The impact of the idea of “Buy nothing new month” and what it’s really about

In my former posts about the “Buy nothing new month” initiative, I gave some hints about the idea behind it and how to do it. I found it very interesting to see how people I told about this in “real life” and on social networks reacted to the whole initiative. Some were enthusiastic and did immediatly start to declutter their home, threw a swap party or started to share tools, others were confused or had almost and aggressive reaction to it.

I would like to focus on the last ones. People seem to be offended by not having the freedom to buying new things. Some people said “but I need to buy new shoes”, “but my friend/kid has his birthday this month, I need to buy them something!”, “but Christmas/Sinerklaas is close and I always do my Christmas/Sinterklaas shopping in October (!)” .

I think that it’s all due to the unlucky choice of the title: the negation (“nothing”) sounds very strong and people feel offended by it. They actually stop thinking about what it really means. They feel like if someone was rapping over their knuckles and tell them how to behave (or, in this case, what not to buy…).

Maybe a title like “reflect before you buy month” would be less offensive?

What you CAN and HAVE to buy this month!

First of all, this “buy nothing new month” is not about “buying nothing at all“!

If you don’t live on a farm (with an orchard, vegetable garden, chicken etc.), a great stock of toiletpaper and are in perfect health, you will need to buy essentials like food, hygiene and medicines.

Really “buy nothing new“?

This is actually where most people struggle with.

It is more about reflecting. If you go to buy something ask yourself, if you can’t reuse something you already have or get it second hand. I usually get clothes for my kids second hand. Only exception: shoes and underwear, unless I know the person it comes from very well – I guess we all have items we wouldn’t like to have second hand (see here below).

About needing and wanting

And here we are at the big question about “if we need” it. Olga did point out in her post today, that she wouldn’t use the word “need“. Of course, if you really “need” something new, then you have to get it. If you need a new pair of shoes or your kid needs a new mouth guard: go for it!

It’s different if you would rather say that you “want” an item. You can try to do a test: if after one day, a week (a month!)  you still want it, then go for it.

This whole idea is not about punishing or castigating ourselves.

But I need to get a present!

I had to find presents for friends and family this month and I did find all six of them. I already gave some ideas in my other post, but you can also spend money to support museums, concerts, art shows, movies etc. Or what about inviting a friend to a symposium, a conference or a workshop? All these things enrich your life and provide entertainment for lots and lots of people.

When buying food: try to support local

Instead of buying packaged food in your supermarket, try to buy your produce at the local farmers market. Try to  support your local farmers and businesses. “Think of it as tending to the garden in which you live. Supporting local also means you will probably use up a heck of a lot less gas. “

Last but not least: Have fun!

First of all this has to be fun! If you get it the right way, this can be fun and much easier than you think. Of course, it is a challenge if you do it the first time, but you’ll be surprised about with how much less stuff you can be happy.

It is not about “surviving” this month. If you have this impression, or need more ideas about the whole initiative, then please take the time to read these sites:, or, (Dutch) .

  • Buy nothing new month is the global movement for collective, conscientious consumption.
  • It’s about thinking where our stuff comes from (finite resources) and where it goes when we’re done (often landfill) and what are the fantastic alternatives out there to extend the life of our “stuff”.
  • Team up with friends to take the challenge, make gifts, borrow stuff, share things, refurbish furniture, craft, blog about your experience and above all else, enjoy yourself!

“Consumption today often involves buying things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like! Buy Nothing New Month is about spending our time and money more thoughtfully.” (Clive Hamilton)

6 replies »

  1. Glad to see that I got the idea of this Buy Nothing New Month. I noticed that I was going through the same phase you described in your article: ‘What? I can’t buy the things I like? I like shopping!” I think people understand the freedom of buying as a personal freedom and it is. You can only deide what to buy if you have the money to buy it. But in the end, nobody is holding a gun to my head, and telling me to buy nothing new. It’s a choice. Also, I don’t really like shopping because of all the problems I always run into when I try to buy something for myself. And in the end, I am trying to incorporate more environmentally friendly, fresh and helathy ideas into my lifestyle and it’s always good to think about what we’re doing. And I also wait on an object to see if it’s, to put it in my mom’s words: “if it waited for me”. If it’s still there and I still like it, I buy it otherwise, I don’t and I’ve never had regrets over not buying something.

  2. Of course everyone is free to buy what he want and when (if he can). It’s about living more toughtfully. Epecially this time of the year, with several festivities where people use to exchange presents, and get in a buy-mode (or buy-stress…) and don’t realize that all this not only costs a lot of money, time and energy, but it’s also affecting the environment. I think it’s important to show this to our children too – they will be the future buyers. We’re living this way since last year – with some exceptions like I mention in this post (shoes, mouth guards 😉 and underwear and some clothes), but even those exceptions are never impulse buys but carefully thought out. We use to say the same as your mother for when we see an item we like.

  3. It is a bit of a challenge in a lot of ways, but I reckon that I might just be able to get through it as long as I leave starting my Christmas shopping until November. That said, sometimes days out or activities are a good option (…especially if they have a meaning for the people you’re giving them to). One of the main Christmas presents that my wife got me last year was that she’d booked a weekend away in Liverpool for us, which was great. It wasn’t all that far away but it was nice to have a little trip away, in fact our last one before becoming parents. On our anniversary of meeting each other, I think that what I got her was the promise that I take her out for an afternoon tea at a place that we’d visited on our first date. I guess this sort of thing works best with close friends and family, but perhaps some of the general principles can be applied to others.

  4. I know that it’s a challenge, Jonathan. I guess that trips, workshops etc. as a present should be given from people whom we’re really close – because usually they come with us… Offering activities, outings etc. means giving time and memories. – Personally, I can remember all these kind of memorable trips, workshops etc. I received, but I must admit that I don’t recall all of the other presents I got 😉

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