Why I’m shunning consumerism and not buying any shiny treats for the next five years
I once had a flatmate who had so many clothes, only about half of them would fit into the wardrobe or drawers. The rest lived on the floor in a sort of rotating pile. There was no room to move, and she would routinely decide that the pile needed to be washed and dried (because of living on the floor for so long) but once clean, there was nowhere for the clothes to go.
The memory of her mammoth clothing surplus, combined with my recent love of ‘unjunking’ and minimalism, has prompted me to decide to shun consumerism for the next five years – and instead pour the money into overpaying my mortgage and coming that bit closer to financial freedom.
You’ve probably heard of the woman who didn’t buy anything for a year. Personal finance journalist Michelle McGagh has published a book on her experience of going without. Aside from essential expenses, food and toiletries, she and her partner didn’t spend anything – for a whole year. Michelle called it “an experiment in extreme frugality and choosing not to buy, rather than not having a choice”.
So I’m going to take a leaf out of her book. Just a leaf though, not the whole book – I can’t see myself being that extreme. But my passion for unjunking has shown me just how much stuff I already own – clothes, outdoors gear, hiking boots, ski gear, stockpiled toiletries, you name it – and most of it should last me another decade at least.
I used a budgeting app and input all my expenses, including how much extra I’d like to pay off my mortgage to hit my goal of killing it within the next five years. I’ve accounted for saving weekly for my yearly overseas ski trip and a good chunk of money for car maintenance (because car breakdowns really stress me out).
My goal isn’t to not spend anything, but instead avoiding acquiring new things just to amuse myself. Consumerism, materialism, if you like. Shopping as a hobby, rather than as a need.
Just as I plan to, Michelle also poured money into extra mortgage payments. “Paying off a large chunk of the mortgage has made me realise that I don’t have to stay indebted to the bank for another 25 years like it wants me to and that I have an option to pay it off earlier,” she says. “By getting rid of my mortgage faster I not only cut the amount of time I spend paying it off but also the interest I pay to the bank.”
So for me, it’s out with retail therapy and in with using all the stuff I already have. Not that I’m much of a shopper – I’d buy outdoors gear over handbags and shoes any day – but the principle is the same. Can I do it? I reckon I can, but only time will tell. And if you’re reading this long after the publication date, feel free to ask me how it’s going on Twitter.
I’ll leave the last word to Michelle McGagh, the lady who didn’t buy All The Things, because I reckon she says it so well.
“I have come to realise that consumerism keeps us chained to our desks, working to earn money to spend on stuff we think will make our lives better. And when the stuff doesn’t make us happy, we go back to work to earn more money to buy something else. The last 12 months have allowed me to step outside this cycle and I can honestly say I’m happier now.”
Hazel is Credit Simple's Head of Communications & Content. When she's at work, she likes to write, edit and film stuff. In her spare time she enjoys skiing, mountaineering, multi-day tramping, diving and playing tiddlywinks. She has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to spiders in the shower.All stories by: Hazel Phillips