I've been working on a post about our family's quest to live with less (which I've written some about here) and The Year Without a Purchase is a great introduction to why we feel the way we do. It's a quick, easy read and I was super excited to check it out.
Onto my review...
The Year Without a Purchase: A Summary
The Year Without a Purchase is the story of one family's quest to stop shopping and start connecting. Scott Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, are former missionaries who served in Guatemala. Ten years removed from their vow of simple living, they found themselves on a never-ending treadmill of consumption where each purchase created a desire for more and never led to true satisfaction. The difference between needs and wants had grown very fuzzy, and making that distinction clear again would require drastic action: no nonessential purchases for a whole year. No clothes, no books, no new toys for the kids. If they couldn't eat it or use it up within a year (toilet paper and shampoo, for example), they wouldn't buy it.
Filled with humorous wit, curious statistics, and poignant conclusions, the book examines modern America's spending habits and chronicles the highs and lows of dropping out of our consumer culture. As the family bypasses the checkout line to wrestle with the challenges of gift giving, child rearing, and keeping up with the Joneses, they discover important truths about human nature and the secret to finding true joy. The Year Without a Purchase offers valuable food for thought for anyone who has ever wanted to reduce stress by shopping less and living more.
The Year Without a Purchase: What I Think
You know what I loved most about this book? (Of course you don't. I'm about to tell you.) It's not pretentious. It's not a "You're Doing It Wrong" tale of arrogance but a "Here's How We Did It And Why"story of heart change. Scott Dannemiller is a man of faith. He's also just as flawed as the rest of us, and he makes no qualms about admitting it. While The Year Without a Purchase doesn't fail to comment on our extravagance as a society or our incredibly mind-boggling wastefulness, it presents these facts with open hands, giving us the option to take them and act. It doesn't shove them at us and demand a one-stop solution.
I found Scott's self-deprecating humor engaging and uplifting, and I think that's what gave his book such a meaningful tone. He lays out the rules of the challenge to the readers, and walks us through his family's year without a purchase as though we're a part of that family. It's funny to see how well (or not) he handles the need for a new suitcase or a holey pair of socks. And it's frustrating to admit how much time we spend on things that don't matter in the slightest. Scott never berates us for this failure as Christians, but he does call us out on it as he walks us through the mess of his own attachment to material things.
The biggest question in Scott's book is this: why are we so addicted to stuff and how can we actually change what we think about it? His answers are surprisingly generous. And, best of all, they leave us with the impression that no matter how we go about it, change IS possible.
To learn more about Scott Dannemiller or The Year Without a Purchase, please visit his official website here. You can also follow him on Twitter @SDannemiller.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.