I have made great progress on this, getting rid of tons of stuff we don't need. There is actually empty space on the bookshelf, and I am making progress on our garage every day- I even have several empty plastic storage bins now (and I may even just get rid of those)! I have sold stuff on Craigslist and eBay and given a ton of stuff away on Freecycle. Life is getting simpler.
When Marc and I were looking at our finances this week, we realized something. Although we are in a better place financially this year than we have ever been, our beautiful spreadsheet and perfect financial planning now shows us how we keep getting into an ugly cycle of debt- we spend more than we make. (Duh... and we are not alone in this. Sadly, this is most of America). The way that my salary works, I get bonuses (which are kind of bonuses, but not really, since I sort of count on them) twice a year, and we usually end up paying off our debt with these bonuses or other money that is not regular monthly income (gifts, tax returns, etc.), but this is not how we want to live. We want to be able to use those bonuses to work on extra projects around the house, to travel, etc., but first, we need to get in a spot where we don't ever need to use credit cards to cover shortcomings, like when we need new brakes or tires or stuff.
Tracking our spending on Mint.com for 8 months last year really helped us get a good idea of how much we actually need to cover our expenses for things we can't help (cars will always need to be registered, kids will get sick and need to go to the doctor occasionally, etc.), and now we can budget better, but we have realized, we need to cut down our spending, because what we have leftover each month after the absolutely necessary expenses (bills, auto expenses and gas, food, health, etc.) is not a lot (like less than $100).
There are certain things we value, like the occasional date night and opportunities to go out with our friends. We don't want to eliminate these things. We already live relatively simply. So where else to cut down?
Well, very simply... we just need to buy nothing.
I was looking on the internet and found there is a movement of people who believe in this and make a compact to buy nothing new for a year. We are joining the compact. It will be a year of buying nothing.
Now, you might be thinking... how is this possible? Well, obviously, certain things need to be purchased new. One cannot buy used underwear. Food and health items need to be purchased new, but other things can be purchased used or found free. The internet makes this easier than ever. In addition, what the compact is really all about is understanding the difference between needing something and wanting something.
What this really looks like is our trip to Disneyland yesterday. We went to Disneyland to take Tiana for her first time and for a special family time together before our life gets very busy again with school and stuff. Buying Disneyland tickets does not count as buying "something." It is a service, not a material. However... while we were at Disneyland, Vinny of course asked us to buy him many things. He was told, "No, you do not need that," because he doesn't. Even Tiana was begging for these princess dollies that looked like her favorite dolly, and the part of me new to having a little girl really wanted to buy her the princess dolly, but I know it will not replace her favorite dolly, and she has 3 of those (preventive measure to ensure that "the" favorite doesn't get lost), so she doesn't need a princess one. We bought nothing yesterday. We left the park without a single souvenir. Woo hoo! Mission accomplished.
There will be certain things we cannot get around. Vinny's teacher asked them to bring in Valentine's for a class project about the post office. Tiana needs new diaper covers, and while I usually buy these used, I could not find the size she needs available right now (the bigger she gets, the harder they are to find used because they get used for longer and suffer more wear). Buying them new became inevitable. How I plan to deal with this is to make sure that, any time I need to buy something new, I am selling something to cover the expense. I have books listed on Amazon. I sold a bunch of Tiana's old diaper cover to cover the new ones. If none of our monthly income goes to cover expenses like these, then it will help us keep our finances in check this year.
In addition, I think that the idea of items going out of our home to make room for new ones is a healthy mentality to have. When we keep bringing stuff in and not having stuff go out, it just leads to clutter. People are happier when they have less clutter. There is this great blog called "life edited," about living happier in less space. On the blog, it actually follows a man's journey to live in less than 300 square feet. A family of 4 cannot do that; however, our house is so small, we do actually have less than 300 square feet per person. I am okay with this. I do not see this as a starter house. I see this as the house. But staying happy in this house means staying free of clutter.
And thus begins my one year journey to buy nothing new. To remember the difference between "need" and "want" and to fight the urges to buy. To have more stuff go out of my home than comes into it.