Today begins Eric and my exercise in non-consumption. For one year, we're going to purchase nothing that isn't necessary. No processed foods. Much less gas (we're trying to reduce driving by 50%). Much less electricity (50% reduction). No books, no music, no movies, no videos (this last won't be much of a hardship - my MIL gave us netflix last year, so we've got that for a while, but we won't renew unless she does). No junk food. No clothing. No toys. No meals out. No alcohol (given that I've been pregnant or nursing for the last 7 years, this won't be the hardship it sounds like to others). No reeses peanut butter cups (which to me do not fall in the category of junk, processed foods or non-essentials ordinarily ;-). No coffee or tea (we don't drink coffee, and we'll use up the tea we have or do without.) No magazine subscriptions, presents for anyone (we make 'em or do without.) No travel except mandatory work or to visit relatives, and a lot less of that.
We did buy a few things in advance, front-loading as we call it, mostly homeschooling materials for Simon for this year, and a few extra (but desperately needed, of course ;-P) books for me. And I've got a tiny stash of Reeses. Eric's got a couple of 12 packs of beer (he asked me, "Am I being rude if I don't offer guests beer, when I've only got 30 bottles for an entire year." My answer is "yes.") But when things run out, we will try not to replace them. The rule is that first, we make do or do without. If we can't, we then try and either fix it or make it ourselves. Last and only if we deem it impossible to live without do we replace it.
We will buy toilet paper, the components of food (no pre-made foods - not that we ate many, but the kids like pretzels and granola bars and I'm fond of a particular kind of sesame sauce, etc...). We'll buy the components to make gifts, if we cannot make them from what we have (sadly, this is not an excuse to purchase yarn, since I could make gifts for many thousands of people from the yarn I already possess, or so Eric estimates ;-).
Books will be the hard thing for me, I know. I read a lot and read fast. Eric will miss movies and music, and we'll both miss eating out. The kid will miss trips out for ice cream (we'll make ice cream at home instead), but they are young enough not to mind this very much, and over-indulged enough not to feel a drastic loss having to play with their many, many toys.
The thing is, we're on average far more frugal than most people in the culture - but there's a surprising amount of fat in our budget (not to mention the fat on me from the reeses and other indulgences - I'm hoping to lose some weight this year). And someone has to do it. Actually, people have done it - there's a book, one I'm working on now but recommend _Not Buying It_ by Judith Levine, about a couple that did the same. I admit, much as I like Ms. Levine's writing style (I do, quite a lot) and find her funny and erudite, I don't find myself drawing a lot of logical parallels. Much of the book is devoted to how much she misses entertainment - theater, art, musical performances and especially movies. Perhaps because I have four kids under 7, those joys are already mostly closed to me. I've been to three plays since Eli was born, one concert, and perhaps a dozen movies. I'm fine without it. She also misses buying clothes, something that I do only when roped and hogtied.
What will be hard for me is the pleasure of yard saling, of browsing used book stores, and of buying supplies to make things like quilts and knitted objects. And it will be hard to eliminate the convenience of not meeting people at restaurants. But mostly, it will be about gaining things - more time, more money for essentials (we will use some of the funds during the year to reinsulate our house and do other energy conservation activities), for tzedakah (1/4 of our savings will go to charity), and less thought about what I don't have, what I need, what I want. I suspect I'll enjoy it.
Wish me luck!