Buy Nothing Day was invented in 1992 by the Canadian-based activist group Ad Busters. In the United States, the day takes place on that traditional shopping holy day – Black Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving and is exactly what you think it is: a day when you buy nothing.
Week 46 Challenge: Have a Buy Nothing Week
Challenge Details: For 7 days you won’t buy anything that isn’t considered essential. This means no ordering take-out, no clicking on the Amazon Deal of the Day and no picking up Starbucks holiday drinks on your way into the office.
Your Deadline: November 21
Alarmed by our mounting credit card bills following our PCS from overseas, I decided that I needed to immediately enact a Buy Nothing Week ahead of the official celebration.
A week – how hard could it be?
Here’s how my Buy Nothing Week went down:
H minus 2 Weeks
In preparation for my plan to buy nothing, I read the book “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine. I found it in a pile of books my sister was getting rid of and was relieved that I didn’t have to live through the irony of buying it. While a bit dated, the book is an entertaining account of a New York writer who went a whole year without buying anything.
I read this book to figure out the actual mechanics of the whole buy-nothing concept. Could people really go a whole year without buying a single thing? I live in suburbia and while I have some herbs growing on the back porch, it isn’t feasible for me to have chickens or a vegetable patch.
It turns out there are a lot of different definitions of what “not buying” is: for Levine, it was not buying anything unnecessary or ready-made. So she wouldn’t buy pre-packaged or processed foods, wine, fancy toiletries and the like.
Toothpaste and toilet paper were OK, but not fancy lavender soaps imported from France and anti-wrinkle eye cream. She made all of her foods from scratch, and by the end of the year her partner had started brewing beer and making his own wine.
Other writers had a much more lax view of what was permissible, such as the blogger at One Empty Wallet, who didn’t count any of her groceries as non-necessities and didn’t count digital downloads either.
I decided to adopt from both camps.
I wasn’t going to buy anything other than strictly necessary groceries and toiletries and I was definitely not going to eat out, download books or go to the movies.
I was going to try my best to make things from scratch rather than buying processed or pre-made (it’s a lot healthier too). The alcohol part I had covered because we shipped some wine back from Germany in our household goods shipment.
H Minus 2 Days
I am kinda-sorta cheating because I am making a big grocery run ahead of my buy-nothing week. I planned my meals for the entire week, something I’ve gotten kind of lax about since the move. I know not buying anything will be a lot easier if I can cut down on shopping trips as much as possible.
My Buy Nothing Week Is Here
The first day of my Buy Nothing Week is here and I’m feeling pretty confident. I have a full pantry. Last night I made granola bars from scratch for the kids to take in their lunches. Dinner is in the crockpot. I’ve got this under control.
The kids come back from school. They didn’t like the homemade granola bars. There is a PTA fundraiser coming up, but thankfully it doesn’t have to be turned in this week.
My Buy Nothing Week, Day 3
The kids are boycotting the granola bars (my husband and I think they are fine). They have found a box of Trader Joe’s cookies at the back of the pantry and are satisfied for the moment.
I “cheat” and buy a bag of popcorn from the vending machine at the garage when I am trapped there unexpectedly for hours waiting for my car to be serviced, another expense that I count as necessary.
My Buy Nothing Week, Day 4
Thanks to a story I wrote months ago about online shopping, I’m still subscribed to several online deal sites and I’m getting amazing deals in my inbox. I actually have items in my online shopping cart and have to force myself to take them out.
I realize that a lot of my expenditures fall under what is called “spaving” – spending in order to save. You can’t save money if you don’t spend it, right?
My Buy Nothing Week, Day 5
Had a bit of a crisis – my husband had to unexpectedly wear his dress uniform to work and wanted to press it. Unfortunately, our old ironing board disappeared during the move. I realized this a few days ago, but held off buying it because well, it was Buy Nothing Week and I only iron twice a year. So he had to make due with putting a folded towel on top of the dresser. He is not pleased.
My Buy Nothing Week, Day 7
I made it through to the end of the week without any major missteps, but it was difficult. I don’t think I could keep it up for a year. My overall spending was down, making me realize how much I do spend on groceries.
Lessons Learned from My Buy Nothing Week
Stay away from big box retailers. While they do have some great deals on grocery items, they also have a lot of tempting non-essential stuff (Target Dollar Spot, I’m looking at you!). If you have to shop at a super store, stick to the grocery side.
Have a list and stick to it. If you are serious about having a Buy Nothing day/week/month/whatever, figure out your ground rules ahead of time.
Don’t window shop. You’ll end up feeling either very tempted or very frustrated.
Don’t window shop online. It’s too easy to buy without thinking about it.