Buy Nothing Challenge Update #3

July 2020

For those of you just joining in for the first time, my family and I are participating in a buying nothing challenge. This means that other than the essentials (i.e. soap, food, car repairs, etc.) we aren’t purchasing any other items (read more about it here). Like the reality of life there are good days and bad days, and these updates are a way of documenting these days.

Since the beginning of the year we have bought a few items that would not be classified as essential (a book and a pair of shoes…oops!), but otherwise we have been doing very well. Of course the COVID-19 pandemic has helped to curb the temptation to buy as stores have only just recently re-opened where I live, and I would rather not go visit these stores unless I have to. We have never been big online shoppers either, so there are many factors lately that have allowed us to take more time to consider each purchase and whether it is an essential or not.

For example…

Two months ago we needed to replace our bread machine, and we took the time to consider whether it was truly necessary. Prior to this I had found a very easy no-knead oven baked bread recipe that we could have made a switch to. The lifespan of these bread machines are so short it made us uncomfortable adding to the landfill with this decision, but in the end we decided to buy it. The machine allows us to make a larger range of breads (including a garlic parmesan bread that is amazing!), and still continues to help us avoid packaged bread at the grocery store.

Other Purchases we’ve made:

  • 4 saplings
  • garden mulch
  • sewing scissors
  • a flood light

Strategies We’ve Used to Buy Nothing

  1. Hand-me-down and/or swap: When I have been offered clothes for my son from someone in our community the answer is always, “Yes please!” I have not had to buy any clothes for my son this year due to the generosity of others, and I will definitely pass the clothes on in the same way. This is the same attitude we take with clothes for ourselves, for toys, and household items. There is no need for new in our world today, and often buying new items at a “cheap” price has an ethical cost behind it (if you see a t-shirt for $6, you have to ask yourself how the company covered all the costs involved with just $6). If you feel you don’t have a community where sharing is possible, try the following:
    • Seek out online swap/frugal groups on social media in your area;
    • Advocate with your friends/family to start this kind of sharing practice;
    • Host a swap event (see how here) with your community and/or friends.

  2. Repurpose and/or DIY: I love baskets, bins, or any other storage place to assign items their place. We had an excess of unusable t-shirts, and instead of turning them into shop rags (as per the usual), I cut them into strips to use as yarn, and crocheted a basket. It was an amazing experience because I am not a typical DIYer, I’d much rather find money in our budget to buy something. This year I have also learned to do basic sewing, and my mind is becoming much more open to the idea of doing it myself. We’ll see what other projects come about because of it…

  3. Shop at home: When we moved into our house my mother-in-law left behind a lot of stuff for us to sift through in the home and on the property, and recently we found a small trampoline for our son to use and an old firefighter hat (my husband’s dad used to be a volunteer firefighter). We have also found a construction hard hat and safety vest. Sometimes what we need is packed away, or right in front of us waiting to be used or repurposed.

  4. Unsubscribe from mailing lists: I am a sucker for a sale, and companies I love send me emails sometimes with really great deals, which is why I subscribe in the first place. Unsubscribing for the time being has helped to curb that temptation, and I would recommend this as a strategy if this is also a temptation for you.

  5. Marketing works: I’ve been learning lately about marketing, and it is frightening how much money they put into understanding you and obtaining psychological knowledge in order to get you to buy their product (read this article as an example). I grew up hearing various people in my life say, “marketing doesn’t work on me!” Well, I can tell you by the purchasing decisions they make that yes, it does work on them. It also works on me, and it works on you too. Once I begun accepting that I am vulnerable to these tactics, and I start recognizing what they are, I have found it much easier to say “no,” and feel confident in my discernment of “need” versus “want.”


As always I am grateful that my husband is so conscious about spending money that he questions every purchase, and this challenge has amplified my gratitude. I needed a wet bag, and because I saw it as an essential I was about to purchase one, but my husband encouraged me to try and problem solve with something from around the house. Of course, I found something that wasn’t exactly a wet bag, but has worked well enough for the purpose it serves.

I also wanted to purchase a child size toilet seat, and was about to purchase one (again, seeing it as an essential), but then was encouraged to see if anyone in my community had one, and they did.

All this to say, accountability is important no matter who it is – your partner, a family member, or a friend.



I want to take a moment to acknowledge my privilege in being able to do this type of challenge. There are those who do not buy because they are financially unable to. This privilege extends to low waste living. There are those making choices of “low waste” but solely for the purpose of cost saving, not because they are trying to reduce their waste. There are also aspects of low waste living that are not accessible or financially possible for some, which needs to be an intrigue part of the movement – advocating for system changes to ensure waste less living is accessible to all.


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