I finally finished Not Buying It. I have to admit when I picked it up I thought the author was my age or at least my generation. She’s a bit older, and that doesn’t really affect the point of her book, but it changed how I looked at the experiment. I know not shopping for a year would be hard for anyone. However, I can’t help but feel that it might be slightly easier for someone who has an established life, works from home, has an apartment in New York City, a house in the country and while not married and has a long term partner.
I had a couple of small problems with the book. I’m still not exactly sure what she wasn’t buying. The impression was they weren’t eating out but they were still buying “luxury items” to cook at home. If you’re not checking out the lastest books at the public library then shouldn’t what you’re eating be more bare bones too? At one point her niece is graduating and she worries about what to give her for gift without spending money. Levine’s final choice is excellent, but while in Montana to attend the graduation she buys an outfit in a second hand store whose proceeds go to charity. While the outfit only cost $9, it occurred to me that perhaps the time to waiver on not shopping is when it comes to buying a gift for your niece. I was also frustrated near the end of the book, she really focuses on the 2004 presidential election. I know it was a stressful time for many, and who’s in office does affect many parts of consumerism, but I’m not reading a book about the election.
Overall I enjoyed the book, it’s a readable and interesting and many on the subject are dry and preachy. I liked that it was a personal narrative that included some interesting points.
- What you save in the money you spend at places like Wal-mart you pay for latter through taxes because Wal-mart is notorious for not providing insurance for their employees and paying them very low wages.
- Because buying organic and natural is so expensive it’s almost a bourgeois privilege.
- Americans work, on average, 9 more weeks a year than Europeans.
- Even our leisure activities cost money. For example, you can’t just bicycle anymore; you have to have a top of the line bike with all the clothing and accessories.
- We have the mindset of consumers. If we don’t like the way one company or industry does something we make the choice to spend our money elsewhere, except who says we have to spend money at all?
Not that the author didn’t come across as preachy on occasion, but the points she was making are good and hopefully a reached a few people who hadn’t thought about them before.
I agree with most of the points she makes, but near the end she seemed to be coming down hard on people who buy and sell, even mentioning we now do both easily through services like eBay. I’m sure its easy to feel superior after not buying for a year, but I have a question for the author – What about her book? She obviously wrote it for the consumer market, hoping people would buy it. Why not choose not to participate in consumerism and chronicle her year on-line for free on a blog like this one?