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!
Anjuli Crocker lives in Portland, Oregon, and is an intern with New Dream.