Monday, January 3, 2011

Project 2011: Buy Less, Give More

As is customary in many households this time of year, the better part of last week was spent cleaning out closets and drawers and toy chests and just about any nook and cranny I could find the time to get to.  The picture below is what was unearthed, picked through and determined to be too small, too babyish, too out of date, or just too much.  Too much stuff for this house of ours with limited space and storage.  In all, I filled six 40 gallon trash bags and four 20 gallon trash bags.  At first it felt good to see those bags of 'stuff' hauled off to Goodwill. 
But then, it started to feel wrong.  Wrong that our family could bring so much stuff into our home in a single year and then just dispose of it.  I started to think about all the other things that the money spent could have been used for.  And I started to think of ways that we, I, could change.  At first I started small, and then my ideas kept growing until they took a life of their own.  If there ever was a year in my life that it was all about
Me, than 2010 it was.  If there ever was a year to start changing, than 2011 it is.

How would it look for a slightly fashion-obsessed person like me to change not only my spending and buying habits over the course of a year, but my giving habits as well?  A person who has made a career in the very industry that facilitates the need and desire for more.  A person trained and experienced in the art of buying and selling high-end clothing.  A person that loves fashion, design, good food & wine, and is a sucker for any eye cream that promises to slow down the aging process.  A person that loves and appreciates nice things, but that also sees the value in a dollar saved.  A person that wants to learn the value in a dollar given...
How would it then look if that person used her blog as an accountability tool with set goals and rules to abide by, and at the end of each month recapped her purchases and whether goals were met and rules were followed?  And in the process of learning to change her buying habits, she learned to change her giving habits as well.
 Well friends, you're about to find out what it looks like for a girl like me, who started pouring over fashion magazines and catalogs at the age of 10, to dramatically alter the way she thinks about buying, spending, and giving.  Starting in January, I will set an all-encompassing monthly budget to include all 'luxury' items that I purchase for our family.  The budget will include clothes I buy for the entire family, household items (decor, gadgets, appliances, etc.), games and toys for the kids, arts and craft items, and beauty products.  At the end of each month I will write a post on how I fared and talk about successes and shortcomings.  I will check in throughout the month though, and let you know how I'm doing.  Perhaps ask for you to weigh in on purchases I'm contemplating. 
While I cannot commit to doing a crash diet and halting all spending for a period of time, I can commit to being more thoughtful about the items I purchase, and in turn learn healthier spending habits while still allowing myself to occasionally indulge in a guilty pleasure now and then. 

To take it a step further, how about if we help each other out and do this together?  If you're interested, I'll create a "linky party".  But can we change the name of it to something else, I strongly dislike the term linky party, it sounds so festive?  You could do it for one month or all year long, whatever you're feeling in the mood for.  Perhaps we can both inspire and encourage each other along the way.

To help myself learn healthier spending habits, I spent some time making a list of the common pitfalls I fall into, and subsequently, some tools and rules to avoid those pitfalls.  The areas I'd like to affect are:
  • Clothing Purchases: Focus on buying higher quality items that may be a larger investment upfront, but will last longer therefore I'll spend less money in the long run.  Watch out for trendy items, remember I'm turning 35 this year.  Avoid "running in" to stores at the local shopping center.  I will always find something to buy.  For the kids, buy fewer items but more frequently so they don't outgrow clothes by the time they can wear them (i.e. don't buy fall clothes in the summer), and be mindful of their quirks and sensitivities - I can no longer force them to wear certain clothes!  They have choices and opinions.  Lastly, avoid those attractive discount events like Friends & Family and Give & Get as a time to stock pile, but instead use them as a time to buy a couple of key items that don't usually go on sale.
  • Toys & Games: Purchase toys and games during birthdays and Christmas time only.  For "rewards", focus on special outings and one-on-one time, instead of material purchases.  Also, create an ongoing wish-list (try Wishpot for example) for friends and family so they can receive items that they want and need.  Focus on quality vs. quantity.
  • Home Improvement & Craft Projects: Plan ahead, take inventory of supplies and materials already on hand, consult the sewing pattern so I determine the correct amount of yardage needed and don't just guess.  Guessing is a time and money waster.  Use what we have in the arts and crafts closet first before I buy more supplies.
  • Target: Yes, Target deserves it's own category.  Make a list and don't deviate.  Plain and simple.  
Along the way I'll share tips I use to determine making purchases, common mistakes I've made when forming my wardrobe, and the one rule I always consider when making large ticket purchase like a handbag or a pair of boots.  I have a lot to learn in the other areas though.  Hopefully some of you can teach me a thing or two.

Tomorrow I'll post the second part of the Project 2011, the GIVE part.  I think for now I've written a long enough novel.

Before I end this post, I wanted to take a minute to thank Jules from Pancakes & French Fries for her help in the planning of this series.  It was very important to me to avoid coming across as just another "suburbanite" trying to "live intentionally."  I knew I could count on Jules to honestly tell me the truth and she did, and in the process she gave me some invaluable advice and organizational tips that I would have never considered.  Only someone who takes blogging as seriously as Jules would take the time to tweet and email back and forth with me on New Years Eve.  So thanks Jules, you are the bees knees! 

While in reality I may just be another suburbanite trying to live intentionally, I can accept that.  I know my little project here is not going to change the world or save lives, but if it changes a bit of me, my family, and my community, I'll take it.  I hope you'll come back tomorrow for Part 2. 


