Feb 01

Buy Nothing 2018 Experiment – January Update

 buy nothing tile

Buy Nothing January Update

Well January is over, and my buy nothing experiment is approximately 1 month old. You may remember this started as a buy no clothes for 2018 experiment, but after reflecting upon it I thought it was just too easy. After taking inventory I realized I had enough clothes to last me years, so I expanded the experiment to more categories. I didn’t decide to start exactly January 1, but in reality I didn’t really buy much of anything those first few days of 2018 before I published the article.


As promised, here is my monthly update so you can follow along with us. Although Mrs. Happy Philosopher is not doing the experiment, she graciously agreed to document all her “stuff” purchases for completeness. Before I published the buy nothing article I purchased a couple of gifts for my daughter to give to a friend for her birthday. Aside from that we collectively bought nothing.


Remember, not everything counts as “stuff”. I outlined my guidelines in the original article. I’m listing everything that is either a gray area or things that are not clearly food or “grocery store” type purchases (soap, razors, toilet paper, medications, etc.)



Here are our purchases for January:


Mrs. Happy Philosopher and family:

  • Shower curtain ($11) – This replaced an old shower curtain that was turning a disturbingly bright shade of pink. It lived a good life, but it was time to let it go.
  • Club soccer practice shirt ($8) – Mandatory for soccer practice and the old practice shirt was too small.
  • Picture frames ($37) – These were to frame two posters my daughter received for Christmas to hang on the wall.
  • Art canvas ($8) for my daughter.
  • Cook book (free) – This was a gift from a friend who had duplicate copies.


Happy Philosopher:

  • Faucet gasket ($2) – My kitchen faucet started leaking. I thought replacing the gasket around the sprayer would work. I was wrong. This lead to my next purchase…
  • New kitchen faucet ($140) – After replacing the gasket, sprayer (which I returned) and attempting to take a hose off (which I would have had to destroy the original faucet to remove) I gave up and called a plumber. He struggled getting everything disassembled, but now we have a new faucet. I put this firmly in the necessary home repair category. Why anyone would design a faucet and sink that is this difficult to remove is beyond me.
  • Pack of circular scrubber brushes ($5) – see below.
  • 1 bolt, hex nut and a few washers ($1) – see below.
  • TurboTax ($40) – I’m not smart enough to do this by hand.
  • Garage door battery ($6) – Needed.
  • Sunglasses ($0) – I found a pair of glasses I thought I lost! How is that for winning? I was very sad about “losing” these and although they are not a purchase, it feels like I got a new pair.
  • Grout ($10) – see below.


Overall I would call this month a success. We purchased very little stuff. Even Mrs. Happy Philosopher, who is not constrained by my ridiculousness, didn’t purchase much. The scrubber brushes, grout and hardware need an explanation though, as they are on the edge. When the faucet was replaced I couldn’t help but notice that the grout in our kitchen (we have ceramic tile counters – which is a bad idea I might add) was becoming unacceptable. No matter how well the grout is sealed and cleaned, it just starts to look terrible after a while as the grease and grime from everyday use discolors and stains it. I decided it was about time to clean it and reseal. After scouring the interwebs for how to best do this, I decided I needed to construct this ridiculously awesome device which you attach to a high speed drill.



Now technically this is probably “stuff”, but it is not like a shirt or a television. It’s not really something I can borrow like an edger or extension cord. I looked all over my house and couldn’t find an acceptable brush. I didn’t think Mrs. Happy Philosopher would be too happy if I used the vegetable scrubber on the grout. I actually found an old toothbrush, but there was just too much grout for that, and I was a little suspicious of that green and blue stuff that seems to be on all toothbrush bristles. I actually used both in concert and it was a pretty manageable job.


Grout VS. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The problem is I went down the rabbit hole of “better is the enemy of good”. Once I started cleaning the grout, I noticed that a few areas were lightly damaged, and other areas were just permanently stained. The cleaner I got the grout, the worse the marginal areas looked. It was as if my kitchen counter was mocking me. Every time I put something on the counter, the bad grout would look up at me and laugh, reminding me of my failure. Maybe this was some sort of deep seated psychological flaw incepted upon me in childhood, but I just couldn’t let it go. I blame my parents.


I looked through the cabinets and found some old powdered grout, which I assumed was left by the contractors that built this place. The instructions were a bit murky and involved gallons of water and a bucket. I certainly didn’t need that much grout so I just started mixing a little with water until it looked about right…as if I knew what grout was supposed to look like.  I scraped out some of the stained nasty grout with a screwdriver and applied the new mixture. It wasn’t a total color match but it looked better. I let it dry, sealed it up and congratulated myself on my awesomeness…



It turns out either:

  1. Grout expires or…
  2. I messed things up or…
  3. Mrs. Happy Philosopher sabotaged the grout somehow


…because the first time I went to clean the new grout I noticed it was turning to sand and rubbing off. This was not good. At this rate I would need to re-grout daily. I made a trip to the store and got some already mixed grout (see above). It was much better and actually worked. Our grout now looks amazing. I still have a few areas to do, but overall I’m just happy this leaky faucet didn’t turn into a $30,000 kitchen remodel.



January was a low consumption month for us. The main point of this experiment is not perfection, or to save money, or to be minimalist for the sake of it. It is to just become more aware and conscious of consumption. It is designed to change the way I think about buying stuff. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years it is that we are simply a collection of our habits, and when we can make the good ones easy and automatic, we can focus our energy on other more important things. On to February!




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    • Wendy on February 1, 2018 at 7:50 am
    • Reply

    Anytime you start closely examining something that you have decided to fix, it often leads down the rabbit hole to wholesale destruction, chaos, and the aforementioned billion dollar kitchen remodel or Norwegian spa or something… A bit of hyperbole, but it is indeed a slippery slope if you don’t accept what is good enough…
    Glad you made it through relatively unscathed.
    Good luck & focus for February!

