Lifestyle

Friday 22 August 2014

I haven't bought anything new in over six years. . .

And it has cut the stress in Katy's life hugely, writes Lisa Jewell

As we pay off our Christmas bills and adjust to the new Budget changes, everyone will be watching their spending this month.

But could you make your money go even further by radically changing the way you think about consumerism and buying things? What if you buy virtually nothing new and, instead, go the second-hand route when you need something?

That's what one woman has been doing for the past six years and says it has enriched her family life and reduced her stress levels.

Katy-Wolk Stanley, from Portland, Oregon, has talked about her thrifty ways on NBC's Today show and in American newspapers.

The 44-year-old mother-of-two lives by the motto 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without'. She first decided to change her consumer ways back in late 2006.

"There was a small group of friends in San Francisco who decided to stop buying anything new," she says. "I read about them in a piece in my local newspaper. It very much appealed to my nature as I thought that this shopping culture had really taken over.

"I had started to notice just how much stuff we bought as a family. I was always wondering how the house was so cluttered and it was because we were getting all this unnecessary stuff."

Katy decided to try it for an initial month in January 2007. Once that month was up, she was hooked on this new way of life and hasn't gone back.

"The people who originally decided to do this didn't do it for financial reasons. I'm fortunate that my husband and I both work so we do have enough money for the essential bills. But when it came to all of the extras, we had to work more hours to afford them.

"We didn't change our ways to primarily save money – it was more about sustainability – but it has helped us financially. Both of my kids study Japanese at school and they've each had a few school trips to Japan which we've paid for. I was chosen to be a chaperone too.

"In one year, we spent $8,000 (€6,050) on those trips to Japan. If we'd been spending like normal Americans, we wouldn't have been able to afford it."

Katy and her family don't buy new goods – with a few small exceptions including underwear, personal care items like deodourant and food.

"I'm not sure what used food is but I know I don't want it," she laughs.

"We don't live too rigidly within those rules – if there's something we really want to buy new, we will. I wanted to have new Pyrex containers for food. I had bought a few pieces here and there but I finally bought a new set of them.

"I think if you live too strictly in those rules and there's nothing in between, you set yourself up for failure."

Katy buys clothes from local thrift stores or consignment stores (where people sell off their clothes).

"I'd always enjoyed going to thrift stores for vintage items for the home but I hadn't bought clothes there before. I didn't really enjoy shopping for clothes in the mall. It's very nice to not have that be a part of my life."

One of the benefits of living a less consumerist lifestyle is that the family have more time together.

"I work as a labour and delivery nurse and I hurt my back in 2008. I was off work for three months without pay and since I went back I've been able to stay part-time, which is good because the job that I do is so physical."

Katy's husband works as a paramedic and used to work overtime to pay for all the extras that they would buy.

"Now he just has to work his regular hours. It gives him more time to do the things he wants to do – like coaching soccer.

'He initially thought I was crazy to do this and it would be a pain in the butt, but he's really on board with it now. My sons both understand what it's about. They're 14 and 16 and work part-time. If there's something they really want – not need – they're welcome to spend their money on it."

Katy, who has a blog called The Non-Consumer Advocate, says the experience has been a huge stress reliever.

"There is this 'Keeping up with the Joneses' attitude that 'Gosh, all my neighbours have nice cars so I have to have a nice car'. But the eight-year-old car is still working just fine and we don't feel that pressure to keep up.

"The house is a lot less cluttered and that keeps it easier to clean. There's been a ripple effect on other areas – we're not buying new things so there's less packaging and less garbage."

Sometimes the desire to buy new things does creep up on Katy.

"I still have to consciously decide not to buy stuff. I still notice cute things. There is a reason why people buy new clothes – they're constantly coming up with cute things!"

Irish Independent

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