Monday, February 6, 2012

The Compact: My Experience

After reading the post on Spendwise Moms about the Compact, I decided to give it a try in January. My husband and I have already been living very frugally, but I was curious how much not buying new would change our lifestyle. Besides buying new for food, health, and safety items, I decided I was also free to use gift cards I already have. I’d buy everything else used.

Overall, I didn’t notice much of a difference. I was tempted a handful of times to purchase a new item, but I didn’t feel deprived by deciding not to purchase. In every case, I was able to find a creative solution by reusing or adapting something I already had at home. Really, it wasn't a major lifestyle change--in truth, having made an "official" commitment just provided a good reminder.

The biggest surprise for the month was how much fun I had shopping second-hand. Somehow it was far more satisfying to strike gold at a secondhand store because I had to search more for it. In addition, the social experience of shopping second-hand was far better. I went with my sister and with friends, and in all cases we had a delightful time spending time together, especially since we could go home guilt-free after making such frugal purchases!

The biggest dilemma was what to do for gifts. There were two birthdays and one baby shower this month, and I hadn’t considered this ahead of time. When I give gifts, I prefer to give something that does not look secondhand. For one of the birthday gifts, I was very lucky and found some great items at a secondhand store (one even had a tag still on it!). However, for the other birthday and the baby shower, I didn’t have time to explore several secondhand stores, so I purchased gifts new with gift cards instead. In one case, it ended up being cheaper than it would have to buy a gift secondhand, because I bought the gift on sale AND got free shipping, so I didn’t have to pay to ship the gift to the family member.

What are my conclusions from the month? First and foremost, I usually don’t need what I think I need. In most cases, secondhand is the way to go. It is more environmentally friendly and more economical. However, I will not rule out retail shopping because if you’re wise, you can sometimes find new merchandise for the same price as secondhand. My plan for February is to live a modified version of the Compact. I will shop primarily secondhand, but will consider shopping new if I can find comparable prices.

I would highly recommend that everyone try their own version of the Compact for at least a week. You may be surprised at the changes that result, or you may discover that you've been living this way all along. Whatever the case, it's a good reminder that self control and a little creativity go a long way.

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