The 123 Day “Buy Nothing New” Challenge

Day 2

The Challenge is to not buy anything new for 123 days. Why 123 days? Because I was inspired by this article 7 Eye Opening Lessons I Learned from Buying Nothing New for 200 days on 8/31 and 123 days was exactly the duration until New Year’s. The thought process is, if I can make it to New Year’s, I’ll be poised to kick off a fresh new year armed with new and improved (and considerably less prodigious) shopping habits. And YES, the Challenge encompasses Christmas, so it’s not for sissies.

The Challenge encourages alternatives to buying new, such as: thrifting, recycling, free-cycling, borrowing, making or (gasp!) just going without. What other ways can you think of to “not buy anything new”?

The Rules

I’m sure everyone has their own definition of what constitutes “new” and since I’m embarking on this Challenge as a personal goal, I’ll leave it up to you to decide what’s new to you. As for myself, here are my personal guidelines.

What I will allow myself to buy:

  • Food – of course.
  • Services/supplies needed to do my job – Internet service, phone service, printer ink, gas for the car, etc.
  • School supplies – This time of year I’m sure all parents got a list of “needed supplies” from their kids’ school, as did I. I’m not here to fight the system, so I will comply to the list. Keeping in mind of course that notebooks, paper, pencils and even packs of Crayola markers are supplies the kids need to do THEIR job, but a Hello Kitty backpack…. not so much. I have a perfectly serviceable and “like new” backpack from last year.
  • Clothing basics – Socks, underwear, basic shoes, coats etc.
  • Experiences – Movie or concert tickets, restaurant meals, plane tickets, admission to museums, beaches, parks, etc.

What I will avoid buying:

  • Gifts for Kids – This one is going to be a challenge, especially this time of year when my kid is getting invited to a birthday party every 30 seconds. I really don’t think the birthday child needs another crappy plastic toy and the parents surely don’t want to end up tripping over it anyway. I’ll have to come up with some creative alternatives.
  • Gifts for Adults – You people are old. You don’t need anything. If I really like you, I might make you something. If I really, really like you, I might intend to make you something but then never do it, but you’ll understand. We’re good.
  • Holiday gifts – No, no, no and no. I’m sure Jesus was a swell guy but I sincerely doubt he wants me racking up a huge VISA bill and gifting useless widgets so that I can prove my love for my friends and family. I’m going to go Handmade Holidays all the way, yikes its already September – better get started on this one!
  • Random stuff I don’t need – Sure, it’s cool. But what does it do? What’s it for? Do I need it? Do I already have something else that “does” pretty much the same thing? Are there any adequate substitutes? Can I just live without it? I’ll lie down until the feeling passes.
  • Books – This one is a no-brainer. Used bookstore, eBooks, thrift store, my Dad’s bookcase, etc.
  • Specialty kitchen gadgets –Have you ever watched Jacques Pepin’s cooking show? Do you see what tools he uses: a knife. Done.
  • Housewares – Since I’m already trending towards Tiny House, I certainly don’t need or want any more housewares. In fact, I’ve been feverishly free-cycling the fodder I have already. This one will be no problem for me.
  • Furniture – Again, Tiny House. I’m trying to GET RID of furniture.
  • Specialty clothes or shoes – Anything that’s going to get worn once and then end up getting archived in the closet forever, such as New Year’s dresses, holiday outfits, a dress for Cousin Kitty’s wedding… forget it. I’ll thrift it, borrow it or dress up something I already have.
  • Work clothes – I hate work. I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy any new clothes for it.

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes” – Henry David Thoreau

  • Store bought decorations – A true testament to the overload of holiday décor is the fact they now make Halloween “trees”… and people buy them. No. Just no. There is enough beauty in nature to trick out my home for fall and even for Christmas. Contrary to what Michael’s would have you believe, there is a there is a natural source for pine cones… it’s called the ground.
  • Costumes – I don’t personally dress up for Halloween because I’m not eight, but I surely have enough old t-shirts or sweat shirts to whip up any Ninja Turtle or Teen Titan that my son could dream up.
  • Christmas Tree – No. I will not spend $80 to kill a perfectly nice tree that probably took 15-20 years to grow (not to mention all the gas and pollution that was incurred to truck it down there from Canada) only to toss its crispy, brown carcass on a snow bank a month later. I’ll make a DIY tree, thrift a fake tree or skip the damn tree.
  • Craft supplies – This rather flies in the face of the Handmade Holidays, but I’m sure I have enough craft supplies for holiday gifting into the next decade.
  • Fabric – Seriously, I reached S.A.B.L.E. (Stash Already Beyond Life Expectation) years ago. My real challenge will be to get rid of the fabric. Besides, I’m into knitting now.

