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The Year without a Purchase: One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting Paperback – August 4, 2015
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"In bite-sized morsels of real-life struggles iced with wit, candor, and faith, Dannemiller serves up a way of life in which you learn to like the taste of living with what you have and reducing your helpings of a gluttonous spending in order to live a life in community and service."
—Gene Wilkes, Ph.D., author of Jesus on Leadership and President, B. H. Carroll Theological Institute, Irving, TX
"Often hilarious and always thought provoking, Scott Dannemiller deftly peels back the layers of what we want, what we think we need, what we actually need, and who we really are underneath it all. You'll finish this book motivated to do more with less and feeling like you've just had a very satisfying conversation with a good friend about what really matters in life. Hint: It's NOT 'stuff!'"
—Lindsay Ferrier, blogger at Suburban Turmoil
"This book—playful, thoughtful, substantial—is a must-read for North American Christians who are purposing to pattern their lives after the person of Jesus. It provides an honest glimpse into one family's experiment in living more simply and charts a path for the rest of us as we attempt to live faithfully in the world today."
—Margot Starbuck, author of Small Things With Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor
"The Year without a Purchase is as compelling to read as it is challenging to personalize. Very few books can actually change your life, but this is absolutely one of them."
—Lee J. Colan, Ph.D., author of Stick with It: Mastering the Art of Adherence
About the Author
Scott Dannemiller is a writer, blogger, worship leader, and former missionary with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He and his wife, Gabby, reside in Nashville, Tennessee, with two very loud children.
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Level – Short, easy.
Title pretty much sums it up. Dannemiller comes to a realization that he and his wife and children have too much junk. They think back to their missionary days in Guatemala and how happy they were with very little. They decide to not spend any money other than what they had to, with a few exceptions, over the upcoming year. They allowed for essentials, groceries and bills, but then no more things. For gifts, they decided they would have to be homemade or an ‘experience.’
Chronicling the year, he writes humorously about the ups and downs of their challenge - from kids birthday parties, major holidays, and even learning how to sew and repair (darn?) socks. In the end, he realizes he doesn't even miss the money, and in fact, didn't believe his wife when she showed him how much they had saved. Shockingly, his children never even new of the challenge. They made a decision not to tell them what was happening, and in the end, with gifts of experience instead of junk or the next new toy, they were just as happy (or happier) as before.
As Erasmus wrote (technically, this has be mistranslated to English): When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. Except I'd replace clothes with fishing gear/tackle. My point being, me and Mrs. MMT don't really buy a whole lot. There were certainly times we wanted to, but we either didn't have the money, were paying off debt, saving for a house, or saving for a baby. Now, it is just kind of the way we are. She has always been big on experiences and travels over material things. In fact, we've never even given each other anniversary gifts, choosing instead to take a four or five day getaway.
That being said, the book is a good reminder of the perils of consumerism. Dannemiller does a good job with his research in pointing out the amount the average American spends and wastes in a year. Now, if you are on the hedonic treadmill of buy, and buy, and buy, this book is for you. It is almost a how-to in it's insightfulness. The author is quite funny, though his shtick can get a bit old or too frequent.
This book is published by a Christian publishing company, and he does speak broadly of his reasons being based on his faith. However, it isn't exclusively for Christians, and I don't mean that in the Christiany way of universal truth or whatever. With the exception of the epigraphs being verses from the Bible, there isn't much religiousosity to it. That's not a criticism of him. My point is a review a good bit of Christian living and Theology books, and this is not that. It really is about a guy trying not to buy things, and is a good example for anyone who struggles with budgeting.
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Like many people living in 21st-century America, I struggle with the allure of consumer culture. And, like many American parents, I worry about doing the right thing for my children. Am I instilling them with values I consider important: loving and serving others, nurturing the environment, being kind to animals, participating in the global community? Or does our upper middle-class lifestyle teach a different sort of value: materialism, getting ahead, and keeping up with the Joneses? These questions and more are the kind that motivate Dannemiller and his wife to adopt their year-long project. Dannemiller worries initially that the year will be one of deprivation, not personal growth, and there are times when he does feel deprived, when he tries to fill the void of acquisition with ice cream and cookies, for example. However, he quickly recognizes that he is substituting one addiction for another, and makes some changes.
Dannemiller and his wife start their family journey on New Year’s Day, and my favorite part of the book is seeing what they do when challenges arise. One early challenge is when Dannemiller forgets his socks on a business trip: rather than head to the local Wal-mart and purchase new ones, which he could easily afford, he washes out the socks he is wearing every night in his hotel room. He feels some pride that he stuck to the “rules” of his challenge, but he worries that his solution is an environmental wash: he “probably wasted $15 worth of the hotel’s energy and two tiny bottles of shampoo over the next three days.” I really identify with this kind of worry. I feel the same worry about washing out the recycling: is it worth all the water I’m wasting? And my husband and I have an ongoing difference of opinion about how to handle the partnerless-sock deluge in our family of six: he prefers to throw them all out every six months or so and start over, and I prefer to spend hours matching the socks with their closest mate in a kind of eHarmony for footwear. But Dannemiller’s reasoning really resonates with me: their decision to live without unnecessary purchases “isn’t about money. It’s about stuff. And feeling disconnected.” His message is that our attachment to our stuff and the time-suck of maintaining that stuff prevent us from reaching deeper connections with our family, friends, and others out in the world.
As a reader, I don’t typically choose many Christian books, mainly because I have this image in my head that the books will be proselytizing bores. Dannemiller deftly avoids any hint of sanctimony by sharing hilarious stories of challenges gone wrong and his family’s various reactions. Recounting his own history as a bargain shopper, he describes his mother, “a gold medalist for the yet-to-be-created U.S. Olympic Discount Shopping Team. She would come home and report to my father, ‘Honey! Look at these two dresses I picked up at the store today! Originally $100 each, and I got them for 75 percent off!’ And my dad would reply, ‘What I hear you saying is that we would have saved 50 bucks if you hadn’t left the house today.’” His family is my family and, I suspect, many families in our modern consumer culture. Where Dannemiller lost me a little was in his efforts to spell out the moral of some of his tales. Rather than showing his reader the value in an “experience” gift over a tangible toy, he lets us know that his daughter’s birthday out with her grandmother is “a precious memory that’s way too big to carry in her tiny Hello Kitty change purse. No, this one she’ll be carrying in her heart for years to come.” Ack.
Despite the occasional sugar overload, I really enjoyed Dannemiller’s book. I found his work to read more like a funny memoir and less like a polemic. He has many practical tips mixed in among the Bible verses, some that I’m definitely going to try with my own family. I may not have the stomach for a year-long shopping hiatus, but I learned a lot about questioning typical advertising tricks (the myth of coupons, for example) and reinforcing the difference between a “need” and a “want” with my children. Strongly recommend for anyone who wonders how to live in our consumer world but not of the world.
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Most recent customer reviews
More focused on her experience instead of helping others