Confessions of a Compact Crusader – Why I Choose To Only Buy Used

by Katy on July 19, 2016 · 20 comments

The following is a reprint of a blog post that originally ran in May of 2008. It was my second blog post ever. I was still figuring out how to blog, but I think the information stands up eight years later. Enjoy!

I am member of “The Compact.” And no – it doesn’t involve polygamy and drab clothing. It is a group of people who have chosen to not buy anything new for a one year period. I actually started in January 2007 and have yet to feel the need to stop. The Compact was started by a group of San Francisco hipster friends in 2005 who were fed up with the consumer lifestyle. It has since grown exponentially and there are 8000+ members on The Compact Yahoo group alone.

What’s the point you may ask. Here you go:

  • 1/3 of all the world’s oil supplies are used for shipping. (Source to factory, to warehouse, to store)
  • The packaging used for new items is often to the point of ridiculous. If you doubt me, you are welcome to time travel back to my living room Christmas 2005 to watch my kids take 15+ minutes apiece trying to release their grandma purchased “Transformer Unicrons” from their packaging prisons. Packaging shouldn’t make you cry. Even the most ardent recycler can be stumped on how to responsibly deal with blister packs and the like.
  • When buying second hand it is easier to tell when an item is high quality. If your thing-a-majig has survived its first owner, chances are it will continue to last for you.
  • You can indulge your taste for designer and status items. I couldn’t afford to shop regularly at Nordstrom, but when choosing between a $3 pair of Target pants and a $3 pair of Nordstrom pants at Goodwill, guess which pair comes home with me? Good guess.
  • By buying used, you are not supporting factories in foreign countries with questionable worker’s rights.
  • Oh yeah. . . it’s cheaper! When I spend less money, I need to earn less money. Therefore I commute less, can cook from scratch more, am less burnt out at my high stress job as a labor and delivery RN. The ripple effects for me seem endless.
Don’t think you could get through a year without buying new? Start small. I went into it thinking I would try it for a month – and that was 17 months ago.
Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

janine July 20, 2016 at 3:18 am

This is a mighty goal and I applaud you.
I can’t seem to get to 100% but trying not to ‘buy new’ makes me aware of all the reasons you cite in your article. As I type this very early Wednesday morning I am thinking about the results of “targeted used buying” :
– I always buy new underwear, but I am wearing an expensive linen blend pair of pajamas that a friend gifted me because they didn’t fit her and…
-Next to me sits a purse picked up at my favorite small thrift shop.
-A good friend has found a man who reconditions appliances and is purchasing a dishwasher from him. this week.
– Recently my husband purchased a used low-mileage hybrid car (make that pre-owned – better verbiage) for thousand less than we would have been forced to pay new.
-We are on vacation and I brought along a stack of light fiction to read- all purchased used-which will be donated to Goodwill or sold back to half-priced books.
There is so much merchandise out there just waiting for new owners…and we are helping to save the earth and save our finances – win/win.


Suzanne July 20, 2016 at 4:13 am

Katy, I enjoyed this post. I have started following you daily, and am slowly changing my ways. I want to help the earth, and I want to become less materialistic and more financially secure, in order to retire earlier.

I am struggling with the idea: I want to join the compact, but am not sure I can get my husband on board. The one month trial might make it easier, and I might try it for just myself for a month, then ask him to join. I am not sure how I will manage holiday gifts without buying new, as time is an issue for me. Also, do school/art supplies count? I am a teacher, and I buy supplies, etc, for my students. As a painter, I sometimes run out of a color, etc…

Janine, I like what you wrote about “helping to save the earth and save our finances-win/win.”


Judy July 20, 2016 at 8:21 am

Suzanne, every person on the Compact has their own personal
exception list. It’s all individualized to your lifestyle. Art supplies
for example can be hard to find especially if you need a certain
color of paints, etc. It’s not about deprivation either, just being
more conscious about what we buy and how it effects the environment.


Nancy July 20, 2016 at 4:56 am

As I get older, I’m in the divesting stage rather than the acquisition stage. That being said, the thrift store has always been my go to first. I especially think about labor practices and costs of shipping in large part because of this blog.
On another note, we were just in Boulder City NV and saw a thrift store. Painted on their window were the words “Experienced merchandise”, I like that much better than used goods 🙂
Keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading!


Mrs. Picky Pincher July 20, 2016 at 5:08 am

I absolutely love the idea of the Compact, but I think it might take a bit of cajoling on my part to get Mr. Picky Pincher on board. He’s a bit more of a shopper than I am, so it’s hard to convince him that we can snag quality items for less!

For now, I’m focusing on cleaning out our seemingly limitless supply of extraneous clothing and possessions. It’s all about going back to minimalism for now, but I also want to give the Compact a try.


JD July 20, 2016 at 6:09 am

I’m with Nancy — I’m divesting more than I’m acquiring, but as life happens, things have to be replaced from time to time, or I develop new interests or skills which require some purchases, used or not. Whenever possible, I buy used, but I’ve had some items I’ve simply never seen used, and if I’ve looked long enough (as in years, sometimes), I’ll break down and buy new if I truly need it.
I’ve noted this before in my comments, but my husband carried off the trash this past weekend (we have no trash pickup outside of the town limits and our household trash must be bagged) and mentioned that we sure seem to have less trash than we used to. That’s part of what it’s all about! Less trash= less to the landfill = fewer trips to the collection site for us=less gas and bags wasted for us=less time spent earning money to buy gas and trash bags.


