Sunday, July 5, 2015

Thinking About Buying Nothing New

Okay. I'm not committing to this 100% yet. But I sure am chewing on it. In fact, I can't stop thinking about it. So this post is not well organized, and is more of a brain dump, but here you go. It all started when I stumbled across this article.

Have you all heard of the Buy Nothing New Compact?

It's pretty much what it sounds like. You make a commitment to not buy anything new for an extended amount of time. Like a year.

It's not a spending freeze. It's just stepping outside the cycle of consumerism.

Well, not stepping outside entirely. You can still buy food, toiletries, cleaning products, and underwear. But if you want to buy anything else--clothes, toys, furniture, etc.--you just buy it used. Instead of relying on the convenience of Target or Amazon, you go to the thrift store, shop consignment, hit up Craigslist, or turn to Ebay.

The idea isn't deprivation, it's just supposed to bring a real awareness that we don't actually need more new stuff.

(I need this awareness, because I swear that I see a Home Goods store and I almost get this itchy feeling like I need ALL THE THINGS. Even though my house is already FULL of things.)

The Buy Nothing New Pact is not a spending freeze; it's not a postponement of purchase. It's a year-long commitment (or longer, for some people) because it's really supposed to be a lifestyle change. It's an invitation to slow down--not to grab that item because it's cute and convenient, or because you're having a bad day and want a pick-me-up. Shopping should be more about seeking to fill a genuine need, about buying things with real purpose, and really more about re-using and repurposing and recycling the enormous amount of goods that are already filling up the world.

I confess that it makes me nervous precisely because shopping would take more time and effort--right now I can grab a shirt while I'm in Target picking up Clorox wipes and shaving cream, and I don't even have to try it on because I can return it later if it doesn't fit right. With a full time job (nine months out of the year) and two little kids at home, I don't usually feel like I have the luxury of spending my Saturday toodling around estate sales (although I do love a good estate sale!). So it does seem like it would require a sacrifice of convenience. I'd miss browsing Zulily and clicking on some of the big sale offers that come through my e-mail.

(Also I just bribed my kid into pooping on the potty by buying her some ridiculous Elsa dress up shoes that were on clearance at Target. But probably I can find bribe-worthy poop prizes at the thrift store?)

We are lucky to receive so many lovely hand-me-down clothes for the girls, so I usually just hit up Old Navy and Target clearance for basics to fill in their wardrobes. I'd have to spend a little more time shopping consignment for them, but it's definitely something that could be done (and browsing consignment kids clothes is not a hardship as far as I'm concerned!).

But I see a lot of upsides to this project. For one thing, I like a challenge. I think it would be kind of fun to see what we could do without for a year, and how we might get creative about the purchases we do want or need to make.

I also think it would be interesting to see where we might end up making exceptions (I mean, I'm all about the commitment, but I also don't want to be miserable for a year). I'm thinking might have to make an exception for gifts. (And obviously we can graciously receive gifts--I'm not making Zuzu return things!) Although we could challenge ourselves to give homemade gifts to others. But then could I buy new craft supplies? Am I limiting myself to sewing with vintage fabric (which could be do-able!)? But what about needles? Thread? I think I need to set clear ground rules from the start. (For example, I want to be able to order photos or photobooks.)

I imagine it would save us money, which I obviously find appealing, but the central purpose of this pact isn't about saving. You can still purchase tickets to events, go out to dinner, and spend money on activities. The only limitation is on material goods.

In some ways, I think it might be easy. Could there even be a kind of relief when shopping is off-limits? I don't have to worry about what I might be missing out on because I know I can't buy it anyway!

Anyway, I mentioned the idea to David after I read this essay about it, and he surprised me by being totally on board. I didn't have to talk him into it even a little! So even though we haven't completely committed yet, I really think we might get serious about this. (Maybe after my birthday? Haha. But seriously.)

Yeah... I think maybe we're going to do it.

What do you think? Is it totally crazy? What do you think I would miss buying the most?

Should I do this? Should I blog honestly about it? Or would that be annoying?

Are there exceptions I'd have to make besides food and toiletries and cleaning supplies?

Will anyone else volunteer to do this with me so we can commiserate and cheer each other on? I'm trying to get my Crafty Cousin Amanda on board, but she won't commit... yet! (If you think CCA should do this with me, please tell her so in the comments.)


