What Brings *You* To Non-Consumerism?

by Katy on April 16, 2014 · 78 comments

As someone who calls herself “The Non-Consumer Advocate,” you’d think that the reasoning for my lifestyle would be straightforward and all soundbite-y. Something like this:

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

Oh wait, I do have a soundbite . . . .

But life is never as simple as a snappy and cute sentence.

My goals (in no particular order) are to save money, choose used over new, spend less money, have less stuff in my life, minimize my role in the environmental effects of global over-manufacture of stuff, make over under-appreciated goods, value my own life and privilege, make healthy choices, repair and mend whenever possible, provide well for my family and spread the word that a non-consumer life is a desirable and fulfilling life. (And probably some other reasons as well.)

Sometimes the financial aspects of non-consumerism head the list, but other categories will often jump the line.

It’s like a huge and and ever moving venn diagram with a big circle of non-consumerism in the middle.

But today I want to know why you are drawn to a non-consumer lifestyle. Are you climbing out of debt, are the environmental benefits your motivation or maybe you just like the creative challenge? Please share your story in the comments section below.

I want to know your story.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan April 16, 2014 at 10:15 am

I’ve been frugal since I moved back to the UK in 1989. Originally, it was because money was tight and I didn’t have a choice in the matter. However, these days its a lifestyle. I don’t really think too much about it. I have occasional weaknesses such as fabric and yarn. I’m downsizing my wardrobe and replacing it with clothes I’ve made myself and love. I don’t think anyone in my family is that materialistic. Its Ewan’s 16th birthday on Sunday and we are just going out to Leeds tomorrow for lunch. That’s all he really wants, a nice day out with mum eating out. I like my simple life.


Katy April 16, 2014 at 10:20 am

Sounds lovely!


Susan April 16, 2014 at 10:42 am

Don’t think Ewan’s perfect. He can be an annoying, moody teenager too. You know what boys are like!


surviving and thriving on pennies April 16, 2014 at 10:29 am

Its how I was raised. Have and always will be.


Jenny April 16, 2014 at 10:36 am

When first married, my husband was in college still, we had a young son and another on the way, and I was only making $1200 a month. We had to be frugal to make ends meet! A copy of the complete Tightwad Gazette was my guide. Later, we finally launched on dream careers — writer for me, artist for him — which allowed us to work from home but meant we were self employed and faced with the vagaries in income that lifestyle brings. We also added a mortgage to the mix around that time. We are frugal nonconsumers for three reasons now. First, because it’s the least stressful way to live with the ups and downs in income. Second, because it gives us the means to realize all of our goals personally and as a family. Third, because it matches with our social, politcal and environmental values.


Trish April 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

wow I love that last statement – it matches your social, political, and environmental values. I would concur. We (well, really I- my husband just goes along with it) were initially tightwads to save money, and direct it towards things we enjoyed, rather than just mindless consumerism. But the environment is so important to me, and I want to minimize my impact on it as much as possible. As well, I feel very strongly in the statement ‘live simply that others may simply live’. I don’t think many consumers in the western world are at all aware of the real cost of all their affordable goods , from clothes, to decorations to diamonds. I often wonder if the Chinese factory workers go home exhausted at the end of the day to their very simple lives, maybe in a city far away from their family, and think about the strange westerners who buy the seemingly useless decorations they spend their day manufacturing.

One could argue that at least these useless decorations are providing a living for these people, but that argument is useless and shortsighted. and in general, I believe a truly satisfying life is one that is not spent in pursuit of making money, but in living, in mindfully making our way in the world, in growing or raising our food, or chopping our wood or making our own clothes. Not all these activities will appeal to everyone. And there are those who really love their jobs, but those people from what I can see, are in the minority.

in summary (sheesh am I ever on my soapbox!) I believe that a life of mindless consumerism is not a fulfilling one. I love to hear the non consumer wins everyone shares on Facebook, and the stories Katy shares of saving small amounts of money towards her kids’ college fund. If you go on a huge fancy vacation as a matter of course, it will become ‘nothing special’. But if you get to go on a nice beach vacation only rarely, it becomes something incredible. If you buy your asparagus at the store, you will never know how incredible home grown fresh picked asparagus can taste.


Tonya April 16, 2014 at 10:38 am

I came to non-consumerism through a desire to save money. It’s got other benefits for me, but it’s still primarily a desire to save money.


