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
- Save money.
Of course. Even if this were a secondary cause for groups with “green” oriented philosophies, it sure is a positive consequence.
- Rebel against commercialism and consumption.
You can send a message or make a statement and do it on principle.
- It’s environmentally friendly.
As they say, it’s one way to leave the world a better place for our children.
- Become self-sufficient.
I can imagine how empowering it could be.
- 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
Things You Need To Get New (Likely Exemptions)
However, on the flipside, consider also why you would or should buy new. Here’s why I do:
Reasons To Buy Brand New Things
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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