"Do We Really Need That?" How One Family Is Taking On a Year of Less

One family's goal to simplify, savor and save for a year

By Mary Campbell, publisher of Macaroni Kid Lodi, Calif. January 16, 2019

Two hours all to myself at Target. It was like a dream for a mom of two young boys!  

But as I strolled the aisles -- past toys, bedding, and the cutest hooded towels -- I realized there was nothing there that my kids needed.   

As I thought about it, I started to realize how much “stuff” we actually have: clothes the kids never wear, toys they don’t play with, kitchen utensils I don’t even know how to use ... and don’t even get me started on the garage! We are surrounded by stuff that is just clutter in our lives.

That doesn't even account for all the money we've spent needlessly. For years we’ve said we wanted to take the family to Hawaii. But we never made a plan for saving that money and never seem to have any left over. Where was all our money being spent? 

There I stood in Target, desperate for a strategy for both saving money and being more mindful of where our money is spent.  

So I went in search of a solution. 

Simply simplify

I recalled a news article I read a while back about a family who went a year without buying anything. I went back and found that story again. It was about Scott and Gabby Dannemiller and their two kids.

I found their story inspiring, and it turned out Scott Dannemiller had written a book about their experience called The Year Without a Purchase: One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting. I hopped on my Amazon app and purchased it (a mindful purchase!). When I informed my husband of my interest in the Dannemiller family's strategy, he -- surprisingly -- didn’t look like a deer in the headlights. Instead, he jumped right on board for the challenge.  

So how are we going to do it?

It's all right in the book. We're going to:

  • Simplify our life with fewer material items;
  • Savor the moments with the people we love; and
  • Save money for emergency savings and a trip to Hawaii

The "rules"

The book lays out the strategy and guidelines we will follow as we move forward. The book goes a lot more in depth, and if you're interested in taking on the challenge, I recommend you purchase it! But here are the basic guidelines we plan to follow for the No. 1 rule of don't buy "stuff":

  • We can buy things that are a need and will be used within a year (such as toilet paper, groceries, and gas).
  • We can not buy new clothing. Our closets are full of items. If there is a true need (like shoes that the kids have outgrown or sports clothing needed for their team sport), we will ask friends or check the thrift store.
  • We can fix stuff that breaks unless it costs more than a replacement.
  • We can use cell phones and the internet since they are both required for our jobs (we are canceling our DirectTV and only allowing the basic Hulu subscription for TV).  
  • We will request any gifts be of an experience type to build connections and memories.

Here's a video of how we're planning to live with less and clear clutter from our lives in 2019 (and I haven't even watched Marie Kondo's show Tidying Up!):

I'm sure we'll be making more rules and setting more goals as we read through The Year Without a Purchase. I'll be sharing my family's journey on Facebook and Instagram, and I hope that if you're inspired to take on a similar challenge, you'll join me on my journey so we can celebrate successes together!