Saturday, January 12, 2013

31 Days of Things I Don't Need

Let's clear the air - Christmas is one of my least favorite times of the year.  Says the gal who writes this post well into the comfort of January.  

It's not the pretty lights, family obligations, holiday parties, or even the music that bothers me.  It's how gift giving has been hijacked.  It's become obligatory, demanded, and expected on a large scale.

It baffles me that people will complain about their mortgages and debts as they spend hundreds of dollars each Christmas on stuff that doesn't have any real meaning in their lives.  Even those who shout out guilt trips about "the real meaning of the season" still have lengthy shopping lists and rush around the malls with credit cards in hand like everyone else.

So to protest the consumerism that is so obnoxious during December, I decided to challenge myself to post a daily Facebook status about something that I didn't need.  I took a note from the folks who do this in Thanksgiving with things that they're thankful for.   

Here's what I came up with (with a slight cheat because we were on vacation for a week):    

Dec 1 - I don't need a house. Our condo is comfy and fits our lifestyle and budget. In fact, it's due for some deep cleaning and trips to Goodwill! One day, it would be nice to own a small home, but right now, I'm happy that we have a nice place to live that we can afford each month.

I often question whether home ownership should be pushed as much as it is. I am quite comfortable renting and we have currently have all the space we truly need. And while dreams of a cute cottage or Craftsmen bungalow with a German Shepherd puppy dance in our heads, it won't be in the financial cards for another 5-10 years.

My dream home - small and cozy.  Certainly not a McMansion.
Dec 2 - I don't need a brand new car. I'd only buy one for longevity and fuel efficiency, not because it's the latest design model. My car is from 2005 and our 1998 truck will eventually be replaced with something gently used. And I'd much rather go to a car show and oogle the classics.

Dec 3 - I don't need designer or trendy clothing. While I'm currently in the works of refining my professional wardrobe, I don't give a hoot about labels. If it fits, has a classic look that won't go out of style quickly, and I can feel that the fabric is durable, then it's a good potential for my closet.

Dec 4 - I don't need television/cable. Dumped it four years ago and haven't regretted it. It's certainly not a need and I don't want a stream of tempting yet unfulfilling entertainment. Admittedly, we use Netflix and Hulu to access Mad Men, The Cosby Show, and Scrubs, but it's very selective and not even on a weekly basis.

Beside, books are a better way to spend an evening.
Dec 5 - I don't need paper towels or napkins. We have cloth napkins and a bin of old rags for cat messes and the occasional kitchen snafu. I don't know how we as a society got convinced that disposable paper products are better than ones you simply rewash and use again. 

Dec 6 - I don't need a data plan on my phone. As an editor and teacher, I'm already tethered to a computer. Having 24/7 online access will not make me a better worker (though I know for some careers it certainly is a leg up, just not for me). I don't want to shell out the extra money for data either. 

Dec 7 - I don't need expensive jewelry. I like sparklies and they are useful for sprucing up your professional look, but I don't need precious metals or stones to do so - stuff that costs hundreds of dollars and may be extracted from the earth in inappropriate ways.

Between her and Elizabeth Taylor ...
Dec 8 - I don't need a tablet. I would only get one if it replaced our desktop or I thought it was a tool that made me at better at work. I know they're wonderful and you can do so much on them, but I just don't need one at this point.
Dec 9 - I don't need an e-reader. Think they're great, believe they're actually beneficial to people reading, and like the access they can provide. But I don't need one. I need the library.

Dec 10 - I don't need a motorcycle.  Sure as heck *want* one though.  But presently, I have a way to get back and forth from work and run errands.  No need to add another set of wheels to insure.

Dec 11 - I don't need vacation toys like an RV or a boat. They are totally fun and I love boating on the Mississippi with friends who own a modest vessel, but I don't need these in my life. Though I do like the idea of being a retired hippie and cruising around the country in an RV packed with corgis ...

Dec 12: this is a personal one, but I don't need a PhD. I once thought I did, but have since come to terms with how priorities change. I chose a steady paycheck and health insurance over the gamble of a doctoral program. I love that I can now have the best of both worlds working at the magazine and adjuncting when I choose (even though it can be a little busy at times)

Dec 13 - I don't need plastic surgery and frankly, unless you have something truly disfiguring, I don't think you need it either. Modifying your body is a want, most definitely not a need (unless you're fixing a cleft palate and stuff like that, of course).

Dec 14 - I don't need makeup. Never really understood the point and I worry about the gals who think they can't go without it. The only time you'll catch me in makeup is at a wedding. Other than that, people just need to deal with the natural state of my face. Besides, the words and ideas coming out of my head are more important than the length of my eyelashes. 

Dec 15 - I don't need Facebook. In fact, I just asked our IT to block it on my work computer. Another editor handles our social media so there's no reason for me to touch it. This site isn't going to help me get a promotion, meet a deadline, or be a better editor. 

Dec 16 - I don't need an expensive computer. Our home computer is several years old and works just fine for email, movie streaming, and social media. When it goes kaput, we'll replace it with another basic model (and e-cycle the old one). Was never a person who wanted the latest gadget or dohickus every year. 

Dec 17 - I don't need a big TV (or multiple sets, for that matter).  Our TV set is several years old, only 30 inches, and was snagged at a garage sale by a thrifty friend.  I've never spent my tax return on a TV nor owned a flat screen.  Because we love movies so much, I'd like to get a projector and turn a wall into a home theater.  But those are pricy and the only way I could justify it is if we never bought a TV again.  For now, our gently used set makes our living room quite cozy. 

Not that I would turn down anyone who invited me over to theirs ...
Dec 18 - I don't need a huge salary.  I can't imagine what it would be like to make 35 or 40 grand, much less anything higher.  I need just enough money to drive down my student loans, properly fund my 401k, and have enough leftover to take an adequate vacation every year.  Hopefully I'll be able to achieve that in the next few years.   

Dec 19 - I don't need fast food.  I grew up in an economically sensitive family and McDonalds, KFC, and Wendy's were legitimate treats used as rewards.  It's taken some time for me to reroute my thinking but in recent years, the appeal has waned to almost nothing.  Casey's pizza is another thing though, lol.  But I do feel for the people who live in urban food deserts or who struggle to the point that a Happy Meal is all they can afford to feed their kids.  

Dec 20 - I don't need Christmas presents.  Seriously, I wish that people would donate their money to charity instead of getting me a gift during the holidays.   We don't have a lot of spare change to donate, so helping us out on the "goodwill toward humankind" front is actually incredibly thoughtful for us. 

Dec 21-31 - I don't need new furniture, a smartphone, MP3 player,  camera, video games, fancy kitchen gadgets, manicures/pedicures, premium alcohol, purses, perfume, or shoes.

There is only one Scrooge ...
Lest you think I'm an utter Scrooge during the holidays, rest assure that I still think gift giving has its place.  Unfortunately, you have to make a real effort to cut out the noise and focus on giving with meaning.

Want to know how we kept our budget in check for Christmas this year?  Tune back after the weekend - we're headed up to see our families now and I can't spoil any surprises! 

What are things that you don't need?

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