Is 2017 Your Year to Stop Buying New?

by Katy on December 31, 2016 · 55 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 2017 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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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal In The Valley December 31, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Yes it is. I am only buying necessities and saving to build my money back up after buying a house for my kid and myself. Blogging it all the way as well find this is the only way I keep honest. Got myself out of lots of consumer debt by blogging in the past and it’s a useful way for me.


Sandy December 31, 2016 at 1:51 pm

This will be my third year. Loving it and find the challenge fun.


Sarah December 31, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I’m going to start by trying January…see how it goes. I would love to fully embrace the 2017 whole year Compact but I’m scared. 😉


Veronica December 31, 2016 at 2:21 pm

That’s what I am going to do. I think it will get easier to be in that mindset as time goes on….at least I hope! I’m looking forward to it!


Lisa W. December 31, 2016 at 2:19 pm



Lisa W. December 31, 2016 at 2:41 pm

You made me so happy.


Katy December 31, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Filled with dried spit, I’ll only buy those new. 🙂


AFS December 31, 2016 at 6:23 pm

I did buy a couple of harmonicas (toys) at Goodwill but thoroughly disinfected them before any one blew a tune. I’ve purchased sox and undies (new in package) from a thrift store. I guess there are no restrictions on my Compact been at it for about 5 years.


Katy December 31, 2016 at 6:41 pm

I’ve bought used socks, and the harmonica example is pretty much just there for humor.


Lisa W. December 31, 2016 at 9:12 pm

I have been obsessively harping (HA! Pun!) on Katy about used harmonicas for years now, ever since I was in a Goodwill and saw one sitting on a shelf. I thought, “I don’t think I’d be comfortable buying a Goodwill harmonica.” I turned to move on, and then I heard someone playing it. Right. Off. The. Shelf. With. Their. Mouth.


Karen January 1, 2017 at 10:31 am

Oooh. Never anything right off the shelf! I love thrifting, but EVERYTHING has a past. I happily buy pyrex baking dishes with baked on crud, but they get a good dose of oven cleaner or whatever they need before I use them. Before it became a thrift shop treasure it was a neglected cast off. Treat accordingly.
Don’t know if I can lose that harmonica imagery!

lulutoo January 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm

I hate to say it but buying new is no guarantee of cleanliness either. I used to work at a store that had a big basket of bamboo whistles for sale near the register. People (yes, ADULTS!) would pick up a whistle, blow in it and toss it back in the basket!

Sam December 31, 2016 at 2:30 pm

I probably would have so many modifications to fit our life, it would hardly be recognizable as The Compact, but game to at least give it a go at least for myself. It might be tough with daughter for sports, school activities and supplies, and for undergarments, but minimally, should be able to for household stuff (though I desperately need bed sheets and have had no luck finding plain colors, queen size, in second hand stores), and I have so many clothes I shouldn’t need any additional clothes-new, thrifted, or gifted. I certainly will embrace the Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it do, or Do Without mantra, as best I can.


Primal Prosperity December 31, 2016 at 2:35 pm

I’m such a minimalist, that I already follow this mostly. I am almost the opposite of a hoarder, where I have an aversion to keeping anything around that doesn’t provide me with great joy or utility. I’m also a free-spirit, so stuff just drags me down.


Laura January 1, 2017 at 3:54 am

Snap! My kids accuse me of “reverse-hording”


Laura January 1, 2017 at 3:55 am

sigh – that should be hoarding…


Mand01 January 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm

My husband is the same. He grew up in a caravan (trailer) so he has an aversion to pointless clutter. His first consideration is “where will we store it?” even though we now live in a two storey edifice of a house. It’s good actually as my family are junk collectors, but after 25 years with him I am more like him than them.


Juhli December 31, 2016 at 2:47 pm

I’m in for a modified version of this. I’ll look for secondhand first for clothing and household items. I will not drive all over the place though to find things and since mostly I find clothing at the thrift & consignment stores near me I’ll bend to buying new when I can’t find it used.


LisaC December 31, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Katy, I’ve always been thrifty, but since following your blog I’ve learned even more. I think I’m slowly absorbing all of the ideas of the Compact, and will eventually reach these goals. Thank you for your insight, and for keeping this a friendly, safe place to learn and share.


christina December 31, 2016 at 3:31 pm

I’m in for January to start and then I think I’ll go month by month.


Mariana December 31, 2016 at 4:43 pm

My closets are full. I will try to make 2017 a year of no buying clothing at all. Used or new.


Karen B December 31, 2016 at 4:58 pm

I’m in to try for a month as well and then one month at a time! Good luck to all who are trying! Thanks Katy!


