August, September, October, November, December Accounting

To start with, my usual spiel:

Why not buy new? In a word, externalities. All of us who can access the internet on an electronic device, are more or less the 1% of the world's population who benefit unfairly from the sweat, habitat destruction, pollution, ill health, exploitation and death of the 99% whose lives are degraded in some way so that we can have machines to wash our clothes and make our toast, and have access to cheap t-shirts and chocolate.

One day I woke up and the invisible wake of destruction that trails behind my trips to Target suddenly became unbearable, so I have started on a different path to providing for my needs and wants, and those of my lovely children, dog, two cats and two budgies.

Here are my guidelines:

1 Make do with what I have.
2 Try to find what I need second hand - there is a world of stuff out there that needs to be rescued and used again.
3 Buy from a local craftsperson.
4 As a last resort, buy from a local, independent store, so that at least my money stays in my community.

Clearly, although I might be devoted to not buying new, I am not devoted to regular reporting, although I am quite a devoted record keeper, and write down everything I spend so that now I can provide a belated, boring, but accurate report of my purchases of 'stuff' over the last half of the year. 


In August I bought... nothing. That is not to say I didn't spend any money - we spent a ridiculous amount on groceries, went bowling, The Girl had her wisdom teeth out, I paid bills, but no stuff. Awesome.


Bought new: Paintbrushes, paints and canvases from the local art supply shop for Posy's birthday.
Zips from the local fabric shop for Rosy who has been making pencil cases for her friends as gifts all year.
Chicken wire and some timber for the chicken palace.
A new vacuum cleaner head for the pool, but I found a local pool shop to buy this from, so it was more expensive, but so much better quality than our old Bunnings one. It actually stays attached to the pool hose without duct tape..

Bought second hand: Books, clothes and certain bits and pieces which I put away for Christmas.

Teaset, blackboard, scarf and letters for Rosy.


Bought new: Paint for the front fence, batteries for gizmos and torches. 
Two pairs of shoes for Posy from a local shoe store, which is such a relaxing place, and the service is exquisite. The owner, who served us, kindly put an extra hole in the straps of Posy's sandals to accommodate her narrow feet.

Bought second hand: More books, clothes for the children, and doodads for Christmas.

A wee, vintage pudding bowl for The Girl..

...and a wee Chinese plate


Bought new: A magazine, New Philosopher. I found it at the airport bookshop. Love, love it. Might buy more.
A battery for my old, defunct laptop, which I bought from a little shop that sells batteries for everything. Now Posy has her own electronic device, apart from her dad's old phone that she uses as an ipod. She is very happy. She might write a novel.


Bought new: Socks and undies for the children. From Target. Yes, I know. Damn. Reason being, Rosy was going on school camp, and didn't have enough underwear for nine days in the wilderness, and I hadn't had enough forethought to order any from an on-line ethical undie supplier. While I was there, I bought enough for everyone. Also for camp I bought Rosy some clothes from independent local camping suppliers, and a new bed mat as ours died. We borrowed a backpack, as I couldn't find ours - later I discovered it underneath all the Christmas decorations in the shed.

But, here is the evil thing about department stores - while I was in the belly of the beast I discovered that I also needed to buy a dress  and t-shirts for Posy for Christmas, also PJs for The Girl. And while I was on a roll of destructive behaviour I also went and bought a top for Rosy at Myer, and three shirts for The Boy for Christmas. Candles and stickers for Christmas stockings. Guilty binge shopping!

Just before Christmas a Typo store opened up down town. Our girls have been spending all their pocket money in this delicious faux-vintage stationery store for years whenever they can get to Hobart or Melbourne, so I was coerced into spending some money there on Christmas presents. A calendar, a gift card, a box of wooden letters for card-making, a pen that is also a fan(!), you know, things that are vital to the advancement of the species.

I also bought some clothes for my dad for Christmas from a lovely local menswear store. You know, the old-fashioned kind where a nice old man who looks rather like a gnome, in black pants, white shirt, black waistcoat, with a tape measure slung around his neck, comes and asks if he can help you. I found a shirt that was actually made in Australia. Extraordinary.

Two new books, one for me, one for my brother. Because, you know, books.

Mineral make up and make up brush from The Body Shop

A fold-up, reusable bag and a reusable travel mug for The Girl for Christmas from a little kitchen shop in town.

Kitchen bits and bobs and Christmas decorations for gifts from the Oxfam shop.

Drawing pencils for Posy for Christmas from our art supply shop.

