Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Modified Compact Revisited

At the start of the summer, with three kids going into camp or daycare (and the resulting costs), an oil spill gushing in the ocean and making it clear our days of relying on petroleum are numbered, and having felt more and more convicted about traveling more gently on the earth, I entered a modified compact.
Max and Tommy are back in school, and my 10-week experiment is over. How did it go? Here's what didn't go strictly according to plan:
  • Let's get this out of the way immediately. I bought an iPad. Some of the motivation had to do with my job and being conversant in new forms of e-publishing and understanding what some have touted game-changing technology. But it would be disingenuous to say my boss told me she'd fire me if I didn't have an iPad. And, as you can guess, I didn't get this on Craig's List or at a garage sale.
  • When traveling for work, a publishing partner took us to a strip of new, locally owned shops and I bought this t-shirt because it made me laugh out loud, it was on sale, and I felt okay supporting the shop and the local goods.

  • I had not one but two benders at Fabric.com, my newest vice. I swore I wouldn't succumb to the $3/yard sales, but when some designer fabrics dropped to $2.50, I succumbed. I'm weak. I'll admit that. I convinced myself I was just buying it to make gifts for others.

What did go well, and was surprisingly easy:

  • I didn't buy new clothes for myself or the kids.
  • I didn't buy physical books, although read some good ones on my Kindle.
  • I didn't buy new, nonconsumable gifts. I bought my dad some asparagus plants for his birthday. I bought Phil consumables for Father's Day and his birthday, and made him a gift. I made gifts for other family members who had summer birthdays, but I've yet to get them in the mail. I promise guys, they're coming!
  • I didn't even have to buy new canning supplies for the garden -- a loophole I'd left myself. A co-worker with a toddler, who has no time for canning these days, brought me some jars that were collecting dust in her house. (Thanks, Melody!)

Phil and I have a pretty simple budgeting method: We pay our bills and ourselves first, and scrape off any extra money in checking to go into savings, or, if checking's tight, stop spending. So I can't tell you to the penny whether the compact actually saved money. Also, our income this summer was a little atypical, with the iPad purchased from an unsalaried windfall, so I would have to do some heavy number crunching that I don't have the patience or time for to see whether this made a financial impact.

But it's definitely showed me that (iPad notwithstanding), new isn't always necessary.

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Anonymous momcents said...

The Compact is an interesting idea and one that I think about whenever I purchase anything new. It seems as though it would be a patience builder, waiting for what you need to show up second hand. I was hunting through garage sales for canning supplies but ended up purchasing them new when they went on sale.

I think we all find justification for our new purchases. Hey, Ball jars are manufactured in the county where my in-laws live... so I'm just helping their local economy, right?

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