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2013: Year of the Water Snake… and the Buy Ban

Happy Chinese New Year!

I had originally intended to write as we rang in the New Year on January 1st, but with everything going on, not only did I not write on the 1st, I missed January entirely. So here I am, posting in time for the Chinese New Year while it is still a time for new beginnings. For those of you celebrating Chinese New Year today and into this next week, Gong hai fat chow!cny2013

In preparation for Chinese New Year, many Chinese families go through a big pre-new year’s cleaning that’s symbolic of getting rid of the old and making room for the new. For myself, 2013 represents a reverse clean. I’ve decided to re-enter another buy ban year: a year of a self-imposed ban on buying. Keeping the old and making no room (at least as far as my closet goes) for the new. Conceptually, it’s my own tiny part in curbing the extreme consumerism our culture promotes at least in my own life, but also re-establishing more thoughtful, selective, and frugal buying habits in myself.

So, what this all means is that for this next year, I can buy nothing that is non-essential, or to look at it the other way, I only buy what is essential to my life. Of course, there’s room to argue that within those parameters, there can be loopholes such as needing that new dress – which would completely defeat the purpose of a buy ban. So, to spell it out more deliberately for myself, my rules are the following.

  1. An essential is restricted to only those things I need to fulfill my basic, psychological, and self-fulfillment needs (to get really technical, I’ll throw in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)maslow
  2. All clothing-related items are banned (including shoes, accessories, jackets… all of it)
  3. All cosmetic-related items are banned
  4. All electronic items, like devices and apps are banned
  5. I can replace items if they become utterly unusable and I’m rendered totally compromised without them (like when eventually every sock in my drawer has worn through, or when my aging laptop computer finally croaks. Although I do hope the computer survives to 2014. It would make me a very happy woman.)
  6. Purchases for old world crafts that promote self-reliance and independence are allowed. These are things like yarn or fabric to make a warmer scarf when another snowmageddon hits, for example. Plus, it’s fuel for the soul… and falls under Maslow’s “self-fulfillment needs”. A girl’s got to have a creative outlet somewhere. There is a cap on craft items though. Can’t be a complete free for all.
  7. The day of my birthday is exempt from the buy ban – I get to treat myself for a day of pampering. Still, moderation is the name of the game here. It shouldn’t be an excuse to go crazy.

The first year I did a buy ban was in 2011. I managed to make it all the way from January 1st until November 30th until I broke down at the annual One of  Kind Show in Toronto while I was shopping for Christmas gifts. I had read about a group of women who had decided to ban shopping for 6 months to see if they could get by on their existing wardrobes. At that time, I decided to try for a year. It was difficult at first, but as time went on, it became second nature. When the only answer to “should I buy that” is “no”, it’s abundantly simple. By the time November came around, I couldn’t believe I had made it 11 months. Of course, it made buying the item that broke my buy ban all the harder… which is partly the point.

This year, I’m gunning for the full 12 months. No exceptions. This doesn’t mean I’m not looking at nice things – I just can’t buy them this year. And I can get creative. More on that in a future post.

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