Consumer culture

My friend Dave isn’t buying anything this year besides food, soap, and various personal necessities. A friend of his from Philadelphia read a book, “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine, and she wanted to chip away at debts, so she asked Dave to commit to a year of thrift with her. They started January 1st, 2008.

Other than three pieces of horseback riding equipment and a pair of sandals, he’s resisted the urge to acquire anything new. But he’s been tempted by a few things, including a couple of board games, a used bass guitar, and a decent travel mug.

“I lost my stainless steel Nissan mug,” he said. “I’ve had to use a Houghton college mug instead, which is not as nice.”

It helps that the forty-something math professor is single and child-free.

I asked him how the rule affected the way he enjoys music.

Dave, who plays the bass guitar, said if the strings break this year, he'll replace them since he considers making music essential. Most of the songs he learns to play are usually downloads from iTunes. This year, to save money, he's been visiting blogs and downloading whatever free songs he wanted.

“I steal them,” he told me.

The latest were “Dr. Worm” by They Might Be Giants and “New Slang” by The Shins. The music blogs he checks most often are Motel de Moka and the torture garden.

On trips to the public library, he’s borrowed books, but no CDs. Some of his friends have loaned him albums for his iPod. As far as live performances go, Dave says he rarely goes to concerts anyway, so it wasn’t hard to cut back. And he doesn’t listen to music when he’s alone. He’s into podcasts.

People are very curious when they find out about his year of not spending.

“They ask a lot of questions,” he said. “Then they say, ‘I should do that,’ or ‘I could never do that!’”

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May I buy a copy of your

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