No New Stuff Year … That Is, Five to Six Months (Probably)

Oebalus in Teleboan Capri reign’d; But that short isle th’ ambitious youth disdain’d, And o’er Campania stretch’d his ample sway.

Last May I went sailing around the Amalfi Coast; part of the programme was a visit to Capri. A nice little island. No sandy beaches to speak of, berthing costs too much to even contemplate, but you can anchor in front of Marina Piccola, and there are other possible anchorages on the East side of the island. Restaurants usually have a shuttle service that will take a visiting millionaire from his yacht to dinner and back. Everyone else takes a dinghy. A bottle of sparkling water at a restaurant costs €5.

It’s easy to feel poor on the isle of Capri.

And it’s even easier to feel poor when you’re trying to stick to a budget with a 60%+ savings rate. I mean, really, self-imposed famine rations are a pain in the arse. I try to remind myself that it’s all for the greater good of both my present and my future selves, but the weak consumer sucker inside me is all like:

Staying strong is easier said than done. Especially when the crew you’re with are not sailing down the Straights of Self Denial with you. I’ve spent some considerable time feeling a little sorry for myself and contemplating whether it wouldn’t be easier just to throw the battle and carry on working till I’m 58 or 68 or 70 or whatever.

And yet.

An impartial observer might say that in spite my so-called famine rations, stuff somehow keeps accumulating in Ho’s Keep. This became very obvious when I had to clear out space in the spare bedroom for visitors recently. If I really am so poor then where the hell did all that crap come from?

I think the answer is mostly sales. I’m a sucker for a bargain. Polarised Ray-Bans 50% off? Sure, I’ll have two! Just in case we go sailing and I lose a pair overboard, y’know… there’s no sell-by date on sunglasses. Rationally, I know that any limited time opportunity to save money by spending it is a marketing trick, and still I fall for it by failing to remind myself that a Final Sale is never final. Final reductions are advertised twice a year, and that’s not counting the Black Friday Week (yes, it’s a week now).

I need to have a No New Stuff Year. Realistically though I’m unlikely to last that long, so let’s change that to No New Stuff Five to Six Months.

Here’s what I’m allowed:

  • Groceries and drinks;
  • Personal hygiene items (e.g a toothbrush);
  • Washing powder/detergent and such.

Here’s what I’m not allowed: anything else. And specifically:

  • Electronics;
  • Books and/or magazines;
  • A new watch;
  • Any items of clothing or footwear;
  • Any sports gear that doesn’t already come under clothing or footwear;
  • Any cycling gear that doesn’t already come under sports gear, clothing or footwear.

You get the idea.

Let’s see how it goes. I’ll write an update in a couple of months.

16 thoughts on “No New Stuff Year … That Is, Five to Six Months (Probably)”

  1. My god. That sailing sound s attractive right now as I look out at a cold wet January scene.

    Do you read the happy philosopher?

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    1. Wasn’t aware of the happy philosopher blog until you mentioned it in your comment, so I googled it. Ha, so he’s doing a buy nothing year too.
      Having skimmed over his post, it looks like I neglected to include items related to repairs and maintenance in the allowed category, though on reflection perhaps it’s for the best. A slippery slope, methinks. Last year I went OTT on garden maintenance, and the last thing I need is another cool attachment for the pressure washer.
      And I don’t think virtual stuff is a grey area. My iTunes is showing 21,177 items as of today, notwithstanding the recent (and ongoing) cull. No more songs, no more movies, no more podcasts, unless I steam it.

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  2. I will watch with interest how it goes – good luck!
    It’s never easy when the marketing department try and make it as attractive as possible to buy something – but stay strong!

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  3. Ha, I like the idea, I’ve tried doing a month at a time with no spending (beyond necessities) and it was actually alright, but I think a 5 month stretch would be tough. What happens when your mobile phone breaks? Maybe you could have a rule that you can replace a broken item with a similar quality item…? Anyway good luck, I will be interested to see how it goes!

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    1. Thanks 🙂 I think I should have included a provision for repairs / maintenance / replacement of essentials. I just didn’t think of it. To be honest though, if my iPhone were to stop working I’d probably get a newer model than I have now. Mine is so old, the iOS doesn’t support some of the new apps.

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  4. Capri is lovely — only slightly marred for me by imagining emperor Tiberius flinging slaves off those cliffs after he’d had his way with them!

    Hear you on the junk. I’ve lived as modestly as anyone I know with a job in London for two decades, just moved house, and have a ton of crap even after weeks of pre-move charity shopping / Ziffiting / eBaying etc!

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  5. It seems like you may be at risk of under-investing in yourself? Id have thought buying books to broaden the mind, and sports equipment to help with your own physical health and mind can only be a good thing. Depending on what you actually buy of course

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    1. The problem is less with what I buy and more with what I use 😉 I own two and a half shelves of books that I am still to read. Nor do I need another kite. I already have three, and to be honest, with the amount of kitesurfing that I do, it’s cheaper to rent. Less hassle too 😉
      Nor do I need any more cycling, skiing or sailing gear. They don’t market it that way, but a fleece is a fleece, a rashie is a rashie; if you can hike in it then you can also ski and sail in it. Ditto thermals, ditto waterproofs…

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  6. As a challenge, a friend and I did the Buy Nothing Year a couple of years ago. He made it to September; being stubborn, I made it through the whole year.

    While at first it seemed to be restrictive, and just about everyone I spoke to simply didn’t understand the idea, it soon became liberating. How much time do you spend ‘researching’ things on Amazon etc., trying to convince yourself that your next purchase is well thought through – only for it to sit in a cupboard unloved, whilst you research the next new thing. Imagine how much time (and money, but time is more valuable) you could save!

    I am helped by not having a television and consuming little to no news, so I am not exposed to the cunning advertisers trying to convince me that my life would be transformed if only i bought….

    But stick with it – with time your whole attitude to consumerism changes. Whilst I haven’t continued the zero buying in the last couple of years, it completely changed my approach, such that I now don’t want (or need?) to buy other than to replace things which have worn out.

    Good luck!

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    1. Too true!
      I stuffed the cellar full of crap, then started complaining that there wasn’t enough storage. Storage for what? Stuff I don’t use and never needed to buy. It’s pathetic.
      You’re spot on about the time spent “researching”.
      I have a very good library a few minutes from my house, too, but I’m not good with libraries… But it’s ok, it will probably take me 2 to 3 years to get through all unread books I own right now 😉

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  7. Sending you the best of luck as you head into the final months of your No New Stuff year! Post about it using #nonewstuff if you feel inclined to share with a growing community committing to this admirable challenge 🙂

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