As part of the Riot 4 Austerity goals, I have been keeping track of my consumer goods spending. The Web site states:
The average American spends 10K PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR on consumer goods, not including things like mortgage, health care, debt service, car payments, etc… Obviously, we recommend you minimize those things to the extent you can, but what we’re mostly talking about is things like gifts, toys, music, books, tools, household goods, cosmetics, toiletries, paper goods, etc… A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR.
Used goods are deemed to have an energy cost of 10% of their actual purchase price.
Goods that were donated are deemed to be unlimited, with no carbon cost.
Since I have been tallying my spending for a year, I thought I would finally add up what I have spent on consumer goods according to the rules. Since much of my money was spent at charity thrift shops, I did not count any of those totals. Garage sales and craigslist's finds were only 10% of what I spent and everything else (Walgreens, hardware store, etc.) was full price as I was paying for new.
So what was my total? Acknowledging that I may have forgotten to note a few spending opportunities, I spent $1,138.33 from July 2008 to July 2009. I will round that up to $1,150 to accommodate spending not accounted for. I really wanted to hit the $1,000 goal and I would have except I did buy a new tree for my yard. While I was not sure if gardening items were really part of this (shrubs, trees and plants), I counted them anyway.
Then I remembered I had a large purchase in June--a replacement laptop plus supplies from Amazon. Instead of nearly reaching the 90% reduction goal, I spent $3,100 over the last year. If I would have been able to wait until next year (or at least until August), I could have patted myself on the back at reaching the consumer goods goal. Unfortunately, a large purchase was enough to more than double what I thought I spent. However, this gives me a personal goal to reach in the next 12 months--spending less than $3,000 in one year.
Other expenses that added up included a couple of heavy spending trips. Once or twice a year, I take a day or a week off and among other things, do a lot of my accumulated "want and need" spending. That is, if I need more socks, want new light fixtures or the bath mat is beginning to wear, I make a list and hit several stores in one day. Not being a big fan of shopping, this gets what I need and what I would like to stock up for a year out of the way at once. Fighting crowds is not my idea of fun so I prefer to go on a weekday in the morning. Since these trips are heavily invested in new items, I noticed about 60% of my accumulated spending came from two shopping trips (excluding my new computer purchase).
While this goal was not the success I hoped for, I can continue to focus on buying secondhand, whether off craigslist, at a garage sale or from charity thrift stores. Much of my spending was kept lower because I pursued this option. I believe I can do better for next year but acknowledge that a curve ball (or two) could throw off me off my goal.