October is ‘Buy Nothing New Month’. An idea which sprouted from Melbourne in 2011 has flourished into a global movement celebrating and supporting collective, conscientious consumption.

Buy Nothing New Month is a month long challenge to avoid purchasing anything new, with the exception of essentials such as food, hygiene products and medicines. Does a whole month dedicated to NOT buying stuff sound a tad scary, unrealistic or even over ambitious? Perhaps. Is it worth a try? Definitely.

The initiative is an invitation to reflect on your purchasing habits and be more mindful before ‘adding to cart’. It’s not about missing out altogether, as it’s really just pausing your purchasing for a month. However you may find, in exercising some self restraint over the month, it also brings to light your conscious and perhaps even subconscious buying habits as you avoid shopping for the entirety of October. Instead of buying stuff for the month consider instead going without, borrowing, bartering, buying second hand or even renting. Welcome the challenge as an ideological reboot for the brain and for the bank balance.

Today it is almost too easy to buy what (we think) we need, and what we don’t, and just as easy to turf it away when it is no longer of value to us. Boost your bank balance and reduce your consumption by pledging to Buy Nothing New for the rest of the month. Even better, find a friend to be an accountability partner and ‘buy nothing new’ buddy. Note, the challenge does not stop you from indulging in a touch of retail therapy via your local op shop or antique store.

We take better care of those items we cherish and value. What if we ascribed more worth to the items we possess (outside of the amount of money we spent) and extracted maximum value from each possession we own? Perhaps we would more readily share, swap and barter with these items when we are done with them. Perhaps we would take the time to repair broken possessions or re-home stuff we no longer use. Ponder this, if ‘buying’ was no longer an option, how would you get what you needed?

Instead of buying new stuff for the month consider creative ways to acquire what you need. Why not swap, share, borrow or barter? If bartering or swapping, each item or service in the transaction is considered a certain value, usually equal to that being exchanged.

Good friendships will often unconsciously involve bartering, borrowing, swapping and sharing. For example when your best friend helped you pack up your house when you moved you made a promise to yourself to help them out next time they move. Perhaps you always bring a homemade treat when you visit a particular friend and they always bring you fresh lemons from their tree when they visit. Good friends will naturally be there for each other, and that includes sharing their skills with each other or giving away what they have in surplus.

Here are some simple ways to reap the rewards of sharing, swapping, borrowing or bartering:
  • Pledge to Buy Nothing New in October
  • Join your local Facebook Marketplace or freecycle group. Enjoy the rewards of giving away, swapping or selling things you don’t need
  • Join a craft or hobby group and every 6 months invite members of the group to swap something you have each made.
  • Invite a small group of friends over for an afternoon. Each friend brings a bag of household items or clothes they no longer want. Invite everyone to trade their items for things they might need or want.
  • At Christmas try swapping handmade items or home grown produce, or make up a voucher for a service or skill you have instead of buying presents.

Finding ways to bring bartering and borrowing into your life can be a wonderful way to celebrate friendships and share what you love with others. The sprit of sharing and swapping can remind us to be more conscious consumers day to day, encouraging us to invest in good quality, hand made, local items and services while avoiding the mass produced rubbish. It’s about connecting with our communities and keeping our local economy alive. Plus, if you learn the art of bartering and if you’re clever, it can mean you get what you need or want without spending a cent!

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert, entrepreneur and mother of two young children.  She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine.  Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.

10 October 2022