Kristy April 16, 2014 at 10:42 am

I grew up in a house with a low income and lots of people. We found a way to make things last and reuse them for frugality and convenience. I kept up a lot of these practices, but am continually updating based on new lessons I’m learning from time to time and changes in income and maturity. It’s an ongoing process with the only real goals of being happy and continue learning.


Amanda April 16, 2014 at 10:45 am

We were young and in college and broke. We made some poor (no pun intended) decisions and ended up even more broke. We are currently trying to purchase a house and pay off our debts…so thats always a factor. Health is another factor — simplifying and cleansing our diets was the step that actually brought us to this path, go figure. Also, I hate waste and our consumer driven culture and always have…but I never had a name for it. This gives it a name, a face, a cause, and makes it slightly more “mainstream” 🙂


Katy April 16, 2014 at 10:55 am

Happy to think I’ve named a cause. Of course, I hardly invented it. 😉


Dsperin April 16, 2014 at 10:49 am

My non-consumerism began quite by accident. I once was a coupon-er–not “extreme” but I certainly bought my fair share of items that I never would have bought had they not been free or nearly free (Olay regenerist eye serum? I was 27!) It used to be that I could lounge around on Sunday mornings with my coffee and newspaper looking at deals… and then head to Albertsons in the early afternoon.

Then, Extreme Couponing happened and while it may seem insane to say, my world was flipped. The first Sunday after the show aired I showed up at my normal time at Albertsons only to find the place swamped with people clutching binders. Shelves were cleared and these poor newbies were pacing. I just left. And I didn’t return.

Obviously I was saving quite a bit by couponing so I didn’t really know what to do at first. Ultimately I realized that my entire food shopping game plan needed to change and, since processed junk food is the most expensive, I started by eliminating that stuff.

I dived into figuring out what I could avoid buying and make myself. I bought a deep freezer off Craigslist, and got to learning about freezer meals, dried beans, and buying discounted fresh foods and saving them for later.

After this started and after many, many documentaries via Netflix, I try my darndest to avoid handing my money over to “the man” for overly processed food and Earth damaging packaging. It bled into other areas of my life and, honestly, I love it. I have an eye for “cheating” the system and repurposing items instead of buying new .

Like the person above me, it’s become a lifestyle. I no longer care about what brand my (or anybody else’s) clothes care, or whether I’m fashionable, or if generic coffee sucks. I take pride in not being a brainwashed consumer… the only problem is that sometimes I can’t keep my opinions to myself!


Katy April 16, 2014 at 10:54 am

Interesting journey, thank you so much for sharing!



Trish April 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm

what documentaries? I would love to hear about them! and that is a great story.


Dsperin April 17, 2014 at 8:14 am

The first one I watched was “Tapped”. Up until that point I bought bottled water frequently.


Andrea April 16, 2014 at 10:53 am

I suppose I sort of was raised with the seeds of non-consumerism from an early age. I spent a lot of time as a kid with my grandma, who grew up during the Depression, and she was forever making and mending clothes for me and doing other handmade craft-type things (crochet, embroidery, etc). My parents were also a big influence; we were never more than middle class growing up, but we got to do a lot of really neat things, especially foreign travel, because my mom knew the value of spending wisely and saving well, being critical of advertising, going for quality over flashy looks or name brands – skills she was careful to teach me along the way! My dad and my other set of grandparents were also gardeners, so I gained an affinity for home-grown veggies. 🙂 I also have sort of an innate hatred of throwing anything away, so instead of becoming a hoarder, I’ve tried to channel that impulse into acquiring quality items (used, if possible!), maintaining them well, and learning to fix or repurpose instead of replacing where possible. I get a lot of satisfaction from fixing/making my own stuff. And I’ll admit, I love being the person who knows how to do everything – fix a meal from scratch? Clean the ring out of a bathtub? Install a light switch? DIY wedding hairdo? Check, got it covered.

And I must say, this has all served me very well in my current situation as an underemployed, newly married grad student living in a teeny-tiny apartment with husband and cat underfoot! But even if/when I get a little more financially stable, I don’t ever want a McMansion full of *things* – I’d much rather have a modest house (easier to clean!) and a nice chunk of savings for kids’ college/retirement/travel (especially travel!).


Vickie April 17, 2014 at 10:15 am

Andrea – I wish EVERY college student saw the value in living like you do. I think they would be in a lot less debt and happier with fewer things!
GOOD JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Kristen April 16, 2014 at 10:59 am

I like the freedom that comes with no debt and money in the bank, my Christian beliefs compel me to be a good steward of the earth and to spend my money mindfully, and really, I think I was born with some of my non consumery tendencies…I think I must have inherited it from my frugal grandma!


