smart spending

Want to save money? Don't shop

Kids, do try this at home
For the friends involved, the plan works because even though it saves money, it's not about the money.

"The point was just to stop consuming," says Rosenmoss. "To see how much we could not consume this year."

The four solutions the group used: "reduce, reuse, recycle and rot (compost)," she says.

Clothing swaps became one favorite for Rosenmoss and her children. Participants pay to get in, bring clothes they want to trade, and the entry fees go to a good cause. "It was very cool for my kids," she says.

Want to try your own version of a lifestyle that goes light on the shopping? Here's how:

Get support. The core group of friends who drew up "the Compact" (as they dubbed their agreement), leaned on each other for solutions to supply challenges they encountered. They even met for monthly potluck dinners at one another's homes. Over food, they'd trade tips and sources for recycled, local and reused goods. (Yes, there was even some good-natured "spying" to see who might have been bending the rules.)

"It was helpful for us to have this group of friends to do it with, and joke with and borrow things from," says Rosenmoss.

Keep it upbeat. One reason the Compact worked: "It was a personal challenge among friends," says Perry. "It was intended to be fun."

If you try it and have trouble, or break from the plan once in a while, don't be too hard on yourself. "It's not intended to be painful; it's intended to be liberating," he says.

Plan ahead. It's not the big things that get you, it's the little things you have to have now, says Rosenmoss. One time she caved when an assembly project required a special $12 drill bit. "I ran down to the local hardware store," she admits.

In hindsight, she realizes she could have simply borrowed it if she'd asked around beforehand. To live without shopping requires "more planning," says Rosenmoss. "You really need to plan."

Be more creative. For one child's birthday, the gift was a trapeze party, says Rosenmoss. Not only did she buy the experience at a benefit auction, but her kids loved it. Plus: "We requested that they not bring any presents," she says.

Think local. Since Compact members like to encourage small local businesses, gift certificates for local services (such as dance lessons or a massage) are gifting favorites.

"Where we would have bought something in the past, like for Valentine's Day, now we go out to dinner," says Perry.

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Shop less often. When Howard works with families trying to trim their debt load, he tells them to get out of the stores. His advice: shop for perishables every two weeks, and nonperishables every six weeks.

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