Are You Ready to Stop Buying New in 2016?

by Katy on December 27, 2015 · 51 comments

December is almost over, which means the end of holiday shopping, holiday decorating and holiday cooking. It also means that it’s time to work on your New Year’s resolutions. Because if you wait until December 31st to figure out your 2016 goals, it might end up being nothing less than a depressingly self-serving to-do list:

  • Lose weight
  • Learn French
  • Exercise more
  • Stop watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

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,socks and harmonicas .) Because I’ve 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 manufacture 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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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Jo December 27, 2015 at 2:16 am

Dear Katie, 2015 was my Buy Nothing New Year. I did pretty well – there will be a wrap up in my next blog post. I fell off the wagon quite a number of times, but of course, if I hadn’t been trying I would have bought much more new – so I won’t say I failed, just that I could do better.

In 2016 I want to step it up and really think about the world I want to live in, and how I want to leave it for my kids, and I want to shop entirely in line with those values. If society wants to treat me as a consumer, then I will take back my consumer rights and only consume in a way that builds up the world, and doesn’t tear it down. Because the more I see what it is doing to the planet, to vulnerable people, and to my local economy, the less I want to buy more stuff..

Love the encouragement I get when I come over here:) Thanks


Jackie December 27, 2015 at 7:19 am

I would love to participate in this, it’s been on my mind for awhile now. I think my exceptions would be underwear, work shoes (I’m a nurse too), and homemade wooden toys for my son (I love supporting local artisans).


Jennifer December 27, 2015 at 7:48 am

I would love to participate in this, too. To be honest there are some things I’m not sure I can completely not buy new. Mostly because I get impatient and don’t want to wait for whatever I need to turn up. However, I am practicing the compact loosely now. I’m am going to continue to live by these rules as much as I can in 2016. I am also commiting to continuously add more ways to waste less and spend less. Thanks to NCA, I learn new ideas almost daily from Katy and her loyal followers. You all are smart people!


Lynette December 27, 2015 at 8:48 am

We are are doing this for a few reasons. One financial. We agreed to pay off all of our debt and i figure this is a great place to start. Secondly as a family we thought it would be a fun challenge. Although my teens think it’s a great way to be anti corporate. Although we rarely by new to begin with. It will be a great way to keep me out of target.


Deborah December 27, 2015 at 9:15 am

I am going for the Compact lifestyle in 2016 and will only purchase new consumables, underwear and shoes as needed. I am planning to lower my consumption and have some “teachable” moments with the grandchildren (who knows the potential of the Compact lifestyle for future generations?) Thanks to all of you for practical suggestions to meet practical needs then create joy in our relationships with family, friends, nature and experiences. Joy in 2016!


Ruby December 27, 2015 at 9:50 am

Funny you should bring this up because it’s been on my mind a lot this month as I cut spending to the bone. We’ve recently become a one-income family, so all frivolous spending has already been eliminated.

Like Katy, I can’t commit the whole household to this because my husband would never go along with it. For myself, I pledge for 2016 to buy new only for consumables and whatever stuff for sewing I can’t find used, with the same caveat for home repair items. I have enough socks, shoes and underwear to easily last a year, so they’re not on the buy new list for 2016.


Jennifer December 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

I just asked my husband if he would try it after reading your post and he said, “I can’t do that” and gave me a whole laundry list of reasons why. The reality is he was poor as a child and he now has a terminal illness so he restricts himself very little if he wants something. He has worked most of his life building a successful business to be able to have “nice” things for as long as he can. His views differ from mine, which is completely ok with me. I will still try to do my best adhering to the compact for my self while being careful to consider my family’s wishes too. I think it’s doable!


Ruby December 27, 2015 at 11:18 am

I’m so sorry about his terminal illness. By all means, he should do whatever makes him happy and comfortable now.


Jennifer December 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm

He has pancreatic cancer. This past November was 5 years since diagnoses which is major for this type of cancer so we are truly blessed. Thanks for the kind words.


Marie-Josée December 28, 2015 at 1:39 pm

My thoughts are with your family. How courageous you are to consider something like the Compact while your family is going through such a difficult experience. I raise my hat at you Jennifer and wish your family a wonderful new year full of rich experiences.


