Could You Stop Buying New Things For A Year?

A group of friends decided to try an experiment in frugal “earth-friendly” living. They wouldn’t buy anything new for an entire year. Since the idea was to save the planet, not their pocketbooks, they were allowed to buy things secondhand, and of course, to buy food and toilet paper etc. So what happened?

They saved a lot of money. From Bankrate:

“I wasn’t really budgeting,” Rosenmoss says. “I just noticed that things were happening.” At bill-paying time, she’d realize, “I can pay more of my credit card bill this month,” she says. “I was very excited about that.”

“This year I’m going to start tracking it more intentionally,” Rosenmoss says. Her goal: be debt-free by the end of this year. It’s “like an albatross hanging from my neck,” she says, adding that there’s now just $5,000 to go.

Perry is so far ahead on his student loans that his next payment isn’t due for months. “I think I’m getting farther and farther ahead,” he says. And he’s building extra equity (as well as reducing the interest expense on the loan and shortening the loan term) by overpaying the mortgage.

Could you do it? Could you stop buying new things for a year if it meant being debt free by the end of it? —MEGHANN MARCO

Want to save money? Don’t shop [Bankrate]
(Photo: RyanRocketship)


Edit Your Comment

  1. j_dot says:

    Sadly, I really dont think I could. On the bright side, at least, I live w/in my means and have no debt.

  2. roche says:

    What about booze?

  3. itmustbeken says:

    I feel faint just reading this…
    A year without a new cell phone? New Adidas? That’s just crazy talk!!

    Being debt free sounds vaguely communist if you ask me….

  4. b612markt says:

    Woah… just the CONCEPT of not buying anything new for a year scares me to death. Is that sad?

  5. I might have already done that…Hmm…

  6. B says:

    @roche: Booze counts as food.

  7. acambras says:

    If we don’t spend frivolously, the terrorists will win and the Baby Jesus will cry.

  8. itmustbeken says:

    I consume, therefore I am pretty.

  9. Spider Jerusalem says:

    Honestly, Out Of The Closet, the main chain of thrift stores around here, has boosted its prices so you’re usually paying as much if not more for secondhand things. It’s cheaper to brave the evils of Ikea than to go secondhand-diving around here. On the other hand, I haven’t actually BOUGHT clothes in five years (husband works for Hot Topic), and all we really spend money on is rent, utilities, gas, and food.

    Plus, you know, secondhand clothes are usually gross, and ditto for most of the furniture.

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    Cute kitty!! swoon

  11. jamesdenver says:

    Spider isn’t that place next to the Bi-Curiou Furniture store?

    (sorry heard that joke on Reno-911)

    I go to thrift stores selectively too. I’m wearing NEW Abercrombie/Fitch pants I bought for $7 at salvation army.

  12. iMike says:

    Ah’m in yur bagz…

  13. pestie says:

    What does it say about me that this thought really doesn’t scare me at all? Of course, I’m already pretty close to debt-free (excluding car/house).

    Do people really buy a new cell phone every year? Why??

  14. spanky says:

    I’ve probably come pretty close some years. If maintenance stuff like batteries and office supplies were also excluded, I could do it pretty easily. (I could stockpile, I guess, but that seems like it’d be cheating.)

    Of course, if I made a solemn vow to do that, the morning of the first day, I’d drop my coffeemaker on the floor and my computer would explode. Commerce is a jealous god.

  15. etinterrapax says:

    It doesn’t really bother me, but I doubt I’ll ever do it. Buying things is not inherently evil. Buying things for reasons other than needing them is more perilous, especially since there is a whole spectrum of issues once you get away from need, but generally speaking, I find life challenging enough buying the exact thing I need without driving myself nuts trying to find the thing or something that will do in place of it on the secondary market. Besides, I like antiques, and that would open up a whole dangerous category of not-new items for me. This exercise strikes me as environmental martyrdom, and that makes me feel squicky.

  16. kgazette says:

    I’ve been doing this (it’s called “Compacting”) since January. It started by accident – loss of job necessitated I bring my spending down to the absolute minimum. At the same time, I read about Compacters on teh interwebs. Since then, I’ve found it insanely easy not to buy anything new, although I have bought a few things with gift certificates.

  17. LAGirl says:

    “If we don’t spend frivolously, the terrorists will win and the Baby Jesus will cry.”

    i would like to submit this to the Consumerist t-shirt slogan contest.

  18. traezer says:

    You know, now that I think about it, I never buy anything new, besides food and toilet paper. I did buy three new shirts so far this year for work, and a baby gift for my new cousin, but thats pretty much it. (and I havnt bought a new cell in years, I always go for the free cell that most contracts offer)My only weakness is buying a starbucks drink one every few weeks, and if Im feeling extra adventurous some sort of junk food item once a month or so. Man, Im a miser.

  19. joyflop says:

    @kgazette: I’m having a bit of difficulty finding some links about compacting, would you be able to post some? Much appreciated :D

  20. joyflop says:

    @joyflop: gah, nevermind I found some :)

    Thank you!

  21. Slytherin says:

    @pestie: “Do people really buy a new cell phone every year? Why??”

    That’s what I say. I still use the same Motorola StarTac phone from years ago.

