The Buy Nothing New Challenge

The Buy Nothing New Challenge makes it easier than you think to live simply (and save lots of money).

Also called a No New Things Challenge, you can try it for a month or stick with it for as long as it works for you.

We used to suggest the Buy Nothing New Challenge Challenge mainly for its benefits for the planet. It’s always important to consider ways to conserve, waste less, reduce your impact, get in touch with nature, and create sustainable habits.

But lately readers are finding this in their search for ways to save money. So many things – including essentials – are wildly expensive right now. This challenge can help free up your budget so you can afford what’s important or necessary.

Buy Nothing New Challenge

What’s the Buy Nothing New Challenge?

As described by, this is all about considering and cutting down on your consumption and, at times, the overabundance of “stuff” in our lives. Excess consumption of goods creates a wasteful mindset towards Earth’s valuable resources.

Taking part in a project like Buy Nothing New helps to educate your family about this matter and can be done during the entire week of Earth Day, the month of April as an “Earth Month” celebration, or you can take it to the max and try 6 (or even 12) months.

The sky’s the limit as far as your family’s comfort level.

Do I Really Have to “Buy Nothing” to Participate?


There are obviously some necessities that will need to be purchased “new” – namely, groceries (unless you preserve your own foods). Otherwise, it’s a great chance to discuss with your family the items you consume and use as a family that are brand-new, and whether they should be or not.

After deciding what your “new necessities” will be, try some of these tips to keep the rest of your purchases old, used, or otherwise non-new.

How to Tackle the Buy Nothing New Challenge

You don’t literally have to spend nothing.

While you can totally make this challenge about making no purchases (beyond groceries), it doesn’t have to be about spending no money on anything. It’s more about avoiding the purchase of unnecessary goods and putting deeper thought into what you buy.

1. Take Stock of What You Have

This is a great way to kickstart your buy nothing new adventures. It’s the perfect time to declutter. Give each family member a project (go through their toys or clothes) and discuss whether you need certain items. Discuss the connection between owning less, buying less, and wanting less.

Do you wear the same things over and over? It might make sense to simplify your mornings with a capsule wardrobe. The same applies to jewelry and accessories. Make a list of items you never use and consider how it would feel to have fewer items competing for your attention.

And be sure to give your castoffs to a reputable organization, friends or families who could use them, or sell them in a yard sale.

2. USE What You Have

Those partially-used lotions and beauty products in the bathroom drawer, well-intentioned cleaning products under the kitchen sink, stuff lining the walls of the garage… there are dozens of items around your home that have been in a state of half-use for far too long.

Use them up!

Or if they’ve gone bad, toss them out. Next time you see an Instagram ad for an eye cream, remember how it felt to throw away a $50 cream you didn’t use last time.

Clear the clutter and use that perspective to make smarter decisions next time you’re shopping.

Here are more examples of items to use up or throw out:

  • shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products
  • bars of soap and body wash
  • facial cleansers, oils, serums, purifying or exfoliating masks (we had so many of these!), toners, anti-aging products, and eye creams
  • skin care and makeup samples
  • foundations, primers, mascara, eye shadow palettes, blushes, and lipstick (Cancel those beauty box subscriptions until you use what you have)
  • supplements, vitamins, minerals, collagen powders, protein powders, flax/hemp powders, MCT oils, fish oils, whatever else is in the back of the supplement drawer or cabinet
  • essential oils
  • coffees and teas

3. Evaluate What You Throw Out

Look at your family waste, in general. Are you using reusable totes and lunch containers? Or are you creating your own glut of daily trash?

Disposable items can get really expensive. This is a super easy category to master in your Buy Nothing New Challenge.

Are you constantly looking for a place to put items you don’t use? Take a hard look at your shopping habits and see how much of what you buy are impulse purchases.

Are you recycling everything that can be recycled in your home? Pay attention to your family’s use of all resources: water, electricity, heat/cooling, plastic, etc.

4. Evaluate Subscriptions & Streaming Services

Take a look at your TV and phone apps to see what you pay a monthly or yearly fee. How many entertainment or music streaming platforms are you paying for? Do you actually use them? If not, cancel.

The same goes for the auto ship orders of consumables, clothing subscriptions, makeup or skincare boxes, essential oils, or your Amazon Subscribe & Save orders. While we’re on the subject of Amazon – do you really need to pay a yearly Prime fee? You can still shop there without the membership and any purchase of more than $25 ships free. If there’s a TV show you want to watch, buy a month of Prime and cancel once you’ve gotten your fill.