Katy April 16, 2014 at 11:02 am

It’s amazing how two people with as different backgrounds as we have can end up in the same place. Love you!!!!


Kristen April 17, 2014 at 2:53 am

I wuv you too, Katy! 😀


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:25 am



Isela April 17, 2014 at 5:37 am



K D April 16, 2014 at 11:12 am

My journey started with The Tightwad Gazette combined with Your Money or Your Lige, and The Millionaire Next Door around 1998. I was a stay-at-home mom to a young one so we were still adjusting to our income being cut in half. I found I loved the challenge of paying less for stuff, and with a youngster much of the stuff was used clothes, toys, books, puzzles, etc. I also was influenced by the “cook from your pantry” philosophy in The Tightwad Gazette. I believe reading both your blog and The Frugal Girl for several years has made me even more aware of the environmental impact of consumption. I would not quite label myself a non-consumerist but I have many of the tendencies and like Kristen feel compelled to be a good steward of the earth/resources.


Lesa April 16, 2014 at 11:15 am

I am heading into non-consumerism for a couple reasons. First, I don’t like worrying and when we push our budget to the very edge then we may not always be this blessed and so we need to save and be careful now. Second, I am tired of cleaning it all up. It is just stuff and everywhere. We move a lot and it takes forever to pack it up, unpack and figure out where to put it. Then cleaning it constantly and forgetting we have something because it is never used. Like order because I feel like it keeps my mind clear, but that can’t be done with the house cluttered up.


Karen April 16, 2014 at 11:28 am

I was led to The Non-Consumer Advocate by an ad in The Simple Dollar blog a couple of years ago. The topics that speak to me most are those addressing making things over or making things do, and reducing my waste imprint.

I have been living a debt-free life since 2004. No mortgage, no car payment, credit cards used sparingly and paid in full each month. Not bragging, just statement of fact.


Kylie April 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

While I was on maternity leave I started reading the No Impact Man blog – which then lead on to Zero Waste Home and The Compact – and all of them opened my eyes up to changes I could make in my life. I felt like I was finally finding people and lifestyles that aligned with my concerns about the environment and society and I’ve just slowly day by day implemented different ideas in to my own life. I think it was a combination of reduced income while I was on maternity leave, a bit of time in my day to invest in my own interests and a greater sense of wanting to live according to my own values now that I had a baby that all brought me to this lifestyle. Love it – really makes me happy to simplify and be more green. And I hope one day all these changes will mean I can afford to quit my current job, stop commuting in to the city, move somewhere lovely and do something creative while living a balanced and simple life with my family.


Megyn April 16, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Perfectionism. It’s very easy to be a non-consumer if you won’t buy something that’s not EXACTLY what you want. I’ve been this way my whole life (and my parents can share the horror stories of many Christmas mornings).

I also REALLY love my money. It’s a way I can hoard without all of the physical stuff. And I love my money more than I usually ever love anything it buys (whether physical or experiential).

Lastly, I’ve always been an environmentalist (well, at least since Fern Gulley came out). Protecting the Earth has always been a top priority for me.

Perfectionism+money love+inherent environmentalist=one big non-consumin’ gal.


Dsperin April 17, 2014 at 8:18 am

You sound a lot like me. I believe that perfect items appear randomly and I can’t just go out and buy a dresser, or car, or whatever. I once tried to explain to my husband how I feel about items and he just doesn’t get it–I want it an item to feel perfect when I see it. I just don’t feel that way about a particle board dresser at Wal Mart, no matter how cheap it is. Hence the reason why my wardrobe repeats itself too often and we still don’t have a dresser 🙂


Brittany April 16, 2014 at 12:43 pm

For me, it is for the freedom it brings! Freedom from debt, from the pressure put upon us by society and big business to be consumers instead of citizens, from competition instead of community and cooperation. So many things to be gained by saying no to the status quo.


Vickie April 17, 2014 at 10:20 am



tna April 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I love the beauty in nature and I love simplicity. I remember wading through a pristine creek and finding a pink toilet seat on the mud bank. What!!!!? I don’t want to contribute to the ruining of the earth and I don’t like a lot of junk around me so I don’t spend much and don’t need much. A wise man once told me KISS…keep it simple stupid.


