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Essay Samples > Book Review > Not Buying It
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Not Buying It

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In her book “Not Buying It: My Year without Shopping” Judy Levine manages to convince her fiancé Paul not to shop except for necessities for a full year. The decision not to shop for a full year is partly in protest against dependence on the items and the effect it has in her life and the society in general. Judy Levine classifies all the goods she must do without within a year. She is convinced that Paul and she can make it, for, as Judy says, “If anybody can make it during a non-buying year, then Paul and me can” (Levin 10). However, some readers have criticized the opinion of goods and services she has to forgo. She considers items like The New York Times, haircuts, diners and expensive cars as necessities in life. She divides her time between her two homes in Brooklyn and Vermont, New England. She undertakes the experiment mainly to show the society that they can do without some items, since it is the main cause of many problems, such as financial unsoundness.

The book mainly deals with the subject of general sociology. Judy Levine, the author, addresses the effects it has in her life by recounting her personal experiences as she tries to make it through a year without consuming items that she is accustomed to in her life.  Printed by Free Press Publishers, the 288-page book is a personal memoir of the challenges undergone in their experiment of not shopping for a whole year and its effect on their lives.  The book came out in print in 2007, but it has been one of the most relevant reference books on need to reform consumer behavior ever since. It addresses a journalist’s quest to show that if she can do without some goods and services, then anybody can do without them. Capitalism has brought along such social evils as greediness that has divided the society.

Summarizing the book, Judy Levine gives her personal account of how she manages to survive without shopping for goods and services she is accustomed to for a year. She explains how she is able to make it through the year without the items. She is determined to reevaluate herself in the New Year, as she says that “as they move into a year of major our needs and checking our desires” (Levin 10). She refers to diners and her three cars as the items she is used to using. The book provides a revealing account of how the writer and her fiancé Paul are able to survive throughout the year. They do this avoiding using what they consider as luxuries in their lives. It is not an easy experiment as they live in Brooklyn, New York and Vermont, New England. They cannot produce all they need so they have to buy some items. The writer and her fiancé depict a lot of courage to go through such the ordeal and prove that they can make it.

The experiment attempts to answer whether the economy of the country can do with reduced buying. The stories are those of humor, patience and belongingness. They support each other to get through the system. The author is able to convince his fiancé Paul to join her, and together they decide to participate in the test because of their ever-dwindling finances. They want to train themselves on gain a saving culture. The other reason for taking part in the experiment is to save the Earth from the trash left behind by people after consumption of goods. They both do their jobs while trying to make their relationship remain unaffected by the experiment. They live without the things they consider unnecessary for survival without getting uneasy. They put themselves to the test, and it helps bring out the true selves of the participants. 

The writer attempts to draw a line between need and desire. She concedes, “All we wanted now was productivity in work and tranquility, in love” (Levin 10). She believes she will be capable to redefine the items she truly needs for survival from those that are subject to desire. She experiences scarcity of the items she used to have plenty of in the previous years. Judy Levine is unable to consume all the items that she needs.

She just decides to experiment to find out what it will be like not to have those things. It is a difficult situation to be able to purchase something but to discipline oneself not to do it. She is a successful journalist, and, therefore, she can buy things that she wants. However, she is willing to move away from the comfort zone and experiment with scarcity for a year. By tackling the issue in her life, she tries to establish whether individuals can do without consumption. In doing so, she also tries to establish the effect of reduced consumption on the economy.

The book is a narration of the writer’s experiences throughout the year without consumption of some goods. Ann confesses, “Consumer culture is a machine for dissatisfaction” (Levin 22). She is confident that she can do without the goods she is addicted to, such as French roast coffee and smart wool socks. These items the writer is addicted to and, therefore, it needs quite a bit of effort to do away with them for a year. Her decision is in protest against such issues as overconsumption and trashing of the Earth. The story provides a humorous and intelligent insight into the experiences. The writer is quite skeptical about the issues that surround her. At the end, she draws a conclusion on the changes in their lives and in general protecting the Earth from trash. Overall, the book is an interesting personal memoir of Judy Levine.

The way the experiment influences Judy Levine is through the conclusions she makes. Not buying certain goods for a year takes a heavy toll on her. She begins to view the world in a different way at the end of the test. However, when addiction to the goods and services becomes too strong to bear, she sometimes relapses. At the end, she explains of how challenging it was throughout the year. The experiment shapes the writer and his fiancé Paul’s characters. She concludes that some commodities be forgone if an individual is willing to do so, but it may not be a simple task. As it spins out, dependence on some items by the human race is not that strong. It depends on the perception of the individuals.

She classifies commodities, such as woolpack socks, diners, and French roast coffee, as items she is addicted to in her life. However, she is able to do away with them eventually in the year. Judy Levine becomes a new person after the experiment. She recommends protection of Earth from degradation caused by excessive consumption. She recommends the ideals of reduction on the dependence on some commodities. However, she is constantly making complaints about not being able to consume many items throughout the experiment. She sometimes becomes miserable due to the inability to consume the goods. In the end, she is capable of maintaining her discipline. At times, she relapses, but she manages to accomplish it successfully and make far-sighted conclusions.

I consider I would not be capable to undertake a similar experiment. Not shopping for a year for some goods one is used to needs a lot of discipline and determination. The feasibility of making it through a year without certain commodities is minimal. Judy Levine is a strong woman to do away with some of the commodities that she considers vital. For instance, some of her addictions include reading the New York Times and drinking French roast coffee. Her ability to forgo these commodities shows how remarkably disciplined she is. For most of the year she was able to do away with them, but once in a while, she relapses as the pressure becomes too much to bear. The need to promote a culture of saving and save the earth is what keeps the writer going through moments of her weakness.

