Your buy nothing year

The Sydney Morning herald recently ran a story about a women who “bought nothing” for a whole year. The headline did not quite match the story but it has an interesting message for those who are serious about saving. That message is, of you stop buying stuff you don’t need, you will be able to save heaps.

The story went something like this. The Londoner saved NZ$39,000 in 12 months by buying nothing but the bare essentials.  In 2013 she and her husband took on a hefty mortgage. Money was tight so she reviewed their spending and was shocked to see how much they had frittered away on things like café meals and other incidentals.

She was inspired by the ‘Buy Nothing Day’ (BND) protest against consumerism, and decided to make it a year rather than a day. (As a matter of interest, the BND idea started in Canada in 1992 and has now spread worldwide, including to New Zealand.)

Like most people, she had never kept tabs on where their money was going: “A full year of no spending seemed the only way of resetting my relationship with money completely.”

The essentials included: food, mortgage payments, power, telephone and the internet, life insurance, charity donations, basic toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap and shampoo), and washing powder.

There was no budget for luxuries, nothing for transport (it was London so they cycled everywhere), no going out to the movies, no nights in the pub, no takeaways or restaurant meals, no new clothes, no holidays, no gym memberships, no lollies and choc’ bars, not even potato chips!

She said the first couple of months were the hardest but, “After a year of no spending I realised that I valued financial security over material possessions: I don’t want to be forced to stay on the treadmill of work just to pay off a home loan for the next two decades or accumulate more stuff”.

The money saved was used to reduce the mortgage.

The key points are:

  • Though frugality she gained a new lease of life – which we would described as a sense of empowerment that comes from being in control of your finances.
  • If you want to change wasteful spending habits you need to take decisive action. Half measures will not work.
  • A heck of a lot of what people spend goes on stuff that makes absolutely no lasting difference to our wellbeing. Many purchases are simply a matter of habit – or the result of being influenced by what others do, or want us to do (like spend money on their stuff).

We like the idea of ‘Buy Nothing Day’. Our criticism is that it is intended as a protest action, when its real benefit is delivering a message that people waste a lot of money on stuff they don’t really need. Going without for one day is a shallow sort of protest given anyway, given the person is accepting consumerism for the other 364 days of the year, and nor will one day change bad spending habits. A year sounds about right, but a lifetime of frugality is even better.

For those who love a challenge, a ‘Buy Nothing Year’ may be for you!

And finally, for those lucky oil raggers who are at the beach catching fresh fishing, here are a couple of quick and easy recipes sent in by BJ of Northland.

Marinated fish salad (raw fish). “Mix together 1 kg of fish fillets cut into bite-sized pieces, 1 cup white vinegar, 2 cups water, 7 heaped teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup fresh lemon juice, and 1 finely sliced onion. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours before serving with salad greens and fresh bread rolls.”

Or try this quick cheese-topped fish dish. “Place 450g of fresh fish fillets in a buttered dish and grill for a couple of minutes. In a saucepan melt 1 tablespoon butter, add 2 tablespoons grated onion, and cook for a few minutes, then add 2 tablespoons grated cheese. Mix into a paste and spread over the uncooked side of fish. Place under a grill until brown.