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My Attempt to 'Buy Nothing New' This October

For the month of October, I’ve decided to not buy anything new. My pledge is part of an Australian campaign called Buy Nothing New Month, which encourages people to curb mindless consumption by avoiding new purchases for 30 days. The campaign allows for necessities like hygiene products, medicine, and food. But otherwise, it’s all about sharing, borrowing, buying used…or simply going without. 

When I started the month, I thought it would be a breeze. I consider myself a mindful and well-informed consumer. My cell phone is old, my computer is older, I repair my belongings often, and I recently furnished my entire apartment with thrift-store finds.

For the most part, I have been successful this month: I’ve found incredible used deals, borrowed from my neighbors, and reused things in creative ways. But every so often, I experience a strange and overwhelming desire to buy something new.

On October 1st, I took the pledge. On October 2nd, I was at Barnes and Noble, eyeing a new paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice. I know it sounds crazy! I didn’t need a new book, especially a popular read that is so easy to just buy used or borrow from the library. But that evening, I found myself wandering into the bookstore on my way home from a bad day at work.

I had meant to sit down with a book and a hot drink to hide out from the rain. But I didn’t have a book with me. I ended up in the classic fiction section, convincing myself that new books aren’t all that bad for the world. And besides, I thought to myself, I didn’t want to borrow this book, I wanted to own it! Surely Buy Nothing New Month didn’t mean to stop us from reading! My internal dialogue was like any other addict, experiencing the first twangs of withdrawal. I bought the book (strike one!) and read two chapters. It’s been sitting on my shelf ever since. 

For the next 10 days, I pulled it together and had no issue fulfilling my material needs without purchasing anything new. When my bike light broke, I found a nifty used replacement on eBay for $10 (it plugs into a USB slot to recharge!). When I got a new job and needed some work clothes, I spent $70 at the local consignment store, Twice, and got a great new professional wardrobe. When the lack of counter space in my kitchen finally got too difficult to deal with, I found a $7 dresser at Goodwill, some leftover paint, and a hunk of butcher block to make myself a kitchen island. I threw a potluck and needed a few extra plates; luckily, my upstairs neighbor had plenty to share...and she even threw in an incredible loaf of banana bread! 

Through this experience, I’ve learned a few techniques to combat my occasional desire to buy new. First, I avoid places where advertising and easy access make new things more attractive. I stopped shopping at Whole Foods, which sells much more than food products, and instead bike to the local food co-op. Whole Foods is a great grocery store, but I am constantly tempted by the strategically placed merchandise while I shop. (Hand-painted measuring cups in the baking aisle! An avocado slicer in the produce section! Adorable votives at checkout!) At the food co-op, I can focus on food and not battle my inner consumer.

I am learning to wait at least 24 hours after I want something to make a purchase. I wanted new plates for my upcoming potluck and seriously considered heading to the nearest store to buy some. After 24 hours, I’d spoken with my generous neighbor, who asked why I needed to own 20 plates in a household of two people. She offered me hers, and the problem was solved—plus I didn’t have to find a place to store them after the event!

When I happened upon a fall sweater sale on my way to work, I let my initial temptation subside and waited until the next morning to consider purchasing anything. It gave me time to realize that I already owned at least eight sweaters and absolutely did not need a new one. Instead, I donated a few of the sweaters that I already owned and didn’t wear. 

I have a little over a week to go, and I think it’s time to step up the challenge! For the rest of October, I will work harder to borrow and share items rather than buying used. I will also have to consider my boyfriend, who is talking about buying a television (we don’t currently own one). I may have to navigate the world of refurbished electronics...or maybe we will stay TV-free. Wish me luck with the rest of Buy Nothing New Month!

*Click here to read the exciting conclusion of Anjuli’s attempt to buy nothing new...

Anjuli Crocker lives in Portland, Oregon, and is an intern with the Center for a New American Dream. For more on innovative ways to share, check out New Dream's video Share Spray as well as the Guide to Sharing and other online resources.

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Comments

I do pretty well. I hate new clothes and new books and if I buy one, I feel the way I would if I had punched someone in the face. Likewise for things I will only use once or twice. What I wish I could stop buying is processed convenience foods; those are also an unnecessary strain on the environment with the extra packaging, transportation, etc. Maybe I’ll give myself that as a 30-day challenge.

Posted by Amanda at November 11, 2012 at 1:37pm

well done!

Posted by charles at November 10, 2012 at 4:47am

RE: Really’s comment above: I just came back from northern Vietnam. We could all take a lesson on how far resources like a piece of wood, a scrap of wire, an old, old bicycle, can be stretched. We are all rich in comparison. However that does not change the author’s point, that it is good to examine our habits of consumption, and it is fulfilling to discover that small changes can benefit the planet.

Posted by Tofumamsan at October 26, 2012 at 4:17pm

I am glad (most) of you liked the blog.

@ Rosemarie – the butcher block is from a reBuild center here in Portland (a lot like the reStore from Habitat for Humanity). I sanded it down a little and retreated it with lemon oil – it has been so great!

@havenwench – I started reading the book again this week and have found it much more engaging :).

@Really? – We are all at different phases in our commitment to sustainability, and sometimes it’s hard to admit our shortcomings. I am happy I had a platform to admit mine. Thanks for reading, and check out BNNM’s website to understand their project more completely. Maybe you will find it less offensive when you read it in context. I think it’s great that you are so committed to principles that will make a better world!

Posted by Anjuli at October 25, 2012 at 4:12pm

OMG, not shopping is SOOOO hard! Let me get that box of medals out for ya…

Sorry, honey, you didn’t do anything special… Real poor & middle-class people go without new things EVERY DAY, not as a fun little challenge, but as REAL LIFE.

It’s kind of insulting for you to make a game of this, like it’s something fun to try and do when people do actually have to live like this all the time.

Posted by Really? at October 25, 2012 at 9:20am

Anjuli! Thank you so much for this article and idea! Not 2 hours ago I was feeling guilty for giving in to my inner shopaholic and stopping by the mall on the way to an appointment. I didn’t buy much, but I didn’t really NEED anything at all. I’m a student, i don’t have any money, but sometimes buying new things takes precedent over saving money or doing homework and that’s just silly. And I pretend to be eco-conscious/nonmaterialistic and all that jazz but boy do i like new stuff. And I’ve committed so many times to only shopping at goodwill and thrift stores! ahhh you can see I was definitely into this article :) anyway I’m going to follow in your footsteps and definitely think twice before I buy my next new thing, and maybe just maybe i’ll commit to a whole month :)

Keep up the good work!

Posted by Christina at October 24, 2012 at 10:25pm

How on earth could you put down Pride and Prejudice after only two chapters?

Posted by haverwench at October 24, 2012 at 8:35pm

Keep on keepin on. You are the light of the earth… Hope of this generation. Keep it real and hold out, think of the massive landfills, the garbage islands in the sea, and the children living in dumps of our useless thrown away (instead of reused and recycled)STUFF. You can do it! One Love

Posted by farmer Ama at October 24, 2012 at 7:43pm

very cool! but where did you get the butcher block from? It looks awesome!!

Posted by Rosemarie at October 24, 2012 at 3:45pm

This sounds like a fun challenge. I’ll shoot for November. If I bring something new in the door I try to take something out as a donation item. I can’t just accumulate stuff on top of stuff. Most of what everyone purchases is not a need anyway. I love Target but that place is a prime example of a store filled with wants and not needs.

Posted by Dana at October 24, 2012 at 2:40pm

Cool! You put your money (savings) where your mind is.

Posted by John at October 23, 2012 at 10:02pm

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