Are You Ready to Stop Buying New in 2013?

by Katy on December 27, 2012 · 36 comments

December is almost over, which means the end of holiday shopping, holiday decorating and holiday cooking.

Which means it’s time to work on your new year’s resolution. Because if you wait until December 31st to figure out your 2013 goals, it might end up being nothing less than a depressingly self-serving to-do list:

  • Lose weight
  • Learn French
  • Exercise more
  • Stop watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

But I have a new year’s resolution for you to ponder:

Buy nothing new for a year. It’s called The Compact, and it’s a world-wide movement where people make a one year commitment to stop buying new stuff. There are no official rules, and everyone puts their own twists and exceptions in their Compact. (For example, I allow purchases of new underwear and socks.) Because I have been participating in The Compact since 2007, my rules have relaxed and I do buy a few new things every now and then, but for the most part it’s a rarity.

Everyone brings their own personal motivation to the project, and for some the choice to avoid new stuff is purely environmental, while for others it’s a financial decision. Doesn’t matter, as it’s your decision, and the result is the same. Over manufacturing of unnecessary and overly packaged stuff is a huge global issue, and The Compact is a great way to take a personal stand.

So, what do you say . . . can I talk you into trying The Compact?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Garner December 27, 2012 at 4:54 am

I have comitted to not buying anything except food ( no splurges there either ) and paying necessary bills for the month of January. As for the not buying anything new in 2013, I’ll have to give it some thought. I like the idea, I’m sure I can at least implement the spirit of it for 2013.

Dan @ ZenPresence


Kristen | The Frugal Girl December 27, 2012 at 5:50 am

I do love to buy second-hand things when I can, but I like to balance that with supporting local shops and buying handmade things. I also like to buy things that are well-made and will last a long time, and sometimes, that means buying new (I couldn’t find a nice stainless soup ladle used, though I tried for years!)

My buying philosophy is complicated, I guess. And that would explain why the Today Show hasn’t come calling…I’m not very soundbite friendly! =P


Denise Brandon December 27, 2012 at 6:02 am

I teach school, and I am planning on spending the two-week break decluttering my house. I started yesterday and plan on tackling a room a day, making hauls to Goodwill as the car fills up. This makes me want to never fill up my house with stuff again. I plan on starting the Compact on January 1st. The older I get, the more I want to save my money for experiences vs. material goods. Good luck to all who are implementing this inspiring concept!


Hannah December 27, 2012 at 7:54 am

I am going to really give this a chance this year. I love looking at all the lovely things you find Katy, be it curbside or Goodwill type finds. I have more than enough and really need to pay down the mortgage and one car loan. I did find some nice Etsy and Amazon preloved items to give as gifts this year and plan to continue that trend as I had absolutely no complaints only compliments. I’m in 😀 I agree with Kristen in terms of buying handmade things as well. Two Holiday bazaars this year rocked.


autumn perkins December 27, 2012 at 7:56 am

I am excited to join the COMPACT. I may also blog some about it. The only exceptions i will likely make are underwear and socks as well as items in Ethiopia- we will be traveling twice to Ethiopia for our second adoption and will likely buy many cultural items for our children. I have already started the COMPACT in some ways – bought a new room of furniture from Craigslist last week!!! I will also likely buy my husband a new drill for his birthday in Feb but have some gift cards from Xmas to do that.


Annie December 27, 2012 at 8:16 am

I have been studying my buying habits over the last year to see where my spending gets out of hand and have come up with my version of The Compact for 2013. I have been able to reduce my spending to pay off my debt by Dec 31st!
I am a cosmetic junkie and was constantly allowing myself to be seduced by advertising into buying the newest, latest, greatest product. Yesterday I took inventory of what I have, and tossed outdated/damaged products. I will not buy any new makeup, shampoo, lotion, etc…until I have used up the ones I already have.
Today I will do the same for my clothes so that I can have a truly functional wardrobe and avoid buying on impulse more clothes that I will rarely wear. With my list I will be able to stay focused and try to find what I truly need second hand if possible, or through a really good sale for high quality items that will last a long time.
Happy 2013 everyone!