Denise April 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I am a farm-raised kid, so that part of frugality–growing your own, working hard and perhaps not making much to show for it—comes naturally.
Traveling through Europe and Australia gave me an appreciation of just how many people live in this world!
I am a journalist and past news writer and have interviewed people from all walks of life, which has allowed me to study human behaviors. I found the happiest people seemed to have the simplest lives…they had a cheerful attitude of thanksgiving, no matter their income.
And, then, I just cannot stand stuff…thoughts of garbage dumps, piles of CRAP everywhere send me into orbit. 🙂


A. Marie April 16, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I’ve been doing nonconsumerism all my adult life (I’m now 58.5), for all of the reasons you have mentioned. However, I think what often doesn’t get mentioned is that this lifestyle brings challenge, satisfaction, and enjoyment like no other. I’ve always liked this quote I’ve seen attributed to the late Joe Dominguez of Your Money or Your Life: “When this stops being fun, you’ll see my tail lights!”

(And, speaking of Joe D, it’s sobering in the midst of the fun to realize that he died when he was my age. All the more reason to carpe diem.)


Ellie April 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Challenge, satisfaction, and enjoyment — YES! I was reading comments and waiting for somebody to say its a FUN way to live. Anyone can live mindlessly, but to plan to be a steward of both my money and the planet is extremely rewarding. (and, just fyi A. Marie, I’m 79.5, so you have a long way to look forward to.)


A. Marie April 16, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Thanks, Ellie–and long may you and all the rest of us live to carry the nonconsumerist banner!


Linda M April 16, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I am drawn to the non-consumer lifestyle because, like Kristen, it is the “right thing” to do. It also makes my life so much less complicated. I was raised by parents that were Depression babies and that carried over. Our family went through the tough times when many farmers lost their farm. My husband and I made it through it, but it was tough. I am so thankful that I knew how to stretch a dollar and be creative. We made it through stronger because of it. We both went to work off the farm…..but because of that, we had jobs that allowed us to retire early. We still have most of the farm and rent it to someone else. We are retired but still continue to be very frugal…..after all….it is the right thing to do.


Diane April 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm

I was raised with the values of New England thrift, but now as an aging adult with too much debt and a meager income I live a simple life because really there is no other choice for me. I make my life work so that I am not deprived, but there is no room for any extras in my budget. My debt comes from an investment I made in the life of teenager long ago and it has been repaid a thousand fold, just not monetarily. Sometimes the financial choices we make in our lives are due to circumstances beyond our control and we live with the consequences for many years.

That said, I will be debt free in 3 years…..it’s been a long time coming!


Vickie April 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

Bless you, Diane and hang in there. I should be free from debt slavery about the same time as you!!


Andrea A. April 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

The first edition of “Your Money or Your Life” gave me a new perspective on money. I have always been interested in reducing the environmental impact of our consumerism. My ultimate goal is to set an example for my daughters to live modestly (beneath your means/minimal possessions). I think that is a lifestyle choice that allows for both the most freedom and security in life.


Lilypad April 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm

My main two reasons for being frugal and non-consumery: I need to homeschool my son who has some special needs (thus necessitating we are a one-income family and will be for at least the next 5 years) and I am a huge tree-hugging eco-freak and I am INCENSED by what most Americans are doing to this planet. We are debt free and want to buy a house but can’t afford to do so now, so we’re saving for a bigger down payment. And as noted by Ellie above, it’s just darn fun and I treat it like a game!


Lilypad April 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm

p.s. Happy Passover, Katy! I just pulled my home made savory Passover pie from the oven…


Joan Wiberg April 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm

My dad is FRUGAL, so I was raised with an awareness of not succumbing to NAME BRANDS. “Designer jean labels are free advertising for the maker,” “All the pickles come from the same place they just switch out the jar labels,” “Consumer Reports says this brand is just as good as the more expensive brand.” We had those attractive cereal boxes with the fake names “Oateeos” or the generic phase in the 1970s when it just said what it was on the plain white box: “crackers”. I embrace the creativity of using what I have on hand, it is like a challenge. I love thrifting and my stores are NOT AS GOOD AS YOURS. Although, mine have a considerable amount of hideous lamps.


Ruby Julian April 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm

My husband and I worked in low-paying white collar jobs for the first decade of our marriage. Thank goodness we were raised by frugal people and knew how to scrimp and save, plus I was a subscriber to The Tightwad Gazette when it was still a monthly newsletter. Our interest in non-consumerism came about after we had to clean out both our parents’ houses after they died. We resolved then and there to not have so much stuff and became ardent recyclers.


