Answering some questions

1. Given how many kids’ birthdays you have, do you get them gifts you buy and if yes, will that have to follow the rules? I can’t imagine a 5 year old getting too excited over new underwear…just wondering how this will work.

Chris says: Well, I have until February 29th to figure this one out. I am not sure. I strongly feel that the kids have a voice in our family. I am hoping to get them on board with a fun family outing as a present. For example the aquarium that they have all been wanting to go but is rather expensive. Or maybe some sort of art, music lesson, or some needed sports equipment.

2. What about cravings for something? I know you have food allergies, but I myself know that the incessant thought about chocolate on the way home from someplace will have me stop somewhere specifically to pick up the chocolate if there isn’t any at home. So where would I draw the line here? Do I really need the chocolate? Or is this a want? Frankly, if I hadn’t stopped tonight to get the chocolate I may have been a tad irritable, so is prevention of irritability with said chocolate a need or want? Just wondering.

Chris says: Hmmmm, I don’t know.

3. What about other people’s gifts? If you get invited to a wedding, funeral, birthday party, anniversary, will a gift for them follow specific rules?

Chris says: Do you need to bring gifts to funerals?

And at this point, I do not think that I would have to follow any sort of rule regarding gift giving to other people. I usually give money. I am not trying to save money or be frugal. I am trying to stop the mindless accumulation that clutters my house and mind.

4. Is diet coke a want or a need?!

Chris says: I gave up regularly drinking soda awhile ago. But I think it would have to be for each person to define on their own. Coffee for me is a need. but I drink it at home with my French Vanilla non-dairy creamer, also a need.

5, Do I “need” or “want” that under-sink shelf system I saw on Amazon.com? The cabinet under my sink is an utter mess, and completely unhelpful. I think the shelves would help. But would they really? is it a want or a need? I’m not sure.


Chris says: This is why we have all pedestal sinks. No crap to collect under them.

6. Do I “need” or “want” those books? I meaning, reading is awesome, and all…. but is it possible to get them from the library? what if the library does not have the book I want to read?

Chris says: I have decided not to buy any books for myself. Most of them I don’t need to own. I am looking towards my library now for books and trying out that crazy interlibrary loan thing.

7. What if it is something I could use over and over again for the kids in our homeschool? hmmm. where is the line?

Chris says: Do you know this was one of the first questions that my kids asked? School supplies are necessities. I tend to think of them as tuition. If they were going to a private school I wouldn’t suddenly stop paying for it. I have almost everything that we need to get us through the school year, so maybe I’ll have to get back to you.

31 Responses to “Answering some questions”

  1. Brenna Says:

    You answered some of the questions I had, but I’m very interested in how you will you actually go about this…project? Game? Inter-family social experiment?

    For instance, are you planning on setting some rules or guidelines? Or is everything going to be on a case-by-case basis?

  2. dana Says:

    Thanks for answering some questions that were/are bound to come up. I know there will be 100 more. I guess the important thing is, for anyone wanting to do this, you have to set your OWN boundaries - what is a need for you may not be a need to someone else. It is all relative.

    For me, for instance, Diet Dr. Pepper is a NEED. Ok, I know it truly isn’t a need, but it is one of the few vices I have and I wouldn’t give it up. Besides, if I did, I’d die from a caffeine headache and then what use would I be? ha ha

    Seriously though, I really am glad to be following your journey and look forward to seeing how you handle things.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ellen Says:

    Good for you!! I will follow you, because I also have been trying and failing at this for years. I definitely find “retail shopping” a thrill and REALLY want to stop doing it. You will be a great inspiration to me and I will try too!
    I love Target.

  4. C. Delaney Says:

    I don’t ever make a comment, but I would like you to consider what has happened to many children of the depression. They have a life long syndrome of hoarding little things, money, food, etc. because of the time early in their lives when they were deprived. Also, what would it really teach them? Is deprivation and doing without a virtue? Just wondering.

    Chris says: Who said anything about deprivation? How telling it is that you are equating not getting everything that you “want” with being deprived.

  5. Fairly Odd Mother Says:

    I can hear you on the coffee—that is a NEED no doubt! And, I had never thought of all my homeschooling purchases as like tuition, but I like that!

