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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ultra-Frugal: A Year Without Buying Anything


In 2006, a group of people in San Francisco launched a project and a website called The Compact. For various reasons, these people pledged to go a full year without buying anything new, or really, anything at all. They made a few exceptions, such as underwear, medicine and emergency home repair, but even these they qualified as much as possible to fit in with their overarching values system.

Since this time, many have come across The Compact. This is just the sort of thing that many families in today's economy have already been thinking about doing. With The Compact, someone else has already thought through the majority of the details. You can tailor The Compact to fit your own situation and then launch your year of basically not buying anything. You can buy food, of course, and pay your bills, but this frugal year will definitely make you more conscious than ever to buy locally whenever it is at all possible.
Here were are some altered guidelines for the year, which I refer to as "the flexible, non-legalistic, non-trauma causing rules":

• Do not buy any NEW items for one year.

• Only buy items that you or your family members NEED.

• Do not buy any convenience foods when grocery shopping, with the exception of bread.

• Strive to eat in-season, buying as local as possible.

• Bring cloth grocery bags to the store.

• Do not go out to eat at a restaurant if you have the option of eating at home.

Most that attempt this challenge cannot honestly say that they did not purchase any convenience items, didn't go to restaurants or that they ate local, in-season food 100% of the time. However, overall, those that take this challenge seriously generally do accomplish what they set out to do. Many refrain from purchasing shoes, clothing, gifts and other items that are not really needed.

Most end up having a great, ultra frugal and enlightening year. It is amazing how a little intentionality - a pledge, a compact, a reflective decision - can change your life. It really helps to have the support of your closest friends and family. The temptations can be hard to bear; especially when friends or family are going out to eat, to the theater, etc. because you want to spend time with them, but fighting the urge will give you a bigger sense of accomplishment once your year has passed.

Of course, there will be times when you may need to dust off the old Compact and give it another go. Unemployment, a cutback in hours or a new addition to the family may influence you to challenge yourself again. A close friend did the same thing when her husband was unemployed for over two years-"You just don't buy anything," she told me, "You buy food and you pay your bills, but that's about it." It's funny how we sort of forget that is an option!

Whether your reasons are religiously motivated, environmentally motivated, or maybe you're just down-right stingy; an ultra frugal, buying freeze sort of year is possible. You can do it. And in the mean time, you may just find yourself more content than ever. Simplicity is the path to freedom.

Shawna Ruppert is the Editor-in-Chief of Moms Living Thrifty, a blog that focuses on saving money in all aspects of life. You can find a wide array of interesting articles, in addition to coupons, deals, recipes and more. Visit us today!

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