My goals for this Challenge are to: save money, consume fewer resources, tread with a lighter footprint and to learn a greater appreciation of experiences over possessions.

Who wants to join me?

Granite is for sheep: 10 Reasons Not to Install Granite Countertops

You wouldn't take home dec advice from US, would you?
You wouldn’t take home decorating advice from us, would you?

I am still trying to sell my house, affectionately known as the great White Whale. I had it on the market in 2010-2012, over two years. Nothing. I’m getting ready to put it back on the market because I’ve been told (by my THIRD real estate agent) that the market is finally improving. I’m thinking about “what do I have to do THIS time to be successful where I failed so miserably before?”.

During the previous attempts, the number one impediment to any interest whatsoever for potential buyers appeared to be my home’s total lack of granite. Thanks to those rat-bastards at HGTV, most home buyers appear to believe that granite counter tops are the epitome of class, style, beauty, and (most importantly) and indicator that you have some major bucks to trash. Yay, you!

I never took the bait. I did not install granite, not in the kitchen, not in the baths…. no where. My house didn’t sell. I had two different agents under contract during that time. They both insisted if I just threw down for the granite, my house would sell. It’s not that I didn’t believe them, I did believe in the sheep-like conformity that is suburban America. Although I was sure granite would make my house more attractive to potential buyers, I was thoroughly indignant about it. I just could not bring myself to spend many thousands of dollars for the purposes of abject compliance. I just wanted to believe there were some buyers out there somewhere that could indeed think for themselves.

For those of you who might fall into this category (good for ewe!), please consider:

10 Reasons Not to Install Granite Counter Tops

  1. Aesthetic Appeal – Granite is just ugly. It looks like rock. If I wanted to eat on a big rock, I’d go outside and have a picnic. Our ancestors spent tens of thousands of years evolving so we could live indoors in nice houses and not have to eat on top of a big old rock. You want to devolve now?
  2. Your Dominant Design Element – Granite is so “loud” and so “busy” it will force itself to be your dominant design element. You won’t be able to have an interesting tile back splash, you will be forced to have neutral coloring for your walls.  You won’t even be able to display nice things on your counter tops because they will get lost in the visual fray.
  3. Unpredictability – Granite is a natural material, subject to all kinds of variations. That picture perfect sample you saw in the Home Depot showroom might arrive at your house as a big, old ugly slab with a nasty vein or streak running through it. That is going to look like crap.
  4. Price – Granite can be as expensive as $80-110 and up per square foot. That is 5 times as much as a high quality laminate. Do you really have that much money to throw at the place where you are going to let last Saturday’s spaghetti dinner dishes sit for 3 days?
  5. The Install – Granite comes is a big slab which has to be cut up into pieces to cover your lovely cabinetry. There are going to be unsightly seams. Based on your layout, there could be a lot of wasted material. You are paying for all that waste. Don’t forget, you are going to have to reinforce your cabinets to handle the weight of an elephant!
  6. Next Big Thing is Already Here – Granite is going out of style. Those lovely people at HGTV that forced this granite notion on the populace in the first place have a new love. It’s called engineered quartz. And it’s even more expensive than granite.
  7. Good Enough for Burger King – If your local Burger King has granite counter tops in its “dining room” and bathrooms, is granite really a “luxury” material anymore?
  8. Maintenance – I have enough butts to wipe in my daily life, I don’t need a counter top that demands as much attention. Any surface that can’t handle oily substances (sorry olive oil, I can’t use you for your health benefits, you might stain!) has no place in my kitchen. For those of you who were asleep in 9th grade Earth Science class, granite is a rock, its porous, that means liquids are going to soak into it. Enough said.
  9. The Joneses – Just because “everyone else has it”, doesn’t make it a good idea. In the U.S. 58% of the population has the herpes simplex 1 virus, but that doesn’t make cold sores a good idea.
  10. It’s Only a Horizontal Surface – At the end of the day, your counter top is merely a workbench upon which you construct your daily life. You are going to prepare food, arrange flowers, collect bills, do homework. Any surface will do. Your kitchen will be beautiful because of what you chose to do in the space, not what the space is made out of.

