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Would you go a year without buying anything new? How about 10 years?

November 11, 2007

Perhaps, being someone interested in personal finance, you heard of the group of San Fransisco professionals who committed not to buy anything new in the year 2006. Or maybe you’ve heard a recent segment on NPR’s Marketplace Money about another family, essentially doing that same thing for 2007.

It sounds very noble and anti-consumerism. It is admirable. I couldn’t make that commitment, and I’m impressed that they can. But what I found most intriguing about the story was the following comment on the Marketplace Confessional, a section of the website where listener’s can anonymously state their opinions about the show:

There was a segment about not buying anything new for a year. What is the big deal? I have not purchased anything new for almost 10 years. I am low income and have shopped at the second hand stores for years. My toaster, pots, pans, clothes have all come from these type of stores. Where I live we have a senior center that has a thrift store. If you take the time look you can find almost anything. Clothing is 25 cents per item or $1.00 per bag. There are many bargains to be had at thrift stores.

It made me remember how lucky many of us are. I can challenge myself to spend less and less, but I do it out of choice, not of necessity. Sure, I do it to fund retirement and to prepare for an emergency, or to pay off my student loan a little early. But if I’m feeling extravagant, I can buy a latte from Starbucks and it doesn’t mean that I won’t be eating dinner. I save money and buy things on the cheap because I want to, not because I have to. It is a blessing to have the choice.

I need to go through my apartment before I move and be sure to donate any unneeded quality used items to the second hand store so someone else can use them. Because they choose to or because the have to.

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