23 November, 2012

Guest Blogger: Marj Rava.

Buy Nothing New

Last year a friend challenged a group of us to buy nothing new. There is a group that encourages conscientious consumption by encouraging individuals to purchase nothing new for the month of October (http://www.buynothingnew.com.au/). The challenge we were given, was to purchase nothing new for an entire year. We were dared to see if we could survive 2012 without purchasing any new items for ourselves. I took on the challenge, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to be challenged about what I have and about the way I spend my money.

Whilst the basic rule was, ‘don’t buy anything new’, you could decide to what level you chose to do engage. Some people included not buying food (living off donations or growing their own food), some couldn’t purchase airfares – essentially, you decided on your rules based around the basic rule of nothing new. I decided that I couldn’t buy any new possessions for myself except for hygiene related stuff (toothbrush, shampoo etc) and also gave myself a limit on gifts. Any gift I would give couldn’t be over $20 (you’d be amazed at how hard it is to buy gifts under $20)! If you wanted to buy anything at all for yourself, it would need to be from a second hand shop/market or off a site such as ebay or gumtree.

At first this seemed pretty easy. I didn’t need anything new and life went on as normal. Then I started to notice little things…I went into a shop one day and thought ‘oh I like that’ and without thinking picked it up to buy. Instantly I’d be crushed by the idea that I couldn’t get that new item, ‘that would go so well with all my other things’, and I’d have to put it back. Slowly, that became normal. I reached a stage of ignoring any new thing I wanted.

The funny thing is I had got so excited about this little adventure that I hadn’t thought properly about what I was doing. For example, I’m not a real shoe person; I tend to like wearing flip flops as much as possible. I had this one pair of shoes I wore on days when flip flops were a pain – generally days that rained. The only problem with these shoes, were that they started to get holes in them last year…pretty decent holes in fact. What happens with shoes that have holes on a rainy day? Your socks get wet! Most days I would come home with soggy feet…and yes this started to get annoying! People started to feel sorry for me and I received a lot of offers for shoe replacements. Another of my rules: no one could buy you new things except for on your birthday. Now don’t get me wrong…I didn’t just stock up on cool, new stuff for my birthday…I actually asked people to give money to charity instead of getting me a gift. However, some people were determined to bless me with something. Some of my friends suggested it was okay for me to receive some things for my birthday, and so my sister bought me a $4.50 pair of shoes from Kmart (yay!). A gift out of ‘need’ rather than want! (And by the way I still use the shoes that have holes…I just used gaffer tape to fix them up)!

Early on in the year my car broke down and I had to get it towed. My car was sent into get repaired and a new fuel pump was put in. Without realising it…I’d purchased something new. I realised I had to be more careful – if I wanted to take this challenge seriously, I’d have to think of every angle. This meant working out what were my rules for things such as car stuff – buying new tyres etc. I decided safety couldn’t be compromised, but perhaps I could ask for a second hand part next time. I must admit I hadn’t been too prepared and some rules had to be developed along the way.

So apart from that slip up, what have been the serious challenges? There was the shoe thing, and also I had holes in some jeans…I can’t wear them anymore…is this a big deal? Not really…I have others! You see what I learned quickly is how much I waste money on things that I want as opposed to the things that I need. Even with gift buying, I was amazed at how in the past I would easily spend lots of money on presents for people without thinking about what I was really buying. When you can only spend $20 on a gift you have to be more creative in your purchases. I’ve loved doing that!

I’ve been seriously challenged about what I have and how I use it. I’ve realised more and more how blessed I am with access to wealth and have learned to use my money more wisely. The challenge of buying nothing new has also moved me to be better with the food I purchase. I don’t need to go out so much for meals and I need to make sure I don’t waste food. I truly believe that so many of us buy because we can, instead of buying because we need. I’ve had some amazing conversations with others in regards to what I’ve been doing this year and hope that all of this has in some way impacted others in how they use resources too. I am truly blessed…and as a blessed person I am in some way responsible for using what I have wisely and using it to help others. Purchasing nothing new this year has reminded me of that.

Marj is the Youth Pastor at TSA Hobart and runs City Youth Salvos, the youth and young adults ministry at the Corps. This involves connecting young people to the ideas of hope, self-worth and a relationship with Jesus through small groups, worship, service projects and socialising. Marj loves playing basketball, going to the movies and making songs up about her mates.


Cherie Clarke said...

It's been an awesome year Marj and your commitment has challenged and inspired many, huge blessings lovely :) xxx

Beth said...

Thanks for your reflection Marj. I'd be interested to know how your 2012 experience will effect you in 2013?

Marj said...

Hi Beth,
I'm interested in that too! I have some plans to make sure that I don't just 'buy' and forget about this experience. I certainly know that I will look at gift giving in a different light and certainly not purchase for the sake of purchasing. I'm not sure I can really tell how I'll go until it comes to Jan 1st 2013 :)