Maggie April 16, 2014 at 6:14 pm

We’re a young family with low income and more debt than I would like. Hubby is getting out of the Marines soon and our income stream will be gone, along with housing, medical insurance, and our entire lifestyle. I want to save money and stop accumulating stuff since we’ll have to move it all.


psmflowerlady/tammy April 16, 2014 at 6:23 pm

My Mom was a wonderful person but a horrible $ manager and subsequently there was lots of tension when I was growing up as a result of her spending and as a result (I think), I’ve always really associated spending with stress and conflict and really don’t get a lot of enjoyment from it. I know that I save for security reasons and get really antsy if my checking account drops below a certain amount. When I was 40, I got a divorce and started over from scratch. I had 2 kids, hardly any child support and no house so I took a loan against my 401K. What I hadn’t counted on though was being the primary provider for my kids and the emotional implications of not wanting to deny them any “thing” as a result of my choosing the divorce. Consequently, I started racking up some pretty significant credit card debt (all while still saving like crazy – yeah – I know not bright – but I needed that savings for security – vicious cycle). All along though, we never had TV and I find that I am totally repulsed by the consumerism portrayed on TV and the advertising associated with it. I personally resent being “conned” into buying something and advertising and marketing have IMHO brainwashed us into believing that their products are our NEEDs. NOT! I think that many of us are consumers because the media taps into our emotional needs, so I am consciously choosing to meet my emotional needs other ways. So, to wind up this diatribe, it’s both a contrarian stubbornness and a moral environmental imperative.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:32 am

I too abhor advertising, and feel strongly about how offensive most of it is. Thank you for sharing!


Joanna April 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm

In order of importance:

1. Like Kristen, my Christian faith leads me to making choices that reflect good stewardship for the earth and its resources and concern for the poor and exploited. I also strive to live in a way that reflects that I love God and other people more than I love possessions or money.

2. I do not enjoy shopping in regular stores. I tell my husband that I have a 2 store limit when we’re doing a shopping trip. I get very overwhelmed and cranky in most stores. (Oddly enough, Goodwill doesn’t not have this effect on me if I’m in the right mood.)

3. Dave Ramsey! I’m babystepping through number 2 with my husband right now.

4. I’m a minimalist. I live in a one-bedroom apartment with a giant husband and a tiny dog. We all fit comfortably and so does our stuff. Something has to really be ticking all my boxes it to make it into my house.

5. I hate waste. I see so much of our consumption habits as supremely wasteful and I try to minimize my contribution to that.

6. I already have everything I need. I am beyond blessed.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:30 am

The picture you paint of your minimal apartment made me laugh, as I was picturing a huge husband who has to stoop to walk and a teeny-tiny dog! Thank you for sharing!


Nic April 16, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I grew up in a family where there never was a lot of money, but I never felt poor. We had what we needed. My dad grew up poor and has worked very hard to make a better life for his family. The price he’s paid for that is his health, and I fear it’s shortened his life span. He should be retired now, but still works.

I’ve never understood shopping as entertainment. I loathe the consumerism culture that seems to be everywhere these days. I have zero desire to work 60 hours a week in order to climb the corporate ladder or fill my life with meaningless things. The thought of being in debt makes me cringe. I don’t want to have to work when I’m my dad’s age. That means saving for my eventual retirement with money I make today. The more I save now, the less I need to save later.

I have a nice small apartment in an expensive city, but I still manage to live beneath my means. I treat myself to the occasional meal out. I enjoy getting free books from the library. I love spending the afternoon at the movies. I go for long walks in the local park. I refuse to pay $6.00 for a cup of coffee when I can make my own at home.

I indulge in things that enhance my ability to enjoy everyday life. I love music, and have a great pair of headphones. The best set of sheets I ever owned were second hand when I got them, and I was sad when they wore out. Life is too short to sleep on uncomfortable sheets. I love to read, and my tablet allows me to take books with me, where ever I go.

My savings habit allowed me to leave a job that was bad for my mental health, go back to school and embark on a new career. I don’t tell people that I can’t afford something; I tell them that I choose not to spend my money that way.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:28 am

My favorite sheet is a high thread count Ralph Lauren fitted sheet that I bought at the Seattle Goodwill. I just mended it, and I’ll be sad when it eventually bites the dust. I wash it and put it right back on the bed. And that $6 cup of coffee? We;re on the same page there! Thank you for sharing!