    I was feeling really good about trying to minimize unnecessary purchases in our family and then my husband walked in the door last night carrying a one-foot long television remote! (’it was only $10!!!!). Yikes. He insists it was a ‘need’ since he can never find the tv remotes. Sigh. . .

  6. debby Says:

    You seriously have to try that crazy interlibrary loan thing. It’s awesome. We get all our books, audiobooks, dvds and cds from the library. Sweet.

  7. Heather Says:

    What happens when a family only buys what they need and not what they want? Just ask the families who have been doing this for years due to fiscal necessity. It’s rather ironic that you are doing this when you earn an income by encouraging others to buy.

  8. Adrienne Says:

    Regarding the first question: My kids have never had an issue with getting something they truly needed for a gift. In fact, my son was most appreciative of the underwear he found in his stocking this year….now that he wears fancy colored boxer briefs, they don’t make it through the laundry as quickly as when they went in the whites load, so a few more pairs for the rotation was something sort of luxurious for him. His entire birthday this year was swimming stuff - a new suit, a backpack he really needed since his other one was too small to hold all his clothes and gear once he changed, etc., a new pair of competition goggles, and money toward swim camp this summer. He was thrilled.

    My other son has wanted an alarm clock for his room for a year. He got it for Christmas and was pretty darn excited about it, and tells me every morning how much he loves his alarm clock. $12 bucks = undying gratitude from a kid wanting more independence, I guess…LOL

    My kids also loved their Wii….I’m not a complete pragmatist, but I’m just saying that gifts don’t HAVE to be “extras”…even for really young ones. You can only play with so many toys, but you do have to wear underwear every day….

  9. Jennifer Says:

    This is such a great idea. We all need to silence that “get” voice. Good luck!

  10. Kelly Says:

    After reading your first entry I felt really inspired. I also read that book about living without China in your life for a year that you read, and after reading that I had started to think about a lot of my purchases, do we really “Need” this in our house and this has resulted in me buying a lot less and we haven’t been neglected.

    Anyway after reading your post, I mentioned this to my husband and he was all onboard, of course he was paying the bills at the time. :-). So I am going to try and play along with you: at least I’m going to record my purchases into a spreadsheet and categorize them into wants and needs and see how I do.

    Good luck and interlibrary loans rock. I used to buy a ton of books each year, now I maybe buy 2-3 a year of the authors I have all there books to. I feel like I have less clutter by doing so.

  11. Mary Says:

    I think it’s an awesome idea…something to have fun with. Less IS more.
    Heather…there will always be people with more money than others. It’s a fact of life. Is Chris supposed to feel some sort of shame that she can afford things that others can’t? Get over it.

  12. maliavale Says:

    You could also trade books on paperbackswap.com. I enjoy it :)

    Good luck!

  13. Wendy Says:

    I think it helps, for me anyway, that you are doing this to cut clutter and not specifically to save money. I understand this. Sometimes I found myself spending money for something to do, but then I am left with all this crap. When my daughter was an infant was giving stuff away every 6 months, because it was simply taking over the house. What was the point? What help this was our spare bedroom becoming a nursery. No more place to throw stuff and not look at it.

    However, I still window shop, wait on purchases, like, the Wii that we suddenly find ourselves needing, wanting. I figure if I still want it by February, I will give it to my almost 2 yr old as a present on his birthday. He just won’t be allowed to touch it. No biggie, he got a carseat for his last birthday, so I think this follows some birthday ritual we have started.

  14. hokgardner Says:

    This is such an interesting idea. I look forward to reading about your experiences with not buying anything. I’ve been working at cutting back the amount of things we buy, so I’ll be reading your blog for tips and ideas.

    And we’ve been giving our kids things like swimming lessons and rock climbing classes for birthday presents for the past two years, and they love them.

  15. jenni Says:

    Homeschooling is responsible for the vast bulk of accumulation and excess at my house! The space that all the curriculum requires is just aggravating. But obviously it’s not going anywhere. However, I could certainly stand to put on some blinders and avoid buying more just because it’s the “latest and greatest” of whatever subject.

    Sadly, I cannot use the library. My late fees paid for their most recent wing. They should have named it after me. This is an area that I had to eliminate to avoid winding up in the looney bin.

