June 2, 2014

I’m Giving up Shopping for a Year. ~ Karen Hua

  Via Muhammad Ghouri/Flickr

Challenge: Give up purchasing material goods for one year.

Today, I am accepting this challenge. It sounds crazy, and it is crazy.

But it is not impossible.

Wikipedia, the Internet’s most trusted encyclopedia, describes a material good as tangible property, literally, anything that can be touched.

Following these guidelines, I am challenging myself for this year to not buy anything I do not need. For the rest of 2014, I will not be purchasing any type of clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, electronics, or anything else categorized as a “material good.”

In order to continue life at a fair standard, I am making exceptions for mandatory school materials (books), food, gifts for others, and anything for medical or hygiene purposes. I will not fail my classes, starve myself, affect my relationships, jeopardize my health or become a voluntary hobo for the sake of this task.

With these rules in place—challenge on.

When the clock struck midnight on the first of January, I set a goal to change my monetary views and habits for 2014.

I am a broke college rookie whose parents just cut her off. I have three more years of out-of-state tuition to pay. However, I am not accepting this challenge for the sole purpose of avoiding crippling debt for the rest of eternity.

I am actively deciding to exchange the money I spend on unnecessary material goods for experiences.

I am a female, and like many other women, I love shopping. Shopping has always been a communal, bonding activity. In the barren suburbs, mall trips are a day’s remedy for boredom, and to procrastinate. Then there is the glorious black hole of online shopping. There is something, that is sooo satisfying, about having the large package in the mail be for you.

For me, the bulk of my material good purchases are clothing, shoes, accessories and cosmetics. Feeling content with your appearance before you walk out the door, or receiving a compliment on your look can easily brighten up a day.

If I really reflect though, I already have everything I could possibly need. What more could I possibly want?

While I experience a fleeting, temporary jolt of excitement from browsing and purchasing items—I never feel a lasting, internal fulfillment with a greater abundance of material goods.

I may not be consciously aware of it, but a good deal of time and mental energy are spent revolving around my appearance.

The number of minutes each day wasted on online shopping sites, imagining what I would look like in a certain outfit, picking out clothing from what I already have—that time can be put to much better use.

Though I have always been reasonable about my purchases—I don’t shop too often, or buy anything outrageously priced—that money can also be used on so many more worthwhile things. As I’ve recently realized, each day as I gaze at a beautiful jam packed closet, I lament over “not being able to afford” to travel. As I scroll through Etsy and Amazon, I daydream about all the adventures on my bucket list, the events I’d love to attend, shows just waiting to be seen.

Ever since I converted to using British spellings in my sophomore year of high school, it has always been my dying wish to visit England. Besides this dream though, I haven’t seen so much of even my own country.

I’m a New Englander, but I’ve barely traveled the east coast beyond my own region. I’ve never seen the ocean in the Pacific time zone. I’ve never experienced the real South, because Florida doesn’t count. Before going to college, I had never even been to the Midwest.

This year though, I went to South Carolina for the first time over spring break. Last week, I road-tripped across Canada, from Quebec to Montreal to Toronto. This summer, I hope to eat my way across Pennsylvania and North Carolina. In November, I will be attending Playlist Live, a YouTube culture convention in New Jersey, where I will get to meet online content creators who have influenced much of the work I do.

This year holds so much opportunity for travel, inspiration, and new experiences. There are too many films to be appreciated, concerts and shows to bask in the glory of, conventions to learn from, and so many new restaurants to be tried.

Now that I’m an emerging adult, ready and eager to explore on my own, I often worry that my hindrance will always be financial.

All the money I spend on material goods that bring me momentary joy can be used to have these experiences I dream of. In ten years, I know I will not remember all those snowy nights spent inside, typing in my credit card number online. All those trips to the mall are not going to vividly stand out in my mind. But experiences—memories of breathtaking views, the unique people met on the road, kick-ass meals, incredible art—those will be preserved.

Window shopping is never an exciting prospect—but, I suppose, neither is feeling broke.

However, I’ve been told that travel is the only thing that makes you richer.

And that prospect makes the sacrifice worth all the cost.


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Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado/Editor: Travis May

Photo: Muhammad Ghouri/Flickr

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