Judy December 27, 2015 at 10:36 am

Each person on the Compact has their exception list, so things like shoes,
underwear, etc. are all personal choices. If you go to the Compact yahoo group you can find the guidelines.


Susan December 27, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Yup, count me in. I’ve been wanting to try The Compact for at least 5 years, but going through a very un-frugal divorce has left me poor as a churchmouse and free as a bird to try things I always wanted to try, so 2016 is the year for me! I’m going to take a very flexible perspective to start because I don’t have any idea what my personal “nope, can buy that used” line will be. I think this’ll be a fun challenge.

Please keep up a steady stream of Compact posts for all us newbies in the coming year!


Gina December 28, 2015 at 8:11 am

Oh, Susan! I am right there with you! I spent the last three years battling a very un-frugal divorce too and ended up in the mouse/bird combo status too! I feel the same way about 2016! I am participating in the compact to get my finances back in order and to just rebuild my life back into something that fits me better than the married years and that definitely includes being a mindful consumer. I want to travel the world someday soon and this, I believe, will set me on a path to making my life my own again. I will look forward to hearing your progress and cheering you on! 🙂


Marie-Josée December 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Bravo to both of you Susan and Gina. I wish you the best of luck with the Compact and with creating a new and rich life for both of you.


Rachel Thibault December 27, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Katy, just so you know…your link to the Compact site is dead. (404 error-gnarly, dude! ha!) I really want to do this in 2016. BTW. thanks for the nudge!


A. Marie December 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm

I’ve been adhering to the Compact as closely as possible, informally, for years–but I’ll be happy to make it official for 2016. My exceptions will be the usual consumables, shoes, socks, and underwear. I also won’t obsess over purchases made for genuine emergencies (although I have found over the years that careful buying keeps emergencies to a minimum).

Re: bringing loved ones along for the ride, my experience has been that it’s only possible to do this gently and by example rather than preaching. I’ve made a lot more progress with a lot of people since I got down off the soapbox. And certainly exceptions need to be made for exceptional situations, like Jennifer’s.


Bee December 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm

I had not heard about The Compact until I began reading the NCA this year. However, I have bought nearly everything used for many, many years now. It started as a financial necessity when I was first married 30 years ago. It has become a way of life for many reasons.
I shop thrift stores, garage sales, auctions, consignment shops, church rummage sales and estate sales. However, every now and then I am unable to find something I need used, and I must buy new. When I do buy new, I try to purchase high-quality items that will not need to be replaced for a long while. I also try to buy products that have been manufactured responsibly and not over packaged. Moreover, I try to buy from small businesses and local retailers who treat their employees fairly.
In 2016, I will continue to buy used and buy responsibly.


Jen B. December 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm

This has been on my mind for a while, and I just committed to myself on Christmas day by writing my “rules” in my new planner for 2016. I gave it a not-very-dedicated shot last year and lasted about six months. This time I’m much more certain that it’s the right move and feel confident that I can make it the whole year!


catherine December 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm

hmmmmmm, i get 404’d when i click on “the compact” link in your post. i may have to move in 2016 and i was wondering if it is more eco-organic-nomical to sell all and buy new on the other side or to move it all? considering i plan to move my clothes, kitchen and linen stuff, anyway (most of them hand made).


Elizabeth December 27, 2015 at 3:41 pm

I’ve tried joining the Yahoo Compact group and just sent an email to the moderator to inquire about my status of joining. I had sent a request a few days ago but never received approval. I’m so wanting to do this for 2016 and beyond.

I buy very little now that aren’t necessities, mainly for financial reasons (though for non-consumerism, as well) but I can use all the help I can get in ways to save.

Whether I’m able to join the compact group or not, I don’t plan on buying new except for socks, underwear, shoes and consumables.

I love this blog and all the comments, too! Thanks to everyone for sharing your wonderful ideas!


Bettypants December 27, 2015 at 5:01 pm

We were visiting relatives this weekend who live in a much more urban area that we do. I was blown away by the number of store and restaurants there. I returned a couple items to Sears that I had ordered from Lands’ End. Just walking through the large department store was a sensory overload. So much STUFF.