Here’s a basic list of subscriptions many families pay for monthly or yearly:

  • Streaming services: Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, Peacock, STARZ, Sling, Apple+, YouTube Premium, etc
  • Amazon Prime and Subscribe & Save
  • Gym memberships
  • Meal planning kits: HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Green Chef, etc
  • Music streaming: Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music, Sirius XM
  • Online gaming platforms: Playstation, Xbox
  • Ancestry
  • Workout apps: Fitbit premium
  • Misc apps on phones and tablets
  • Ebooks or audiobooks (try your library’s Overdrive or Meet Libby apps for free)
  • Cloud storage
  • Meal delivery fees
  • Store delivery shipping options (Shipt, Instacart)
  • Credit or identity theft monitoring services

If you use them, great! But there may be some you pay for and never get around to using. Cancel those now. You can always sign up again if or when you have time to get your money’s worth.

5. Plan Your Meals & Grocery Shop Responsibly

Just because groceries are in the okay-to-buy-new category, it doesn’t mean that you have to continue to purchase the same way you always have.

Create a weekly meal plan. There are a few powerful reasons why meal planning is beneficial.

  • You buy only what your family needs for meals and snacks resulting in less wasted food and money.
  • It typically leads to healthier choices (but feel free to keep a few fun splurges or dinners out in the plan to keep everyone from getting burned out).
  • It can take a LOT of stress out of your week. Spending 20 minutes on the weekend can save you an hour of dread every afternoon / evening as you worry about what to make tonight to please everyone.

Also consider your portion sizes. The average restaurant meal is actually double the size of what we should be eating. Make sure your meals at home are just the right size (although leftovers for lunches are a wonderful thing).

6. Enjoy the Simplicity

Don’t dread this challenge. Take it as an opportunity to enjoy the free things in life more. Take walks with your family. Find a free nature trail in your area to discover. Watch one of the many DVDs in your stash rather than buying or streaming the latest.

Start a game night tradition using one of the many board games collecting dust in your closet. You may find that a simpler life is far more enjoyable.

When the challenge ends, restart your spending habits slowly. Consider experience gifts for the family like fun trips to local museums, parks, concerts, movies, art shows and more. The value of these types of experiences far outweighs the cost of admission, and the memories will last forever.

What If I Really Need Something?

Something might break. An unexpected need arises where you have to buy something new. It’s perfectly fine. No one is keeping score but you.

However, sometimes we fail to consider that we have more options. If you find yourself truly in need of an item or replacement, here are some steps to try first.

Fix what’s broken

Before thinking, “That’s broken, I need a new one,” consider fixing it first. Instead of buying a new bicycle, for instance, look up tutorials online for fixing your old one up. You may find that you enjoy using it all the more knowing that you fixed it with your own two hands.

Buy second-hand

If you find that you truly are in need (vs. want) of something, try finding it used. Whether through Marketplace, Craigslist, ebay, thrift stores, or a garage sale, you can almost always find what you need second hand. And most importantly, you’ll save that item from a fate in a landfill.

Don’t overlook freebies

If you’re looking for a particular item, let your friends and family know. You’re not going out of your way to be a mooch, though. Put it politely; perhaps if someone isn’t using, say, toddler clothes, baby gear, or even a piece of furniture, you’d be super appreciative to take it off their hands. You may be surprised at how willing people are to help you out while purging something they no longer need.

Bring back bartering

If you’re not comfortable asking for a free item, consider a trade instead! While you go through your purge, see if there’s anything that you think a friend, neighbor, or family member would appreciate use get good use out of. Then brainstorm anything that you may be in need of.

Get creative! Some things that you could consider bartering include unopened/unused foods, clothes in excellent condition, furniture, exercise equipment, pet supplies, and even services.

Give something old a new life

How much fun would it be to buy an old, used piece of furniture and make it into a family project to refurbish? That chair would then not only hold more meaning in your house, but it would help your children see that something they might initially have seen as pretty gross-looking can be turned into something beautiful; ie beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Ultimately, remember that the goal isn’t necessarily to acquire more stuff (unless it’s absolutely needed) or to force your family into a super minimalistic existence, but to find enjoyment in focusing on your needs vs. wants and ways that you can enjoy the experience together.

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  1. You can also join your local Buy Nothing group (generally housed on facebook – search by your neighborhood) to ask for things that other people might be decluttering. It’s a great way to get new (to you) furniture, house tools, clothes, etc. without buying. It’s also great for borrowing things you’ll only need for a limited time, like power tools, folding chairs, Halloween costumes, or formal clothes.