    Very interesting thoughts! I look forward to reading more.

  16. Catherine Says:

    I applaud your desire to quell the “I wants” and lessen the clutter in your house. We try to keep the stuff chaos to a minimum in our house too. Our general rule is that for something new to come in, something old needs to find a new home. Freecycle, Craigslist, charity, even friends & family have made new homes for things we no longer used. One mans trash is another’s treasure. Just because I don’t need an extra glass pie pan doesn’t mean my friend who is expanding her baking abilities wouldn’t enjoy it.

    I agree that not acquiring stuff simply because we can isn’t the same as being deprived.

    Good luck!

  17. Brigitte Says:

    Hmmm, I’ve been wanting to organize, so I “need” all the pretty containers - or do I? They are pricey (on our budget, anyway), and my husband would argue that cardboard boxes work just as well - bleh!

    I think we’re generally pretty good in this department - I do have a few things I “need” that are luxuries, like my books by certain favorite authors that I read over and over, but I think a limited income forces me to think about each purchase, whether or not I want to.

  18. Nicki Says:

    Here’s another idea for birthdays (that I’ve yet to implement, mind you, but have always considered): do an equal swap-out. For every gift they want, they must give up something else. That way you are not gaining in stuff and are at least staying equal. You could even suggest they get rid of twice as much stuff as they take in. Then you’d be in the green and they would still get “stuff” for birthdays and/or Christmas.

    I love this idea of yours. I actually thought very seriously and walked away from the 75% off sales at Target which is a first for me, thanks to you. Of course then I went back and bought a new throw, a new rice cooker and various other sh*t I didn’t need, just wanted, at full price! haha. Baby steps? I dunno.

  19. Kelly Says:

    Oh this is so wonderful to do. We are too are doing this. In December alone I donated 30 hefty bags to the local church charity, furniture that never found a home and clothes that we NEVER wear went as well.

    For now on we have to really think about what comes into the house. Which will soon have to be a new washing machine. I hate the thought of having to get rid of the one we have but to fix it would be as much as a new one….well kinda. I hate to see it go to the landfill.

    Good luck.

    How do you view going out to eat….or take out?

  20. Brandi Says:

    I think this is a great experiment you are embarking upon and will read with much interest. It’s already fascinating seeing the polarized comments you’ve garnered over a personal choice regarding “stuff” not basic necessities. I think the future snarking may make the most fascinating statement on what’s regarded as “necessary”.

  21. Johnna Says:

    Wow. I’m shocked at the criticism and sarcasm. We really do have our priorities off in this country, don’t we? Want and need are way more confused than any of us probably realize. And besides, not shopping excessively isn’t “depriving” the children of either want or need. Perhaps it will even make them realize what they really do want. I’ll bet it isn’t a plastic toy they will play with for two days and forget in the pile of other toys.

    Oh, and about the library. I almost always get my books there, and sometimes they have to use the loan thing. It is great and saves me wondering what to do with all those books. I do usually prefer to own the children’s, though, because they read them over and over. And they still are young enough to damage them.

  22. Stephanie Says:

    Chris,
    1) Great idea! As we always try to emulate the wonderful ideas of Chris, we will be stealing and tweaking to make your idea work for us at our house.

    2) What’s with the cranky self-righteous folks? Geeze! Nice rebuttal on the “deprive” comment, by the by. I wanted to say, “oh snap!” But you did that already.

    3) My hubs wants to know about the price tags in the picture of the tongs. Why a white price tag, and next to it, a red price tag, with the same price? (not that you are in charge of price tags, or anything, but he thought it odd, and because these are the things he sees and points out, now I am thinking about it, and thought it odd as well.)

    Chris says: This was at the grocery store, so the red tag I think it is called the price per unit and the white one is the price you actually pay. In this case they are the same. So for example if you bought cereal the red tag might say $12 per pound, but the price you pay for the bag would be $4. The red one is the one you use to compare the costs of different items. So another bag of cereal might cost $6, but since it is larger the price per pound might be $10, so it is the better deal.

  23. Stephanie Says:

    I will tell my husband. Thank you. ;-)

  24. The Simple Family Says:

    The reason why people think it is depriving is because we’re so conditioned to think that buying stuff is our right.

