Could you handle a no-buy year?
I’m heading to Arizona soon to visit family while also doing a little work in the form of attending a wine festival.
I scanned my many pairs of shoes for something neutral-colored, walkable, closed-toed and warm-weather appropriate that I could wear with most of the outfits I’m taking. I found nothing, but I was determined to make do, knowing that at some point I’d look at the many options I already have and figure it out.
You know where this is going, don’t you?
Yesterday, I had 45 minutes before I had to pick up my son from somewhere. Close by was a discount store, and I thought, “It cant hurt to look, right?”
And, there they were. A pair of neutral-colored slip-ons with a comfortable foot bed and a cute jute rope touch wrapped around the sole for $20. They’ll go with causal skirts and the outfit I already had in mind to wear to the wine festival. There went my determination.
Not buying things can be difficult even when you’re determined not to.
The no-buy year movement
The purchase of a just-the-right-shade-of-pink lipstick can be hard to resist. That one tube isn’t expensive — but then you find all the other lipsticks you bought with the same reasoning. (Photo: DenisProduction.com/Shutterstock)
For the last several years, some people have been attempting what’s become known as a no-buy year. For one year, they are determined not to buy certain items. Instead of buying new things — clothing and makeup top a lot of people’s lists — they use what they already have.
For many people a no-buy year is simply a way of life because their financial situation leaves them no other choice. But for others — myself included — we have enough clothes, shoes, makeup, electronic devices, books, knickknacks, kitchen gadgets… stuff … for all our needs. Yet, we continue to buy.
I try to absolve myself by saying so much of what I buy is pre-owned (shoes aside). But, it only takes one viewing of the Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” to know many us have few things — whether we bought them new or used — that truly spark joy.
Perhaps a no-buy year, or some variation on the theme, is in order.
What’s your goal?
If you’re going to partake in a no-buy year or month or some variation of the movement, you probably should identify why you’re doing it before you start.
Is it to save money? Pay off debt? Have more money for experiences you want to have? Stop the crazy accumulation of stuff? Be more sustainable? A combination of several of these?
Without a goal, failure is more likely. I say this based on past experience. Last year, I wanted to take my sons on vacation to somewhere we’d never been before where we could relax and spend a lot of time outdoors — a vacation where I could not only afford the rental and activities but also have enough flexibility with my money that I could take them to eat at really good restaurants. So I set a goal. That goal was to not buy anything I didn’t need for three months prior to the vacation. A month before we went, I realized I needed to do a little more. I decided that I wouldn’t spend money going out socially: no girls’ nights at the bar, no movies, no Saturday morning coffee rendezvous. I eventually reached my goal.
After vacation, I went back to my regular spending habits. But, as I think about the no-buy movement, I wonder what would have happened if I had kept the stricter habits. There are many experiences I would love to have — concerts and music festivals at the top of the list. Yet, I often don’t buy tickets to concerts, but I buy little things — like $20 shoes — frequently. If I could forgo those little things, I would probably go to a lot more concerts.
So I think the no-buy movement is something that would bring many of us some happiness. Still, it’s difficult. Even though we’re surrounded by a lot of things, we manage to convince ourselves that none of those things are the “perfect” thing for our immediate need.
I’m going to set another goal right now. That goal is to go to a big music festival at the end of the summer. To get there, I’m going to have to not spend money on the things I don’t need. I’m going to commit to not buying any new clothes or shoes between now and then. (And really, should the shoe commitment be so hard? I now have the “perfect” pair!) We’ll see how it goes. I may need to commit in a few months to not buying some other things to make sure I get to the festival.
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what your goals are and how buying nothing, or at least buying a lot less, can help you reach them.
Could you handle a no-buy year?
Before you answer that, ask yourself why you want to.