I have bought a fair number of items for myself in the past few weeks. It’s easy for me to rationalize because the sales have been so great. But seeing all the excess at Christmas and in the stores is eye opening. I don’t need more things.


Karen December 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

So true about walking through the stores! Christmas is always somewhat frustrating for me, as my in-laws are part of this buy, buy, buy routine. I shop in thrift stores mostly, and I need nothing. Every year, they ask what I’d like, and I tell them to please donate money to a cause they feel compassionate about, or donate some time in volunteering. Every year, they ignore this and I get more “stuff”, most of which I end up donating to Goodwill. So I have to just make peace with the fact that people think differently, and at least Goodwill benefits from this unneeded stuff!

But it still bothers me in terms of causing more stuff to be made mostly in countries that pay their employees so little. Even though I’m not directly causing this stuff to be made, and to one day be disposed of, it gets me!


Nicole from Canada December 27, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Ok I’ll do it! I’ve been thinking about it all year and feel like I’ve been easing myself into it anyway. Like many others I can’t speak for my husband, I don’t think I’ll be able to convince him but I do pretty much all the shopping for our son and our household. There’s going to be a learning curve of course but I’ll do my best!


AFS December 27, 2015 at 6:43 pm

The exception for me is electronics. I just purchased a new phone (land line) because thrift stores have “no return” policies, and some people use second hand stores as a place to dispose of nonworking stuff.
I have bought underwear, socks etc. from thrift stores but they have been in perfect condition even New with tags.


Karen December 27, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Have you tried Goodwill? Ours definitely takes returns with a receipt and often mentions this when taking payment. It may be store credit, I’m not sure, but they definitely do it here. It would be disappointing if this isn’t a nationwide policy.


JD December 28, 2015 at 8:03 am

Karen, our Goodwill here now has a no-return policy on everything, with or without receipt. I brought back something I’d bought and they gave me store credit for it, but explained they no longer accepted returns and would not be able to do this for me again.


Karen December 28, 2015 at 8:40 am

That’s too bad. I hope they aren’t all heading that direction. I’ve never actually returned anything but it’s sure nice to have the option.


Florencia December 28, 2015 at 1:11 am

How about refurbished? My mom’s Gallaxy S kept turning off by itself (received free from a coworker). Thus, my dad recently bought my mom a Nexus 5 (Google phone) on Groupon for about half the price of a new one. Works great. Usually, they fix them up and they’re as good as new.


Vickie December 28, 2015 at 10:04 am

Pawn shops are good places for electronics, especially if they are located near a University. At the end of the year, in May, the students who are graduating will pawn a lot of electronics. They need money to move and/or they don’t have a way to move large things they own.
The Pawn shop I use has a 30 day warranty, so anything I buy can be returned if it stops working. They are very good about making certain their electronics work before they even sell them and they have great prices.
This allows me to replace things I need without buying new and I spend less money too.
Just a thought. 🙂


cindi December 27, 2015 at 6:44 pm

I have unofficially and casually been a part of the compact for the past year and am looking forward to subscribing much more seriously to it this year…exceptions will be the usual; underwear, workout clothes, (mine get so disgusting so quickly I would never buy used!) toiletries and hardware store items and those few things that just really and truly new to be purchased new, (I have horses and find that the kinds of things I buy the most for them, and the barn, are difficult to locate used and in decent condition…halters, leadlines, buckets, etc.)
I will continue to operate my Etsy store to purge my house of unwanted vintage items and use eBay to market the other stuff…both are a bit of a pain in the a$# but nothing beats looking at an ascending Paypal balance!


cindi December 27, 2015 at 6:46 pm

I have unofficially and casually been a part of the compact for the past year and am looking forward to subscribing much more seriously to it this year…exceptions will be the usual; underwear, workout clothes, (mine get so disgusting so quickly I would never buy used!) toiletries and hardware store items and those few things that just really and truly need to be purchased new, (I have horses and find that the kinds of things I buy the most for them, and the barn, are difficult to locate used and in decent condition…halters, leadlines, buckets, etc.)
I will continue to operate my Etsy store to purge my house of unwanted vintage items and use eBay to market the other stuff…both are a bit of a pain in the a$# but nothing beats looking at an ascending Paypal balance!


