October is Buy Nothing New Month. It is an idea that started in Melbourne and is spreading across the world. Read more on their website. Although I practice conscious consumption, I’ve never attempted any sort of ‘buy nothing’ month. This year I want to give it a try. I will take a little planning and preparation though – and I need to get the family on board. If you’d like to play along at home, here are some tips I have gathered for how to do it.
What is a Buy Nothing New Month?
First of all, what is a Buy Nothing New Month? Well, it is really all in the name. For a whole month, you do not buy anything new other than essentials such as like food, hygiene products and medicines. It isn’t (necessarily) about doing without. The idea is to bring more conscious attention to the things we buy and to rethink where we source what we need.
You could take it further and not buy anything (other than those essentials) during the month but that isn’t what I plan to do. You can set your own rules for your challenge.
Getting My Household On-Board
I’m pretty sure my husband will be fine with this but I can’t spring this on my teenagers. I’m going to need to have conversations with each of them for them to be on board. With them all having birthdays in August and September, there may be birthday money burning a hole in their pockets in October!
Is it Cheating to Prep?
Does it go against the spirit of a Buy Nothing New Month to try and predict what we might need and buy it beforehand? Probably. I am going to avoid doing that. Essentials are not against the rules anyway so it will be interesting to see what non-essentials naturally come up through the month.
I will post some reminders up. I’ve already put this poster up on the fridge to lodge it in our brains! Some stickers on debit cards might also be a good idea.
Tips to Get Through the Month (and Beyond!)
Waste Reducing Principles
As always, I go back to the Waste Reducing Principles. As I’ve said before, they are not just about waste. They are conscious consumption principles too.
When faced with something you think you could/should buy, step through the pyramid and ask yourself these kinds of questions:
- Do you really need it? Can you do without it?
- Could I use something I already have to do the job?
- Is it to replace something broken? Can I fix the broken item instead?
- Can I borrow it from a neighbour or friend?
If you decide you do actually need to own it, do you need it right away? Can it be deferred? By waiting a while (perhaps until the end of your Buy Nothing New month), you may find the need or desire to own it passes.
When you decide to obtain it, try to source it secondhand. There are lots of options for finding secondhand items. See my companion post on that topic. I acknowledge that, as we are currently in a state of lockdown here in Canberra (and other areas of Australia), this option is a little limited.
If you really need to buy it new this month, go ahead. We’re all about imperfect action around here. Do what you need to do then continue with your Buy Nothing New Month.
If shopping is something you do for fun or on impulse, you might want to create some friction between you and your power to purchase. I’ve talked before about removing friction to make new habits easier but the opposite is also true. If something is harder to do, you are less likely to do it. Certainly, it is harder to do on impulse.
A hack I use a lot is simply not to go to the shops. Other than grocery shopping, there will be no need this month to go to the shops. I am very aware, however, that a supermarket is full of non-essentials too. If I make a robust list and only shop from that, I should be fine. If you think this might be a risk for you, however, perhaps consider ordering online for the month of October.
When leaving the house, leaving credit and debit cards (and cash I guess – what is that?!) at home is a friction creator. As I have my phone set up to make payments, I will disable that if I find it necessary.
To make online shopping harder, using a website blocker like the Self Control app to block your usual shopping sites for the month will give you pause.
These are a few things I can think of to create friction between me and clicking ‘buy’. You might need to find some things that work for your own personal shopping habits.
It is a really great idea to keep a note of what you do need to buy and even what you source secondhand. Record why you needed it. I’ll be doing this to raise my own awareness of the things we continue to consume and why. I hope it will uncover some areas that might currently be blind spots. It will also be really interesting to see if there are any items we source that no longer seem so necessary at the end of the month.
Further to that, it might also be really interesting and educational to record the things that we avoid buying or obtaining. It will be interesting to see how much money we save. More interesting, however, will be looking at our thinking processes. Why did we think we needed it? Why did we decide we could do without? Do we have any regrets? What did we learn?
Will you join us with your own Buy Nothing New Month? Let’s share our successes, misses and lessons.