  22. zolielo says:

    Clothes $256.93
    Stuff $525.32

    So far this year. I do not see myself buying much more clothing this year unless it is work related (another suit or two). With stuff it is mainly just little things here and there which have added up, such as $31.39 HP 5L toner from supermediastore.

  23. alpacalypse says:

    Save for the occasional new gadget and supplies like batteries, pens, paper, etc, I already do that. It’s actually not hard… Just make sure that you buy stuff that lasts a while before you begin the experiment: reliable cell phone, a nice camera, energy-efficient appliances, etc.

    Aside from a few areas (like the aforementioned gadgets), most consumer products have reached a level of maturity that makes buying used very sensible and easy– a 5-year old Mercedes car or IBM computer or Levi’s pair of jeans will perform just as well and last just as long as anything new, although it may not be as flashy.

  24. Dustbunny says:


    I’m with you, although I’ll trade the cell phone & Adidas for designer shoes and handbags.

    I wonder if subscribing to Netflix is considered “buying new things”, because if it is, I *definitely* couldn’t do it.

  25. orchid777 says:

    This year, I spent $60 cash per week (mostly on coffee and dinners out). I was able to pay off $5,000 in credit card debt.

    Still, it’s probably not a good idea for all of us to stop buying new things. Wouldn’t the economy go to hell and half of us lose our jobs?

  26. zolielo says:

    I never thought about my bills per week, I normally look at the data per year or per month.

    For me per week it is $18.80 on food in and $5.33 on food out. Kind of unforeseen…

    No credit card debt just student loans that I am working on and that hopefully will soon be gone.

  27. TSS says:

    I could not go without buying anything new. However, I do buy almost everything on sale or with coupons. I pride myself on my bargain hunting abilities. But *nothing* new? Sometimes you need to buy yourself a little something pretty.

  28. As long as crap for the garden doesn’t count as “new” … probably. Garden paraphernalia counts as food, right?

  29. flyover says:

    Ooooh I could NOT give up concerts for a year, or music (CDs or online)

    Do none of you have hobbies that sometimes require new purchases?

    Otherwise, I’ve done scaling back before – little things like only drinking water when going out etc. Primarily as short term fixes though – amazing how much you save with the ‘minor’ sacrifices!

  30. AnnC says:

    If I exclude all the new things I bought this year, I haven’t spent any money on new things at all!

  31. zolielo says:

    @AnnC: If I assume everything old is new again and likewise that all new is actually old, then yes, I have bought nothing new. :)

  32. aestheticity says:

    very easily. not counting food (afaik you cant buy that secondhand, and i dont grow any) or bills etc, very very easily. i think ive probably done it some years already.

    youve got clothes to last a year. your things are in good shape and you dont break them. youve got what you need to make a living. you dont need anything new buying frivolous shit just because you want it is childish. reading half of the above comments is like ive stepped into never-never land with malls and creditcards.

  33. acambras says:

    When people talk about Netflix or downloading music — I don’t think that counts as buying new stuff. If you’re “compacting” for environmental reasons, I would think downloading would be a good thing — relatively low-impact. With Netflix you would be renting videos (not buying new), but I would think you’d lose points because of the mailing involved (maybe reuse the mailers?)

  34. Munkeyhatecleen says:

    I typically got a new phone every year I was with Verizon – but they were “free”. Would that be an acceptable loophole? :)

  35. shari says:

    As a mom, I might be able to do it for *me*, but not for my kids – they keep growing out of their clothes and shoes, although I do buy some of that used already. School supplies too. Or does that come under the “toilet paper” clause. Also, another category that comes to mind is gifts – I’d still buy those.

  36. @flyover: “Do none of you have hobbies that sometimes require new purchases?”

    You’d be shocked at how much hobby stuff you can get at 2nd hand shops, garage sales, and rummage sales. A lot of it is (slightly morbidly) when family clean out someone’s craft stash after they die and donate it all, but sometimes it’s just an over-purchaser purging. Really nice stuff, too, at a deeeeeeep discount.

    I expect a lot of hobbyists are like me, though, and have overbought so severely I could EASILY entertain myself for a year with all the stockpiled projects and supplies I have lying around.

  37. minchua says:


    Most everything’s outsourced to China anyway, where all the useless crap people buy comes from (at slave-labor prices). What jobs?

  38. Wally East says:

    @flyover: Do none of you have hobbies that sometimes require new purchases?

    Running is one of my hobbies. 400 miles per pair of shoes and 2000 miles per year is five new pairs of shoes per year. I use old running shoes for casual shoes and I recycle the old shoes or give them to Goodwill but there’s no getting around this.

    How about magazines? Do I have to give up my subscription to Cook’s Illustrated? I could do that and just subscribe to their website to get the same content.

  39. acambras says:

    Like I’ve said, I think the rules depend on why you’re doing it — to save money, to save the planet, or both.

    Some hobbies are going to have greater environmental impact than others (like racing cars or boats, vs. knitting). And even if rnkoneil needs to buy new running shoes every year, I think that would be forgivable (same with new bicycle tires).

    BTW, I knit, and a friend of mine recently recycled the yarn from a sweater she’d bought at a thrift store. The sweater was not her size or style, but the yarn was cashmere. She took out the seams, unraveled the sweater, and now she has some “new” cashmere yarn to knit a pretty sweater.