.

How about this: In 2000 we spent about 400 billion dollars for the holidays. Last year we spent almost 620 billion! (A 220 billion dollar increase in 14 years? What a jump!) This is obviously a big deal for retailers.

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We all know that the retailers are out to get us this time of year. We do our best to stave off the shopping as long as we can to make it through Thanksgiving. Then Black Friday comes and we are pressured into a frenzy of deals that starts strong and keeps going until December 24th. Many stores realize that often we can’t even wait until Thanksgiving so they are happy to let us get started even earlier.

The confliction has been very apparent recently. We don’t want to be overtaken with commercialism. We want to focus on family. There have been boycotts and public shaming… yet at the same time the uptick of ads in the mail, shows on crafting the perfect centerpiece, and the scheming of coworkers to obtain the perfect gag gift is undeniable– and we feel it is unavoidable.

Of course nothing is wrong with good deals, beautiful centerpieces, or grossly oversized coffee mugs that say, “Just let me finish this one cup and then I’ll handle your problem.”

But 620 billion dollars worth?

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At the beginning of the year  I tried to encourage everyone to declutter and clear out a lot of the excess that can get in the way of enjoying life. How about I now try to encourage you to bring less into your life in the first place? Let’s combat this drive to purchase so much and instead save so much (money and time) in the process.

For all of November I will be writing daily short blog posts encouraging you to scale back. These tips may be most helpful during this most expensive (and many say “stressful”) time of year but they can be used all year long.

So come with me on another journey of intentional thinking about how much stuff we all have.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44836615@N00/3135508115″>aftermath</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/56028148@N00/3146198325″>Dia Disappointed</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;