Going Whole Days Without Buying Anything Is Really Empowering

Lanesisland_2I was baking a cake when I lived out on Vinalhaven a couple years ago. An angelfood cake. From scratch. I didn’t realize a springform pan was required until I was halfway through the recipe. What most of us would do at this point is run out and go buy a pan. But on a little island, there is no kitchen store. There was, however, Carla.

I called around amongst my friends for a springform pan. My friend Liz was living with Carla, who had enough cake pans for a cake pan museum. She even asked me what kind of springform pan I wanted. Incredible.

So on Vinalhaven, even when there were days I could have easily bought something, I was forced to improvise or wait until the next time I was in Rockland. There were multiple days were I bought nothing, often at least 3 or 4 in a row. I decided to carry on this practice into my non-island life.

Commerce-free days are days when I don’t buy anything. Not a coffee, not a tube of lipstick. You’ll be amazed when you see, "Wow, I’ve gone two days without spending any money!" You feel so disciplined and self reliant. Here are a few of my favorite tips to a commerce free day.

1. Make your own coffee/tea/iced tea/work treat. When I first moved to a town with a coffee shop, I got one everyday. It was a dollar and something I really had missed having access to. Then I realized one month that I spend $30. On coffee!

At the beginning of April, I bought a pound of my favorite coffee from my local coffee shop (in case you’re curious Rock City Coffee’s Jet roast) and some creamer. I used the french press in the company breakroom to make coffee whenever I felt like it. It’s been over a month and about 1/4 of the bag is gone. I think I’m getting my money’s worth, not to mention the chance to peruse a magazine while it brews.

Your weakness may not be coffee. But make that reward you give yourself during your work day something you can make yourself. (You’ll see it really add up at the end of the month, trust me!)

2. Borrow, don’t buy. I’m not a baker. I needed a springform cake pan once, so why go out and buy one? Borrowing from neighbors, friends, and the library is not only economical but a great way to meet people or learn more about people you already know. (For example, in talking to Carla, I found out why my baguettes never came out baguette-y… I apparently need a form!)

3. Have someone teach you. Michaela and my mom taught me to use a sewing machine so now I don’t need a tailor. Sean taught me how to beat eggs to stiff peaks by hand so I’ve never bought a mixer. You are surrounded in your life by people who know how to do things. Rather than paying someone to "just do it", learn the skill yourself. Family and friends also accept a currency that is appreciated by many of us: pizza and never-ending gratitude.

4. Lead yourself not unto temptation. Don’t shop recreationally. Stay away from stores, both online and in person. Make yourself stick to the list if you go in a large store where you need just one or two things. Do what you have to do to avoid the commercialism if you are tempted, even if it means taking a different route home from work to avoid stripmalls or taking your credit card out of your wallet before going with a friend to your favorite store.

5. Do what you have to do. This is your personal journey but if you need to buy cold medicine to sedate you enough to sleep through the fog, do it. Commerce-free days should allow you to think about your purchases, not to make you completely miserable.

I urge you to see how many commerce-free days you can get in. Try it in May then look at your budget at the end of the month. You may be amazed by yourself, which you probably should be more often. I mean, you are pretty great, and you don’t need extra stuff to prove it.

Photo: No Willams Sonoma for you on your Maine island of choice.    

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