Cheapchick December 27, 2012 at 9:48 am

After reading about the Compact a few years ago on your blog I started to buy primarily used. My wardrobe and accessories are now 95% used with the other 5% being undergarments which I still buy new. I need something for the house – it goes on the thrift hunting list. I have saved so much money over the past few years and love the thrill of the hunt in the mean time. Even hubby has gotten on board. He was bragging to my stepkids just the other day on how to save money by thrifting. Happy holidays!


stephanie December 27, 2012 at 9:55 am

I have been looking for quality secondhand items first and only buying new if the lack of item is costing me money or I run out of time. For example, I spent six months looking for canning jars (the used ones I found were chipped AND cost more than new) before canning season and ended up buying new when I had 15 lbs of tomatoes to deal with. My four year old ended up with a new/clearance pair of shoes when she had a growth spurt and that size was not in my stash. Of course, I found a pair a month later- at least they will be good for her little sister.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley December 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

I’m thinking to try a different twist. Buy nothing corporate. Meaning that I will support small local businesses and craftspeople, but I will try to avoid large chain stores such as The Gap and Target. The problem will be in finding clothes for my son, but if I keep an eye out at Goodwill and stop by there regularly, I may manage.


Jude December 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I will definitely try to buy fewer new things, but my focus for reasons of thrift in 2013 is to stop eating out.


Lois December 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Hmm, I’m not sure I can make it all year. I do pretty well, but there are a couple of things I need. Such as my love seat was broken this week, it needs new legs and the upholstery is torn in a couple of places. Since the loveseat was picked up curbside I want to make it last and that would be a new purchase. I also need a freezer for my garden surplus. I have been searching for months for one used, but haven’t found one. When my garden starts producing this year I may have to buy one new. I have committed to buying nothing except essentials for the month of January, I will have to see how it goes from there if I will join you for the entire year or not.


tna December 27, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I’ve been doing the buy used for a few years now and it’s become a habit. I’ve found the only things I need to buy new are trousers that are long enough so I don’t have to wear high-water pants and I buy those on sale. My goal for 2013 is to see how little I can spend all year. And I’m going to do what I call my Aldi diet this year…each week my choice of produce will be what they have on special. This week I have 25 cent avocados, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, bananas, and celery. A very tasty savings.

I made a little notebook out of scrap paper and I’m going to keep track of every penny. Bwahahaha! How low can I go?


Shannon December 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

We’re trying it for January, really trying to buy nothing at all that isn’t a true need. Like Kristen said,it’s complicated though, lol. The last time we tried buying nothing new it was like how Dave Ramsey always says, Murphy came calling. Everything broke, things that were awfully hard to find used and /or live without. But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right?


sandy December 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I am in. It is all used for me unless an EMERGENCY forces something new.


Lynn D. December 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I got a good head start on this today. I checked out the Humane Society Thriftstore and for $4 scored the same Lee black jeans that I was wearing, but brand new and a size smaller which I needed. Got a head start on that weight loss too! Remember lots of people make donations at the end of the year so the thrifting is really good.


Rowen G. December 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Most of what I buy these days is either used (including my ever-expanding library) or things from local crafts-folk. I am retired, and make most of my own clothing; I have made a challenge for myself this year to only use fabric I already own. (Including for a historically accurate 1740s Scottish lady’s travelling outfit; I’ve been invited to perform [as singer and story-teller] and teach a class at a Highland Games / Celtic Music Festival. I do not make “costumes” – I make historical *clothing,* from the skin out.)
I have many contacts in the historical re-creation / re-enactment communities, and resell some of the things I find at thrift stores, estate sales, etc. For example, last summer I found 11 Danish lead-free pewter beaker-cups, hall-marked for 1971, at a local thrift store, and priced at $1 each (they were the half-price tag color that day) which I’ve been selling at $15 each, or two for $25. Too much mark-up? I don’t think so – anything comparable that’s new goes for about 30 Euros each. Last week’s find was 6 yards of garnet-red silk duppioni for $4.99; that grade is usually about $15 / yard. I’ll sell the lot for $30, and someone will be very happy. I’m also starting to make wool card-woven bands to sell, and getting random lots of yarn as I find them.
But – getting back on topic – as to The Compact, if I were to except socks, undies, (some) books, and a few things from local crafts-folk, (some of which may be bartered – hand-woven trim in exchange for custom blacksmith’s work ) it wouldn’t be much different than what I already do. So I may as well make it official. 🙂