    The depression wasn’t just someone’s mom not buying a toy at Target. It was a worldwide problem with people not having jobs, houses or food. Chris’ stopping the constant consumerism has nothing to do with that.

    Her children are loved. They are not abused or live under the constant fear of not having food or a house over their head.

    I think so much of the criticism has to do with people’s own fears of consumption and consumerism. She is shining a light into all of our lives and, sometimes, it is hard to face.

  25. PollyS Says:

    Your post about your daughter loving the music of “The Sound of Music” reminded me that CDs are available at most libraries and you can download them to your computer then mp3 player.
    I asked the librarians if this was “legal” and they said “sure”. So, I get a couple of music and/or audio books per week. I’m accumulating quite a library. And it’s free. That is if you don’t count the late fees I had to pay last month. I totally blew our library schedule and I literally paid the price!

  26. {heather} Says:

    Wow.. I just read all of the comments left so far. How in the world did the depression get drug into this? The funny thing is, I wasnt really shocked to see the snarky comments and criticism others expressed about this topic. I think our priorities are just a tad whacked in this country. ;)

    I think you are doing what most of us have thought about doing. Speaking for myself, I know it has crossed my mind alot. Working outside the home, I tend to do ALOT of buying that really isnt necessary. Starbucks, lunches ect., when I could be packing it all from home. I added up what I typically spend weekly then tallied it up for the annual total and uh, yeah. I was a little shocked.

    I think this is awesome, Chris and I am actually excited to see what you encounter. :)

    Good luck!

  27. Chrissy Says:

    Great idea! I am in on the only spending on the need not the want. I am also a pack rat and just cleaned out my linen closet of ALL the sheets and towels I don’t use or like. Don’t say I need a rag-I HAVE RAGS! I have been saving all of these “just in case”. I don’t need them but my sisters live in apts and are not married and took it all! :)

  28. Marie Says:

    I have a great suggestion for buying gifts for weddings, other people, etc. How about making a donation in their name to some local (or favourite) charity? I always appreciate this gesture instead of more (useless) clutter for myself! Love your new blog!

  29. cbs Says:

    I am sitting here commenting (my first time here) instead of clearing a space in my kitchen to put my new mixer. It’s so hard for me to get in the spirit of getting rid of things because I always do it wrong! It seems like whatever I get rid of I need in a week.
    I also gained wieght over the past couple of years, got rid of all my skinny clothes, lost the weight a few months ago and now have nothing to wear! So it’s difficult now for me to spend money to buy new clothes because there is this nagging voice saying “don’t gain the weight back, you won’t be able to wear this”.
    But that is off the subject! I will certainly be checking back here to see how your year goes. I will do my best to consider the want vs need question when I am shopping as well. I try to stay out of places like Target because who can come out without tons of great stuff you just have to have! I try to shop local as much as possible, which costs a little more, but keeps me from buying too much uneeded stuff.
    Good luck and don’t listen to the people who just don’t get it!

  30. Stefanie Says:

    I love this. I was just overwhelmed by the bigger place we have the more stuff we get so we have to get an even BIGGER place. No more time to purge and actually cherish the things we have as a family. I am sick of the disposable world we are living/creating. I may be one mom with a tiny family but I am taking my own small stand to make my own small mark. Cant wait to read your adventures, I will be right along with you as well.

    (btw all of my gifts will be handmade this year, I will use materials I already have accumulated, no more fabric for me until my entire stash is gone and many gifts of love and handmade care)

  31. Mary Tsao Says:

    I love what you’re doing here Chris, and I believe that you are teaching your children a far more valuable lesson by *not* buying them (or yourself) bag after bag of needless things than you would be by giving in to their (or your) every whim or desire.

    This is something we all need to work on.

    I’m not making it official, but I’m definitely buying less this year. The less that comes in our house, the better. I feel as though I am constantly going through rooms and closets and bringing piles of unused things to Goodwill. Speaking of unopened boxes, I just opened one yesterday that had been sitting in various closets (in three different houses) for seven years. Needless to say, half of what was in there is now in the pile to go to Goodwill. I want to reduce the amount of time I spend de-cluttering! It’s a chore I would love to give up.

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