Bee July 20, 2016 at 6:24 am

I have made a habit of buying pre-loved items for at least 20 years. I believe that 80% of things I own are hand-me-downs, salvaged, thrifted, or vintage/antique items. This buying pattern originally grew out of financial necessity. However, now I see that it was a true blessing.


Gina in KY July 20, 2016 at 6:38 am

I was a big “Compactor” too back in the mid 2000’s. I have no idea where I fell off the wagon. I do always thrift first and hope to find things there before buying, but my impulse and less patience when shopping seems to be directly related to time in my life as I get older. I love what Nancy said above as I think I am right at the cusp of this in my own life. I really need to focus more on this as well for many of the reason you have outlined. Thanks for the update!


Marilyn July 20, 2016 at 7:27 am

I started buying used when my kids were little more than 20 years ago. Mostly, I shopped neighborhood garage sales on weekends. I found the most amazing collection of toys, tricycles, scooters, books – everything a child would want. Eventually, I started buying household items and furniture at yard sales and I have really been pleased with almost all my purchases. The added bonus is that I find shopping at yard sales to be fun and entertaining and I get to meet my neighbors.


Mariana July 20, 2016 at 11:22 am

I think it will still be relevant in 50 years too!


Rhonda July 21, 2016 at 5:24 am

I started buying used when we had our kids, more as a way to stretch very limited income, but have come to see so many more benefits over the years. Within our extended family we passed baby clothes and equipment down and around. It is fun to look at those old pictures and see the siblings and cousins wearing the same pair of funny pajamas or toodling around in the same baby walker. I joined the Compact officially for a couple years and upped my second-hand game by quite a bit. Almost a decade later now I have come to love the hunt. I find I fill needs more creatively when I don’t just jump to buy something at the first hint of a need. Often I’ll figure out a way to use something we already have, re-purpose something, figure out a way to fix it myself, etc. I also find that going to my local thrift store regularly has made it an enjoyable social outing. I chat with the cashiers and sometimes we marvel or laugh at some of the stuff that shows up, like you with your targeted savings bank posts. It has really added a creative, fun dimension to my life over the years.


LisaC July 21, 2016 at 7:53 am

I love buying used, for many of the same reasons. Toys that haven’t broken yet, probably won’t. If they do, I’m not as mad, because I didn’t pay much. I easily find what I need within my own house, borrowing things, or going to the thrift store.
My mother raised me to buy good shoes and good undergarments, and look for quality used everything else. “When the foundation is new/strong, everything else looks good”. Its a fun game, and I am able to be relaxed and less caring about stuff when people are over. I’ve often been told that my home is comfortable. I like that.
What I don’t understand is when I know people don’t have much money, but think they have to buy “the best”, or others will think they are poor.
I also have one friend who told me that her mother taught her to save the thrift store for the poor people, that buying there took away from those who needed to. I’d never heard that before. I think there’s probably enough for everyone.


chris July 21, 2016 at 11:07 am

Lol! Took away from the poor people? Pfft. First of all, I have known so many (SO MANY) legitimately poor people that refuse to shop at thrift stores, preferring crippling debt, bankruptcy and stress. There is a percentage of people who just can’t see the benefit of buying used. That alone leaves plenty for those of all socioeconomic levels. Not to mention that many thrift stores struggle to succeed and would close altogether without support from the community, paycheck size notwithstanding.


Kay July 21, 2016 at 8:01 pm

If I didn’t buy from thrift stores, I’d be one of the poor needing to buy from thrift stores. So… I buy from thrift stores, which helps keep me from being poor. The circle of thrift.


Trish July 22, 2016 at 2:37 pm

“the circle of thrift” lol!


Karen July 21, 2016 at 5:44 pm

I have bought used for 30 plus years. I think it is regional where the good used deals are located. Around here thrift stores are terrible, just filled with junk and free piles are non existence but yard sales are great!

Since so many people on this blog like their thrift stores when I am out of town I think I will try thrift stores in other areas.


lauren July 21, 2016 at 7:51 pm

I agree, I love to check out thrifts when I travel. It’s also a great way to find cheap(er) souvenirs if you happen to be looking for them. Also a great place to pick up things you may have no packed and need, like a sweatshirt, rain jacket, or umbrella!


Susie's Daughter July 23, 2016 at 3:28 am

If you are in the Northeast, try Savers Thrift Stores. A lot of fun!


Vickey July 23, 2016 at 7:05 am

Savers is known as Value Village in other parts of the country – and world. They’re more expensive than the not-for-profit thrifts, but often have a much bigger selection.


Trish July 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

I love this. People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I prefer to buy used over new if I can help it.

I love used furniture– real solid hardwood that you just cannot buy new anymore

I love all of my practical hand-me-down housewares from grandparents: cast iron skillets, stainless pots and pans, silverware, stainless measuring cups, German made pruning sheers. Unlike cheaply-made modern products, they will last us our whole lives.

Our used vehicles, washer and dryer, used books, consignment kids clothes, have saved us so much money and prevented so much waste! With low-paying jobs, we have afforded a lovely middle-class lifestyle with no debt and small footprint!


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