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Stop Buying Stuff for Kids

November 19, 2012 in Useful

One of the biggest questions I get when I tell people I am not going to buy anything during the month of November is: What about stuff for kids? With the holidays coming up, presents are on many people’s minds. Last year I suggested some ideas for having a new-stuff-free holiday, but extending that idea to presents for children seems to cause some heartburn for some people.

Well, as it turns out, kids are not actually all that well served by buying them stuff. The most important thing in a child’s life is to be loved. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Although it may seem that one way of showing a child love is by buying them presents, that is actually not all that effective. It is far, far better to spend quality time with children. Rather than making the holidays about getting the newest and best toys, make the holidays about spending time with family and friends.

I was raised in a (monetarily) poor home, so we never focused very much on presents. Instead, my parents focused on having a good time together, eating good food, and enjoying company. My parents always said that if we needed something they would get it for us, no matter what the date was, and that the holidays were more about spending time together. One thing that they did as far as presents go was to get all of us one big thing each year…but it was never actually a thing. Every year we would get year passes to our local amusement park, or a big family vacation, or something like that. An intangible gift that was more about having a fun experience than about getting a thing. And I think I turned out great!

Here are a couple of articles… food for thought, let’s say:

-Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

-Ten Tips for Raising Kids Who Care

-The Most Important Thing to Teach Children

-The Real Cost of Raising Children

Stop Buying Razors

November 16, 2012 in Useful

Welcome back! We are a little over two weeks into No-Buy-November, and still going strong!

Because No-Buy-November just happens (wink, wink) to fall on the same month as Movember, I have been doing some thinking about shaving. For some reason, when I grow a mustache, like a am now, rather than my usual chin-stripe, it seems like I have a little more facial hair to shave. Call me crazy.

Even if it is all in my head, shaving every day reminds me of one of the little things that I buy, use, and send straight to the landfill. Razors! I don’t go through them very quick, but in the spirit of No-Buy-November I want to take a few minutes to think about this item that is designed to be used up and thrown away.

So, what are some alternatives to the standard disposable safety razor? Well, as my favorite blogger Mr. Money Mustache’ grandfather says, the simplest way to reduce the amount of waste involved in shaving (and reduce the amount of money it costs) is to use two-blade safety razors with reusable handles, rather than the fancy new 5-blade vibrating razor that you throw away after only a few uses. Also, rather than throwing the razor away after it starts to get dull, sharpen it on your jeans instead to make the blades stay sharp longer!

The next level of awesome is to start using the old-fashioned single-blade safety razor instead of a disposable razor. I bought a pair of them on Ebay, polished them a little, and have been using them ever since. The blades are incredibly cheap, and that is the only part of the razor that is disposable. Also, they are easy to find used on Ebay, like I did. They are generally very well made, and can last for a very long time. It is just a little more complicated to shave with them, but after a few shaves, it will become as natural as using any other razor. Here is a great tutorial on using safety razors, and a fun article on how to shave like your grandfather did!

The ultimate in shaving awesomeness is the classic straight razor. Nothing says amazing like shaving your manly face-hair with something that has been around since the beginning of shaving! A straight razor will never need anything new and disposable, and when your great-grandson gives it to his great-grandson a few hundered years from now, it will work just as well for him as it does for you. Buying one can put you back a hundred or more bucks, but it will literally be the last razor you ever buy, and they can definitely be found used. Here is a great article on restoring vintage straight razors, and another article on how to use them properly.

Now go forth and shave responsibly!

The Big Picture

November 6, 2012 in Inspirational

After thinking a little bit about the “Why Bother” question of last week, I thought I would take a few minutes to zoom out on the bigger picture. How does No-Buy-November fit into the economy as a whole, and into things like peak oil, global warming, etc.

The Economy: The Exponential Growth Problem

The problem with our current economy is that it is based on the concept of exponential growth. Right now, a “normal” happy economy is growing at, let’s say, 5%. That means that the economy this year is 5% bigger than it was last year. And then next year, it is 5% bigger than this year. So let’s pick a random number to represent the economy in year 1… how about 100. In year 2, with a 5% growth rate, the economy is worth 105. No big deal so far. But with a consistent growth rate of 5% over 10 years our imaginary economy is already up to 155, so in only ten years, the economy has grown by 55%.

The problem, of course, is that although our economy is based on the idea of infinite, exponential growth, we live on a finite planet. At a certain point, the exponential growth of the economy will hit the real limits of our planet, at which point exponential growth (or growth at all) will be impossible. There are things we can do to make the economy more efficient, and squeeze a little bit more out of the same resources, but even that has limits.

So what does this have to do with No-Buy-November? Well, that should be fairly obvious. For one month, we are not buying into a small part of that exponential growth economy, and pushing back, just a little, the point where our growth and the limits of our planet run into each other.

These are some rather controversial and uncomfortable ideas, and maybe you don’t agree with my (fairly simplified) analysis. That’s fine, and I hope you will try the No-Buy-November challenge anyway. But, if you are interested in a much more detailed analysis of the exponential growth problem by someone much, much smarter than me, here is a great article.

