The "Year Without A Purchase"

Last night, Gabby and I settled into bed.  The kids were sleeping, and the Holiday hustle had subsided.  Finally time to exhale.   I set my book on the nightstand.  Optimistic, I was wondering what the first night of 2013 might hold for this husband.  Would we begin with some romance?  Half-smiling, Gabby turned her head toward me and looked into my eyes.

Definitely romance.

Then she spoke up.  Our first “pillow talk” of the New Year.  Her lips parted and she let loose the phrase,

“It’s only January 1st and I’m already irritated with you.”


“This year is going to be a lot harder for me than it is for you.”

And thus begins our “Year Without A Purchase.” 

Several months ago, our Sunday school class did a study on giving the firstfruits of your labor, and “The Power of Enough.”  The book wasn’t exactly a page-turner, but it reminded us of our year in Guatemala. 

Back in 2003, we lived with a beautiful Mayan family, made $130/month, and experienced an indescribable level of purpose and fulfillment.  When we returned home, we were what Southerners call a “hot mess,” arguing over whether or not we truly needed Scotch tape, and curling into the fetal position at the overwhelming choices available in the cereal aisle of the neighborhood groceryplex.

Since then, we have adapted back into life in the USA as our definition of needs vs. wants has slowly morphed into something suburban.

“I need a new pair of dress pants,” I say.

Am I naked from the waist down?

“We need to renovate our bathroom,” we say.

Are we allergic to linoleum?  Have people died from exposure to 20-year-old squeaky toilet seats?

I don’t think Mirriam Webster would agree with our new definition of needs and wants.  So, a few months ago, Gabby posed the hypothetical question, “What if we didn’t buy anything for a year?”

“Are we talking hunting and gathering?  Don’t think I could do it.  I have terrible aim with a staple gun (our family’s only weapon) and can only grow tomatoes.”

“No, I mean the essentials.  I don’t know what essentials are, but it’s less than what we buy now.”

So, we mulled it over during the fall and winter, and agreed we would try to go a year without buying anything.  And now Gabby is irritated with me.  And rightfully so.  It will be harder for her.  Last night she caught a glimpse of my swiss cheese boxer briefs and realized that men tend to buy big ticket items and avoid the everyday needs such as soap and underwear.  Women, on the other hand, make small purchases to make life easier and to nurture their children, but can live without the full-size recreational vehicle converted to backyard smoker capable of turning a full-grown buffalo into 34,000 tasty Beefalo burgers.  Perhaps this paradigm will shift once my underwear slowly disintegrates into the world’s first boxer brief thong.  Until then, my crazy business travel schedule will make her life as a “single mom” much less convenient during this experiment. 

And, we do realize how elitist our challenge is.  The majority of the world faces this same challenge year-after-year out of necessity.  The fact that we are talking about it outwardly is downright offensive.  Still, we think it will be a worthwhile venture to see if a recalibration is possible.  We’ll be posting every week or two to keep you up to date on our lunacy.  Will this truly be the “Year Without a Purchase?”  Or will it simply be “The Year Preceding Our Divorce?”

Tune in to find out.

Meantime, help us out.  How would you define needs vs. wants?