Thrifty Sucks – The 30 Day Compact

Forman's Pawn Shop, 01
Image by waving at you via Flickr

During the month of September, we went on a 30-day compact.   We decided to avoid buying anything new for 30 days.   The plan was, if we needed to buy something, we’d hit a pawn shop, a thrift store, or Craigslist. Obviously, food and consumable hygiene products were exempt from the rules.   I’m not going to stink or starve for an experiment like this.  Ideally, at the end of the month, our discretionary budget would reflect our extra thriftiness, leaving us a couple of hundred extra dollars at the end of the month.

Great plan.

I found out a few days ago that we actually made it 3 days.  Grr.   That’s when the credit card bill came.  Double-Grr.

All in all, that one slip isn’t a big deal.   We also had a few presents we had to buy for a couple of birthdays and one wedding.   Also not a big deal, since we have a budget for gifts.  It may have been against the rules, but what were we going to do, drink the free beer at the wedding without bringing a gift?  How rude.

So we had a few slips. That’s not bad, considering exactly how well “consumer” describes us.

Avoiding retail shopping is a lot harder than it sounds.   We have everything we need, so on paper, it should have been simple.  We didn’t need anything, so we wouldn’t have to buy anything.

Like I said, great plan.

There were a few books released this month that I have been anxiously awaiting, like Monster Hunter:Vendetta and Chris Guillebeaus’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity.   They have both had to wait.   In the next few days, I will be buying both of these books.    That makes this project very similar to an inverse “Cash for Clunkers” program.  Instead of moving spending that would have happened anyway to an arbitrary time-frame, I moved spending out of an arbitrary time-frame, but the spending is still happening.

My wife has an admitted shopping addiction.   This project caused a rather…explosive…discussion this week.  Not-so-coincidentally, that happened the day we got the credit card bill.   Note to self: “What the heck is this?” is not the right way to start a conversation. Oops.

We had 30 days of trying to avoid the retail trap, and kicking ourselves when we slipped.   What did we learn?

1.  We are big damned consumers. We are so much better than we used to be, but so far off of where we’d like to be.

2.  Target is infinitely more convenient that Craigslist. We may pay a small premium for that convenience, but generally, it’s worth it.

3. When you forget to budget for a speeding ticket that needs to be paid 5 months after you received it, it does not matter if you saved some of your discretionary budget by not shopping retail that month.

4. When you open a credit card bill and get upset, be prepared to get clubbed over the head with #3.  Repeatedly.

This month, I’m going to do my best to learn a new language.    I’m having a hard time deciding which one.   Spanish would be most practical.  Norwegian would let me read some of the artwork on my Grandma’s wall, but Italian sounds like the most fun.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

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    1. I have to ask, what was the thing that was bought 3 days in?

      My only other thought on this subject is that you two are a stronger couple than Mr. BFS and me – we would never be able to do this challenge. Sure, we do go a couple of weeks without buying stuff once in a while, but that’s just because of the growing list of stuff we were waiting to buy altogether in one trip…

      Good luck with the new language! I think you kicked butt on this challenge even if it did lead to a little fight…

    2. I don’t even think we could try something like this. So you guys did very well. Maybe we would just try to buy everything a month ahead of time. Of course that is just like those proposed gas strikes where everyone buys gas on a Tuesday or holds out until Thursday, and boycotts the gas stations on Wednesday.

    3. My re-employed and working overtime in the auto industry relatives would disagree that the empirical effects of cash-for-clunkers just crowded out later spending. I’m pretty sure that early analysis of it has shown beneficial effects but I may be misremembering.

      Our last 3 months have been spent at Home Depot fighting against gremlins… the convenience of buying things new definitely outweighs the shopping costs. But we’re also not shopaholics (I hate clothes shopping… thank goodness for generous kids’ hand-me-downs) and don’t really have time to shop anywhere but Amazon (yesterday’s package: sunscreen) so we’re not doing too badly in terms of Stuff anyway.


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