Borrow, Barter, Buy Used: Espousing The Frugal Lifestyle

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-01-3129

You want a really simple life? This is it.

A year of not buying anything new will surely grate on me but it’s the cause of a growing group of anti-consumers, fueling a movement in San Francisco pledging to avoid new purchases for reasons beyond frugality and saving money, although stretching dollars is also an acceptable priority. This group, called The Compact, named after the commitment signed by Mayflower pilgrims, has a burgeoning mailing list and is getting media attention, which is helping to spread their mantra around: The Gap Is Out, Goodwill Is In! And they are organized enough to set up frugal parties and pot lucks to give each other support, share money-saving tips, trade items and arrange for service barters, and discuss items that may or may not be purchased according to their anti-consumerist scriptures.

It sounds like it started as a dare. Or a challenge, if you will. It turned into a full blown economic boycott sealed by a casual pact and governed only by conscience.

“It is about being aware of the excesses of consumer culture and the fact we are drawing down our resources and making people miserable around the world.”

“One of the byproducts of The Compact has been I have a completely different relationship with the things in my life. I appreciate the stuff I have more.”

When I first heard about this, I thought: Well, good for them! As it is, they’re seemingly not as extreme as other existing movements in history, founded on deeper philosophies and espousing stricter lifestyles, such as the freegans (free + vegan), who by principle would dumpster dive for edibles, sleep in abandoned shelters and hitch rides. This actually brings to mind a show I had watched sometime ago where a vegan family lived on $6,000 a year. To be honest, I’ve seen several of these shows and each time have watched with combined wonderment and envy, marveling at how they could pull off such simple living and still be content with it. I was also rather impressed with this guy, who has turned his back on his former life as a stock broker and who gets by with $15,000 a year.

So can you do it? Can you avoid buying anything new for an entire year and perhaps in the process, live on much less? As for me, I doubt I can, for unlike the members of The Compact, I will be unable to withstand a clogged drain for months until somebody helps me unplug it. Or see my home fall into a state of even slight disrepair due to deferred maintenance, since ultimately, I’ve seen problems get more expensive when you wait too long to fix them. Plus, I’m a bit of a clean freak so I’d have trouble with delayed gratification in these areas.

But for those of you who are curious about this movement, here are some particulars:

The Compact’s Manifesto

Presumed Motto: The Gap is Out, Goodwill is In!

Guidelines: Borrow. Barter. Buy Used. But consider the exemptions (see below).

Reasons To Go “Green” Or Avoid Buying New

  1. Save money.
    Of course. Even if this were a secondary cause for groups with “green” oriented philosophies, it sure is a positive consequence.
  2. Rebel against commercialism and consumption.
    You can send a message or make a statement and do it on principle.
  3. It’s environmentally friendly.
    As they say, it’s one way to leave the world a better place for our children.
  4. Become self-sufficient.
    I can imagine how empowering it could be.
  5. Free up closet space.
    There is freedom in living simply and banishing clutter from your home.

If you’re pondering on what items to get new or used, the following are just typical items discussed by The Compact. I would use my own discretion while making decisions though. Many times, it all depends on what secondhand items are available out there, and what condition they’re in.

Things To Buy Or Get Used

  • Kid’s Toys
  • Kid’s Clothes and Shoes
  • Pet Items
  • Furniture
  • Clothing Accessories
  • Office Supplies
  • House Accessories
  • Cars, vehicles
  • House, Duh! (spare the environment and buy used)
      Things You Need To Get New (Likely Exemptions)

  • Food
  • Underwear
  • Disposable Items
  • Toiletries like toothpaste and shampoo
  • Anything needed for health and safety reasons such as vehicle parts
  • Anything needed for hygienic reasons
  • Sleeping Bags

However, on the flipside, consider also why you would or should buy new. Here’s why I do:

Reasons To Buy Brand New Things

  1. It’s time vs money.
    I consider the convenience and time I save when I buy something new as opposed to hunting around for a secondhand item in good condition. Also, a brand new item may just last longer than its used counterpart.
  2. Consider health and safety issues.
    You need to weigh the risks of buying used when your health, safety or security are concerned. It may not be worth the trip to the hospital or even a police station!
  3. It may cost more in some cases.
    In the long run, some used items may cost more if they break down and don’t work. In which case, you’d need to buy something new anyway. Or if you defer repairs of certain things because of your inclination to wait for a good deal or someone to help you out, then a minor problem can escalate.
  4. It takes sacrifice and discipline.
    If you do this as a way of life, it can be tough in the beginning. I’ve heard that it can be easier as time goes on, but trying to live with so many constraints, whether due to need or principle, can still be a strain, especially when there are many temptations and pressures that abound.

