There’s plenty of research on the pursuit of happiness, and none of it suggests shopping as the answer. That’s why in 2014 I undertook the experiment of buying nothing new or second-hand for a year, and saved 38% of my salary: I only bought food and essential toiletries, and enjoyed selected experiences.
Here’s are four things I love about quitting shopping.
- You use up everything that you already have
Psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses, who works with extreme hoarders, says there’s a little bit of hoarder in all of us. Even I questioned my sanity when I counted eighty four bars of hotel soap in my bathroom cupboard. So I used them up, instead of saving them for ‘later’ and shower gel.
“My biggest problem was buying because my friends did. There’s a lot of competition. I felt really pressured and it’s embarrassing to look like you can’t afford it. We got ourselves into debt. I realised we need to do what’s right for our family. I feel quite happy using up what we’ve already got. I’d rather be happy than in debt” Leanne, Sydney
- You make better use of your existing assets
I’m no Imelda Marcos, but like most western women, if I’m honest, I only wore 50 per cent of the clothes that I owned. So I got out the entire contents of my wardrobe—looked, pondered, sorted, rearranged and put it all back—and then I wore them all that year. And the things I really didn’t like? Well, I sold them and had clothes-swapping parties with my friends.
Did you know? On average, we buy 27kgs of clothes each year and we only wear most items six times.
- You really want what you’re waiting for
My sister always laughs because I’ve lived my life writing down what I want to buy on a ‘three-month waiting list’. If I still wanted said item when the three months had passed, I bought it. Nine times out of ten, however, I no longer wanted it. My ‘no buying’ experiment reinforced that if I waited a year for something I would really want it.
“I spent too much time and money at the shops. I’d spend every lunchtime wandering around there because that’s what other people did and because I didn’t really know what else to do. I bought things and got myself into debt out of boredom. Now I email my colleagues and we go for a walk or I will eat lunch in the park. I realise now that going to the shops everyday was just a really bad habit.” Mary, Brisbane
- You can inspire others
What I learnt most was that it only takes one person to try something new to inspire others. Sharing, once seen as ‘crazy’ and ‘alternative’, has encouraged many of us to buy less, save more and think about what we really want and need. Why do 400 people with 400 lawns, all in the same suburb, each own a lawnmower?
“The big lesson for me is that it’s ok to ask someone if I can borrow something that they have. I now have the courage to ask my neighbours or put a post on Facebook asking if someone has the thing that I need.” Emma, Brisbane