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Save Money by Buying Less

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Have you heard the conservationist slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”? I actually remember watching a film in elementary school featuring cartoon dinosaurs singing the slogan out. I think that it’s a phrase that most of us are familiar with, but somehow we perform some mental simplification to think of it as merely “Recycle!” Often, we forget about those first two admonitions: to reduce, and reuse.

If you’re looking to trim back your budget, to reduce your carbon footprint, or to simply reduce the amount of waste that you produce in your home, there’s one important place to start: just buy less!

Now I know; this is easier said than done. Most of those things that you pick up at the store are really needed. You’re not shopping for a new couch just for fun; you genuinely need to replace the broken, stained mess that’s in your home right now. However, we’ve also all had the experience of going to the store for just one thing and somehow walking out with 20. I like to call it the “Target Effect.”

When we’re surrounded by messages telling us to buy more and more, it’s harder than we think to resist. Our consumer culture makes it the norm to constantly be shopping for new clothes, housewares, accessories, foods, and gadgets. But that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it smart.

So what can you do to truly reduce the amount of “stuff” that you buy? Here are some helpful exercises to start incorporating into your lifestyle:

Refurbish Old Furniture

Putting together furnitureAlthough we spend hours–and even months–carefully choosing pieces for our home, the truth is that furniture is only as complicated as you make it. So many things that we buy new at bulk distributors using clapboard and conglomerate materials can actually be made yourself. All you need is time to dedicate to the craft, and some space (like, say, an open garage) to work on your project.

So, next time you’re in need of a side table, a footstool, or a shelf, don’t run straight to the store. Look up some DIY options and consider what you can actually repurpose in order to make a custom and personalized piece for your home.

Learn to Do some Basic Sewing

How often do you buy new clothes? And when you do, what’s the driving force? We actually think of clothes shopping as a hobby as often as a necessity. However, if you’re handy with a needle, you really don’t need to frequent the mall as much as you do. Basic patches on your jeans can be easily executed with iron-ons, and can be just as fashionable as they are functional. If you’ve gained some weight, or lost it, you might find yourself dithering about how many new clothes you’ll need to purchase to suit your new figure. However, some simple adjustments can completely revamp your wardrobe.

Learning to hem, insert panels, and take out seams can serve you very well. Not only can you adjust your own clothing, but you can suddenly have the whole world of vintage clothing at your fingertips to make beautiful, unique clothing out of.

Repair instead of Replacing

Speaking of repairing, how often do you throw out dysfunctional appliances instead of taking some extra time to find out how to repair them? I’ve often found that a television can be repaired by simply buying an extra part, an old lamp just needs some rewiring, and that laptop will last another two years if you just give it a tuneup and some more RAM. Many basic repair services that help our economy move around and create the trusted culture of a town, such as tailors, appliance repairmen, etc., are getting harder and harder to find because our easy-come easy-go culture is far too quick to throw away something that doesn’t do exactly what we want, mostly because we are excited about the opportunity to buy a completely new model.

Well, next time the opportunity arrives, check the instinct to toss it and instead invest a little time and effort to reduce waste.

Buy Quality First

Friends giving a giftIt’s much more worthwhile to repair something if it’s a high-quality product in the first place. For example, a cheap bike that you purchased at WalMart for $50 probably won’t be worth the repairs it starts to require a year in. The parts and materials simply just weren’t made to hold up. However, there are still manufacturers out there who make things to last. Investing a little more money in a pricier product now will save money down the line, as long as you’re willing to deny the pop-culture urge to dispose and buy something new. For example, take a look at this layout of a house’s budget. Much of it goes to replacing appliances and doing repairs. But if you can invest in quality appliances with long warranties, and good materials and workmanship that will hold up, you’ll have less to pay down the road, and a lot less hassle in your home.

Think Twice about Gifts and Treats

Often, the things that we spend so much money on are just a way to treat ourselves to something extra. How often do you reward yourself for a goal accomplished, or a difficult day conquered, with a new purchase? And it’s not just for yourself; holidays and birthdays dictate frequent gift exchanges that could very well just add to the clutter of our homes. Next time, think deeper about the gift or treat. Could you reward yourself instead with some aromatherapy? Or time spent doing what you really want to do? And when it comes to gifts, there are other ways to show affection and appreciation. Make something yourself, invest some service time, or create some art for the other person (like a poem or a painting.)

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