January was my buy-nothing month. And by “buy nothing,” I mean I purchased a camera that costs hundreds of dollars on January 1st, and then decided to make up for the subsequent hole in my wallet by avoiding other frivolous purchases such as beauty products, fast food, and lovely warm coffee drinks that I enjoy almost every day. In addition to saving money, I figured this would be a good test of my will-power. I’m going to start off by saying I failed, but before you shake your head in disappointment, rest assured that I came up with a back-up plan.
I was lucky enough to get a Starbucks gift card for Christmas from my landlord, so that helped take care of the coffee problem. Feeling pretty good about myself, I became a bit more empowered every time I didn’t eat out or buy some cute item I saw. But then I chose to go to both the Banff Film Festival and an Oilers game on the same weekend (frivolous for sure, but our good friend Lara can explain both purchases, just not on the blog-o-sphere—sorry ladies). It went downhill from there.
Even though I was able to keep most of my dollars in my pocket after that weekend splurge of films, hockey games, and obligatory game day hot dogs/soft pretzels, I had a huge hurdle looming: Georgia. Georgia = tempting travel expenses, splurges on food and treats, and an adorable, present-worthy niece and new nephew. Granted, this trip was to serve as our family Christmas and I hadn’t planned ahead for my buy-nothing month by making gifts, so I was feeling a tad bit justified in any upcoming spending. After all, is a Prance-a-Pony unicorn for my niece REALLY a frivolous purchase?
Don’t answer that.
Georgia came and Georgia went; my mom and sister were gracious and treated me to 90% of the coffee I consumed. But now as I reached the end of my buy-nothing month I was presented with a problem—my bank statement. Somehow I’ve managed to wind up a couple hundred dollars poorer. I asked myself what good was an exercise in frugality and will-power if neither occurred? I needed to come up with some sort of remedy that wasn’t synonymous with punishment. Should I extend my buy-nothing month for another week? Should I put the equivalent amount I had spent into my savings account? Neither of these options seemed right; not buying something for a week is easy, and I always have the option of taking the money right back out of savings. I decided instead to increase my Kiva account amount by the amount of unnecessary money I spent in January (note: if you’re not familiar with Kiva, check it out: http://www.kiva.org/). One may ask, how will decreasing your account balance even MORE satisfy a lesson in will-power and frugality? My argument is that this month also made me consider the value of each purchase I made. I decided that if I placed a value of $xx.xx on Oiler’s games and film festivals, I certainly valued the idea of giving back to my community just as much. Hopefully from this point forward, I’ll think about how easy it was to throw a few extra dollars in the collection plate once in a while instead of buying a latte. But to be clear to my coffee break partners: I’m not planning on eschewing ALL future coffee outings—they are necessary for my sanity—perhaps just choosing a tall instead of a grande more often than not.
On a completely different note, let’s get on to what prompted this buy-nothing-month in the first place—my new camera. It’s definitely a starter DSLR (Canon Rebel T3i), but it was easiest on my budget and will be perfect for learning some tricks while in the meantime allowing my bank account to refuel before I eventually upgrade. I have been wanting, pining for, and whining about a single-lens-reflex camera ever since I was in high school. Over ten years later, I finally got over my hemming and hawing cheap self and put the money down. My first subjects were my niece and new nephew; after one week and over 700 shots later, here are some of my favorites. This counts as a craft, right?
As far as doing another buy-nothing month, I think I'd like to try it again sometime and be a bit more strict on myself. But I think I'll wait until my birthday month--chances are good I might get another Starbucks gift card to help me out.