Diana April 17, 2014 at 2:23 am

My husband and I make over six figures and have since we got married 11 years ago, but I’ve always wanted to live comfortably AND within our means. Retiring early is one of our goals (and retiring well!) so we’ve been great savers. Because we live frugally (buying all our clothes household goods second-hand) this month we were able to adopt our third child through a domestic newborn adoption agency which was expensive. I praise God that he taught me how to live below my means so I could be blessed with this beautiful baby!


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:27 am

It takes self-discipline to stay within a strict budget when money is tight, but I think it takes even more self-discipline when they money is actually there. Congratulations on your new baby!


JD April 17, 2014 at 3:50 am

My parents were middle-aged when they had me and I’m late 50’s, so they were married during the depression. They taught me so much — I can remember my mother, who sewed a great deal, pulling store-bought clothes inside out to show me the poorly matched seams and sloppy finishing — but they didn’t teach me money management, because we never had any money when I was growing up. It’s been a long, slow road, made harder by the fact that my husband is now underemployed and in so-so health, but the old training has kept me going, and blogs like this keep me encouraged to carry on. The other reason is that, like others, I hate waste and despoiling the earth, and my faith tells me to be conscious of how my choices affect others.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:25 am

I love that your mother took the time to show you the poor quality of store bought clothes. Sounds like an iterating perspective. Thank you for sharing!


Belleln April 17, 2014 at 6:27 am

Raised being frugal from parents who lived thru the Depression.
Have a BS in Home Economics (1968) majored in Foods with lots of Clothing, Housing and Child & Family studies. As it was during Pres. Johnson’s War on Poverty everything we were taught hinged on making the most out of the least and how to teach it to others. I’ve mentioned this before – getting a nickel’s worth out of every penny. Worked then, has worked thru 47 years of marriage. Yes, we’ve had our lapses and our ups and downs but in the long run we’ve been frugal and it’s worked.
Right now I’m pressure cooking a chicken carcass to make soup for Saturday’s dinner – flavored with parsley stems (picked from the garden the leaves going in salad, some wilted onions, & semi sprouted garlic. Will probably be about 1/2 cup of chicken but with added veggies, mainly Asian greens from the garden, some onion and celery, and muffins baked from scratch it’ll be a nice dinner at little cost. And of course much healthier than soup from a can.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:24 am

Mmm . . . that sounds delicious! I’ve never heard the saying “getting a nickel’s worth out of a penny,” I love it! Thank you for sharing!


That Other Jean April 17, 2014 at 7:05 am

Our kids are grown and we’re retired on an adequate-but-limited income, so part of our non-consumerism is the frugality necessary to get from one end of the month to the next without going into debt. Part of mine, personally, is a reaction to hard-working parents who started out with lots more ambition than money, did quite well for themselves, and bought all the status symbols. Being a child of the 60’s, I rejected those symbols in favor of becoming, mostly, a tree-hugging hippie. I grew up, finally, but I’ve never needed the big house, fancy car, and mink coat lifestyle that motivated my parents.

For now, for both of us, we’re into staying out of debt while being able to do what’s really important to us–supporting our hobbies, our pets, our savings accounts, going out to dinner once in a while, and keeping our season tickets to a local theater. We take care of what we have, don’t buy the latest electronic whatever when we already have what works for us, buy used when we can, ignore fashion in favor of clothes clean and in good repair that fit, cook most of our own meals and eat the leftovers—in short, we do what we need to in order to do what we want to.

We downsized into a smaller house nearly a decade ago, and we’re still working on finding the limits of “enough”–donating what we don’t use so we have time and room to appreciate what we do. Our interests and abilities change over the years, and what we want and need changes also. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but what is life without challenges? We’re doing well enough, and enjoying life.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:21 am

It sounds like you’ve found a good balance. Thank you for sharing!


Louise April 17, 2014 at 7:38 am

I feel like I’m a recovering consumer. I’m on a constant 12-step program and some days I do quite well, and then? I slip. I buy. I lust for things I don’t need. I do love the challenge of being frugal, and hate to pay for things that I can do without or make myself, but when it’s been a long day of work and I’m tired my mind sometimes can’t find the alternatives. And when I’ve been doing a lot of frugal things and feel like I “deserve” a treat, I find myself buying things we don’t need. Finding blogs that help guide me is so useful in sidestepping these moments, and I feel like I’m making some progress.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:20 am

We all deserve treats. The challenge is to find ways to treat ourselves that are within our budgets and don’t derail financial goals. Thank you for sharing!