  1. I cannot do this. I am a wasteful materialist. And I take long showers and keep my house at 67 degrees in the summer. BUT. I really want to hear how you do this and I want to read about it. And then you should write a book about it. And make exceptions for kid gifts and parties but give homemade gifts to family? And for sure you can buy new craft supplies.

  2. I buy $1.50 stretchy pants from walmart, I feel like there isn't a consignment shop on earth that's going to do better for me.

  3. If you do it, blog about it! I could never do it, but I really admire you if you can.

  4. I just think it is a lot of work! I am all about shopping at consignment sales for Luke's clothes when I can but I just bought him a bunch of shorts at target for $3 a pair and it took 5 min to find his size, the same brand once upon a child was trying to sell for $5/pair.

    Interesting idea, though, good luck if you go for it!

  5. I am so torn about this! I have done a one-month spending freeze, which was great. I have tried to cut back lately both to save money and because I sometimes feel ill at the amount of stuff we've acquired even though we usually are thoughtful about purchases. I mean I have not bought a new pair of sandals this entire year. Do you know how big a deal that is in Texas?

    But but but, I don't know if I could keep away from buying new kids' clothes. That is the one thing I splurge on. I worked so hard to get those kids here, and I only get to pick out those cute little clothes for a few years. Plus, E has expressed a strong preference for orange clothes. Orange. Could I try three months, or is that too lame?

  6. Wow that's quite a challenge!!

  7. I say blog about it if you do it. I'd be interested, whether it worked out for you or not. I'd be interested in doing a variation of this. We are in the process of reorganizing/redoing a few rooms, so I won't be doing this anytime soon, but I am at least committed to looking secondhand first. We have a lot of outdoor markets here that are usually filled with furniture and cute odds and ends. Craigslist is iffy for me, always has been. Maybe trying it on a trial period would work? Ease into it, like three-six months first?

  8. Definitely a time suck, but one I find to be fun. You know me, I love a good consignment/thrift shop. It's fun to me to reuse. I can afford a brand new dresser, but why not buy a cool, solid wood one with character? It's likely better made (for a lot less cash).

    But yeah. Target clearance can be really cheap. And time is sort of important. I know I could do it, but that's because I enjoy it.

    Of course I'd love to read about it. :)

  9. I'm with Brandy. I LOVE consignment sales, garage sales, and even the Facebook selling walls (which is why Lydie was fully outfitted for several years). But the problem with this is moderation I think... I could make a pact to do that even more... but I would also be miserable if I couldn't buy a new coat or shirt. But yeah, I'm still taking my grief (and anxiety) shopping so there's that.

  10. Blog about it fo sho, but can't commit to joining you. Though I'm in NEED of another spending freeze. I think I'll do a summer one soon.

  11. Also, there is some relief - I gave up Target for lent and it was kinda nice to just know it was off limits.

  12. I would love to hear about your (or others) experiences with this, but A) Never would my husband agree to this. The minute we put a limitation on ourselves, he's frantic to break thru that limitation. (Thinking now that I really hope *that* particular quirk doesn't extend to martial vows? Ha-ha?) And B) I honestly can't imagine giving up that much time out of my life, or staying sane while dragging my three kids everywhere to find used things worth buying. I'm guessing we buy about 70% used stuff as it is (lots of clothes and toys from two huge consignment sales yearly), used car, used furniture... That's going to have to do for us. But again, I'd love to read about others' experiences!

    And Lady, if you don't think you could write that book and make bank with it, you're wrong. Even as an e-book. You're an amazing writer, and I bet you have more than a couple of readers who would send out a million links. Just saying. ;)

  13. Should I do this? Should I blog honestly about it? Or would that be annoying?

    I can't say to the first, but if you do, "yes" to the second and "no" to the third!

  14. Hmmm I love the thrift store and the consignment sales and target clearance. I like a good garage sale, but hate 7 am on Saturday. V just sucked water from the toilet with my expensive vacuum, so that had to be replaced. I guess I could have checked craiglist or freecycle for something, but a good vacuum is important. I sometimes have an idea in my head that can only be realized at a thrift store. I think I could do it 90% of the time now that I am aware. I am also sleep deprived. Please write about it if you do it. ~M