Cindy in the South December 31, 2016 at 5:02 pm

Yes! I am committing to doing The Compact for 2017!!!


Meredith December 31, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Katy, I am commenting after five plus years of lurking to say that 2017 is my year to join the compact. I think given what is happening in the world it’s the smart thing to do. I pondered over my “buy new” list for about a month and am ready to go!


Katy December 31, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for chiming in, I think you’ll find that it’s easier than you think.


Mrs. Picky Pincher December 31, 2016 at 5:24 pm

I love this! I’m all about buying used, but it’s an uphill climb sometimes to persuade Mr. Picky Pincher to follow suit. Did anyone have difficulties convincing a spouse to participate in The Compact?


Karen January 1, 2017 at 10:16 am

Oh, yes, years. But this year, with a new goal he has set, I’m hoping to demonstrate, again, how this will help. Charts, lists, comparisons, cis-boom-bah cheer leading, everything but nagging/judgement. Advice from Amy Dacyzn. The thorn for me is often, “New or used, do we need it at all?” No idea how successful I will be, but even if it’s just me, it will still be in the right direction.
Best of luck!


Vickie January 2, 2017 at 7:10 am

Oh yes. My hubby owns a furniture store and counts on people buying new every day.
However, he rarely buys anything and all of our furniture, except for our beds and mattresses is all inherited and mostly antiques, so I don’t rock the marriage boat on this one.
I am proud of him – as a business owner he is very frugal and he encourages his customers to use layaway, instead of loans, when they buy. He’s very responsible with their money and avoids borrowing with their business funds.
Since I’m the one spending most of the household money paying bills and buying things for our home, I decided I’m the one who needs to control spending and not adding clutter to our home.


Jennifer December 31, 2016 at 5:35 pm

My husband and I decided to do it for January. Although we might need to get new tires before the end of the month due to an out of town trip and 2 that are getting very low. I won’t take a chance on waiting if the weather will be bad that weekend. We had a $400 car repair and a $600 furnace repair that we are trying to rebuild our savings from. I figured the challenge of buying nothing new for a month would help our savings goal. We will see how it goes!


Kate December 31, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Ummmm…. yes, ok, why not!?? I’ll give it whirl, run it up a flagpole and see if it flies, etc 🙂 Great idea!


cathy December 31, 2016 at 6:10 pm

I’ve been increasingly moving toward this ever since I read about The Compact in Sunset magazine (2008?) and it really struck a chord. I think 2017 is the year to make it more official! Despite your (not-so) tongue-in-cheek list of resolutions, I really DO plan to learn French this year. Following a suggestion from the Prudent Homemaker’s blog, I’m going to give Duolingo a shot.
One question Katy (or any other Compacters): Do you find you give yourself a time limit on something you need so that if you really can’t find it used, you decide it’s OK to buy new?


Katy December 31, 2016 at 6:17 pm

I find that concrete rules aren’t realistic, so I just do my best which is usually pretty successful. For example, I looked and looked for a used twin comforter for my younger son for weeks and finally ordered him a new one from Amazon using a gift card. No specific timeline. Being too strict can be a setup for failure.


cathy January 1, 2017 at 2:27 am

I agree. For me, if the rules are too rigid, they don’t work. Sounds like several of us just have a personal threshold where we’ll buy new if the search for used is unsuccessful long enough.


AFS December 31, 2016 at 6:37 pm

For me this is where the “do without” part of Katy’s byline comes into play I went months without a food processor when I burnt out the motor on my old one. I chopped and mixed things by hand until I found a New in Box 1970s processor for $7.
I try to plan far in advance so I anticipate needs down the road and have plenty of time to shop second hand. I’ll break down and buy new if a deadline arrives and the thrift stores or freecycle haven’t produced the needed item. Congratulations to all of you who are joining the compact this year. It’s sure to become a way of life for you.


Shevaun January 1, 2017 at 1:13 am

I don’t have a specific timeframe before I buy new, but more of a stress threshold.
For example, I haven’t bought new clothes for myself or the kids in years, but with DS arriving, I really wanted nursing shirts (not just button up shirts). I went to EVERY thrift/consignment/secondhand shop in a 25 mile radius (no joke, EVERY one). Maternity clothes are pretty easy to find; not so with nursing gear. So after three weeks of searching (with all the carseat/diaper bag/toddler in stroller glory), and some hormone-induced crying on my part, DH finally had a faux-tantrum and bought me four shirts new from the store.
Sorry for the long story. But that was a specific example of breaking The Compact for the good of my sanity.