WilliamB April 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

I had an insight about why, when I was tired or stressed, I did things that weren’t in my best interests. I wasn’t that I wanted the thing more when I was beat down (not literally), nor did they make me feel better. The reason I had the thing is that I had less capacity to resist.

Since then, it’s been easier for me to resist, even when I’m worn out.


Megg April 17, 2014 at 7:39 am

For me it’s equal parts saving money and environmental. About 7 years ago I got onto a “green kick” after college. I started using cloth pads, cloth napkins, reusing things, stuff like that. I was still spending money and not saving, because I was living at home with my parents. Now it’s also about saving money. We live in an area with a high cost of living, and I only work part time, so while we can always make ends meet, if we want to do anything fun it requires being a little more frugal so we can have that flexibility. Plus, we’re (relatively) newly married, and I feel like no one has money when they’re newly married!

My dad recently said he thinks it’s interesting that I’m doing a lot of the same things my mom did when they were newly married (hanging clothes on the line, saving bags, things like that). It made me happy because that was before I was born, so I had no idea that she did those things 🙂 Guess it’s in my genes too!


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:19 am

I guess everything old is new again. Thank you for sharing!


Sharon April 17, 2014 at 8:40 am

Reading ‘The Complete Tightwad Gazette’ is what inspired me to make frugality a beautiful, fun thing. She mentioned that as a child, she noticed that kids with the newest gear lived in smaller, inexpensive apartments. Kids with older, hand-me-down stuff lived in homes with land. I want to live in a home with land — land being a metaphor for stability and quality.

I want to live at the intersection of beauty, frugality, Christ-likeness, sustainability, and simplicity.

My other source for reliable inspiration is the [now closed] blog of Meredith at ‘Like Merchant Ships.’


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:17 am

Ahhh . . . love Amy Dacyczyn! Thank you for sharing!


Pat April 17, 2014 at 8:41 am

I was raised in the 60’s in a very large family (14 kids!). We reused everything. Hunted/fished for our own meat or went without. My mother canned everything from our garden or froze stuff once we had a freezer. I hate seeing the waste. It really bothers me how quickly people will just throw stuff away when it is perfectly fine. I am amazed that people actually throw away clothing with their weekly trash. I wasn’t raised tha way and I haven’t raised my own kids that way either. We lead a simple life and use up our things. Cars – we drive them until they don’t move anymore. Clothes – we patch them if we can. Food – last nights leftovers become another meal on a different day. You get the picture.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:17 am

Your unique background certainly has set the stage for a keen eye again waste. Thank you so much for sharing!


Vickie April 17, 2014 at 8:45 am

We are working toward debt freedom, along with the fact that I realized, even though I buy many things 2nd hand – I had too much STUFF!
I started seriously decluttering over a year ago. I found a like to your page in a forum I’ve been a member of for several years at homesteadingtoday.com. The forum called “Tightwad Tips & Frugal Living” is a place to share tips on saving money, recycling, reusing and using it up. I’ve learned so much by connecting with others who want to live the same lifestyle I do and save money while doing it.
BTW – My husband and I have shed about 20k in debt over the past 3 years. We plan to be debt free in 5 years – with only the mortgage and my student loan left to pay off.
The decluttering project is coming along great too. I’ve pared my clothing down to one side of our shared closet; cleaned out 5 closets of unused items and donated hundreds of useful items to the Friends Shelter and my local Goodwill store.

Conclusion: Less waste, less junk, less cleaning – and most important – more money, more time, more freedom and better health!


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:15 am

It sounds like you’ve made terrific progress, great job!


Kristyn April 17, 2014 at 9:02 am

I started off being frugal around 2007 when I got a new job (that I loved) which only paid half of what the old job (which I hated) paid me. I stuck to a strict budget and my recreational shopping ended as a result (that being said, my mother is a borderline hoarder so THAT also made recreational shopping an unattractive activity). I never really went back to shopping the way I had before but there was some lifestyle inflation through the years. When I purchased my home in 2011, I started re-evaluating my purchases again and, started looking at it from a more environmental viewpoint. I would say I’m more devoted to “the cause” now because I’m CHOOSING to live this way instead of HAVING to live this way due to finances (this speaks only to MY experiences with non-consumerism, it doesn’t refer to anyone else’s reasons). I’m really thankful for this blog/Facebook community because it lets me know there ARE others like me out there, even if my acquaintances IRL all look at me a funny.


Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:14 am

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. Seeing hoarders, where they’re “borderline” or otherwise can make a person look at their own stuff with a new eye.


Kim April 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I refuse to buy into the consumerism and obsession over “stuff” that permeates our culture.
I especially dislike the ” disposable” mentality of everything from McDonalds Happy Meal toys to cheap clothes bought new- items that will be filling landfills in short order.

I was raised by a frugal mom who stretched one income. She showed her love not by buying us “stuff” but by cooking delicious meals, showering us with affection, and doing ” little things” that made us feel special. I want that for my family!

Kim from Philadelphia


Kelly April 17, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I grew up poor with family who had a terrible frame of mind. I remember my grandmother would spend hours crying, lamenting how poor we were. She would hold onto everything and anything because it was still “good,” including old chicken wire, one bazillion cool whip tubs, and jars of rusty nails. I yearned for a positive light in the midst of the darkness, and found a smile in making due with what I had. I thought if I could show my family how much we had it could change our lives. Turns out that didn’t work. 🙂 but it did change mine! I now teach my kids to be grateful for what they have and how lucky they are. We go for a walk and out to play, and they don’t know who got voted off the island. Their clothes are free thanks to consignment recycling and nobody is the wiser. I have grown to realize that by casting off one’s consumeristic mindset allows you to untether yourself from your things and allows you to enjoy life’s true pleasures; family, happiness, experiences.


Kristin April 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

My journey into non-consumerism started with our journey to get out of debt. When my sister-in-law and her three children moved into our house, we realized just how much stuff we had which we never used. Last summer we donated multiple car loads full of stuff. We have not missed any of it. Now there is less to clean and move around. I am thrilled to have less stuff and hope to clean out even more this summer!


jill April 18, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I am the opposite of many in the NCA community – I was not raised this way. I was raised in an extremely materialistic house where the tv was on all the time and all that mattered was keeping up with the Joneses. When I went off to college I found out that people actually went on picnics, played board games and lived simple but enriched lives. So I decided that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom when I had my kids. And then it became about saving money so I could live the lifestyle that I wanted.


Thevail April 18, 2014 at 7:25 pm

I’m coming to a non/lower consumer lifestyle because.. I won. No not the lottery, at the game of consumerism. I have lots of lovely clothes and shoes by famous designers, jewelry, my own, grandma’s etc., a lovely little home in a nice neighborhood and a car that runs well and probably will forever if I take care of it (Jeeps are like that). I started thrift store and yard sale-ing a couple of decades ago and I got really really good at it. So I managed to get all sorts of super nice stuff for very little. Then I played the replace it with even better stuff for even less game. Then..finally..I realized that there isn’t anything any better for any less money out there. And even if there is.. I still already have one anyway. So, where does an American go with their life when they have everything they need or even mostly want? (Except more books..there will never be enough books) That’s when you head for non consumerism. It might have been better if I’d come this direction sooner, after all, no one actually needs 40 pairs of shoes even if they are really nice and only cost a few bucks. Still, here I am 🙂


CarrieP April 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I find such inspiration on your blog, Katy! I came to thrift/non consumerism to get out of piles of student loan debt. I felt alone and hopeless and was rooting around for solutions. Took out library books galore. Then, like you and so many others, hit upon the Tightwad Gazette. It changed my life. My husband and I paid off over 100k in student loans and learned the joy and satisfaction of extreme tightwaddery. Now that we’ve been out of true financial crisis for a long time, we have veered out of being as frugal and environmentally gentle as I’d like (although people still call us thrifty and we are less wasteful than most). Your blog reminds me of the fun and value of the non-consumer lifestyle. Keep up the good work.


Katy April 22, 2014 at 10:22 am

It’s soooo fun!


Rachel S. April 23, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I started when I quit my job to stay home with my kids. Growing up we were always fairly frugal though. One sore spot was that my parents were not handy and we never had household things fixed or replaced. So we had a broken tv that didn’t show color anymore, and laminate peeling off the kitchen counter. I love learning and using do it yourself skills that allow us to live well without spending big. I have more work to do in the “do without” category, and while our only debt is house and car payments, our goal is to really start socking it away. Non consumerism also buoys my environmental views and I am happy to simplify and streamline for the peace it brings me.


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