10 March 2015

The Mr. Mustache Man guide to buying less stuff

I'm often struck by how never before have humans had so much stuff. Our planet is oozing with discarded electronics, plastic, clothing, etc. It's draining our bank accounts, polluting the planet and cluttering our houses. It's time I did something about it!

When it comes to buying things, Mr Money Mustache reckons that your bottom line should be this: if you can't afford to retire, you can't afford to buy it. (Mr MM retired in his 30s.) Hardcore, eh? There are exceptions, he admits - groceries, power, etc.

I use this pot almost daily to cook, and  I get a little thrill every
 time I see how my husband repaired it with prunings from our
 garden. What a man. Sorry ladies, he's taken.

You'll still be living a great life, contrary to what advertisers would have you believe!

That is, unless buying and having stuff is what makes you happy, in which case you'll have realised by now it's a pretty short-lived buzz, so you'd better get a bit more Buddhist (or Mustachian) about things.

The reason it won't knock your happiness levels is this: compared to most humans who have ever lived, we westerners live in extreme luxury. But because we're all doing it, it's hard to remember that. Do you have running water in more than one room of the house? A separate bedroom for each child? So much food to eat, and so little physical work to do, that you can grow a jiggly belly? WOW, we live better than kings and queens used to!

Below are the kind of questions Mr. MM asks himself before making a purchase. Some of these are thrown in by me. Maybe they'll help you one day.

1. Will it be a lifelong burden? i.e., contributing to that pile of once-wanted stuff that fills our houses then sits in the landfill for centuries.

2. Will it help you consume less stuff in future? Can it be repaired when it wears out or breaks (like the pot above), or will it be a less expensive/more environmentally friendly substitute for something else? e.g. a bike will help you use your car less.

3. Can you borrow it, make it or get it secondhand instead?

4. Can you delay the purchase? (In the meantime you'll probably decide your dollars have more important work to do.)

5. Consider who made it, and where and under what circumstances was it made (i.e. were components mined from under rainforests, did its production pollute the land or water, did it use slave labour) - are you willing to pay for such activities to be carried out? Your dollar is a vote for yes. (I conveniently don't apply this rule when I buy second hand.)

Obviously you will buy things. At this very moment I'm looking for a second hand violin for my son, and, damn it, the girl needs new undies, and they are one of the few things I won't buy second hand (I buy these). But I plan to use this list to stringently vet my purchases. I can see that retirement stash growing already.

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