A saving grace for Christmas was the regular, local, pre-Christmas craft fair. I bought pretty things for each girl (and they bought something nice for me), plus some gifts for birthday party presents.

A framed print for Rosy, and a cactus in a home-cast concrete pot for Posy from the craft fair.

Bought second hand: More Christmas knick-knacks, of course. Including some for me:)

A new flower tin. Now there are two, it is officially a collection:)

Thoughts. Apart from my Christmas panic buying, I think this year went quite well. What I have learned is that shopping at those big box stores is all about convenience. We can get what we what at the moment we think about it. Any other option requires more planning, and that seems like an outrageous inconvenience to those of us who believe we should be able to have what we want whenever we want it. On the other hand, is that a character trait we want to encourage in ourselves and our children? Really, no.

On the other, other hand - yes, I have more than two hands because I am a mother - organisation and forward planning are just not my thing, so this method of acquiring 'stuff' is quite painful. Actually going out the door to go to the shops is like... well... do you remember The Little House on the Prairie books, when during the Long Winter Almanzo rides out in the teeth of a blizzard to find enough wheat to save the town until Spring? That is how I feel every time I am faced with the thought of shopping. Up until this year, the only way I could bear to keep my children in clothes and shoes was to brace myself, race around town for two hours, acquire everything I needed in one fell swoop, then limp home exhausted, thankful that I didn't have to do that again for at least six months. 

Sometimes I went second hand shopping, but not often enough for it to be a reliable source of stuff. I think that in order to dress everyone mostly second hand (which I thoroughly approve of) I would need to pop into a couple of op shops at least every fortnight, with a list of needs that is at least six months ahead of when those things are actually needed. For instance, I finally found a new (second hand) rash vest for Posy this Spring.. only nine months after I started looking.

Other thoughts. Shopping at small, independently owned stores is the best. I love talking to the owners about where their stock comes from, and discovering how passionate and knowledgeable they are about books/fabric/ukeleles/shoes/computer batteries. Amazing people. And I want to live in a city filled with tiny retail spaces run by passionate, knowledgeable people who can make stuff, alter stuff, source the best stuff, and provide impeccable service, and also provide dignified jobs for our children and fellow townsfolk.

So am I going to continue Buying Nothing New - yes, and I will be kicking it up another notch. I believe there is a way to revitalise our urban and suburban communities, and it starts with the way you and I live our lives every day. Stay tuned for the 2016 project..


Meg said…
Hi Jo,

I really like the way you keep a record of all your spending during the year. I've just gone and put a little notebook in my handbag so I can keep track in 2016 too.

In 2016 I'm aiming not to buy a single piece of new clothing, except essential undies and socks if the ones I have now get holes in them (which they inevitably do!). I will have to get out my sewing machine and use up my fabric stash if I want any other clothes.

I am looking forward to reading about your 2016 project.
What an inspiring post! I hate shopping so much that I often end up doing the last-minute big box store run. Ideally I would buy most things second-hand, but that means, well, shopping. On a regular basis. Ick! I will say that we have several great thrift shops around that sell high end women's clothing, and I've been fairly lucky about finding things there at the last minute.

I buy most of my books used. I do try to buy poetry new, because the poets need the money.

In any event, your efforts are impressive. Carry on!

Jo said…
Meg, welcome:) yes, I panic if I don't know where all my money is and that there is enough to pay all the bills. It is a big pain to track spending, but just to be able to see it all laid out and to see at a glance that how much I have in each budget category - the peace of mind is priceless:)

So good that you are getting on the Buy Nothing New band wagon. Although, as you can see, it wasn't a 'to the letter' success for me in 2015, it provided me with a new way to look at my spending, and to shake me up in regard to how I view needs and wants.. all good stuff. Plus it was fun and relaxing!

I am so impressed that you can sew clothes! That is one of the projects I would like to try this year.

Tanya, if you mean real in the sense that I am laying out all my failures here for you all, well, then, you are welcome:) I will continue along that path with glee. Nothing like a blog for a confessional!

Frances, I knew you would be with me on the ARRGH! Shopping!!! phobia front:)

"I do try to buy poetry new because poets need the money."
Brilliant!! I am going out right now to buy a volume of poetry. Well, maybe later... or tomorrow. Definitely next time I pass a book shop:)
narf7 said…
Goodness GRACIOUS you are an organised soul Jo! I feel incredibly well organised if I remember to cart the last bit of "off" milk topped up with water, to tip on the jog past the poor little quince tree that is covered in sooty mildew, out the back door with me when I am mentally attempting to juggle the equivalent of a libraries worth of thoughts in my head at the same time. I SUCK at multi-tasking. I need a list to find my list. I haven't made resolutions as such, I have decided to implement habits that will change my life around by the end of the year. They say that a habit takes roughly a month to become the norm and so I have 12 habits that I can expect to adopt by the end of 2016. I am in awe of your ability to record things. I store things but again, the very best I can hope for in finding what I have stored is that I saved it in a pdf or word document and I can use "cntl f" to find it again.