Where To Get More Information

With all things considered, The Compact is highly intriguing, so if you’re interested about their movement, you can read more about them in their weblog, which references other great resources on the subject, as well as their members only Yahoo! email group.

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

bluntmoney January 31, 2007 at 4:14 pm

Maybe I could do it, but I don’t think I’d want to. I could probably handle “check for used items” first a lot easier. But, the idea itself is great, even if it’s just because it makes people stop and think about consumerism.

DeputyHeadmistress February 6, 2007 at 9:16 am

I don’t think I’d want to go this far, either, but it’s certainly interesting.

One small quibble with your reasons to buy new- in our experience quite a few things we buy used actually last longer than new. That’s because a lot of ‘new’ things aren’t very well made (clothes, for instance, that fall apart in the wash the second or third time). These things have already been screened out- they don’t make it to the thrift shop.

For twenty-three years we bought used appliances. Two years ago we bought all new. We have had more visits from the repair man for our new refrigerator and new washing machine than we ever had with our used appliances. I’m not impressed with new.

ispf February 10, 2007 at 11:20 pm

Yeah, I saw some of those shows with well-to-do people dumpster diving for food, and frankly, it put me off!!! This group however, seems to have a more moderate view and in general, I like their ideal. When it comes to clothes though, I would rather look for deep discounts and for last years fashions now in clearance bins, than buy it used.

[…] Borrow, Barter, Buy Used: Espousing The Frugal Lifestyle by the silicon valley blogger at The Digerati Life discusses an anti-consumerism group called “The Compact”. […]

Silicon Valley Blogger February 11, 2007 at 12:58 am

I suppose there’s a reason why something used is till in use… good bones perhaps? Nowadays, they just don’t make new stuff the way they used to…

adam berk February 27, 2007 at 4:58 am would sure come in handy for these folks.

Harm March 24, 2007 at 1:17 am

I’m all for frugal living, but a consumer
society doesn’t make other people in the world

Freegan Diet April 24, 2008 at 7:28 pm

While I am a little late to find this article, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I for one could not and do not live as frugal as I probably should and enjoy the things that I have.

With that said I did just recently hear about the freegan movement and published an article about it on my blog. Wow, I can’t believe what those people willingly put themselves through. I could never eat food found in a dumpster, I would be way to afraid of illness or worse.

Myfinancebutler May 12, 2008 at 8:12 am

This sounds like a cool idea… I love to see people getting by on less, and being happier in the end for it! It’s a great reminder to the rest of us.

Myfinancebutler May 12, 2008 at 8:13 am

But yeah, I’m with you. Willing to take a cue from these guys, but not willing to live such an extreme lifestyle. Doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Jessica June 3, 2008 at 10:41 am

Very nice post indeed. I really love the way you have gone into the detail and highligted the need and importance of “Change”. Basically I feel its the whole change in life style and attitude, and it has to do with you mind most of the time rather than just money.

my 2 cents ..


kpk July 18, 2008 at 7:29 am

Very nice idea!
The idea itself is really great, even if it’s just to make people stop and think about consumerism.

Bill Eater August 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Love the practical nature of including a “what to buy new” section. Sometimes the frugal living crowd goes overboard with suggestions that are so frugal, they aren’t realistic.

Yogi December 2, 2008 at 3:32 am

I bet there would be less casualties during Black Friday sales…

I did give up my 6:30 to 19:00 job which was paying very well. I will not, however, want to try to live on some $10K a year.

Dan February 2, 2009 at 9:32 pm

The Gap has never been in, except for squares!
All their stuff looks the same, and is boring. Save money, grow a personality, is what I say to these Gap kids-

Mike February 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Not quite my cup of tea I guess, but interesting read regardless. It is pretty cool to see people making a statement like this though. The Manifesto was pretty cool too.

Cindy February 16, 2009 at 6:27 am

We live on less than $12,000 a year but I don’t think I would want to make a pact not to buy anything new for a year. There are some things that just don’t fit into that philosophy. Ours was not a lifestyle choice but more of a necessity. Of course, once you get adjusted to the lifestyle, it becomes more of a choice to continue.

carla February 19, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Though I do buy used whenever I can and when it’s practical, I don’t think I can go to this extreme. It seems like it would be a lot of time and energy wasted (for me). If I wanted to do this as a “challenge” sure, but not as a way of life.

Contractor NJ August 1, 2009 at 4:09 am

Fascinating read. Could never do it myself.

marty vail September 19, 2009 at 11:02 am

gosh! 😉 just came across this website and i was thinking about joining up and realized i’m already doing this!! 🙂 lol. What a gas!

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