Last October, I participated in Buy Nothing New Month, a global initiative aimed at reducing consumption, promoting recycling and raising awareness of the finite nature of the Earth's resources. For four long weeks, I battled fiercely against my knee-jerk consumerist reactions and attempted to buy absolutely nothing that was new, aside from the obvious necessities such as food, hygiene products and medicines.
Sale picture from Shutterstock
I've got to be honest with you, folks: they definitely weren't the easiest four weeks of my life. My not-so-steely resolve was tested daily as challenges threw themselves at me from all angles — from fixing up knackered bags and pairs of shoes, to suppressing the urge to sprint into Sportsgirl, to convincing myself that my ye olde bricke phone could and would last a few more months. Some of the savings I made included:
- Getting my beloved bag fixed at a tailor (saving $210 on a new one)
- Buying from a vintage market
- Finding a new outfit at a clothing swap
- Superglueing a broken sandal
- Getting last season's clothes out of storage
But I emerged triumphant. By 31 October, my whole mindset and attitude towards spending had shifted radically, I had a heightened awareness of my impact on the planet and its resources, and I had saved just over $1000. For all its struggles and difficulties, Buy Nothing New Month turned out to be a fantastic experience.
Now, six months down the track and well into the new year, I thought it was about time I checked back in and took stock of exactly how much of the Buy Nothing New philosophy I am still applying to my daily life.
And the results of my little wander down introspection lane, I am pleased to report, are pretty darn good!
Flat-Rate Fit Out
How's this for anti-consumerist? Earlier this year, my partner and I were faced with the mammoth task of kitting out our first home together. Although she sat drooling over IKEA catalogues and occasionally throwing me a pleading look, I was firm and fierce and I resisted. After a couple of Saturdays driving round to our local op-shops, dropping in on garage sales and begging stuff from our parents and friends, we had collected a whole bunch of second-hand stuff that we then set about reappropriating, restoring or just cleaning.
The results? An apartment full to the brim with quirky, individual and entirely functional pieces. We love our new home, and I'm pretty sure the planet and our bank accounts are sending us a whole lotta love too.
I guess this shows that the enlightened state I found myself in post-October 2012 hasn't really faded. I am still thinking twice before whipping out my wallet, and I am still asking the important questions like: do I really need this? Can I buy it second-hand elsewhere? Above all, I am still striving to be a clever spender - aware of my spending habits, aware of my spending limits and aware of the impact my purchases have on the world around me.
Super valuable lessons gained for free:
- Second-hand doesn't necessarily equal second-best.
- Willpower truly is like a muscle: if you use it enough, it will get stronger.
- Thinking twice before buying is smart, mindlessly subscribing to consumerism isn't.
- Impulse buys are terrible for the environment and your wallet.
Georgia Kriz is a uni student and student-banking guru at comparison site Mozo.com.au, where you can compare credit cards, banking, loans and insurance. A self-taught frugalista, Georgia is full of savvy and innovative money-saving ideas for students and under-25s.