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Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping

2.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,568 ratings  ·  616 reviews
Shocked by the commerce in everything from pet cloning to patriotism, frightened by the downward spiral of her finances and that of the trash-strewn earth, Judith Levine enlists her partner, Paul, in a radical experiment: to forgo all but the most necessary purchases for an entire year.

Without consumer goods and experiences, Judith and Paul pursue their careers, nurture re
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 27th 2007 by Atria Books (first published 2006)
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Average rating 2.93  · 
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Dixie Diamond
Mar 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: economy
I didn't buy this (I got it from the library). I was amazed, first of all, at how awkwardly-written it is considering the author is a professional editor. It's repetitive, and there is actually very little focused attention paid to any guidelines she has for what is "necessary". She has minimal insight and seems to have missed the point of her own book. I mean, this review is not well-written, either, but I'm not a writer or an editor. I'm just a disgruntled reader.

While the author does raise so
Jun 06, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: fake liberals
This book was awful. The experiment the author poses is a worthy one: go a year without shopping (necessities excluded.) Unfortunately, the author and her husband find a way to categorize nearly EVERYTHING as a "necessity," including (but not limited to): three cars (there are only two people in their family), an addition to their SUMMER home, the New York Times and Starbucks on Sundays, gourmet food for their cat and a $12 pair of socks. And that's all before page 40. Further compounding my fru ...more
Three years after reading this, I'm still pissed off about it. It was educational, but not about not shopping or our consumer culture; rather, it perfectly encapsulates a specific overprivileged mindset.

The idea is fascinating. The book is also fascinating, but only in the way a trainwreck is; the author announces she's only buying necessities, then decrees that everything is a necessity - the New York Times! Expensive haircuts! Basically, she spends the year not buying new clothes or dinners o
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: smug liberal super hippies
I actually couldn't finish this book.

Sure she was funny and entertaining but it takes a certain kind of constitution to take in all the super liberal hippie bullshit she tries to "sneak" in under the radar. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I hate super liberal hippie's, I love them. But I'm not about to inundate myself with all their propaganda and that was exactly what I was inviting into bed with me every night before I went to bed and it suuuuucked.

Honestly, the point where she lost me was h
Mar 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
If you were really committed to not buying anything for a full year besides the "necessities", then this book would be a primer on how to not do it.
She remodels her house, takes vacations (from not buying) and proves time and time again that an exercise in frugality is more common than an exercise in dicipline.

If your motivation is to live a life more simple, Don't buy this book, either... I'll give it to you, or better I won't buy any firestarter and this will be the kindling that allows me t
Jun 19, 2007 rated it liked it
I requested this book through Inter Library Loan at my work and read it in a weekend. It is a month-by-month documentation of a self-employed New York author's project of abstaining from buying anything outside of the absolutely necessary for one year. It was a lot more human than I thought it was going to be. By that, I mean that there were no black and white judgments about being a consumer. For instance, her struggle with defining what is "necessary" involved a great examination of desire, mo ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
A brilliant concept squandered by perhaps the most unbelievably pretentious, self-absorbed, and hypocritical author I've ever had the misfortune of reading.

Disgusted by our consumeristic culture, Judith Levine and her partner decide to spend a year of not purchasing anything , beyond basic necessities. Problem is, the author considers The New York Times, Starbucks, an extension on her second home, and $55 haircuts to be "necessities." The absurdity doesn't end there, though. Ms. Levine frequen
Dec 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
I know, this doesn't seem like something I'd choose, and of course I didn't--it's a book club book. When I first started it, I was enjoying it--I was caught up in the start of Levine's project and thinking about how I need to watch my own shopping habit more closely. But as the book went on, her memoir-cum-journalist-essay style grew wearing--I liked the memoir bits enough, but then she'd be like, "So then I consulted such and such expert at such and such academic center" and cite a bunch of sta ...more
Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Amanda by: Liz Hosmer
My sister recommended this book to me because I had started to reevaluate my spending habits, and had decided to try and buck the consumerist mindset that caused me to start to slip into credit card debt.

