I picked up “Not Buying It” because I was fascinated by the premise: author and her companion decide to give up spending for a year on all things but necessities. How would that affect your life? What could you live without? What happens to your social life? Would you take away any important “life lessons”? As a person who is fairly frugal and money conscious myself, I was fascinated by a person who lives in our decidedly consumer-friendly culture and simply opts out for a year. It’s hard to imagine. In many ways, this is appealing, especially around Christmastime when the pressure to buy is often overwhelming and we’re up to our ears in credit card debt. But in other ways…no DVDs? No movies? No coffee dates? NO DINNER OUT? Come on! I wanted to know how she did it.
Levine divides her book up into chapters where each chapter is a month, and she explains how she was affected by this newly restricted financial decision throughout the year. First off…what is a necessity? Q-tips? Wine? Expensive but fresh organic cheese? These were debates she had with her partner. Levine details her personal experience with a spending binge the week before the spending drought (which started on Jan. 1)–they bought tons of stuff, even things they didn’t need, just because they knew they’d be without for a year. Isn’t that how many of us diet? “Eat the huge piece of chocolate cake before you start the diet Monday!!” She talks about how mass-produced resources can cost less money, but of course that means we just buy more stuff, stuff we don’t need, often at the expense of cheap labor and poor working conditions of others. And what about when you are expected to give financially, like for graduations, weddings, and birthdays? Are you less of a person because you don’t fork over cash-bought gifts? Is your gift less worthy? And what DID happen to her social life? Well, she had a lot more time on her hands, but besides dinner with friends, it was nearly dead. Most social activities cost money!
I enjoyed Levine’s book but with a few small exceptions. She says right off the top she’s a liberal, atheist academic, and she stresses those points throughout the book as they color her perspective and affect her decisions. That’s fair, but as her opions often differed from mine, sometimes I was hoping she would zip it. She also waxed philosophical on issues about money and spending, as well as made (to me) numerous obscure literary and historial references. This often had the effect of making my eyes glaze over. But she’s a talented, personal writer, and the meat of her argument–that we should spend mindfully, appreciate what we have, and truly understand the basic reasons for why we put our money down on the counter–were fascinating to me and worth the price of the book. Which, because it came from the library, was free. I’m not buying it! 🙂
3 Out of 4 Stars
Reviewed By: Erin Payton, Library Services