  1. I am SO with you on this! I find the same thing - too much stuff in too small a space. Honestly, my daughter has so many clothes that I have to cram stuff into her drawers. And while we could probably all stand the seasonal "spring cleaning," I want to learn how to live without such excess! I'll be back to see your plan unfold and will be putting your tips and my own plan into practice.

  2. I happened on to your blog and I'm so happy I did. I like that you're not saying, "I'm not buying anything," but rather being mindful about what you purchase. I'm looking forward to following you on this journey.

  3. Even if you are "just another surburbanite trying to live intentionally" what a wonderful way to live! Can you imagine what this world could be like if we surburbanites focused on consuming less and giving more? Pretty great, if you ask me.

    Can't wait to see the give portion - we've been thinking about this a lot at our house too.

  4. Like it, need it. A stab went through me after the Target part. Looking forward to what is coming next...

  5. Something right up my alley and in need of doing.. the biggest thing use of the debit card and more using cash..

  6. can't wait to see these posts unfold. i, too, am aiming for my intentional purchases this year. my own personal goal is to limit the cheaper purchases in exchange for items that i actually save for. (and yes, target seems to be a problem for us all... why is that??)

  7. Sounds like a great plan! Good luck. I'm not a shopper so I can't join you there but I too will be trying to do better in many ways this year.

    Happy New Year my friend!

  8. You've articulated this so well! I must say too that, if you are able to stick to just your list at Target, that must be a post in itself..

    We have taken many of the same pledges as you this year - the one we are most guilty of is the material things and running in for "something quick" for the kids. That stood out to us after this last Christmas.

    We started on the give part last year... I used to sell almost everything I could on craigslist or where-ever, but now I can't sell it. I have to find someone that could use it. Toys, clothes, kid stuff. I am so blessed to be given things like this from people that have kids older than mine, that once I started doing the same the happiness has been amazing. ( I'll sell big stuff if I can't find someone I know that can really benefit )

    Good luck, I look forward to following your journey!

    ( sorry for the lengthy reply.. you inspired me )

  9. Loved this post, Andrea. Especially since I had a Target experience today. In my defense, I did put the black beret back at the last second.
    Does that count?

  10. Um, this is awesome! I just posted about my "linky party" (I didn't know what else to call it) on my blog and I'm thinking they go hand in hand pretty well. I go through phases of spending, so I'd love to be a part of what your doing to help me stay focused during those moments of want, want, and want.

    So, I'm about to buy several organizing containers for the pantry and closets. But your post has me thinking that first I should go through the house and find totes, baskets, bins, etc that I already have.

    Oh, and if you need a place to donate all of your amazing clothes I know of someone in Nebraska that would be happy to take them off your hands. ;o)

  11. Great idea! Maybe you can inspire me this year!

  12. LOVE this. We only use cash. Sounds ridiculous, but before we head out, we stop by the ATM with a plan. "Today we are going here and here...and we plan to spend x." We always end up going home with money leftover, and we never buy stuff that we didn't plan to. The only problem is when I hit up yard sales...sometimes my "x" that I PLAN to spend stretches a LOT further and I end up bringing home TONS of stuff that I shouldn't have. ;) Great goal though! Love it! (And all of those clothes could fit my little guy...should have asked to buy your oldies from you! Boo!)

  13. Love it and I'm in! Changing my spending habits too! I love that you aren't saying that you aren't buying things but just being more mindful. Good luck and I will be following along and tightening my belt as well :)

  14. What a great idea! I can't wait to read more...and participate myself!

  15. I love this. I've been thinking the same thing this weekend, and I've been planning in my mind and on paper how to make it work. I'm excited for the journey.

  16. I love this, so inspired...and totally see your heart!Now I totally get your Target tweet too...go Momma!

  17. I loved reading all the comments, filled with suggestions, advice, and confirmation that so many of us want and need a change, a bit more financial discipline and a lot less wasting. Thanks for all the support and I can't wait to see what 2011 has in store for this project!

  18. What a great idea!! I've been toying with the concept of not buying myself any clothes this year. But I hardly have any spring/summer stuff and I live in the land of the blazing sun, so I will probably get a few things then.

    One of my oldest friends is doing a protest of sorts against consumerism and fashion (sorry, I know that's your industry!) but you might be interested in it. She is wearing one dress every day for a year!

  19. i love this and feel the need to do the same. if we haven't touched in a few months it's out the door. it helps my mind to feel less cluttered and healthier. i think that what you are doing IS a big deal because it's the start of a new way of life and that is going to impact your family in a huge and awesome way. the little things like this are what add up to the life you want for yourself and your family. off to read #2...

  20. That's good! Everybody's up for saving this year. Yey! But let us not forget that it's fine to spend on basic needs, Andrea. I'm sure you can deprive yourself from buying clothes for at least three months. What I do though, I apply for payday loan (Utah) up to $600 to buy grocery supplies for three months so I don't have to worry about what to cook for the kids before they go to school. Packed lunches are also considered. Selling your old stuffs is a good start as well.

  21. I just happened to stumble upon this and LOVE it. The one that hit home with me most is leave the buying of toys to birthdays/Christmas and intead make rewards about time spent. I'm going to go read more about this now! Thanks for sharing.

  22. I love this post - I'm bookmarking it to reference! The last few months, I've taken stock of all of the "stuff" our family has. I held a big yard sale/craigslist sale to get rid of the extras. I still feel that we have too much, but I'm working on buying less, giving more too!

    Emily from Nap Time Is My Time


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