As for the White Whale, he’s getting a laminated counter top and that’s how I plan to take him to the market. Stay tuned to see if I end up regretfully  bashing my skull on slab of Galaxy Black.

The 10 Stages of Unemployment

Out of work? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics,  6.7% of Americans (roughly 10.5 million) are unemployed right now. So, if you are among the employment-challenged, you are not alone. You are probably wondering, “When is it going to end?!” As for the economics of the situation, I could not say. But you can gauge your relative recovery based on this handy guide below. Which stage are you presently mired in?


The 10 Stages of Unemployment – A Useful Guide

  1. Shock/Disbelief – “What? I’m being let go? And that useless toad Stanley gets to keep HIS job?”
  2. Anger – “What about my incredibly successful project that made the company so much money? Did that mean NOTHING? Those ungrateful jerks!”
  3. Sorrow – “I can’t believe I lost my job! I have no money! People are laughing at me! I’m going to the grocery store during the day and reading Facebook. I’m worthless!”
  4. Uncontrolled Weeping – Repeat #3 for a few more weeks.
  5. Resolve – “I didn’t like that job anyway. I’ll find a BETTER job!”
  6. Motivation for Revenge – “I’ll ‘Connect’ with everyone I know on LinkedIn so when I get a new and more awesome job, they will all see it…. and they can SUCK IT!”
  7. Despair – “Why won’t anyone hire me? I haven’t had an interview in 6 weeks! And that last HR guy was a complete tool”. Repeat for many, many months.
  8. Selling Stuff on Craig’s list – “I wasn’t really using that anyway. And I just made 50 bucks!”
  9. Rallying – “I just KNOW this one is going to be the one! No, no, wait…. THIS one….”
  10. The Moment of Clarity – “Oh, man. This new job is just as bad as the last one. How long until lunch?”



4 Smart Ways to Not Buy Stuff

In today’s consumerism-driven society, it seems that accumulating more stuff  has become a national pastime, not to mention a huge money sink. We’ve all heard the old adage “the best way to make more money is to spend less money” but  that is easier said than done. Here are some suggestions for how to avoid both spending money and accumulating more stuff:

1. Take a break, not a trip to the mall. I’m sure I speak for more than just myself when I say I go to the store all the time for reasons other than “I need something”. I go because I’m bored, I’m sick of being in the house, I’m sick of being at the office, I’m sick of my kids making so much racket, I just want a change of scenery, I just want to get away from people and things that are annoying me. I think busy moms often feel they need an “excuse” to step away for a minute, and taking time for ourselves is not “useful” or “productive” or *GASP* may even be seen as TIME WASTING. We have to use some excuse… such as “I need to go to the store for X”. So, before you know it, you are wandering through Target or the Mall, spending money under the auspices of picking up something you “need”. Instead of going shopping, give yourself permission to just go take a break. Go to the park, go for a walk, read a book, go sit in Panera and work on your knitting… just give yourself a break. You’ve earned it!

Vintage Ad from 1942 - If You Don't Need It, Don't Buy It
Vintage Ad from 1942 – If You Don’t Need It, Don’t Buy It

2. Sales and coupons are wily, seductive mistresses. I love sales and coupons. The retailers are still making plenty of profit even if they do give you the discounts, so why should you pay full price EVER, right? Smart thinking, but only if you were intentionally setting out to fulfill some need. For example, tennis lessons are starting and little Janey doesn’t have a racquet, oh, look a coupon! Happiness!  However, if you randomly stumble upon a sale or a coupon, the utility of the promoted item does not increase just because its price decreased. Sure, the donut maker is on sale, 50% off and you do love donuts, but seriously – you don’t need a donut maker. Even if you had one, you know you are going to use it once (and yes, it is abundantly cool!) then go back to the Dunkin’s drive-thru on your way to work.

