Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Games We Play

I'll be honest. I want a new computer. And a new iPod. And while we're at it, I wouldn't mind a new camera and a new cell phone.

Now since I'm a poor graduate student, I don't have the money for any of that stuff, but when I had a job, how did I deal with the temptation for shiny, new toys?

Well, I recognized that the shininess disappears relatively quickly. That there was always going to be a newer computer, and latest cell phone. That my finances and the environment would both be better off if I just held off buying new gadgets until the old ones finally and truly bit the dust.

But, man, that's so boringly principled, isn't it?

And as much as I love my principles, I have to admit that if I only had my principles, I wouldn't have lasted a year as a non-consumerist.

So, how did I do it?

Simple. I treated non-consumerism as a game. A game I wanted to win. And since I'm a fairly competitive person, I was definitely going to win. 

Instead of buying new stuff, I pretended to be MacGyver and figure out how to make do with the stuff I had on hand. Finding stuff used has become part of the adventure for me. I scoured Gumtree, Freecycle and charity shops looking for sweet deals. And when my computer was moving super slow, I tried to change my thinking from, "Augh! Want new computer!!" to "I wonder if I can last out another two months with this computer." Then my competitive streak would take over and I had to last out two months, and another two months, and another two months, and another two months.

Now that I'm no longer a stringent non-consumer, I still do all these things. But now and then, when I badly want or need something new, I also allow myself a once in a while splurge. For example, when I was in LA, my favorite pair of jeans ripped. I dutifully went to the thrift store where I found pair after pair of super fugly jeans. So I went to Nordstrom's and bought a pair of Citizen's jeans. They were expensive, but they were also gorgeous, they fit my body perfectly, and frankly, I hadn't bought a single pair of jeans in three years. And I don't regret buying them at all, nor do I feel any guilt about it. Because it's not something I regularly do, but once in a while, we all need a treat.

What mind games do you play to get yourself to live in accordance with your environmental principles? You still have a day to enter the APLS carnival hosted by Cath.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering when we going to see a post about the famous jeans!!! I hear Citizens is going to rename them the Arduous style.
--Ms. V.

hmd said...

I usually remind myself of one of two things:

1) how much of the food budget it would eat up and

2) how long I could live off that money/how much salary it would take

That does the trick.

Green Bean said...

Me likey! When I kept track of stuff for Riot for Austerity, I felt VERY competitive and would try to meet my numbers month after month. It was fun and worked.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Funny how you mentioned the jeans... My favorite pair ripped on the knee a few weeks ago. I've been trying to last wearing other jeans, but sometimes I end up wearing them out to the grocery store with the rip. The other ones are too tight, too dark, too dressy... they're just not perfect like the ones that ripped. I think I'm going to patch them, but that might look worse than the rip... Since I've had them for like 3 years, I may just have to buy a new pair and hope they last as long!!!

Sam said...

Hey I have the same experience with jeans too. I happen to really like the button fly (I'm absent minded and zippers are just an embarrassment waiting to happen). I've never been able to find those types of jeans in a thrift store.

Even letting go of that desire, I find the crappiest jeans in the thrift store. Can never find something that flatters my very-ripe-for-child-bearing body. I finally broke down and bought a pair of jeans from Nordstorms a few weeks back. Love it from every angle.

lauren said...

That new ipod, camera, phone, and (sorta) computer could be had in an iphone. How do I resist that temptation?

Farmer's Daughter said...

Broke down and bought a new pair of levi's today... I'll be cutting off my holey ones and saving the scraps for future patches.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Jeans are tough from the thrift store because they stretch to fit the shape of the person wearing them. Here's an idea for your old jeans, though...When I was growing up, my mom saved all of our jeans, and when we graduated from high school, she made each of us a quilt made with squares from our old jeans. It is the most durable and warm quilt I own. If sewing's not your thing (it's not mine), you should ask around and see if anyone wants your old jeans for a quilt. Might be someone on Freecycle. They really make awesome quilts!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Ruchi, you are hilarious (and a little bit scary).

Lauren, the iPhone tormented me soooo badly. I really wanted one, but I knew I didn't need one, and couldn't justify buying one.

But I wanted one so badly.

Since I have a bad habit of repeating these kinds of thoughts out loud, my husband got entirely sick of the whole thing, and went out and bought one for me at the first opportunity.

And hey, I couldn't possibly turn down a gift, right?


Anonymous said...

Lauren, the iPhone tormented me soooo badly. I really wanted one, but I knew I didn't need one, and couldn't justify buying one.

See, I could get past all that but, I am a man of principles. I shall not tolerate injustice. "Non-cooperation with evil is a moral duty", and Rogers, ladies and gentlemen, IS evil (What, quoting Mahatma Gandhi for a stupid iPhone is childish ? OK, sue me...).

Going Crunchy said...

Good for you Ard! I kept a "green notebook" for a while that helped me get it in check. I'd have to write down what I spent so I could see it plain and simple in front of me.

I also wrote down what I thought I "needed." This eliminated impulse buying. If something remained on the list for a while it was deemed more of an actual "need" then a want.

Sounds tedious, but after a few months it helped me see where my money was going and what resources I was using.

Anonymous said...

We've played this game with food by challenging ourselves to see how many meals we could get out of what we had, thus postponing a trip to the store. Last time we made it three weeks!

Sometimes we have to tailor this approach because my family has two distinct strands of competition. My husband and youngest prefer competing against other people while my oldest and I like to compete against ourselves.

Mint has actually been a great budgeting tool for us because I can track our spending against prior spending while my husband can see where we are compared with others. Both approaches help us hold off on unnecessary spending.

Anonymous said...

Having been the poor grad student (and then poor person paying off the student loans!) I used to tell myself to hold off on the latest and greatest, as prices would come down as the newness wore off. (That being said, I was still talked into spending $200 for a DVD player by my husband when they first came out! Sigh...)

Now, years later, I hang on to things for as long as I can, to lessen the amount of things in the landfills.