    1. You are right. It is a dangerous path to go down at times. It’s like replacing one piece of furniture with something really nice, then noticing the existing furniture doesn’t look as good next to it.

  1. Hmmm, you mention a $30,000 kitchen remodel and this: “Mrs. Happy Philosopher sabotaged the grout somehow”

    Are you implying that Mrs. HP wants a new kitchen and is employing guerilla tactics to get it? Maybe she wants a new house too. You better check your credit cards to see if she purchased the flamethrower that Elon Musk was selling… 🙂

    1. No. Actually Mrs. Happy Philosopher thinks I’m crazy for obsessing about the grout. On more than one occasion she mentioned to me that she thought the existing grout looked fine, although this could be some sort of reverse psychology Jedi mind trick or something…

      We actually joke that it would be cheaper to buy another house than to remodel the kitchen.

    • VagabondMD on February 1, 2018 at 8:50 am
    • Reply

    Dude, I’m just happy I made it out of January with no clothes purchases. On to February…

    1. Well done 🙂

  2. Nice work. I am not accounting for my wife’s spending…it’s a bit high at the moment. I will have my update Saturday.
    As for grout, it is a fickle mistress for sure.

    1. Hahaha, that darn grout! Took my kitchen down for a few days…

  3. Yay! I’m all for raising awareness and increasing conscious consumerism! It’s better on our wallets and better for the planet.

    Great list by they way. That reminds me that I have to make my list of purchases!


    1. Excellent.

  4. Great job! Agreed – it’s not about not buying stuff, but being aware of where your money is going. I like to call it “voting with your money.” Put funds towards the things that are important instead of blowing it all on stupid stuff.

    1. I agree. To take it one step further, deciding what we spend out money on is one of the greatest powers we have in society.

  5. This is timely, my kitchen faucet is leaking now and at the end of it’s life, and I can’t get the darn thing out. Too much crud around the bolt after 18 yrs of sitting there. So my questions is – is that $140 for the faucet only or is that the faucet and the plumber bill? If it’s the latter that seems cheap.

    1. Just the faucet, the plumber was another couple hundred dollars…which was incidentally money very well spent when I saw what he had to go through to get that thing out.

      1. Got it, that’s my problem. As much as I want to conquer it and get the DIY satisfaction, I’m strongly leaning toward surrender and just getting the plumber. I hate surrendering but oh well

      • The Rhino on February 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm
      • Reply

      That crud could be limescale. What you can do is soak some old rags in a citric acid solution. Wrap it around the area then wrap cling film round the lot. Leave overnight. Give it a scrub with an old tooth brush next morning. With any luck the limescale will come away leaving it a lot clearer to get a spanner on..

    • Ted Yaeger on February 2, 2018 at 5:37 am
    • Reply

    Yep, buy nothing and put who knows how many people out of work or how many (likely small) businesses out of work. Reminds me of a story I read as a boy about littering as told by Superman…a tale of morality and self respect…just one little piece of litter…what if everybody littered (cartoon picture of boy’s neighborhood full of street trash.

    1. The purpose of a business is to provide society (us) what we want. If we all decide we don’t want more meaningless crap in our lives then the businesses that sell meaningless crap will go out of business. We have to spend our money on something. By not spending my money on stuff, I can spend it on other things that are more important. I feel no guilt about doing my part to accelerate the creative destruction of capitalism and neither should anyone else.

      If people started cutting back on unnecessary radiology procedures should I demand they get them anyways so I can keep my job?

    • RocDoc on February 2, 2018 at 10:48 am
    • Reply

    This post had me laughing so much! I loved the grout story and I know exactly what you mean about improving one thing that makes other things in the house look worse. I guess the best plan for us OCD types is to just let everything go to pot in the house and just buy a new house once we can’t stand it anymore. I liked the “I blame my parents.” My brother and sister and I have fun joking about blaming the parents for everything, even things that parents have absolutely no control over. I guess it’s a sibling bonding thing. Fun post!

    1. Hahaha, yeah it’s dangerous to start improving things. We experienced this when we started buying our first set of “nice” furniture. The existing stuff (which was perfectly fine) started looking shabby next to the new pieces and pretty soon we made the furniture stores a lot of money 😉

    • The Rhino on February 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm
    • Reply

    Yes, grout does go off. Best get it fresh. Also better to buy powder and mix yourself rather than pre mixed.

    What you can do to clean existing grout is mix bleach and sodium bicarbonate into a paste.

    Apply paste to grout lines with an old tooth brush and leave overnight.

    Rinse off in the morning. If all goes well will look a lot better..

    1. This is useful information. I now officially declare you my new grout consultant 🙂

      The Oxyclean worked pretty good, but I will try your mixture next time. I have a feeling the grout will start looking terrible again within a year. We use the kitchen pretty hard.

    • jagruenkeJennifer on February 4, 2018 at 6:15 am
    • Reply

    Grout does expire. The date of manufacture should be on the bottom of the bag, and it should be used within one year. The problem is that it absorbs water from the air.

    1. Yeah, this stuff was like 15+ years old…ineffective.

  6. I totally had the same rabbit hole thing happen yesterday while working in the garden. Mr.Wow had already raked and then I decided that one area needed a little more TLC. About midway through that area I looked to my right and noticed that that area needed some attention. Then it was over there and there and almost an hour later, I was still going. Luckily mine didn’t cost anything (except time), but I eventually just had to stop otherwise I would have kept going and going.

    Sounds like your first “no-buy month” was ultimately a success. Congrats!

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