I think I am going to make one of my precious 12 habits this year a "getting organised" habit. I think it would be a skill most worth having. Cheers for your lovely comment on my last blog post. Going to Robert and Eileen Millet's garden was like going down the rabbit hole and having my eyes seriously opened about all kinds of possibilities for our climate and situation. If you would like to come for a visit with me the next time I pop up there, I would be most happy to take you. I am quite sure you would leave there buzzing with so many ideas it would take you a year to organise them. Here's to a most educational and inspirational 2016 :)
Jo said…
Fran, thank you, I would LOVE to come and visit that garden with you. And also come all the way to your place and visit yours as well. And meet the famous hounds:)

I am doubtful whether 'getting organised' is an achievable goal. Well, put it this way, it has never been achievable for me. I have to break it down far more than that. Such as, 'I will not bring any plant home this year until I have a space already prepared for it in the garden'. That was a resolution from a couple of years ago, and now it is a habit. Until that time just before Christmas when my mum gave me a pumpkin seedling that is still expiring slowly under the tap..

So ok, still a work in progress:)
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

You have inspired me; if you can do it, I can do it. You are right - patience has a lot to do with it, waiting until we find that particular item, used, at an affordable cost and not just buying new junk. Many opportunities for self-discipline there!

Thanks for reminding me of the "Little House on the Prairie Books". I loved them and read them to my sons (I only have boys) and we still have them. Good time to re-read them.

Jo said…
Pam, of course you can do it! Most of the stuff I buy, you notice, is for my kids. Once they all leave home I think it will be relatively easy.. Little House on the Prairie books stand many re-readings. I love how different details of daily life reveal themselves on different readings as well..
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Mmmm chocolate is good and perhaps we can make an exception for that? Please? Well, alright, I guess it is bad... Still, chocolate is good! :-)!

That is interesting about your grocery bill, because as you know I'm as tight as, so I've been paring that monster back for quite a while now - years actually. But the problem as I'm finding with paring it back is that everything starts taking a whole lot longer and more of my time. It does take a while to find out which are the high expenditure items and then start the long process of learning about a work around so as to wean yourself off them. Then you have to start working out ways to do that and not make yourself go loopy in the process because you're spending so long on that particular work around. It usually takes me a couple of months of trial and error to get the balance right on those matters until it becomes almost second nature and easy as and then it becomes a background task. Hope that all makes sense?

I get your reply from the last blog and the truth is we'll never really know all of the little details that kept the many systems going back in the day because no one seems to want to hand over all of those little details in the first place. As an instructive example, one of my mates is of Italian origin and his parents were migrants here in the 60's and they live on a little acreage not too far out of Melbourne. My mate (who has since moved to Ohio of all places with his wife who scored a Professorship at the Uni there) loves all of the stuff that we're interested in, but his parents tell him: Don't worry about all that stuff just go to the shop and buy it, it is a lot cheaper - so my mate has missed out on the tomato passata thing, the sausage making thing, the grappa thing etc... And they know this stuff! Still, I’m reverse engineering this stuff and I seem to be making some sort of headway. Two steps forward, one back, and so it goes!

Second hand shopping is a lot of fun and it is sort of like an adventure really! I love that stuff.


Anonymous said…
I love how you've taken these steps to minimise impact on the environment and to keep local small businesses alive. I hate how so many things that look old or hand-made or repurposed are actually mass produced in factories in China. I nearly bought s stool made from an old plough seat. I was in far north west of NSW so I thought it had been made by a handy, crafty local who is a dab hand at welding. No. It was from China. And then I saw the same seat in Sydney.

I do like shopping though.
Jo said…
Chris, there is a local chocolate shop in town, which gets its raw chocolate from a women's cacao co-op in Peru. Very expensive, but there is chocolate I can really get behind!

I agree with you about the time or money divide. We can craft a nice with one or the other..

Lucinda, I think there is definitely a place for mindful shopping. So many small, independent and sustainable craftspeople out there. There must even be someone making seats out of actual plough seats in their sheds with a welder. If I ever find one, I'll let you know:)

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