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“Not Buying It” by Judith Levine

February 27, 2008
picasso, originally uploaded by nickatnight.

So I’m (N.) totally a book junkie. Getting my fix used to cost my father $100s at the bookstores on a weekly basis until eventually he cut me off so he could start saving for retirement :). When I got older I continued to get my fix at the bookstore instead of the library but I did at least loan my books out or donate them when I was done. I finally came to the conclusion that although the library isn’t going to have every book I want to read I need to start saving for retirement too!

Now I check out 5-10 books from the library every couple weeks to prevent withdrawal symptoms. I will still occasionally go to a big bookstore or online to Amazon in order to read book reviews or find new books to read but I use that data and then get them from the library or I simply do without.

My most recent aquisition was “Not Buying It” and I have to say this book was incredibly well written and humorous. It chronicles the year of a married couple not buying anything but neccessities. The definition of what is necessary changes over the course of the year and they (well the wife) does slip up a couple times but basically they buy work related things, food (but no eating out), and they donate money to various political causes. It’s a realistic view of what it would be like for any of us to have to do without for a year. They bicker about what to buy and not buy, they go on a mild spending spree right before the year starts, they covet things in the store, they are alternately drawn to and repelled by the consumerist society that we live in. What they don’t do is really live a total low impact life. They own two homes, an apartment in New York City and a house in the Vermont country side. They own three different vehicles and more stuff then some of us good even begin to contemplate and instead of getting rid of it they look at ways of storing it more effectively. They start a small garden but they do try to buy local. They don’t turn off the heat or electricity, they don’t go off the grid although Judith interviews a couple people that have. The first part of the book is hysterical and mainly focuses on the side effects of not buying and commentary on the consumerist society we live in but the second half gets more serious and a lot more political.

I don’t see J. and I putting a moratorium on shopping any time soon mainly because we don’t believe in such extreme measures that are temporary we would rather find a permanent and sustainable balance.

Would you be willing to go without out entirely for a year?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2008 4:49 pm

    We joined the Riot for Austerity ( ), so we have effectively done this. It has been difficult, but not impossible. We’re looking at more long-term change, however – I agree that doing it for one year just to say you can… is not enough. But starting to change your lifestyle in a sustainable way is a great thing to do for the environment and for personal happiness. We love our lives more now than we did a year ago!

  2. February 27, 2008 5:23 pm

    I have to be honest and say that I don’t think I could go that far right now. I’m trying to really lower my impact, buy fewer goods, keep the thermostat down, drive less, etc. But give up basically all shopping? I just don’t think I can do it. While I don’t covet “stuff” and don’t buy that much, I’m still a good American consumer. Plus, I’m hoping to make my house more energy efficient this summer. Buying insulation, a furnace, etc. would probably do more good overall than not buying them would.

    Gimme another year or two of reducing my consumption. By then buying nothing wouldn’t be quite such a shock and I might just be able to do it. 🙂 It’s probably a really good thing to at least try though. You never know when your income will be cut short or when the economy will take a nose dive.

  3. February 28, 2008 9:11 am

    Hello, While I could go without for a year if I had to, I have to admit that my choice is to not do so unless forced. I do try to only buy what is needed as well as keeping the pantry stocked. We do not buy much of anything that is not functional here on the homestead. I have no knickknacks or such as I hate clutter and they only collect dust serving no function. I think one of the reasons I like to go shopping is because now that I am older I have more money to do so. My husband and I used to be terrible about spending money and collecting things but, we are focused on retirement and saving as well.

  4. February 28, 2008 6:12 pm

    You have GOT to look at Abe Books ( I got my copy of Assassination Vacation there for a dollar. One. Dollar. And shipping is three bucks, even though it takes a long time. The books are definitely “used,” though they’re in pretty good shape in you find one whose condition rating says “good.” This site has helped me to fuel my book addiction with used books at good prices. I’m all about reusing!

  5. February 28, 2008 7:10 pm

    I’d rather not do it whole-hog, but we make a conscious effort to buy as little as possible, and when we do we mainly buy used items. We almost never go out to dinner, but we eat vegetarian, seasonally and cheaply. I’m getting a little sick of potato/ carrot/ cabbage soup and its somewhat finite variations, but we do love the low-impact.

    My one big purchase this year was a very large worm bin, though I think of it as a tool, an investment in our future, and an investment in my neighborhood’s future. And I probably won’t be buying anything else as significant this year.

    The people in the book seem a little insufferable. Three cars? Two houses? As well, did they relay any whiff of irony about writing a book called “Not Buying It”, you know, for commercial sale? Made from virgin paperstock? Distributed by truck and airplane?

  6. February 29, 2008 12:22 pm

    There’s a whole group of folks who do this, called Compact-ers. I tried it and lasted one month. BUT, it totally changed the way I view shopping. I no longer do a “weekly Target run” and I buy as much second-hand as I can. My consumption of consumer goods has gone down dramatically since that little experiment.

    Also, I started reading Affluenza which made me feel like a consumer-sucking pig. Unfortunately for the authors, I started reading it at Barnes & Nobles. I felt so sick about the unnecessary buying I did that I couldn’t buy the book. I had to put it back on the shelf and then check it out at the library. You’d think they would have thought about that and maybe wrapped it in brown paper or something….

  7. March 3, 2008 2:28 am

    Its really fantastic to read this kind of the post .This is really a good creation . This is really awesome …. Thanks.

  8. March 3, 2008 3:15 am

    Hi Judith,
    Its really fantastic to read this kind of the post .This is really a good creation . This is really awesome …. Thanks.

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