I’ve been blogging about minimalism for awhile, so I decided to put my knowledge to the test. I was inspired to try this experiment after reading about people who were able to go without purchasing anything but food and basic items for a year.
I’m trying to go zero waste, with the goal of sending as little as possible to a landfill. Limiting my purchases fits perfectly with this philosophy. After all, buying creates waste: packages, bags, etc. I didn’t want to commit to a full year without purchasing clothes and household goods, so I tried a “low-buy” month in February.
My rules were: limit unnecessary purchases, and aim to acquire items used, not new.
Here’s what happened.
For this experiment, I considered dining in a restaurant to be a purchase. I went to a sit-down restaurant only once (for a family member’s child’s birthday). This was challenging, as I had to turn down a few invites. However, when I explained that I was trying to cut down on my spending (and not just avoid them), people understood.
I also “shopped my pantry” and tried to use anything that was about to expire. Bananas that looked a bit brown? Banana bread. A bunch of leftover vegetables? Soup from scratch, which I had never made before. This category was hard to quantify, but I certainly cleaned out my pantry and saved a bit on groceries.
I didn’t buy any books in February. I was still reading the five I bought in January. The rest were borrowed from the library, including expensive textbooks for my classes — for a savings of about $180.
I did give one gift (cash) and card (already had, from a bulk pack — but don’t tell the recipient!). For Valentine’s Day, I baked a dessert.
I didn’t purchase any clothes this month. I was tempted by a few deals, though, including a sale on winter boots. In the end, I figured my old ones would last me until spring, and they did. Savings: about $150.
I did buy a new sheet ($16) as an old one was shredded. I thought about buying new sunscreen, as I have sensitive skin and spend a lot of time outdoors, but I realized the old one from last summer is fine until I use it up. Savings: about $15.
I bought nothing for hobbies during this month. I found an old sewing kit while I was decluttering a closet, and I started working on it. I also started my garden, upcycling yogurt containers for plant pots and re-using seeds I saved last autumn. I also wrote, a free hobby of mine.
I’ve been thinking about doing this experiment for awhile, which made it a little easier. However, at the end, I noticed my habits had started to change. I thought I’d run out and buy a ton of stuff at the end of the month, but I didn’t.
I did buy one outfit in early March, but it was all thrifted. I also asked for someone to buy me a new mini-appliance as a gift. It came up in a discussion with someone else, who said, “Oh! I’ve got one of those in the closet I never use!” So in the future, before I buy something, I’ll ask around. I also plan to use sites like FreeCycle to swap items.
And as for the savings? I tossed it straight toward my student loans. As I work my way toward a graduate degree, that’s one expense I haven’t been able to avoid.