I’ve pledged to buy nothing new (as in brand-spanking new) for a year. Second-hand purchases are allowed, but really, my first choice is buying nothing at all. While you may understand my motivation to be environmental – and it is – I’m also motivated for financial reasons. I want to live lightly on the planet, but I want to do so with financial freedom. To me debt is like slavery, and while I’ve taken it on voluntarily, I’m anxious to rid myself of its shackles. I think financial freedom, which I define as being debt-free, can play a major role in achieving a simple and satisfying life.
For over a decade I’ve worked to eliminate debt by adopting many frugal habits, like eating made-from-scratch food at home, getting books and movies for free at the library, shopping second-hand, making my own cleaners, making gifts from what I have on hand, making do, or doing without. I’ve made big choices too, like down-sizing to a smaller house in a less-expensive neighborhood, to quickly eliminate debt. I’m getting close to achieving financial freedom, but I have some lingering home debt. While I’m conscientious about my spending, I want to make a bigger and faster dent in my debt, so I’m tightening the belt by first making the consideration to buy nothing at all. I’ve already shared 15 Tips for Success in Buying Nothing New, but here I want to share more strategies to help avoid a purchase altogether.
7 tips for buying nothing at all:
- Distinguish need versus want. I think the biggest thing you can do before making a purchase is to evaluate whether the item is needed or simply desired. My experience is that most things fall on the want list. Most of my needs are already met – I have a roof over my head, I have clothes on my back, and I have food in my cupboards.
- Maintain and care for belongings. Extending the useful life of our things through proper care and maintenance can be an excellent strategy for avoiding new purchases. Taking your car in for routine maintenance, annually cleaning out the gutters on your house, and replacing your furnace filter are just a few examples.
- Mend or fix belongings in disrepair. It may be cheap (and convenient) to replace things, but a change in mindset should have us all look for ways to extend the life of our belongings by repairing them as a first consideration. Rather than getting a new pair of shoes, consider resoling your old ones; rather than throwing out those holey pair of jeans, patch them up; and rather than buying a new smart phone, replace the cracked screen of the one you currently own.
- Borrow. Look to friends, family or sharing clubs for items you don’t use often. There were a handful of times last year that I borrowed clothes. I keep a very minimal wardrobe that is mostly comprised of casual and active wear. When I had a wedding and some holiday parties to attend last year, I borrowed dresses from friends. They were happy to share and I was happy not to clutter my closet or drain my wallet to purchase new clothes.
- Find a substitute. We’ve all substituted ingredients in cooking, but why not in other areas of our life. I shared the story of our mattress that had to be disposed of. Rather than buying a new mattress, we found a substitute by using our inflatable camping mattress. For those curious, we’ve adjusted just fine and are no less happy.
- Use what you have. It sometimes takes creativity, but if we look in our homes, or even in our alley-ways, we can often find what we need without spending a dime.
- Do without. Delaying, and ultimately not making a purchase is often the best way to learn that you really didn’t need it.
Buying nothing at all doesn’t mean going without enjoyment in life. It just frees up time and money for making that an even bigger priority.