Buy Nothing Month

In 2015 I took on a month of buying nothing but consumables. What that means is you can buy food, toilet paper, shampoo and items you run out of…but you avoid new purchases. This year, our Portland Minimalist group took on the challenge for the month of August and I was happy to join them.


Paint I had procrastinated about and Birkenstocks wearing through

What was hard:

I departed from the challenge and bought a can of paint for my office chair. Why I bought it during our challenge was this was a purchase I’d been planning for months, which I just hadn’t gotten around to buying. During an oil change, I walked right by the paint store that carries the color I wanted! I thought about how long I’d been procrastinating about this purchase, and dealing with the procrastination seemed more important than sticking to my buy nothing challenge.

I sometimes get too hard on myself for things that actually end up being “consumable” such as my sole pair of Birkenstocks. I choose to repair them, but needed a pair to carry me for a couple of months while those repairs happen. I’m walking 100 miles a month, so the shoes are really like tires (AKA a consumable item). It’s important to not buy a new pair of shoes because of an impulse, or another pair when you have 10-20 already…but a new pair when you wear one pair out or so you can repair them, is within the rules of this challenge.


I caught myself with an impulse item I “almost” bought. It was a contact lens case. One could argue that the price was only $1.99, but price is not a part of this challenge. It’s goal is really to make one mindful of the automatic purchases than can be made when you are on auto-pilot. It ends up I posted about this “almost purchase” to our minimalists group and one of our members mentioned her boyfriend gets a free case with every bottle of lens solution he buys, so he had quite a stockpile. They gifted me with a new lens case just like the one above, only it’s green. I love the color coding for the right lens!

This is going to sound strange, but once you see how much we buy impulsively, we are bombarded with advertisements left and right…it sort of takes the fun out of shopping. I attended the Hawthorne Street Fair the end of August and was struck by how much cheap stuff they had for sale…versus nice quality items. Once you see it as junk, advertising, impulses that don’t lead to happiness…there is less joy in shopping. This is not totally a bad thing, just something new to adjust to.


One of my favorite stops at the Hawthorne Street Fair, but I still didn’t buy anything.

What was easy:

This being the second year, I was less nervous and more at ease knowing that I could do it. Just having that past experience made it easier to pause and catch myself. That is the main purpose of this challenge…that pause!

I was tempted, but did not make any Amazon Prime purchases. When I really wanted something I put it on my wish list, like I commonly do anyway. Just allowing 24 hours, or better yet, a couple of weeks to think about a purchase, removes that knee jerk impulse and inserts some contemplation into the decision of “is this really something I want and need and will use?”

It’s fun to make other “wish lists” for items I may want in the future and to take my time and find that “right thing” vs that “fast thing.”

Other lessons learned:

I became so much more aware of how much advertising we are exposed to. Somehow coupons, drink punch cards, loyalty points, emails with some education…but then we want to sell you something…stood out as just what they are…ADVERTISING. And my desire to “unsubscribe” grew and my inbox got more calm!

I’ve been doing a no drinks while out 95% of the time practice for a couple of months. Instead I drink water with meals and usually skip the Early Grey tea, the kombucha, or beer. Instead, I’m making or drinking those things at home and saving money. What I realized is by not drinking out most of the time, I’m really saving far more than any drink punch card would ever add up to. A tea 2-3 times a week, adds up to $30 a month. I’ve decided to dump my drink punch cards (and the hassle of carrying them, finding them, remembering to use them) and stick with rarely drinking a beverage while out.


Water is my beverage.

I can more easily identify a want from a need. All you have to do is insert some time in this equation and it will make itself clear. The needs will rise to the top…as in I need a pair of shoes, a container for my contacts – but not necessarily the one with the green lid for the right lens.

I noticed how a discount can make me want something so much more than I really do. This became apparent when the Oprah and Deepak meditation series I had just done went on sale. I quickly reminded myself that I do the free meditations, but when I bought one once, I really didn’t listen to it after that purchase. So be wary of bargains!


Courtney Carver from Be More With Less in Portland, August 23, 2016

And the Buy Nothing Project sure comes in handy…like when you need a clothes display rack for Courtney Carver’s Tiny Wardrobe Tour. I was able to use my local Buy Nothing group and borrow this rack then return it! Easy as that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Would you ever do a buy nothing month? Why, or why not? Please post in the comments below. 


  1. Barb Briley says:

    I like this concept and I think I do a bit of this on my own….. Not being in a group. It would be fun to have this type of club/ group in my area as also motivation . I think too, as I get older I try to make an effort to not buy as much …… It’s just “stuff” .


  2. Jeanne says:

    Since I stopped working full time, I tend to scrutinize every non-consumable purchase. When I had the money I didn’t really think about the purchases I made. Now I realize that more space in my home makes more space in my life. Now my purchases are very intentional and directed- if I am not totally satisfied with whether a purchase meets my needs-I pass- even if it means more time shopping. I also look at thrift stores first for many items I need. Many times, no one can ever tell which clothes I buy new or used!


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