Cutting out coffee

On Nov 3, Geoff and I entered phase 2 of our experiment. Until Aug 2014, we will not be paying for haircuts, restaurant meals, coffees from cafes, gasoline, public transit or alcohol. In other words, all we will be paying for is our rent, utilities, a few necessities and groceries. In other words, we will be hanging out at our house. A lot. For the next 9 months.

Since we first conceptualized our year-long consumer cleanse back in July, I have been incredibly mindful of when I would eat out, purchase coffees, cabs and public transit, pay for entertainment (movies, theatre and live music, people! Jeez…) and all the other services that make life comfortable, interesting and fun. And I appreciated them. A lot. I slowly scaled back so that the Nov 3 transition wouldn’t be so hard and I’m glad I did. At its core, Buy Nothing Year is a behavior modification exercise and the use of phases plus the acceptance and commitment therapeutic approach are working really well so far. Without both of these, I don’t think I would have been able to stick to the program so well; I haven’t broken down yet.

Over the past two weeks, two things surprised me. The first is how much I’ve still been able to do. I went to a potluck, had a friend visit from out of town, hosted a clothing swap, made a bunch of pancakes, went on a first date (!!! more on this later…), went to a dinner party, babysat, dressed as a clown for a 5 year old’s birthday, went on a second date, went to a training night for a PechaKucha talk that Geoff and I are going to do next week where we got to hang with artist Jeff de Boer (sooo cool!!), Cadence from Calgary Arts Development and Brad from Bottom Line Productions. Life goes on, and is still interesting, even without spending money.

The other is how much I miss coffee. I don’t think it’s coffee itself, as I’m still drinking it at my office and able to make it from beans at home, but I think it’s the experience of going to a coffee shop. It’s an escape, somewhere to go in the middle of a work day, an easy low-cost way to connect with others, enjoyable atmosphere, and it’s easier than saying, “Can we just meet in the Nexen atrium? With all the plants? There’s a pond there!” Plus, they make these amazing frothy milk caffeinated beverages that just don’t taste as good at home…

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think this part of the experiment is actually more extreme than I realized. In both my work and social life, I rely on a lot of brief encounters with random people (I do publicity and community engagement, people. Jeez…) and I typically use cafes for these interactions.Though I’m saving about $20/week in coffee purchases alone (that’s over $1000/year), surely not everyone will want to bring a bag lunch to the Nexen atrium… (even if there are turtles on the pond, so cute!)

I have great friends and business contacts, but I don’t want others to treat me for 9 months and I also don’t want to be weird (read: weirder than I am already…) and insist other people meet me in free, public places to connect.

So I’m experimenting! and maybe… will barter for cafe gift cards… πŸ˜‰


9 thoughts on “Cutting out coffee

  1. Personally I like the idea of encouraging people to connect in ways that don’t cost money. I love being able to meet up with friends I haven’t seen in a while, but often this revolves around going for coffee, or going out to a movie, or dinner, or something similar. I personally would welcome the chance to meet up and do something interesting (who doesn’t love a good atrium?) that also happens to be free.

  2. I followed an articled posted on FB about you and your roomie’s experiment and I think it’s great! A great way to see how entertwined in the system you actually are, and if there’s a way out, and if “out” is good for you, and possibly a great savings plan (??). Anyway, I had one suggestion that maybe you’ve already thought of (I haven’t gotten too deep into your blogs or site yet), but if you’re located somewhere with a good farmers market system, you should approach the farmers for a work-for-food trade. I used to run farmers market stands and many farmers are always looking for last-minute help, and cash-strapped farmers are rich in vegetables!! Just a tip from a frugal friend πŸ™‚

    • That is such a great idea Sophie. We were already thinking in those terms, but working the farmer’s market itself could be fun and a great way to get leftover produce. Thanks for the suggestion and your support!

  3. Awesome project guys! Great talk at PKN. Glad to see this sort of adventure happening right here in Calgary.
    Have you guys seen/read Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man? Similar concept, great book and documentary! Highly recommended for one of your many hangouts at home πŸ™‚

    • Hi Brady,

      Thanks for the support! We are both definitely familiar with Colin’s work. His book is the common reading program at U of C this year. In fact, Julie has been leading one of the discussion groups on campus. The documentary is also great. His project provided some of the inspiration for ours, and Colin has been a big supporter so far of buynothingyear.

  4. I actually never had coffee in my life so I hate when people want to meet at a coffee shop. I will see you in the Nexen Atrium haha

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