The book is written by a woman who decided that for one year, she and her husband would buy NOTHING that was not absolutely necessary. No dinners out, no new clothes, no prepared foods, and so on.

The book started out as an interesting description of how hard it was to make the mental switch - fr
David Michael
Oct 01, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NPRers
What was a promising premise, not buying non-essentials for a year and critiquing consumer society, sadly turned into a lot of unjust whining by the Author. Indeed, much of the book is a 'poor me' attitude about not being able to buy things that are already a luxury many of us can not afford. The most annoying part was when her and her boyfriend are trying to decide to sell one of their many cars and complaining about how hard it is! As someone who choose to have zero cars, I found it ridiculous ...more
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people struggling with a budget, consumer reformers, spendthrifts, pennypinchers, fiscal fussbudgets
Shelves: read-in-2009
okay, i know i am giving this book four stars, but go read some of the reviews that give the book only one star. they make excellent points & critiques that are 100% valid & certainly occurred to me while i was reading the book. i'm doling out four stars not so much because the concept behind the book blew my mind somehow, but because i think the process of thinking about the critiques i was making (the same critiques as a lot of one-star reviewers made) was really illuminating for me. like a lo ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Alice Waters, insufferably smug liberal yuppies
This book had such potential. It actually started out interesting, with discussions between the author and her partner about ground rules, struggling to follow them, being acutely aware of how much they buy that they don't need. After the first half it devolved into political rantings that had little, if anything, to do with the topic at hand. While I could see a connection, however tenuous, between consumerism and the proposed cell phone tower in the tiny Vermont town where the author spends ha ...more
May 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who is interested in living simply or the effects of consumerism
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book, mostly because I felt like it was not preachy. It was an experiment and the author was upfront about what was really nice and what was hard, costs and benefits. I was interested in a trip into her experiment and thought that a lot of her observations were striking. Without restaurants, it is hard to have a social life. Her experiment was easier for being partnered. At least she was not isolated alone. The decision to not buy books or see movies was made much more diff ...more
May 15, 2008 rated it did not like it
The first lesson of Not Buying It, save your money and don’t buy the book!
How ironic that the chick who wrote Nickled and Dimed would write a cover review for this book, as it is another example of people being utterly unaware of their privileges. What was it within the first month that they required $30,000 in house renovations to help them work this idea that only a truly privileged person (with no kids) could fathom? And I am not lost on the notion that the idea is that culturally we are expe
Mar 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
I have been wanting to read this book for a few years. Since I am trying to embrace a minimalist lifestyle and I love doing drastic and personal experiments I decided to finally pick this book and read it. As fast as I picked it up I immediately was disappointed with what I read.

The author's views are aligned with my own on so many levels and that made me have even more of an attraction to reading the book. But after reading the first few chapters, I found myself agreeing with so many other read
Jul 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
I too could go a year without "buying it" if I could:
-classify everything I want as a 'necessity,' such as expensive coffee beans, kitty insulin, "all manner of foodstuffs," and daily purchases of the NYTimes
-exempt anything having to do with a house remodel and anything purchased on vacation
-coerce and manipulate friends into taking me out to dinner, footing the bill for movies, and sending me care packages

This woman is a hypocrite. Says the arts should be funded but then "never pays more than
Oct 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
I had such high hopes for this book in that it would be a fabulous experiment in actually not buying things - as the title would suggest. Instead it is simply a platform for a very whiny writer to complain about how hard her life is not being able to shell out for whatever she wants. She is able to justify all of the "necessities" she continues to buy (the NY Times every day, exotic rice and foods, clothes and pretty much whatever else she wants) and maintains 2 households, 3 cars (all for 2 peo ...more
Jan 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: non-fiction readers
Shelves: non-fiction, read2008
Early on, the author recognizes the need to seek out Freud: "[The fetish] becomes pathological when the longing for the fetish passes beyond the point of being merely a necessary condition attached to the sexual object and actually takes the place of the normal aim."

