The January spending spree and Bal Tashchit

I have a problem. I cannot resist a bargain! This is a particularly dangerous time of year for me... sales galore, and shops seem to be competing to keep the VAT rise at bay as long as possible. I genuinely don't need anthing. But when something is a deal, I can't help but think of just how useful it will be! Gary pointed out to me yesterday that as I have lost a lot of weight, every piece of clothing I own was purchased in the last two years... and my closets are close to bursting!

Of course this issue is further complicated by the fact that not only do I not need more things, however beautiful or useful, but so much of what we are being sold comes from who knows where. It may well be that our stores are ethically sourcing products (and yes, I have enjoyed the Traidcraft sale too), but I increasingly find a nagging worry at the back of my head whenever I buy a new piece of clothing from the average high street store, wondering how many children were used to sew on the sequins, or how little were the workers paid to sew it together - so that I might get a bargain! I have been trying to make more ethical decisions about my consumption, whether it's fair trade coffee, organic cotton, or second hand/upcycled etc. where possible. But it doesn't always feel easy to make ethical choices. Clearly consumer demand has, in the last decade, increased our choices massively, but much more could be done.

At this point though, I have also found myself wondering about the amount I already have. There is an important Jewish concept - Bal Tashchit - not wasting. Now technically nothing's being wasted- I freecycle and recycle and give to the charity shop on a regular basis. But I'm not making the most of what I am lucky enough to have. So I am going to try something radical (for me). I have decided to buy nothing new (groceries being the exception) for the next 3 months. No Amazon orders, no new craft materials, and no clothes! Now there was a discussion on Radio 4's Woman's Hour this morning about ethical consumerism, and one of the concerns about buying less was for the poor old economy. I hope my not buying won't have too big an impact on the recovery of the economy from the recession, but I hope more to teach myself better habits, and to really use what I do already have. In this way I hope to pro-actively engage with the idea of Ba'al Tashchit, and perhaps try to emulate my beloved grandpa who can make a dish drainer last for 30 years. I will need to be kept an eye on, but it feels time to exert a little restraint! For the sake of my wardrobes, my bank balance, and the planet! (OK, this last one is a bit grand, but it can't hurt, and every little helps!) Whose with me?


  1. Hi Debbie

    I think this is a great idea, for all the reasons that you describe and more.

    Given my personal circumstances, that I am ill and unable to work, and have to survive on benefits, I often wonder whether the public perception of 'benefit scroungers' would be changed if they themselves tried to imagine how they would survive if they became ill or lost their job.

    So my challenge to anyone reading this is - imagine your total income is £90 per week. If you have savings or a partner who works you still have to pay council tax, mortgage or rent. What would your priorities be? What would you no longer be able to afford?

    Debbie, maybe your next challenge should be to try this for 3 months, and blog about the experience :-). Good luck!

  2. Hi Anna, really important issue - thank you! Ironically as a shomrei shabbat rabbi in the centre of London I couldn't even cover my mortgage! But it is a really good challenge and an important question. Certainly puts a different light on the January sales when my excitement to consume, for others becomes an ability to perhaps afford something that wouldn't be possible the rest of the year.
    It is an interesting challenge re: ethical consumerism when on a very limited income too.
    Thanks Anna and big hugs!


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