Tamyra December 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm

I’m definitely on board with this. In my case it’s about a simpler life and financial. Excited to get started!


Karen December 27, 2015 at 8:31 pm

I’ve actually already been planning to do this for next year so I’m in! My caveats would include home repairs, sewing machine needles/thread, much needed tennis shoes and possibly undergarments if needed. I’ve been working on using up my yarn and spinning fiber stashes the past few years and have plenty of fabric thanks to a Craigslist find a couple months ago. I only purchased two skeins of yarn last year, both found for 99 cents each at Goodwill. =) I’m also trying to limit my waste (trash) by avoiding packaging whenever possible so this plays right in. I’ll be sewing up several bulk food bin bags this week to add to my reusable produce and grocery bags.


Isabel December 27, 2015 at 10:58 pm

I was less frugal last week but am more conscious and making up for it this week!
Less plastic in my household now! Feel quite put off by watching post Xmas sales on TV and glad I don’t partake!
For clothing in my area, find it better to buy less good quality and keep it longer with careful laundery and mending! Have tried charity shop buys but just no suitable for me!
Went food shopping and adhered strictly to my list today! My aim is to buy exactly what I use so there will be no waste! Trench compost! Grow some edibles in containers! Interested to see if more frugal ways will reflect in future utility bills! You are all inspiring!


Aril December 28, 2015 at 4:14 am

I’m in too. I’ve been doing a non clothes buying since 13th September except for exercise gear so will adhere as far as possible.


Carol Grund December 28, 2015 at 6:00 am



Janelle December 28, 2015 at 6:26 am

I’m not committing to the Compact per se; most of what I purchase is already used. However, my closet, full of secondhand clothing, is getting OUT OF CONTROL, so I’m committing to a year of purchasing no clothing, with three exceptions: running shoes (mine are more than a year old, I was just accumulating gift cards), a puffy coat that works both in the snow with my kids and for my professional job, and a black dress shirt. Other than that, self-control will have to be boss! (I am also allowing myself to make myself clothes, since that’s a thing I can do 🙂 )


Tricia in NC December 28, 2015 at 7:59 am

I will participate as well. Circumstances have left me behind financially. I have one son headed to college in 8 days. Most of the items he needed are second hand from families. Another son headed to college in the Fall. I am a nurse and do need new shoes and scrubs but I will buy them shortly. My husband is on board too.


Robin R December 28, 2015 at 8:12 am

I’m not sure that losing weight, exercising more, or learning French is a “depressingly self-serving to-do list”. These goals all embody the desire to boost one’s life experience (and include living a healthy life). Is living The Compact truly so different in its purpose? If your purpose is purely altruistic for the environment and worker conditions, then yes. But I suspect people’s rationales for entering into The Compact are far more varied. Like working a part-time job.

My point – perhaps the best way to encourage people into this worthwhile lifestyle choice is not to disparage other healthy life choices – with the noted exception to watching The Kardashians ;-).


cathy December 28, 2015 at 4:20 pm

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but–ironically–three goals I have for 2016 are to continue to exercise more/lose weight, and teach myself French. (I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years and have been armchair traveling to Paris via library books for the past month. The Prudent Homemaker has been dusting off her French skills for a few months and several readers have offered suggestions of good–free–online language sites.)


JD December 28, 2015 at 8:30 am

I’ll be working hard toward “nothing new”, with obvious exceptions, (although I buy used shoes sometimes, which I see some others don’t) but I will have some trouble with some others in the family. Gifts for birthdays, etc., will likely be new, although not always. My husband always needs new supplies for his seedling/transplants that he grows each year, and I usually have to buy his clothes and shoes new, as he is a very hard size to find in yard sales and thrift stores.
Funny thing, though; at Christmas we were discussing the purchase my older daughter and son-in-law were planning to make, of a nice used car, and my granddaughter (from my younger daughter) said “but new is better”. Her mother quickly pointed out to her that new is NOT always better. Then we told her that her dad (my ex-son-in-law) always buys used vehicles, which astonished my granddaughter, because he gets really nice ones so that she thought they were brand new. It was a good little life lesson moment.
On the other hand, at that same granddaughter’s birthday last month, when she opened her gift from us she first pulled off the bow and handed it to me. She knows that I save and re-use bows until they look bad, and simply handed it to me without even thinking about it. When she starts buying her own gifts and wrapping them, she’ll remember that Nana and Pawpaw always re-use bows, bags and tissue paper, sometime for years, and maybe will do the same thing.


