After a few crazy weeks of job hunting activities, online course work, and cross-border travel, I let myself take a few trips to the local thrift stores this past week. They didn’t disappoint and I found myself with a lovely wool blanket, cast iron pot, French press, cookbook, and a few pieces of pottery. Although I was pleased with my purchases – all of them met my usual criteria of useful, inexpensive, and good quality – this last trip in particular got to thinking about what I was doing, especially in terms of how effortlessly I slipped into the “I deserve a reward” mentality and how quickly that reward became centered on consumerism.
The things that I bought are lovely, and will be used for a very long time. But…that still doesn’t mean that I needed them, or that I haven’t given in to consumerism more than I think that I’d like to. I know that I have a number of shopping weaknesses, especially when it comes to buying secondhand. It’s challenging for me to say no to wool blankets, cast iron cookware, cookbooks, wool sweaters, knitting supplies, handmade pottery, good fiction, and reference books. If I wind up at a thrift store and any of those things are available, I can usually do a pretty impressive job of justifying the purchase.
But, as I’ve said many times before, the truth is that the cost of even secondhand shopping still adds up over time, and buying secondhand doesn’t make me less of a consumer, or change my relationship with shopping and stuff. Hating malls and retail shopping doesn’t really get me very far if I can still habitually spend money at thrift stores while possibly accumulating even more than I otherwise would have due to the drastically reduced prices. I wouldn’t mind scaling back the budget a bit in order to put some extra cash away for projects and add a bit more to the “buy some land” fund.
In addition to the money and space costs, there’s also the cost in time. I’ve been spending more time than I’d like shopping, and have also been spending yet more time clearing out the apartment which is stocked with my thrift store treasures. This is hardly a productive cycle since I’m foiling my own efforts to clear things out of here. With two months left in the summer, I’d rather have this time to focus on visiting with family and friends, cooking and eating good food, running, biking, yoga, reading, writing, playing music, and just generally enjoying life while being a bit more productive.
The goal, then, is to have a no spend July – no spending on anything other than essentials like food, hygiene items, and cleaning supplies. I happen to know that there’s a wedding gift purchase in my future, so I won’t be counting that either. I may also need a gift for a sick friend, so I haven’t discounted that yet either. Other than that, though, I won’t be doing any non-essential shopping in July, and I’m looking forward to having a bit more money, a bit more room, and best of all, a bit more time.