Jamie December 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm

I made this my 2012 resolution and I think I did quite well. The only new thing I bought for myself the entire yearwas a cheap juicer. This ended up being a stupid purchase because a month later I ended up buying another one from Goodwill for the same price, but it was a much better quality machine. Anything else I bought for myself, husband and children were used. We still bought most gifts (birthdays, etc) In fact, just a few months into the year I had pretty well lost my ability to shop in department stores all together and have been amazed at how much I’m able to do without and not feel deprived! Needless to say I am continuing on to 2013, but it’s become something I don’t even have to think about anymore 🙂


Terilyn December 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm

You know, I love buying used. But I buy new when it is more frugal to buy new than used. I love Good Will, yard sales, thrift stores, etc. I buy at them often as a first choice. But there are times when it is just cheaper to go to a clearance rack and buy new, so that is what I do. I won’t waste money just for the experience of buying used. As long as WM has a $1 sale rack with new clearance shirts, I will buy that instead of paying $3 for a used shirt at an overpriced second hand shop.
I go by price more than by used or new. I have price points that I only buy at like $3 for shoes, $7 for a coat, $1.50 for a shirt, $3 for jeans, etc. I won’t pay more than that for products new or used because I know I can get it for that price either at a tag sale or on clearance somewhere. It is like a game to me in order to find my price point. And, I gotta tell you, since Good Will has raised the price of used jeans to like $10 or more, they don’t reach my price point often. So I have bought some new ones. I love Salvation Army thrift store tag sales when things are fifty cents, and buy those clothes though. They are my first choice for most clothing.
There are lots of things you can save money on by buying new on clearance, extreme couponing, or at a huge sale, canning jars, clearance racks, school supplies, shoes, scents, soaps, etc. I guess I have kind of became cynical of the compact in some ways because it is sometimes a lot cheaper to just buy new. The compact itself is great, but the prices of used stores have really raised too much in this area to be acceptable in every product.


One Day At A Time December 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Yes indeed it’s on my list for next year. I need it desperately, it’s a cold shower for my overly consumer focused life.


Bethany@OurSoCalledLife December 28, 2012 at 3:50 am

We’ve been buying used whenever possible for quite awhile, but we do occasionally buy new, and research it well. For example, we wanted a new kitchen knife, and we were not able to find a nice, NICE one used. So we bought a new one, from a local shop. We prefer following something like the Compact in spirit, but not as a set of rigid rules.

Good luck to everyone who is following it, though!


Lisa December 28, 2012 at 9:06 am

I’m in! Though there will be a few exceptions. I don’t count buying plants for the garden, or any thing truly needed for home repair. Though both of my teenagers embrace thrift stores it will be a challenge to not buy anything new for them.


Julie Dinger December 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

I’m going to try it — starting out with January to see how it goes. I will follow the spirit of it, and do the best I can. If nothing else I can see how it will make me more thoughtful about what I really need, what I can wait on, and when used will be a good option. I agree that handmade and local are also good purchases, even new. Thanks for everyone’s comments — I feel inspired to give this a shot!


Amber December 28, 2012 at 11:40 am

My goals for 2013 is to pay at least $10,000 off of our debt, grow more food in our garden, appreciate the stage my children are at (even if it is hard), De Clutter each room of my house, and stop bringing home plastic bags.