The ideals of the writer are worth undertaking the experiment, but the challenges and pressure may prevent me from meeting the same objectives. The recent overdependence on some consumer goods has made them a fundamental element of life.  Therefore, an experiment testing one’s ability to do without these items may end in futility. Everyday activities and survival depend on the consumption of some goods and services.  Not being able to consume these items will make life uncomfortable. The challenges of suffering throughout a year in order achieve the objective may make it unattainable. Therefore, I may not be able to achieve the same results as Judy Levine, who was able to live for a whole year without shopping for unnecessary goods.

To achieve what Judy Levine did, I will have to give up on some goods and services that are an integral part of my life. It means forgoing things, such as books, movies and the Internet, as well as other stuffs that have turn out to be an integral part of my life, such as my car. Life without these items would be extremely uncomfortable. I would have to forgo these and many more items to perform the experiment. For a year, there would be no shopping for these items. The experiment would be to encourage the spirit of financial soundness, reduce dependence, and save the earth environment. Through diligence, I would also be exercising control over my consumption behavior. The experiment would also establish the level of dependence on some items.

There are many challenges in trying to achieve the same results as Judy Levine. The challenges may make me relapse and eventually make me fail in achieving my objectives. Sometimes, the persuasion may be too stiff to resist for the writer and her fiancé Paul, and they go back to consuming the same items they are supposed to avoid. She overcomes some of the challenges and successfully pursues her career, as well as nurturing her relationship with Paul. The team spirit between Judy and her fiancé helps her overcome all the challenges that they face.

The first challenge to overcome is the adjustment from previous consumption behavior. Most people have gotten used to consuming certain goods and services. The writer is used to consuming French roast coffee, reading newspapers and magazines or using certain types of clothes, such as woolpack socks. Denying oneself these items can lead to withdrawal symptoms in the individual. The adjustment period from the old to the new consumption behavior may prove to be difficult. The ability to adjust successfully from consumption of these items will be the first challenge. I will have to forgo these items in order to accomplish the experiment successfully.

Secondly, I must find suitable substitutes that do not contravene the rules of the experiment. The experiment is to cut the excesses in consumption budgets, and, therefore, I must find suitable substitutes for some of the goods. For example, I possibly will not be capable to make use of my vehicle, but I could substitute it by taking a bus or train. To succeed, one must find suitable substitutes that will create it easier to regulate to the new consumption behavior.  The writer of the book, for example, may switch to consuming tea instead of her usual French roast coffee. She and her husband decide to sell one of the cars they own. Doing so will help encourage the spirit of non-indulgence and thriftiness.

Another challenge is maintaining the discipline to complete the experiment. Relapsing to old consumption behavior may occur if one does not possess the spirit to go through with the experiment. Temptations may result in one going back to consuming items he is addicted. Judy Levine has the discipline to complete the experiment. She sometimes gets weak, and begins to consume the items used to, but in the end, she accomplishes the experiment successfully. To have the discipline to undertake an experiment, one must know the goals and objectives of the experiment well. It is through the motivation of knowing the results that one will be able to keep his discipline. Judy Levine notices the commercialization in everything around her. She wants to promote a positive behavior and make people stop to depend on consumption. She also notices a downward trend in her finances. It is from these observations that she draws her motivation to go on with the experiment.

By studying consumer psychology, she tries to show that consumers can regulate their buying decisions. She undertakes the experiment as a proof to the rest of consumers. She excludes the excesses from her budget and only buys the necessities. Positive change in consumer psychology can be a vital motivator for me to undertake a similar experiment. I could change my behavior to only getting what I need. The behavior of indulging in impulse buying will be discouraged. She says, “Emulation can stoke desire for a moral or indifference to it” (Levin 43).

Responsible buying will be both beneficial to humans and the whole Earth. Individuals can save some of their finances for future consumption. By being responsible, an individual is able to manage his finances well. One of the motivators for Judy Levine to undertake the experiment is because of her ever-reducing finances. She notices that most of the items are commercialized. To save her finances, she decides to get into a state of denial. She only shops for necessities and avoids unnecessary commodities, such as French roast coffee and diners. Finally, she is capable of encouraging a responsible culture of spending her finances.

Being responsible also benefits the Earth. When individuals shop for what they actually need, they avoid dumping items they never needed. This ensures that the environment is clean and the Earth is free from environmental degradation. Judy Levine recognizes the problem of the Earth full of trash. Therefore, she proposes a change in consumer psychology to reverse this trend. She undertakes the experiment as an example to the millions of consumers that they can succeed in changing their consumption behavior if they desire. Therefore, the results are a cleaner and safer environment.

“Not Buying It: My Year without Shopping” by Judy Levine attempts to explain why we buy and how we benefit from it. She delivers her message by recounting how she was able to change her consumption behavior. She attempts to tackle the issue of dependence on some goods that is the cause of the majority of problems facing most people. “Not Buying It: My Year without Shopping” is one of the most successful books that have influenced consumer behavior for the better. It has also resulted in improved financial management and environmental protection.  Judy Levine encourages environmental responsibility; she cites an example of her and Paul going to the recycling centre outside of Hardwick (Levin 28).

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