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Let's do the numbers

After all this discussion of impact and the environment and so on, I thought I’d assess Fix in terms of where I can really feel it…in my wallet.  Bear with me – I’ve got some creative accounting going on.  My system depends on me remembering and recording everything I buy, which I’ve gotten pretty good at after two-plus years.  I also kept separate budgets for my big trip and the couple of art projects I did in 06 and 07, so those don’t figure into my averages.    

Subjectively, it felt pretty great to whip out my debit card for basically everything, even the bigger things, knowing that there would be cash in my account to cover it.  I was thrilled to see my credit card balances going down sharply after years of watching them creep up, and more relaxed about money than I’d felt in a long time.  I found myself going to the ATM with much less frequency: part of that was the debit card, but a lot of it was that by simply eliminating buying things I could pretty precisely predict how much cash I would need for a period of time.  

Starting with my total expenses, I spent $277.32 less each month in 2007 than I did in 2006.  That includes the trips, performance tickets, and credit card payments I paid for with the money I was saving by not buying things!  

In “The Rules” I quote a figure for spending on manufactured goods in 2006 (that I can’t get back to) that doesn’t include food; at the time I came up with it, I was including medicine and used items, which I didn’t later prohibit with the rules of Fix.  Using these same criteria, I spent $1983.84 on manufactured items in 2007, roughly 1/3 of what I spent in 2006.    

Breaking these things down into categories (averaged over the year), I spent 7% of what I did in 06 on stuff for my apartment; 39% on clothes – 5% if you don’t include the smock; 58% on food; and even in my catch-all, “other/misc.,” 77% of what I spent in 06.  Spending went down in all of my categories except rent, utilities, and credit cards (which went way up), though the other dips were not as dramatic; I had a pretty big move in 06 – it may not be fair to include the “house” category here.

Finally, by Fix’s rules, my “violations” added up to $408.80 - $34.07 worth of missteps each month; the “questionable items” came to $660.37 - $55.03 per month.  Seems like a lot – definitely more than I imagined at the outset.         


I’m not exactly sure what all of this means, but it made a pretty big difference in my day-to-day life in 2007.  I was glad to have the money, which made me feel more secure and enabled me to have new experiences.  I suspect that the theoretical, moral, and scientific arguments environmentalists develop in the short term for buying and using less will be trumped in the long term by the simple fact that oil-based goods -- i.e.: everything -- will become outrageously expensive if not unavailable.  So perhaps the personal finance angle - fueled by the mortgage crisis etc. - will be the most effective for the short term, with the added benefit that it makes theoretical, moral, and scientific sense to BUY LESS CRAP. 

As for me, I can be a little less worried about losing my job, my apartment, getting sick, etc.  I can buy nicer (non-stuff) gifts for the people I love, and take on fewer freelance projects for the extra bucks I always need.  With more cash, I can buy higher-quality things that I will take care of better so they last longer.  I've already been able to make a couple of donations to organizations that I have long wanted to support.  No, money doesn't buy happiness, not directly -- but a lack of it, especially over an extended period of time, can cause some serious stress.     

Posted on Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 10:11PM by Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

That is impressive! Congratulations!

I don't know which is more encouraging, that you made these changes or that you feel better about your life with the changes.

Are you making any changes to the rules, after the assessment?

February 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRosa

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