Quantcast Finally Frugal: Book Review: Not Buying It, by Judith Levine

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book Review: Not Buying It, by Judith Levine

In my quest to inspire myself to decrease the money I spend on non-essential items, I’ve been reading a book called Not Buying It. Since I’ve been home sick for the past two days, I finally finished it, and thought I’d introduce it here, for others who may be interested.

Judith Levine and her partner, Paul, spend an entire year doing exactly as the title describes: not buying anything other than essentials (food, mortgage, utilities, gas for the car, etc). Of course, Paul and Judith have differing ideas of what constitutes a necessity. Paul is Italian---therefore, he is loathe to give up his wine. Judith has a love of Smartwool socks (I admit, they’re great!) but spends the year without replacing hers. The book describes their journey, from January to December, the difficulties, the disagreements, and the epiphanies related to being citizens, rather than consumers.

I found myself questioning my own ability to pass a shoe store without feeling a deep need to enter it and try on a pair of sandals, some ballet-inspired flats, or tall leather boots. Could I spend a year without purchasing anything frivolous? I’m not so sure! Not Buying It reminded me in many ways of ‘The Compact’, that group of people who pledge at the beginning of the year to do just as Paul and Judith did---to avoid becoming another cog in the wheel of American (or maybe I should say 'Western'?) consumerism. Instead, followers of The Compact use creativity and imagination to obtain the ‘things’ that most people pick up on the shelves of WalMart without a second thought.

Not Buying It is not a ‘how to’, explaining the ins and outs of getting by without spending money on new shoes, knic-knacs, and collectibles. Instead, it’s more of a philosophical discussion about how the need for stuff permeates every minute of every day, and how Judith and Paul reacted to that (ultimately their relationship strengthened, primarily because they spent more ‘quality’ time together). My favorite quote from the book is:

“As I ramble through the aisles, a young salesman asks if I need help. He seems genuinely concerned, as if offering spiritual counsel or a hot meal. But I don’t need help. In fact, I am feeling almost lightheaded with the absence of need or desire”.

This absence of need or desire sounds like nirvana to me!

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