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OT: Could You Go an Entire Year Without Buying Non-Essentials?
May 3, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Family Goes One Year Without Buying Anything (VIDEO)

by Lindsay Ferrier 


Could you go a whole year without buying anything that's not essential to your survival?

The Dannemiller family in Nashville, Tennessee, is doing it. Four months in, they've learned some tough (and a few hilarious) lessons about what really matters in life. Check out our Moms Matter video report and see for yourself how they're doing.

Now that you've seen the video, here are a few behind-the-scenes facts we couldn't fit into the video story.

-The Dannemillers were inspired to go a year without buying after reading the book, The Power of Enough: Finding Contentment By Putting Stuff in Its Place.

-Their rules: "Essentials" include food, toiletries, and emergency house/major appliance repairs. It also includes Internet access, since both rely on the Internet for their jobs. It does not include clothing, haircuts (fortunately, a family member cuts their hair for them), or minor appliances.

-Although they aren't buying presents for their children ("experiential" presents that they can enjoy together like a trip to the museum are allowed), they are letting friends and family buy them presents for birthdays and Christmas. They reason that the kids didn't sign up for this, and it's not fair to force them to go without birthday and Christmas presents.

-Surprisingly, the Dannemillers really haven't saved any money as a result of not buying stuff. They say it's probably because money has been freed up for them to travel more this year, so they've been visiting friends and attending out-of-town events they ordinarily might have skipped.

-They have "cheated" twice so far. They bought their son a new pair of sneakers after he wore the soles out of his old ones -- and they used a refund on a purchase to buy their daughter a new lunch box for the first day of school.

-The Dannemillers worried that their story might be taken the wrong way -- after all, plenty of people are going without because they HAVE to, not because they CHOSE to. They were very quick to emphasize the fact that what they're doing isn't difficult or a major hardship to their family. It's simply a way to remind themselves that "stuff" is not what matters at the end of the day.

-To give you an idea of how Gabby gets around the rules when it comes to kids' birthday parties: When her son came to my son's birthday party (which is how I found out what the Dannemillers are doing this year), they gave my son a big box containing Mentos, a two-liter bottle of soda (food, after all, is allowed!), and Internet-printed instructions on creating a 20-foot "geyser" science experiment. My 6-year-old son LOVED it, and called it "THE BIG EXPLODE." It was one of his favorite presents!

I loved reporting this story because the Dannemillers really made me think about "stuff" in a new way. Scott made a great point when he said that he's realized it's important to ask yourself if what you're buying is going to take time away from the relationships in your life. For women, even the act of shopping can do this. I have a little bit of money put aside and have been thinking of buying a Kindle Fire, but Scott made me realize that all it would do is ... take me away a little more from my family. I'm thinking now that I don't need that Kindle after all.

Now tell me -- could you go without buying "non-essentials" for an entire year?


  • TJandKarasMom
    May 4, 2013 at 5:42 PM
    We are a family of four but a similar income. I totally understand and the article was annoying to me too. They still have a beautiful home and more than they need. We rent from my mother in law and will most likely never own our own home :( but things could be worse.

    Quoting norahsmommy:

    I'm not impressed by this at all. They still get to go on trips and have experiences. That is a non essential. Try living as a family of 6 and a dog on 21,000 a year with no assistance. That pretty much means no non essentials.

  • tiredmomfor2
    May 4, 2013 at 6:50 PM
    I have done this in the past..and it wasn't an experiment. Lol I could do it again if we needed to.
  • Mommy2Phenley
    May 5, 2013 at 1:23 AM
    I have to say I'm not all that impressed either. They sound like spoiled upper class people that want to pretend like they are "doing without" and they're really not. They have quite a warped view on what's "necessary". When your kid needs shoes, that a necessary. Trips to museums are not. Using excess funds for family trips is not necessary. Soda and mentos as a gift just because food is allowed? How about having your kid MAKE something? And when it comes to food, they don't seem to be following any rules for what's necessary. Vegetables, fruit, rice, beans...necessary. Soda, candy, treats... Not necessary.

    Sorry but these guys are NOT living an essentials only life.
  • Precious333
    May 5, 2013 at 1:34 AM
    We also live like this but because we have to. We save where we can, rarely buy nonessentials. We do have internet,.phones and ps3 though (dhs splurge for himself).
  • Boobah
    by Boobah
    May 6, 2013 at 9:16 AM
    I could if I had to, and we have been simplifying and choosing to buy less "stuff". But, I would have. Hard time if it were a "challenge" that I couldn't stray from.
  • oredeb
    by oredeb
    May 6, 2013 at 10:07 AM

     oh yes I had to do it for years when the kids were younger, just part of life! no money to buy stuff, so we made what we needed,

    but if people have money to buy stuff hey theres nothing wrong with them buying stuff! im so glad we're all not the same!

  • bluerooffarm
    May 6, 2013 at 2:37 PM

     Glad I'm not the only one who thought they weren't really doing anything special.  When I read the title I thought my question would be "Is curriculum essential?"  But we do this stuff all the time!  Hubby hasn't had a "real job" for over 7 months now.  We are starting a business putting up Solar panels since his unemployment ran out and we finally had enough money coming in that I bought our math, grammar, and spelling curriculums for next year.  We make birthday and Christmas gifts, we planted and have cared for flowers for our mothers for Mother's day gifts.  Now the boys got Tablets from Grandma for Christmas, but I am glad she got them something we can use for school instead of hundreds of dollars worth of cheap plastic toys that would be broken by new years (ok exageration, but I hate cheap plastic toys!!) 

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