Judith Levine goes on to say, "I replace the word sexual with the word athletic (sports having supplanted sex in the American erotic imagination anyway),and yikes, I am looking at myself in the mirror. The SmartWool socks became nec
Aug 20, 2008 rated it liked it
The timing for this book, for me, was perfect. I was in my last semester in college, terribly broke and doing an internship. I was searching for camaraderie. You don't understand? I needed someone to tell me that it was OK that I live in NY and can't afford to buy anything. That I should forfeit my feelings of shopper inadequacy, and a waning wardrobe for a purpose; to prove that this material obsessed culture I'm living in is toxic and based on marketing campaigns and branding, which only makes ...more
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was more wide-ranging than I expected: I thought it would be a personal journey, but it looks at issues of world economics, environmental concerns and social responsibility and in this sense is enlightening, if a bit depressing at times! It's a very thought-provoking read, and I can't imagine that anyone who reads it will ever forget some of the lessons of the book. There really is something for every consumer here...

To read the rest of this review (and more!), please visit Trashionist
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
I remember my mother talking about this some time back -- she hadn't read the book (I'm not sure the book had been written yet), but there had been an NPR segment or a news article about Levine's year. I don't remember much other than my mother saying that Levine mentioned going to a lot of libraries and free museums and so on, but it sounded interesting, and when I ran across it at the library it struck a chord.

But I am confused, and I suspect that so was Levine. It's a noble, or at least well-
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book has received a lot of criticism, perhaps rightly so, but I can't help feeling that some disappointed readers might be missing the point that the author's failings contribute to the richness of her analysis. When she fails--and when she doesn't--she makes interesting and salient points about our consumer lifestyle, our country's economic structure, our nation's political choices, and her own individual feelings of elation and guilt.

It would be impossible and ridiculous for her to have
I really wanted to like this account of a woman and her partner who forgo all but necessary purchases for one year. There were parts of this that were funny and useful, and I do think it is a good exercise to really distinguish what we need from what we want. That is not as simple as it seems for most of us in the middle class. But there was way too much local politics (page after page about debate over a cell phone tower) and not-so local politics that were now both dated and tedious, not to me ...more
Oct 31, 2007 rated it it was ok
I admit, I fell for the hype on this one. I agreed with some of her views on excessive consumption, but her over-analyzing the subject of consumerism and variety of rants that veered off subject grew old very fast. Her reliance on numerous quotations in order to pad out the book were off-putting as well and resulted, for me, a feeling of lazy writing. Maybe one of the messages the reader can take away from this book is that everyone has their priorities and one person's idea of life's necessitie ...more
Oct 09, 2009 rated it did not like it
This would have been a little more believeable if she still didn't own two houses because she and her partner just couldn't give up the NYC city life but really wanted to keep the Vermont life as well, and while you don't really need a car in NYC, you certainly need one to get to Vermont, and of course you need a 4W drive vehicle in Vermont but that does't get great gas mileage on the trip there, so you really need at least 2 cars. Sorry - if you're trying to make a point about not being materia ...more
Nov 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
In this book, Judith and Paul decide not to buy anything for a year except the bare necessities. I really enjoyed the book, and it made me think more about what I was buying and why. I also thought more about what was really necessary to me. I think this is something we should all be more mindful of, given the eternal blast of commercials, etc. telling us we need everything.
May 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Awful. The only good thing about this book is that I didn't pay for it but got it from the library. It's boring and badly written (even though the author is a professional writer). I was looking forward to some reflections and analysis but the author is about as self aware as a rock. There was basically a whole chapter dedicated to the tantrum she had when she couldn't find her favourite socks. Really.

P.S. I actually resent adding this book to my bookshelves because it was so bad but I'm terrifi
Carole Baker
Mar 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Author was humorous and honest about her year of no spending. It's outdated, written in early 2000's, but still some good tips and information. ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Interesting concept. However, it's really bad form to moralize about other people's overconsumption when you own two houses, three cars, and your program of buying only necessities includes an addition to one of your houses (not enough "breathing room!"), the New York Times, several hundred dollars of books, and other things. Also, it's bad form to whine about people in a Vermont town "ruining the landscape" with a cell tower, when you constantly whine about "needing metropolitan culture." I'm a ...more
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