The Buy-Nothing Lifestyle: Lessons from a Frugal Experiment
Could you be ready for a lower-cost lifestyle? During the start of the year, many people resolve to make positive changes in their lives. They usually take on the goal to lose weight or to reduce their debt. But what about the "no buy" lifestyle? This sounds pretty extreme or somewhat absurd, but there are people who seem up to the challenge.
For instance, there's David Hochman, who was able to get through a whole month without spending beyond $100. In fact, his entire family was part of this frugal experiment. Their rules were simple: Other than the bare essentials, like fresh milk and fruit, the Hochman family would do its best not to buy anything.
While this sounds like a pretty extreme way of cutting costs, realize that this was just an experiment to determine how feasible it was to live on very little. (Although extreme saving is somewhat of a sport for some people.) David Hochman's Reader's Digest narration of his family's adventures reveals he learned quite a few things, among them:
- Their cupboards had a LOT of food that got them through the month. David's most priceless find: a can of black beans.
- The free food samples at Costco helped them get by with less.
- They could score some free stuff by answering surveys from sites like MySurvey.com.
- A plumbing emergency could actually be solved by a shot of dishwashing liquid poured into boiling water and poured down a drain that was threatening to regurgitate sewage.
- There are generous people out there who are willing to give useful things away. For instance, someone offered a free 52-inch plasma TV on Craigslist. (Well, the benefactor just didn't want his ex-wife to get the TV during their divorce proceedings, but that's another story.)
Towards the end of their frugal-living adventure, David and his family found it more and more difficult to keep things together. The pressure of sticking to this financial challenge was starting to affect their relationships, leading to frayed nerves. By the end of the month, they were bickering, feeling irritable and stressed out. Clearly, there is a downside to radical savings methods and forcing ourselves to adapt to very stringent, limited budgets.
On the other hand, there were also a lot of valuable lessons learned from this experience. Things turned out differently for David once the experiment was over. He had expected his family to return to its previous spending habits, but they didn't. Instead, David's family members stayed close to home and learned how to keep their frugal habits in place. Their experience with extreme frugal living allowed David and his family to realize that they could live on much less and to appreciate the things that they already have. By these measures, this experiment was a success.
David recalled a rich person once telling him, "Money is important only if you don't have any." Indeed, that can be a bit of a paradox: Most of us actually have so much, but it's a pity that we don't always appreciate the things we already have.
For more examples of extreme savings challenges, check out this list of one-year challenges that other folks have embarked on. Here's a look at a few of them:
- The Compact is a group of people from San Francisco who've made the commitment not to buy anything new for an entire year.
- The Great American Apparel Diet is an ongoing pledge you can make that involves not buying any new clothes for a year.
- What about promising to skip on dining out and entertainment for a year? Check out this blog called Not Eating Out in New York.
So how about you? Could you possibly learn to live on much less?