When a married couple from Tennessee realized they have been influenced by a consumerist society for far too long, they embarked on a journey many would describe as impossible. The couple decided to buy only the essentials for them and their two children, for a whole year. That means no new toys, no clothes, no shoes, dresses, iPhones, or furniture!
“We gave up on the things which provided short-term enjoyment and long-term debts. We noticed that our material demands only rose and we just felt like we were living under the pressure of modern society which sends a message that you always need something – a bigger house, bigger car, new clothes, etc. We decided to say enough and turn to true life’s values,” said 45-year old Gabby and 42-year old Scott, parents of a 9-year old boy and 7-year old girl.
Before starting the experiment, some rules had to be set
no shopping, except for food and hygiene products. Spending money on gifts is alright, but just in the form of a charity donation or an experience which could be shared with others. Things that broke or tear may only be fixed, not replaced.
The experiment started on January 1, 2013. The first month was the toughest, as the kids always had some desires when going shopping – at the very start, Scott would tell them that they are playing a game and that they are in a toy museum where you may look everywhere, but mustn’t touch anything. Of course, quickly the married couple realized they had to tell them the real truth – they just don’t need those things.
Scott wasn’t coping the best as well, so during the first two months he spent way too much on food, which was his way of compensating. Because of Scott’s food rampage during the first two months the family saved up only around $10!
The first big issue was when Scott’s briefcase tore.
This was a big thing for Scott. Instead of buying a new one, he tried to find a suitable replacement, so he ended up using his daughter’s purple travel bag.
“I knew it didn’t suit me and that I would have a lot of problems with it, but I felt that even this is a part of the experiment because it showed just how much people judge you on the basis of your appearance and the things you own,” said Scott.
Gabby was under a lot of pressure as well.
She was invited to a wedding in Mexico. According to the rules she wasn’t allowed to buy a dress, so she borrowed one from a friend. She also had to deal with other parents, as her kids went to birthday parties with gifts (usually juice and candy) that were in line with the rules of the experiment.
“It wasn’t an easy feat for us, especially not for me as a mother. I was afraid that other parents would think we’re cheap, or so poor that we can’t afford a regular gift,” explains Gabby.
A year without shopping brought the whole family closer together, because instead of material enjoyments they turned to some other, more meaningful, experiences. After the experiment they stopped following the rules to the letter, but they still shop less and try to spend their money on experiences, not material things. But Scott and Gabby do admit that the experiment would probably be impossible with teenage kids.
To go on this road with two kids and be so persistent is definitely commendable. The concept is amazing and so is their success. However, like with everything in life, balance is the key to happiness. We shouldn’t dismiss material things altogether, but it is true that we should all as a society turn to experiences and building meaningful relationships in order to find happiness.