Last year I started looking at how much 'stuff' we buy and set myself a goal to reduce it. I was following Sharon Astyk's Riot for Austerity to some extent, so my rules for what I was buying were somewhat different to those used by Judith Levine in Not Buying It, who was just trying not to buy anything for a year. For instance buying secondhand is good for me, as it is re-using items that other people no longer need and stopping them being thrown away. It also doesn't have the carbon footprint of buying a new item (though there are sometimes some transport emissions involved).
The Riot for Austerity uses the measure of how much you spend each year, with a target of reducing that to 90% of the average American spend. So buying expensive designer goods would work out bad, but then so could buying higher priced fair trade items or locally produced products. Buying secondhand is cheaper (unless you are buying antiques) so it is a very good way to reduce your annual spend. Even better is not buying anything. The ideal for me would be to focus on just buying the raw materials rather than finished goods where possible. So seeds, manure and wood are raw materials, whereas a new oven would be a finished goods. To replace my broken oven I would need to look for a second hand replacement as an alternative to buying new (As I certainly can't make one from raw materials ;-) ). Can you see how this should work?
I would love to have the skills and time to make all my own clothes, so just buying material, thread and wool, but for now buying secondhand is my aim. With this in mind I have been off to my local carboot sale again!
My darling husband always asks why I go to the carboot sale to buy things, when I would be better off selling some of our unwanted 'stuff'. I do occasionally do a stall to sell things, but I find it is much easier to give outgrown kids clothes to friends or family, or to put it in a charity bag. I save far more money buying things than I would make in a day of selling. Let me show you some examples......
This glass measuring jug is as good as new and cost me 30p, whereas to buy it new would have cost £3.75 (price from Tesco direct). It replaces the last of my very old plastic jugs and should last years, so I can justify this as not useless 'stuff'.
Jeans from Next that look like they have only been worn a few times cost me £1. These are exactly the jeans I would usually buy, so I know that a basic new pair would cost £20 from the shop. I also got another pair of M&S jeans for £2, though they aren't such a good fit. Jeans that fit are an essential to replace worn out jeans, but ones that aren't a good fit will just clutter up my wardrobe, so will go straight into a charity bag.
A plain t-shirt in very good condition from M&S cost me 67p, because I bought 3 t-shirts for £2. To buy it new would be around £6. (Two of the t-shirts didn't fit so really it cost me £2 for one t-shirt, which is still a saving.)
I also bought a T-shirt for my daughter for 50p as we had seen a similar one in New Look for £6.99. Essentials again for growing kids.
A thick warm jumper from Roxy cost me £1, although it was a bit grubby. New ones start at £50 on their website. Warm jumpers are another essential for winter.
A set of baskets (they look like a set but I bought them from 2 separate stalls) cost £2. How much would they be new? Maybe £15? I am just guessing here. Again these are replacing plastic tubs, and are not only more aesthetically pleasing, but made of natural materials.
Oh and a campervan mug cost 50p, but they cost £7 new. Hmmm......there is always an impulse buy! This kind of 'stuff' shouldn't be creeping in my home, even if it is secondhand.
Oh and how could I forget! I spent £1.50 on a cast iron hand mincer. Just the weight of the metal would be worth more than that. Although I can't really claim to have saved any money because I never would have bought it new. I'm sure I will get round to using it eventually. Plus it is made in England, so its a local product.
Not bad for a mornings shopping. I spent £15 in total if you include a few more items that didn't fit properly when I got home, 3 DVD's and the 50p admission fee. To buy just the items mentioned above new would have cost me £108 a saving of over £93. The most I have ever taken on a day selling my unwanted goods at the carboot is £80, though £50 to £60 is more normal. If it rains you risk taking a lot less money and coming home with a boot full of soggy items.
For me the Riot for Austerity target of a 90% reduction of 'stuff' based on money spent, is looking much more achievable than to not buy anything like Judith Levine did for a year. And if bargain hunting is something you enjoy, then find your nearest carboot sale for a frugal and eco-friendly shopping experience :-)