Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Not Buying It Update 2: January Results

Posted by Crystal Pepperdine, Founder and Executive Director of Flint Handmade

I DID IT!  I met or exceeded all of my Not Buying It Goals for January 2011!!!

Here's a look at my results by the numbers:

January 2011 Results
Money Saved: $1,000 (Total Saved: $1,000)
Pounds Lost: 4 (Total Lost: 4)
Bags Donated: 3 (Total Donated: 3)
Projects Completed: 5 (Total Completed: 5)
Reserves Spent: 0 (Total Spent: 0)

Now, here's the story of how I made it happen by each measure of success:

Money Saved: $1,000 (Total Saved: $1,000)

I bought my certificate of deposit at the beginning of January, paid all my monthly bills and lived off the remaining money from my paycheck.  I was able to buy all of the groceries and gas I needed for about $300 for the month.  In the past, I tried saving whatever funds I had left at the end of the month, but I was able to justify so many purchases during the month that there was never much left over.  Now, I save upfront.

If I wasn't doing the Not Buying It Project, I probably would have spent money on restaurants, craft supplies, creative projects on Kickstarter, clothes and shoes, books, cds, and/or handmade goods from Etsy and our Flint Handmade Shop inside The Lunch Studio.

None of these things are terrible wastes of money, but none of them are necessary either.  I do miss being able to financially support other creatives on Kickstarter and Etsy, but I have found that I can still be supportive by making trades with my fellow crafters and promoting their projects amongst friends.

Ultimately, I would so much rather have the freedom that money in the bank will likely afford me in the future than the instant (and fleeting) gratification of any kind of monetary transaction. 

Pounds Lost: 4 (Total Lost: 4)

With a limited grocery budget, I had to make sure that I didn't waste any money on empty calories.  I shopped almost exclusively at the Flint Farmer's Market for milk, eggs, cheese, bread, vegetables and meat. 

This month, I did not buy any packaged or convenience foods.  I had to work a little harder at meal planning to make sure that my fresh foods did not spoil, but it wasn't that hard.

For example, I had 1/2 a bag of potatoes leftover from Christmas dinner in December and a bag of shredded cheddar cheese from a homemade mac & cheese recipe that never got made.  I used allrecipes.com to figure out how to make au gratin potatoes from scratch instead of from a box.  It was pretty easy and much more satisfying.

When you have to put time into anything you prepare, it's a lot easier to make healthy food choices.  You have to really want whatever it is you are making and I often found that, after eating a nutritious homecooked meal, I just didn't want sweets badly enough to make them from scratch.

Bags Donated: 3 (Total Donated: 3)

"I own a lot of stuff.  Most of my possessions (e.g. my book collection, craft supplies, kitchen gadgets, etc.) contribute positively to my life.  My home is well-decorated and comfortable and I don't feel like I really need anything else at this point in my life.  However, my garage and especially my basement are cluttered with items that are of no real use to me, but could be valuable to others if I just took the time to clear out these areas and donate what I don't want to Goodwill. My goal is to donate at least 1 bag (about the size of a 13 gallon trash bag) per month, if not more, to those in need."

Above is what I wrote in my Not Buying It Update 1 on January 6 and I still feel this way after one month of only spending money on necessities.  But, I would would now amend my statement to say that even the possessions I have that do contribute positively to my life can be evaluated and minimized.

For example, about three of the shelves on my bookcase were full of books from years past that I knew I was never going to read because my interests have changed.  So, I posted over 40 books on PaperBackSwap and will already be mailing out at least 6 of them this week.  Yes, I do have to pay for the postage, but I am using up old stamps.

I also have a lot of clothes I never wear anymore (or never wore at all) that I keep around just in case my weight goes up or down, but I'm finally ready to let all of those old styles and sizes go, too.

Projects Completed: 5 (Total Completed: 5)

I am so pleased with the 5 projects I got done this month!


My beau and I are planting a veggie garden in my backyard this spring.  It only took us an hour or so to create a plan that will have corn, potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and broccoli planted in a space 17' x 49'.  I expect our garden to save us quite a bit of money on groceries in the fall!


I bought a big bag of pistachios to set out for company during the holidays.  The shells were so uniform and smooth, I knew I had to craft with them somehow.  I found a tutorial for making flower brooches out of pistachio shells and I think mine turned out brilliantly!


My mom loves polar bears.  She knows I like to make cards using the preview photos from the backs of calendar, so she gave me the back of a polar bear calendar.  I am only giving handmade presents this year, so I turned the preview photos into a set of cards as a Mother's Day present for my mom.  :)  Sorry for spoiling the surprise, Mom, but I had to show all of the blog readers this awesome upcycled craft!


Last year, I wanted to take a basketweaving class at the Flint Institute of Arts Art School, but not enough students enrolled, so the class was cancelled.  Instead, I took a stained glass class as Stalling Stained Glass.  One of the by-products of working with stained glass is long strips of backing peeled from the copper foil tape that is used to hold the solder to the glass.  It occured to me that I could weave this natural-looking "waste" material into a little basket.


I used to love picking up jars and cards of vintage buttons at antique stores.  My friend, Gwen, gave me the idea to make earrings out of buttons.  I have so many buttons, but never enough time to anything out of them.  This month, I had plenty of time to make 10 pairs of earrings.

Reserves Spent: 0 (Total Spent: 0)

I did not spend any of my $400 cash reserves.  However, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that did tap into my change jar.  I spent about $2 on pin backs at Michael's to make my pistachio brooches and $1 on video rentals for a friend. 

So, if you are going to try your own Not Buying It Project, it helps to have a change jar with lots of quarters.  It is so liberating to know that just $3 in one month is plenty of money to keep away any feelings of deprivation.

In fact, I have never felt more abundant in my life.  Whereas I used to feel like there was always more I could obtain, now I feel like what I already have is more than enough.  Nothing in my material existence has significantly improved or worsened.  I have simply changed my mind about what it takes to be happy and fulfilled. 

I was never very focused on materials goods anyway and now I feel even further removed from vicious WORK/SPEND cycle in which so many Americans find themselves.  I want experiences and knowledge and learning opportunities and freedom so much more than I want newer, bigger, faster stuff.  It is the most worthy trade I have ever made in my life.  Period.

P.S. For more information on the WORK/SPEND cycle and the destructive materials economy, check out The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard.


  1. Yes! I have so much admiration and respect for what you're doing, Crystal. Way to go!

  2. Great month, Crystal - very inspiring! Also, TOTALLY love those pistachio shell brooches - so pretty!

  3. Nicole: Thanks so much! I'm really enjoying My Not Buying It Project so far. I have more time to cook, so I'm planning to make some of your recipes soon...those cinnamon rolls are calling my name! :)

    Bethany: You and the other HD ladies has been such inspirations for me...I'm happy to return the favor! Those brooches are so fun and much easier to make than they look! ;)

  4. Good for you and you'll definitely save a lot of money from growing your own vegetables. You can save thousands of dollars and all it takes to grow a garden is a couple of hundreds so it's a big return on investment.

    All the best with your veggie garden!