Family Goes One Year Without Buying Anything (VIDEO)


Could you go a whole year without buying anything that's not essential to your survival?

The Dannemiller family in Nashville, Tennessee, is doing it. Four months in, they've learned some tough (and a few hilarious) lessons about what really matters in life. Check out our Moms Matter video report and see for yourself how they're doing.

Now that you've seen the video, here are a few behind-the-scenes facts we couldn't fit into the video story.

-The Dannemillers were inspired to go a year without buying after reading the book, The Power of Enough: Finding Contentment By Putting Stuff in Its Place.

-Their rules: "Essentials" include food, toiletries, and emergency house/major appliance repairs. It also includes Internet access, since both rely on the Internet for their jobs. It does not include clothing, haircuts (fortunately, a family member cuts their hair for them), or minor appliances.

-Although they aren't buying presents for their children ("experiential" presents that they can enjoy together like a trip to the museum are allowed), they are letting friends and family buy them presents for birthdays and Christmas. They reason that the kids didn't sign up for this, and it's not fair to force them to go without birthday and Christmas presents.

-Surprisingly, the Dannemillers really haven't saved any money as a result of not buying stuff. They say it's probably because money has been freed up for them to travel more this year, so they've been visiting friends and attending out-of-town events they ordinarily might have skipped.

-They have "cheated" twice so far. They bought their son a new pair of sneakers after he wore the soles out of his old ones -- and they used a refund on a purchase to buy their daughter a new lunch box for the first day of school.

-The Dannemillers worried that their story might be taken the wrong way -- after all, plenty of people are going without because they HAVE to, not because they CHOSE to. They were very quick to emphasize the fact that what they're doing isn't difficult or a major hardship to their family. It's simply a way to remind themselves that "stuff" is not what matters at the end of the day.

-To give you an idea of how Gabby gets around the rules when it comes to kids' birthday parties: When her son came to my son's birthday party (which is how I found out what the Dannemillers are doing this year), they gave my son a big box containing Mentos, a two-liter bottle of soda (food, after all, is allowed!), and Internet-printed instructions on creating a 20-foot "geyser" science experiment. My 6-year-old son LOVED it, and called it "THE BIG EXPLODE." It was one of his favorite presents!

I loved reporting this story because the Dannemillers really made me think about "stuff" in a new way. Scott made a great point when he said that he's realized it's important to ask yourself if what you're buying is going to take time away from the relationships in your life. For women, even the act of shopping can do this. I have a little bit of money put aside and have been thinking of buying a Kindle Fire, but Scott made me realize that all it would do is ... take me away a little more from my family. I'm thinking now that I don't need that Kindle after all.

Now tell me -- could you go without buying "non-essentials" for an entire year?



To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

nonmember avatar rp

I guess I wouldn't consider shoes as "non-essential" and buying my kid shoes after they wore out would not be considered cheating.

Zenia6 Zenia6

I could easily go several years without buying non-essentials. I think a lot of people get too caught up in the quest for "stuff" and its good to learn to be happy with what you have.

Tracys2 Tracys2

I'm not really that impressed. They have food and housing and printer paper/ink, can travel and buy net access and travel. Books from a library or as presents. That is almost all of our spending- in fact, we have problems paying for all that sometimes.

And my guess is, they stocked up on clothes before this started.

Now, if they'd REALLY bought nothing and without warning, by making their own food and clothing if necessary, not buying gas or travelling at all... that would impress me no end! But for most of us, not realistic

Chari... Charizma77

T can their own but I like being able to buy things and I only spend money we have. We don't have credit cards, out car is paid off and realty the only debt we have is our mortgage. So, I feel no guilt about buying things for my kids. 

Chari... Charizma77

 Above comment should say to each their own..

Jessica Eber Collett

I am with Tracys2 on this one..most ppl are doing good to buy what they need when they have the money.I myself cannot afford to go out and buy all my kids clothes for they have tehm when they need them let alone buy enough for a whole year.

Virginia Hernandez

yea it's called living paycheck by paycheck and trying to stay off welfare. It's that borderline betweeen not wanting to depend on the government and not making enough money for 'non essentials'. They call it a dare, many call it life.

Lori Schumacher

If what they are listing is considered NOT buying anything for a year, than I've bought nothing for many years...LOL. I think it's a bunch of BS. I give homemade food and such as gifts, so that she did it is no suprise and my kids get 99% of thier birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, clothes and such from family and friends already. I was expecting to see how they made thier own food in ALL ways, traveled and made thier own entertainment without spending, etc. This is nothing but a rich persons view of how they chose to live poor....not at all impressed.

jingl... jinglebells8677

So instead of buying there kids new clothes and toys they are going on trips and to museums and such. Well they are spending money right there on non essentials. They don't NEED to go on trips, they don't NEED to go to museums. They are just spending money on different non essentials. And to me shoes, a lunch box and clothes are essential. There is a lot you can't do if you don't have shoes and clothes. And unless they stocked up on clothes before they started they will have to buy some cause most kids can't wear the same clothing all year or that they wore last year. To me this story is a big joke.

madam... madamekatekate

I don't think they ought to be judged for having money and choosing to do this project. My family lives paycheck to paycheck. It is very tough. But this is not offensive. I think it's an interesting challenge for them to really remind themselves of how fortunate they are. What's so wrong about that?

I do disagree with buying shoes and clothing being considered cheating. Both are necessary. You can play at home shirtless, shoeless, whatever-less, but you can't at school/work/church/public in general. So, I think the purchasing of NECESSARY clothing items and shoes is fine, you just can't go buying every really cute top and pair of sandals you see. It's nice that they are using the money for family trips together. The time together and the memories are worth it. I wonder if make up items are included under toiletries?

1-10 of 33 comments 1234 Last