Gina December 28, 2015 at 9:05 am

I am also onboard for The Compact for 2016. I have specific rules set out that fit my current situation. My main goal is to get my debt under control, save some money, not acquire more clutter, purge unneeded clutter and be better organized regarding the possessions I already own. On top of that, and related in my opinion, is to not start any new (unnecessary) projects without finishing the ones I have pending. I can’t wait to read everyone’s updates and progress! NCA-ers are inspiring!


Vickie December 28, 2015 at 9:53 am

Yep, I’m joining this year.
Other than underwear, home repair supplies and food necessities, I shouldn’t need anything. When I do need to replace something, I go for used/repurposed – Goodwill, Pawn shop, Restore (Habitat for Humanity) etc. Although, I have quit going to the Thrift Store, unless I have a specific need. I’m tired of clutter.
Thanks for the continued encouragement, Katy!


barbara December 28, 2015 at 11:19 am

Reading all these plans/experiences really is encouraging and I plan to do better in 2016. I love the feeling when I go for periods of time not buying new stuff (or ANY stuff, for that matter!). Thank you all for sharing and helping to encourage others in decreasing wasteful spending and trying to protect our planet.


Beth December 28, 2015 at 2:20 pm

I’m toying with the idea of joining The Compact, with the following exceptions: diapers, wipes, underwear, bras, socks, food, some gifts (especially if the recipient wouldn’t be comfortable with a used present), and some local businesses (i.e. my neighborhood coffee shop and a local bakery on my way to work). Also, I got some very generous gift cards for Christmas, so I’m deciding if I would use those as an exception to The Compact. Target doesn’t sell used things to my knowledge, LOL.


janine December 28, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Count me in although we just bought a new furnace (not something I would consider buying used) which necessitates joining the compact! With everyone’s encouragement, I will try to do the best I can to buy used whenever possible (see above for unexpected exceptions). After reviewing the stacks of packaging resulting from our small family’s Christmas, I am totally with this effort from both a financial and environmental viewpoint. We did give out some gift certificates for consumables but clearly need to improve our efforts.
The corollary for me is to get better organized and know where everything is located as well as a year long de-cluttering project.


Susan December 29, 2015 at 7:43 am

May I point you toward Apartment Therapy’s January Cure? It’s on their front page and I do it every year. It’s a great jump start to getting organized for the year! Totally free; they send an email every week day in January with an “assignment.” I actually look forward to it after the overkill of November & December.


janine December 30, 2015 at 10:25 pm

Thanks Susan! I will look into it.


Isabelle December 28, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Ahah, my list is a boring…
1. Lose weight
2. Exercice more (see no.1!)
I already know french as I AM french, so….
But, seriously, I could not do the Compact. Well, I could do it, but it’s not an interest of mine. I’m happy with my level of frugalness at the moment, happy to shop second hand not out of necessity but choice, and I do like to treat myself and/or my family to nice (new) things once in a while.


Kristen | The Frugal Girl December 29, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Fortunately, I’m learning German, not French. Phew. 😉


Jill January 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

In 2015, I “discovered” some of the excellent and funky thrift shops in our area. Unfortunately, most of our “new” purchases last year were plumbing / electrical / drywall related, in addition to multiple pairs of eyeglasses (apparently, my eyes are very special and require a crazy expensive prescription). I did get some of the electrical stuff at ReStore, though. Other new purchases include Bluetooth headphones for running and running shoes.

We did pretty well though, trying to buy used when we could. We replaced two microwaves via Goodwill after my daughter blew them up, so I call the year a win.


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