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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?


  • usmom3
    by usmom3
    May 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    If I had to yes I think I could but it would be hard at first!

  • mem82
    by mem82
    May 3, 2013 at 2:03 PM
    I wouldn't want to do it. I think working on bartering or up cycling things would be more logical than just not buying things.
  • TJandKarasMom
    May 4, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    We don't have a lot of money to buy needless things, but when we do we certainly do buy more than we need to.  It's hard not to, especially when you do so well for so long, you feel like you 'deserve' something that you want ;)

  • KickButtMama
    May 4, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    I totally agree. I also wouldn't want to set such outrageous expectations, then fail to fulfill them. I think my kids would learn more w/ bartering & up cycling. 

    Quoting mem82:

    I wouldn't want to do it. I think working on bartering or up cycling things would be more logical than just not buying things.

  • norahsmommy
    May 4, 2013 at 8:25 AM
    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.
  • jen2150
    by jen2150
    May 4, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    I totally agree with you.  When I first was married we were living bare to the bone.  Buying a bag of potatoes was a special treat.

    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.

  • deadlights86
    May 4, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    I usually do. I still wear clothes I had in high school almost 10 years ago they are still in good shape. I usually wear a pair of shoes until they have holes before I buy a new pair. The age of my kids though I'm not sure I could go a year without getting them clothes. By christmas my 4 year old is going to need new pants. So will my 9 year old I just got some new pants for my 8 year old and he grows slower than the other two and his pants are a little bit big.

  • Leissaintexas
    May 4, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    This drove me crazy. We live like that all the time. I safety pin bras that the hooks have come off of. I stitch up tears, I reuse as much as possible, I hot glue flip flops that fall apart. I had to laugh that someone had to loan them a toaster! I didn't have a toaster most of my life and I've made toast just fine!  Honestly, this video offended me a little.

  • celticdragon77
    May 4, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    This story is ridiculous!! 

    They had family and friends buy them stuff - the suitcase and toaster were bought by friends. Kids presents were bought by friends. 

    They had no savings at the end because they used the money to travel and attend/do other outings. Umm.. Is that a need? 

    What did they go without? I just didn't get anything out of this article.  

    We live comfortably, but I still am careful on what I spend and trying to find alternatives. It feels good to be creative in saving money. I love working on a csa farm in exchange for organic foods. I have a garden of my own as well. I enjoy making homemade yogurt, pesto, spaghetti sauce, etc. - and what is even better, is trading our extras for other homemade goodies that others have made. I can afford to buy my kids clothes, but I have enjoyed making a few homemade creations. I recently took up knitting and have sold some of the items. It feels good to create worth within ones self. 

  • bether89
    May 4, 2013 at 3:43 PM

     I could do this, but not sure I want to.  We try to be careful with our spending, but we do buy some extras that we could live without.

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