2022 – My No-Spend Year

2022 – My No-Spend Year

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This year I’ve started a no-spend year. To tell you why, I have to go back in time. In 2013 I completed my PhD. I looked at the way we talk and think about the earth in fiction. My key idea was that if we moved to a biophilic orientation we might take more action related to climate change. Biophilia means loving the earth as something we are part of rather than seeing it as a dead resource, or as a vengeful entity to fear.

My PhD was absolutely torn apart by one of my examiners, who declared my ideas naiive. As a result, I gave up any idea of putting the PhD, or its accompanying novel, out into the world. I put less effort into sustainability practices at home because after all, what difference would it make? I felt a lot of despair. Maybe he was right when he said stories can’t make a difference to the way people think and individuals can’t make a difference with climate change.

But in my heart I knew that was wrong. Fiction had been the cause of my own awakening to the issues of climate change. The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk reads as a documentary nowadays, with its talk of water wars, facist government in the US and eco-communities trying to carve out a different way of living. When I first read it, it was terrifying, instantly taking me to a new level of awareness.

Part of my autism profile is that I have always taken what people say to me as gospel truth. It’s hard for me to discern lies or to imagine that people say things because they have hidden agendas. So it took me a while to reject the ego-driven rubbish feedback of that male examiner, but I am reclaiming my climate concerns this year. Discussing my autism diagnosis publicly has definitely made a difference to others, leading some to discover their own neurodiversity. So I’m not going to hide my ideas away any more.

Climate Change and Consumerism

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The issues around climate change are many, and I can’t cover them adequately in a short blog post. There are a lot of deeply vested interests who have spent a lot of time muddying the waters to make discussion of climate issues seem very complex. But one of the key drivers of climate change since industrialisation began is consumerism. There is a great video, The Story of Stuff, which sets out some of the issues very clearly. You can also look up Ted talks or George Monbiot on climate change and consumerism. The correlation is clear. We are destroying the planet for the sake of stuff we don’t need.

‘Supporting the economy’ by buying stuff is also framed as our moral duty, but in reality it’s a hamster wheel that helps the wealthiest 1% to accumulate more and more of the world’s resources. We are on this endless cycle of earning money to buy things in order for shareholders to make profits. But the basic assumption that we need to keep ‘growing the economy’ is fatally flawed, and also not the only way. (See Affluenza, by Clive Hamilton for a great takedown of this.) I don’t really want to support that system. And as someone with ongoing health issues, I also value time more than things.

No-Spend Solution

What all this means for me is that I’ve decided to have a no-spend year. I’ve never been a big shopper, but I do have a weakness for shiny things. The last 2 years have seen reduced opportunities to wander around shops, but online shopping is definitely a temptation. But if there’s one thing Covid has shown, it’s that life is unpredictable, and I’d rather spend my time as a creator than a consumer. And I really don’t need more stuff. I’m pretty happy with the ‘stuffness’ (or lack thereof) of our house. So… basically, there’s a bunch of reasons to do this. Less contribution to environmental destruction, getting off the hamster wheel, and more time for creating.

I tried to do a no-spend year last year, but after about a month I caved in. Buying shiny things was something of a consolation for the nightmare of lockdowns. But this year I’ve got my intentions straight – I’m not doing this to take something away from my life, but to add something to it.

I’m going to be blogging about it for accountability. To start with, I’ve decided to think in terms of having a no-spend day, each day. It’s easier to get through a day than a year. Next, I’ve set myself some rules for what I can buy. Since this is my personal choice, not my family’s, it relates to my spending. I’ll continue to buy groceries, essential toiletries, and necessary things for the household. My personal rules for what I can buy include:

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  1. urgent clothing purchases (eg socks and underwear – things that have worn out). I buy most of my clothing secondhand anyway, and I’m definitely no fashion horse, so I generally don’t contribute to the nightmare that is fast fashion. But I have plenty of clothing, and stacks of fabric to make new stuff so if I really need something, I’ll try to make it.
  2. gifts. This one’s pretty self-evident. Although I think we should take the stigma away from regifting – if we have something we don’t want, and someone else loves it, why not regift?
  3. coffee or a meal out with friends or for sanity. It’s rare to go out in the middle of a pandemic, but community is important so having the option to share a meal or coffee matters. And sometimes I have to change up my writing space to freshen up my brain/creativity, so going out for a coffee is a mental health strategy.
  4. craft supplies that have run out. I enjoy crafting in my downtime, and I’m building a miniature mansion as a way to restart my creativity. I’ve got a pretty excellent stash of craft supplies, but occasionally I might run out of a particular paint or need more glue. So I’m allowing myself to replace these as needed.
  5. this is probably my most dubious ‘exception’ but I’d kick myself for not allowing it. If (and it’s a big if) we get a chance to travel this year, I’m giving myself the option of buying one or two small, one-of-a-kind souvenirs, preferably that support local artisans. The chances of this happening are pretty unlikely.

Alright, the reasons why are sorted, the rules are in place. Bring on the no-spend year!

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