Katy December 28, 2012 at 11:56 am

“Appreciate the stage my children are at (even if it is hard)?” That is the best resolution I’ve ever heard.

Somehow even made my eyes start to water.



Madeline December 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm

This idea strikes fear in my heart which means I probably need to do it.We downsized last year and we have more than enough of everything I can imagine needing.Except last week we lost my husband’s phone charger–replaced for $8 today.

I have to completely eliminate any spur of the moment kindle purchases–even the $1.99 books–they are FREE at the library. No clothes (have enough) No dishes or pots and pans (have enough..)–so–I can’t see why I CAN’T do the compact in 2013!!!!!


michelle d December 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I tried last year and was pretty good until about June. That’s when I returned to work from maternity leave and I fell off the Compact wagon. However, I still bought a lot less. I’ll try again in 2013 or maybe I’ll just start today.


Rachel in Portland December 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I had to laugh at the proposed resolution list, because that is my own list.

plus the Compact.


Carol December 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I am a little intimidated by going cold turkey with The Compact for 2013. However, I am willing to phase in The Compact by thinking twice before buying and discontinuing impulse shopping for new items. My hope is to put things I want on a list and wait a month. If I still want/need the item, then I will buy it new if I have not been able to purchase used.


DebinNZ December 30, 2012 at 3:00 am

I don’t think I could manage to buy nothing new without going out of my provincial nz town….only 2 secondhand shops, one is gross and the other is small but I’m willing to give it a month. You peeps in the US have no idea how good the thrift sector is there -I lived in Madison WI for summer 2002 and visited a thrift shop every day.
Of course, if everyone cut their consumption, the thrift shops wouldn’t be as well stocked … Perhaps we should be careful what we wish for 🙂


Heather December 30, 2012 at 7:54 am

I have been working toward being a non-consumer for a while. I am not sure if I’m ready to tackle The Compact for a year, but I am going to try it for January and see how it goes. Over the last year, I have been trying to buy local first, made in USA second or made in a non-third world country last, avoiding things made using slave labor. I am also working on reducing my environmental impact. Next year, my goal is to not use disposable cutlery, plates, cups, etc. I guess if I forget my travel mug, I don’t really need the coffee, right? Next time I hit up Goodwill, I plan on purchasing some extra flat ware and a plate and bowl, so I can take some to work and stop using disposable. I also have a resolution to try to buy more 2nd hand gifts or things made by local craftsmen. Thanks for the inspiration!


Kimberly December 30, 2012 at 7:57 am

I’m seriously tempted. I’m not much of a shopper as it is…and I’m deeply committed to environmental awareness and conscious living. What worries me is the time factor — I know that with used things, it takes weeks, months to find what you need. I’m juggling multiple jobs, both kids, and the house…I wonder if I’ll have that kind of time to wait for things we need. Then again, I look around at all this stuff and wonder how on Earth we could possibly need anything else!

But the Compact isn’t meant to be super easy, is it?

I am in! (And will ponder my own modifications this week — want it to be workable for me)


Laura V January 1, 2013 at 6:17 am

It’s 2013, People! My first day doing the Compact. So far so good.


Amanda @ The Scacchi House January 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm

My New Year’s resolution is semi-compactish (if that’s even a word). If I buy anything new, it has to be made in the USA. If it’s not made here, it must be used. It should be an interesting year for sure!


Mand01 February 3, 2013 at 1:52 am

I’ve tried it for a month and made it through so far. My exceptions are: gifts, underwear & personal care items, electrical items, and shoes. I am hard on shoes and can rarely find good secondhand shoes. As it is, I think I should have enough work shoes for a while without needing new ones. I’m saving for a new car and have managed to save almost $1000 just this month by really watching my spending – on top of my regular savings plan.


Katy February 3, 2013 at 9:35 am

You saved $1000 in a single month?!

Hooray for you! I am super impressed!



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