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Points of Articulation

yo go re
yo go re
My Month of No Purchases

Have you heard of The Gray Man? It's apparently a Netflix original movie that was heavily promoted all over the internet for weeks on either side of its July release. I say "apparently," because I literally never heard of it until a month later when the fun corner of Film YouTube (Pitch Meeting, Filmento, Cinemawins, etc.) started doing videos about it.

Shocka loves to make fun of me for never knowing anything about what's going on with pop culture and toy news and whatnot, because I don't pay any attention to that sort of stuff. It's not just that my YouTube subscriptions are things like philosophy, literature, and deep analysis - I follow plenty of fun channels, too - I just like to learn about things I don't know when I'm working. If you don't get exposed to voices outside your experience, you end up falling for the puddle-shallow rhetoric of Andrew Peterson or Jordan Tate or whoever the next grifter is who's trying to make you feel like you're not good enough.

Point is, I ended up seeing an interview with someone where they talked about not buying anything new for their hobby for an entire year. That's not something toy fans can possibly do (their thing was makeup, and if you don't buy blush in April, there will still be blush in January; if you don't buy a toy when it comes out, it's gone for good), but I decided to try that myself... on a much smaller scale.

Spending money on toys (image of a Kermit toy bathing in a sink full of oney) vs. spending money on things I actually need (image of a Kermit toy wearing a plastic bag and laying out a few small coins)

I set myself the goal of not spending any money on toys for the month of July. Any preorders that came in during that time were fine, since (conceptually) that money was already spent, but the flip side of that coin meant no placing new preorders, even if they wouldn't be charged for months. And no using gift cards or store credit to get things, either: anything that would normally merit an entry on our message board's "Haul Pass" section was verboten.

And I used my Haul Pass thread to keep me honest. The reason people make public declarations of their intentions is because having witnesses means you're letting down someone other than yourself. That's why weddings have attendees and not just two people and an officiant. If I promise me I'm not going to do X, it means less than when I promise you I'm not going to do X. To that end, I posted about the things I saw and would have bought under normal conditions.

The month started off with spotting Vizzini from The Princess Bride and best waifu Kris Statlander. And here you see the very obvious shortcoming of this plan: while I was committed to not buying these things in July, that would very often mean I just bought them in August instead. Is postponing a purchase for 30 days really in any way meaningful? Well, maybe.

A few days later, I was at Target, and they had NECA's cartoon TMNT two-pack of Super Rocksteady and Mighty Bebop, the robot versions of Shredder's main henchmen. That wasn't a set I was particularly hunting for, but seeing something new from that line in person was exciting, and I was really tempted to buy them right then and there. In June, I would have. But in July? I left them on the shelf. And I haven't picked them up since. Now, obviously part of that is that I haven't seen them again (as Scissors said, toy collector FOMO is real!), but part of it is being able to push past that intial rush of finding the thing and wanting the thing. Monkey brain want shiny new! I could easily put that set on my wishlist and start keeping an eye out for it, but will I? Eh, probably not. So there's at least one chunk of change my month saved me.

Unfortunately, I'm not very smart. I've said this repeatedly in the past, so you already know it's true. My mistake was trying this no-buy month the same time SDCC reveals and preorders would be happening. Dumbass. So on July 11, I lost the game. Target had a sale for 25% off Disney figures. A one-day sale, so it was then or never. And since "Disney toys" includes Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series, there were a bunch of things I would have been buying in the future. So to my logic, it would have been ridiculous to skip them now and pay more later, right? So yeah, I preordered everything I could find in stock that I wanted. Since we're a long while away from the ML Controller BAF series coming out, it's going to be a while before any money is charged to my card for these, but I still made the purchase, and everybody was right to point and laugh at me.

But here's the thing: just because you falter, it doesn't mean you give up on what you were trying. If you're on a diet and overeat one day, you don't call yourself a failure and go grab a Wendy's Baconator for three meals the next day; you recognize your shortcomings and try to avoid the same pitfall again. So my attempt continued. Like, I saw McFarlane's new Commando Spawn on Walmart's site, and was totally ready to add it to my cart. Did add it to my cart, in fact, but stopped myself before checkout. It's still sitting there now, unbought.

Nearer the end of the month, Walmart was offering "SDCC tie-in" exclusives, including a bunch of Transformers. You know, like Scourge. Again, there was no way those were going to last 10 days until August, so I had no choice but to buy them right then if I ever wanted them. And so I bought the most important of the releases, but passed on others that were lower priority.

Another thing I was really hyped to buy was the Toyhax Gar-Tan upgrade set. Yardheap was a fun figure, but turning him into a robotic Zartan? Sold! Except not, because the "new release" discount expired before my self-imposed embargo did, and I'd feel foolish paying five dollars more for something just because I waited, so it was now a pass. And if I'm not going to get the best version of the toy I want, then is there really that much value in holding onto Junkheap as he is? Or should I maybe box him back up and return him to the store? Plus, GameStop keeps having sales on collectibles, but I've managed to not get sucked in there, either. And for a major savings, I missed the end of HasLab's GI Joe Classified HISS Tank project. Whoops! Of course that'll more than cover the few things I did buy.

Did I really gain anything from my no-buy month? Well, not as much as the woman who inspired it. She's doing a followup series right now, and the first part of it was three lessons she learned:

The point of shopping being more about the shopping than the having? Sure, I can see that. But I wasn't much of an impulse buyer to begin with, so I already put things on a wishlist and wait for them, making that less of a change for me than for her. And in her second video, she talks about not buying simple upgrades of things she already has, or needless duplicates "just in case." I may not be one of those weirdos who will buy a second figure to keep in its box, so the "duplicates" thing doesn't apply, but doing this for a scant month means I didn't really run into the "upgrades" problem. At least, not strongly. I still have the new Ben Reilly and Black-Suited Spider-Man figures on my Amazon wishlist, even though I have great figures of both those costumes already. I've just been waiting for a low enough price to make them worth grabbing, but maybe I should be happy with the ones I've got already?

No-Buy July was an experiment for me, just an excersize to see if I could do it. It did have some minor impact on my habits, though, so maybe I'll give it another go in the future. Just at a less tempting time. Like December or something.

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