3. Don’t go in there. If you don’t go into the store in the first place, you can avoid buying stuff. Sounds obvious, right? Think about why you are going and is there an adequate substitute. Are you going because you actually need to buy food? Are you sure? Did you check the cabinets? Are you applying any creativity to your meal preparation? Sure, all you have in the house is some chicken and a can of lima beans, and you don’t want chicken. Go on line and find a new recipe, I’m sure you can work with what you have. By avoiding an impromptu trip to the grocery store, you won’t pick up a bag of cheese puffs and a suitcase of Coke, either. And don’t make a trip to Home Depot just to buy a $1.99 bags of screws. You know you are going to come back with three new houseplants, a screen door and some cool laser widget that helps you hang up a picture straight. You don’t need any of that! There is probably a perfectly good screw lying in that junk drawer in the kitchen. Just use that.

4. Catch and release. Many times, buying something is the result of the excitement of finding it in the first place, then the enthusiasm quickly fades after the money has been spent. Did you ever buy something then once you get it home, you don’t use it or almost immediately stop caring about it? Little kids get criticized for this all the time: they want some cheap, plastic toy they see in the store, you buy it and then 2 minutes later they don’t care about it anymore. Adults are just as guilty of this behavior, only their purchases are often a lot more expensive. Next time you think you want something, pick it up, hold it, put in in your cart and carry it around a bit. Sometimes, that excitement is all you need. Do the rest of your shopping then take an inventory before you check out. Do you really still want it? Yeah, it was cool to find a vintage style Coca Cola t-shirt with the old logo from the 80’s on it, but am I REALLY going to ever wear that? I enjoyed “owning” it for the 10 minutes it was in my cart so now I’m going to put it back and let someone else enjoy it.

How to discover your life’s passion (in 30 minutes or less)

Being currently unemployed (yeah, me!) I spend a lot of time looking for a job, reading articles about successfully acquiring a job, etc. I hear a lot of lip service being paid to the concept of “passion”. “We want individuals who are passionate about what they do”. Fine, but what does that really mean?

Find Your Passion


Our friends at Merriam-Webster define passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something”.

Are you passionate about something if you talk about it all the time? If it occupies all of your waking thoughts plus that time when you are lying in bed right before you go to sleep? If you say it enough does that make it true? If you tell all your friends and Facebook followers that your passion is writing the Great America Novel, but you spend all of your spare time experimenting with vegan baking recipes, then the novel is not your passion. It’s the vegan treats. If you never DO anything about it, it’s not your passion. If you are really passionate about something, it manifests itself in actions not just a lot of jabber.

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.

– Oprah Winfrey

So how can you find out what your life’s passion is? You can start by making an inventory of what you actually do all day. OK, a lot of that is going to be useless crap – I’m pretty sure the bulk of my day is spent cleaning up other people’s socks and underwear and getting squished pomegranate out of my kitchen tile grout, but that is not my passion, that’s just stuff I have to do to keep the family running.

Think about when you have free time and you are not at work or commuting or taking care of the family (I know, that window is getting narrower and narrower but stay with me), what do you actually do? Do you read? Write? Knit? Sew? Exercise? Plan exotic vacations? Optimize you stock portfolio? What is it? If you are still not sure, just write down everything you did in the last week, or yesterday, or as much as you can remember. Then, try to prioritize what activity did you engage in the most? Remember, it doesn’t count if you just thought about doing it even if it’s been on your “to do” list for a year.

You should be getting a pretty clear picture by now. And if your top pick is turning out to be “sleeping”, well, you probably have some health and fitness issues that need to be addressed first. But getting back to the topic at hand, I have a friend who had an interesting and diverse career in corporate recruiting, admissions for a music school and some other things I probably don’t even know about. She always talked about music, music therapy and other music-related topics. But aside from working in admissions at that music school, she never really did anything about it. To hear her talk, you would think music was her passion, but it wasn’t really. She never actioned on it.

After the birth of her second child, she was feeling very out of shape and suffering from bouts of depression. She became involved in a fitness program initially out of pure need to combat the fatigue (both mental and physical) that many new moms encounter. In short order, she found that she just loved fitness, not only as an activity to keep the pounds off and the spirits up, but as a life pursuit. She’s now a Wellness Coach for a popular fitness brand. She is now passionate about her work and her daily life. She shares her enthusiasm for fitness with her friends, her clients and new people she meets every day. She’s found her passion: something that she is excited about every day, something that occupies not just her thoughts but also her actions.

Now, what is your life’s passion?