Peak Oil

I am not going to go into very much depth on the peak oil issue here, but let’s just say that pretty much everyone agrees that oil is a finite resourse that we will eventually run out of. (I think most of the disagreement is centered around when we will run out, and if we will be able to replace oil with something else before then.).

But oil, like everything else on the planet, is a finite resourse. By doing No-Buy-November, and by consuming less in general, you are using less oil (and less other stuff too) and therefor helping to stave off the peak oil problem. Go you!

For a very interesting discussion on the peak oil issue, take a look at this article by one of my favorite bloggers. Also, here is a link to a very interesting report by BP on what they think the energy future will look like. (I got the link from MMM’s blog. Thanks!)

Global Warming

Again, a somewhat controversial issue for some reason. Although if 99% of the people who know what they are talking about agree that something is true, I don’t understand why we are still arguing about it… Anyway. Buying less stuff means less greenhouse gas emissions! Yay!

So: Why should you buy less stuff? There are lots and lots of reasons, and the three I list above are just a few.

What’s your reason?

Why Bother?

November 1, 2012 in Inspirational

With No-Buy-November starting today, I have been spreading the word, and telling people about the No-Buy challenge. It’s no surprise that I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks, and quite a few questions. So today, I figured I would try to answer some of them!

Why do this crazyness at all?

I think that our culture is WAY too focused on material possessions, and way to quick to buy our way to happiness. It has been shown in many studies that more stuff does not make you happier. Instead, we spend our money and our time on buying junk that is not only bad for us but bad for the world.

It is unrealistic for most of us, myself included, to think that we can live in this country and actually buy no new products. But buying no new products for a month? Now that is possible. And maybe it will give us some insight into what we really need, as opposed to what we think we need. Maybe we will spend this month focused on things that truly make us happy, like spending time with friends and family. And maybe after this month is over, we will have learned something about ourselves, and a little bit of the consciousness of this month will stick around and get us to buy less, and spend more time on things that matter.

Why November?

November seems packed with business, not only because of Thanksgiving and the impending Christmas and New Years holidays, but also because of all sort of other campaigns that happen in November, like NaNoWriMo and Movember. Still November seemed like the perfect time to not buy, and not just because “No-Buy-November” sounds cool (which it totally does!).

November, more than a lot of months, is focused on consumerism. Black Friday is in November, one of the busiest shopping days in the year. Christmas is coming up, and giving lots of expensive gifts is a tradition for many families, so much so that it bleeds over into other holidays that happen around the same time, like Hanukkah. It actually costs more to buy each other gifts than it would cost to buy the things for ourselves, because of the waste involved in gifts that the receiver does not really want, as explained in this video interview with Professor of Economics Chris Coyne. (Instead of buying STUFF for holiday gifts, try some alternatives!)

So, having a month of not buying anything land right on top of a month that is so focused on buying things actually makes the challenge a little harder, and contrasts it a little more with the consumerism of the month. It makes a stronger point.

Won’t people just delay buying things until December?

Maybe. But a lot of new purchases come from “impulse buys” and if you have to wait a month before you can buy something, maybe you will realize that you don’t need it after all (you just spent a month without it, right?). It is a similar concept to what many money-saving tipsters suggest, of putting a 30-day “hold” on any item you want, so that if you still want it in 30-days you can buy it, and if in that time you realized that you don’t need it you saved some cash.

And honestly, if this whole movement can stop one person from buying one $3 radio that will end up in the landfill in 6 months, it’s worth it.

Any other questions or comments? Feel free to comment below!

How to Have a No-Buy-Holiday

November 7, 2011 in Useful

With the holidays coming up, it may seem like a special challenge to get through No-Buy-November without buying any new manufactured presents. After all, buying expensive presents for each other is how we show affection in western cultures, right?

The truth is, presents are actually a pretty poor way of showing how you care. And here’s some science to back that up!

So here are some ideas for alternatives to the traditional holiday present exchange:

  • Give a gift of personal service – a IOU for a few foot-massages, or 3 “I’ll cook dinner tonight” passes, or even a punch card for 100 free hugs
  • Give a trip to a spa, or a free professional massage
  • Give something you made yourself…it will be much more meaningful, and probably better than anything you could buy
  • Have a gift exchange, or clothing swap party – Here’s a great article on how to hold a good swap party
These are just a very, very few ideas…please share any ideas you have!


November 7, 2011 in Useful

Freecycle is a great tool for getting in touch with a community of people who like to give things away for free!

Have something you don’t want anymore? Well, rather than throw it away, you can list it on this website, and someone else can get some use out of it.

And of course it goes the other way too; if you need something, rather than just going out and buying it, check Freecycle first. Maybe someone is giving away for free exactly what you need!

The Story of Stuff

November 4, 2011 in Inspirational

This cute, inspirational video was my first real introduction to the idea that our consumption has real consequences for the world. It took a while for me to make the leap from the idea that too much stuff is bad to the idea that I am actually buying too much stuff, but this was where it all started.

Here is a link to the original video on Youtube, in case the embedded video does not work for you.

Also, check out the website, for more inspirational videos and information.