Buy Nothing Year: Could You Do It?

Could you buy nothing for an entire year? Each year AdBusters promotes Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving to raise awareness about wasteful consumer habits. But what about a Buy Nothing Year? That’s exactly what this group has pledged to do in 2007.

Could you buy nothing for an entire year? Each year AdBusters promotes Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving to raise awareness about wasteful consumer habits. But what about a Buy Nothing Year? That’s exactly what this group has pledged to do in 2007.

Before dismissing a buy nothing year as insane and unachievable, consider the fact that the premise does not proclude buying the things you need for survival such as food, and actually allows to buy used or barter for anything you may desire. A secondary goal of buy nothing year is to encourage you to support local farmers and merchants in buying the foodstuffs you do need.

If you have ever participated in a buy nothing day or have ever pinched pennies for a few days, you probably already know how much we can do without when we put our minds to it. Candy and gum, fast-food lunches, useless trinkets, and excessive clothing all satisfy our desires, not our needs. And today, even larger items including computers, appliances, and cars are disposable. Wasteful packaging aside, most of what Americans buy will become trash within 10 years.

According to 2002 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, the average American generates about 4.4 pounds of trash each day. That’s 1,606 pounds a year and, assuming a lifespan of 80 years, more than 64 tons in a lifetime, or the equivalent weight of some railway locomotives!

The staggering environmental impact of 300 million Americans treating their county as a landfill aside, all this buying detracts from our relationships and our health. It draws lines between privilege and poverty, inspires lust, and leads to debt. It’s why we work longer hours and get fatter than any other nation on the planet.

Not to mention, this being a personal finance website, the high cost of buying unnecessary and disposable products day in and day out.

What can you do? Can you go a year only buying local groceries and other items you need used? How much money might it save you?

What about a month? One week? Starting today, I am going to see how far I can go. I’ll let you know.

Because a buy nothing year is such an ambitious goal, anybody attempting it should be commended. Also, I would think it’s fair to be able to set your own rules. For me, I’m going to try to buy nothing from commercial sources except groceries (buy local when possible), medications and toiletries, and raw materials for art, household, or building projects. Everything else, I will buy used. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Get access to our best money hacks:

Join over 13,207 other young professionals and learn how to get out of debt by 30, increase your income this year and invest for financial freedom.

100% free! I will NOT spam you and I will NOT share your email.

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. I’m excited to hear how it goes!

  2. I’m just really tired of wasting things. I do just want to get rid of the junk I have, but I don’t want to just throw it out. I’m sure SOMEONE out there can use an old Oracle or Unix book.

    Oh, and my wife is a packrat. Luckily, we’re also frugal (sometimes cheap too).

  3. What a concept… I don’t think I could manage a week. It seems as if the college life presses you to spend more and more. Even just after one year, it almost seems second nature to carelessly spend $20 here… 10 there. Definately seems like something worth trying.

  4. I think we should all try. I bet it is wasy then we think. Good Luck and happy saving.

  5. Andrew from Russia says:

    My “Buy Nothing Year” comes to a finish tomorrow. To date I’ve saved around $12k which is still not a small amount for Russia. Expenditures were barely over $2500.

  6. I’ll bet it would be tough only in that I’d be breaking the habit of impulse buying whatever I wanted. Once I got over that and started actually thinking about what I buy, I’ll bet I’d be disgusted with how much stuff I buy that never even got used. I know I’ve bought more than one thing thinking “I’d love to have one of these!” instead of “I really need this!”

  7. It’s decided- I am going to do this for as long as I can, starting January 1st.

    • Conspiracy2Riot says:

      How is it going? I’ve been doing this only it’s a ‘don’t buy anything new’ thing and I’m 5 years into it. It’s a way of life now. I cut up all credit cards and closed my bank accounts too. Also left my job and now I farm and grow my own food. I never make more than I put into running things here so I no longer pay income tax. This has worked out great.

  8. I’m attempting to do this as well.

    wish me luck!

  9. Conspiracy2Riot says:

    So how did it go, David? Your year was up …nearly 3 years ago. Did you make it? Are you still ‘at it’?

Make the right choice when you select a financial advisor!
Paladin has been matching investors to 5-Star rated financial advisors since 2003.
Let us match you to pre-screened 5-Star rated financial advisors in your community. Free, fast, and no obligation.