Yesterday I read an article in the paper about a group in San Francisco that made a decision at the end of 2005 to not buy anything new (except groceries, medicine, and underwear) in the year 2006. They called their commitment The Compact, after the covenant pilgrims on the Mayflower made to one another in 1620.
I love to shop at thrift stores, inherit things from friends, and pick things up from the side of the road. But while the San Francisco Compacters are motivated by a love for the environment and a desire to minimize the footprint they leave on the earth, my scavenging is all about the bottom line. Not to mention the fact that when I get something for a great bargain, or free, I feel like a super hero. In fact, I can barely stand to pay full price for anything any more. When I buy something new, I experience mild anguish the first time something happens to it. When I get something used, lots of things have already happened to it, so there is nothing to worry about.
There were a number of things the San Francisco Compacters mentioned in the article I read that I could relate to. The first was something they call "Compact Karma." This is the observation that when they need something, and resist the urge to buy it new, their needs are often filled. I call this a "Tithing Blessing." This happened recently with my car. I ran it into a shopping cart and dented the front passenger door so that it could not open all the way. I took it to the body shop to ask for an estimate on the repair. I told the guy I would be paying out of pocket and if it was too expensive I wouldn't be able to afford it. He asked if he could take it around back for a closer look. He brought it back to me five minutes later fixed, and wouldn't accept a dime.
Another thing a Compacter said that rang true for me is "I really found a lot of times there were things I thought I needed that I don't need that much." Earlier today, I had convinced myself that I needed to buy a set of black pillowcases to go with some black fitted sheets I bought a year ago. But when I thought about the Compacters, I was reminded of the fact that I have at least 10 perfectly good sets of pillowcases already. They may not be black, but they work just fine.
One Compact member noted in the article "the joy of getting reacquainted with the local library." I love the library. I often wish there were libraries for a lot more things than books. I would like to have a library of baby equipment, a library of remodeling tools, a library of toys--all of these things that we don't need every day, just once in awhile.
Finally, a two-part statement that I liked: "After going through an initial period of withdrawal, discovering how easy it was to obtain pretty much anything with a little time and effort was an eye-opener." I have spent too many afternoons walking up and down the aisles of my local Target just killing time. Shopping can be a great way to alleviate boredom, escape from the house (i.e., the dishes), or cope with a fussy baby. But when I'm trying to save money, the daily trips to Target have to go, because I always end up buying something that I don't need while I'm there.
The second part of the above quote alludes to the two reasons I've decided, after much thought, that I am not yet prepared to join the Compacters in 2007: Time and Effort. Let's say I need some long-sleeved onesies for Esther. I go to Salvation Army. They don't have any in her size that I like. I go to Children's Orchard, same story. By that time, Esther has missed a nap and is out of her mind, and it is time to pick up Adam from kindergarten. And still no onesies. At this point, a Compacter would keep waiting and looking. I would go to the Old Navy Outlet and buy some new onesies, because I know they'll have them, in her size, and they will be cute. And when you're motivated by money first, and a desire to save the earth second, like I am, and you have three unhappy children, like I often do, you're going to be just as happy (if not happier) with new onesies from Old Navy for a good price that you can get immediately as you are with used onesies from Salvation Army for a slightly better price that you may have to wait weeks to find.
But nothing beats finding a cute, like-new, Old Navy onesie at Salvation Army for fifty cents on your first try.