JD December 31, 2016 at 7:12 pm

I’d like to give it a try. I know I will be buying some things new in 2017 simply because looking for used versions for all of 2016 turned up nothing, but if I have to have it and I’ve done due diligence to find it used first (depending on what it is, of course. No used panties for me), I will go with new if that is the only option. I will go without if I can, but some things, one just can’t. A new well pump, new tires, and new water heater come to mind, and we’ll probably need all three of those in 2017 or 2018.


Nicole December 31, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Lightbulbs? Do you have a workaround for those?


Diane C January 2, 2017 at 12:56 am

My 99 Cents Only Store has had LED bulbs several times recently. Spending a buck on something that will last for years counts as a frugal win for me. I often see regular incandescent bulbs for sale at GW or garage sales, but buying new LED’s counts for the win to me.


Mand01 December 31, 2016 at 8:04 pm

I’d say we do a modified version of this. I buy a new dress about once a year after Christmas (I receive a gift card each year). I buy underwear, socks and pyjamas new, as well as most shoes. I’ve tried used shoes many times and they have never yet been successful for me, with the exception of Converse sneakers, so I keep my eyes peeled for them. Otherwise I probably do buy most things used or at least give it a good crack first. We also use it up, repair, make from scratch and use it up. I wouldn’t say we are as ingenious as Katy but I had to laugh the other day when my eldest daughter rolled her eyes and said “How come you’re so ecological, Mum?”
She knows I say no to many things on the basis that they are bad for the environment and when we are shopping and they want some piece of junk I tell them it was made by a kid like them. Obviously they think I’m hard work!


Vickie January 1, 2017 at 1:53 pm

ROFL! Thank your daughter for the laugh. I have a feeling I’m over the top sometimes! 🙂


Lori December 31, 2016 at 8:27 pm

I’m combining 2017 and the Compact wth a 17 week version. Then a week to buy if I am desperate for something, although I think that’s unlikely. That pattern will get me through the year with a couple of “outs.”


Bee January 1, 2017 at 5:18 am

Although I have not officially joined the compact, I have bought nearly everything secondhand for over 20 years. This started out as a financial necessity, but now I also do it out of concern for the environment. Since I have done this for so long, I basically have 3 rules:
1) Try to buy used first with the exception of consumables.
2) When I must buy new, buy from an ethical manufacturer and/or retailer.
3) When I no longer need an item or it has reached the end of its life ( the analog TV), I dispose of it responsibly.
I resolve to continue doing this for years to come.


tracy January 1, 2017 at 7:20 am

I’m in! In fact I’ve been talking about this for weeks so everyone is sick of hearing it from me! Unlike a lot of you, I am not naturally frugal although I am good at getting “bargains.” But buying more stuff cheap is still… buying more stuff. And I already love Goodwill and thrift stores so that part’s not the problem. The challenge for me is going to be avoiding recreational shopping, especially online. Clothes are my downfall and I get a thrill from finding something really cute for really cheap (deep discount) but I have ENOUGH (more than, if I’m honest). I’m doing the compact for a year, for me (that is I am not buying anything new for myself or my house) but am not necessarily “imposing” it on the rest of my family members. And I will try and give gifts of experiences where I can (tickets etc.) but if the recipient has a specific request (as is often the tradition in my husband’s family) I will still buy a “new” gift. I have enough underwear and socks and don’t anticipate needing a harmonica this year so I should be good otherwise!


tia January 1, 2017 at 8:20 am

I’ll continue to just buy what I really need and no more. I remember watching the show about hoarders and how all the things they drug home were usually from garage sales and thrift stores. The problem I see isn’t just buying new, sometimes new is the only option for something you need. More, more, more….want, want, want is a problem.


Sherri D. January 1, 2017 at 10:50 am

I have done this in the past due to unexpected circumstances. I am naturally a frugal person. I am reeling from a December “let it go” attitude I found. Unfortunately what I let go was my $$$. Way over what I should have.
So outside of essential things like bills and food and gas and possibly tires, I will not spend in January at all. I have even decided to NOT step into a thrift shop. (My favorite place to shop). Thanks for the outlet and encouragement.


Vickie January 1, 2017 at 1:47 pm

I wasn’t 100% successful with the “Nothing New” challenge in 2016, but I’m willing to try again. I did pretty good, but I got frustrated a few times when I needed something and couldn’t find it used.
I will say, however, the most important thing it did was make me a more conscious consumer. It really did make me challenged myself to buy less, consume less and become even more frugal in my purchases.
Thanks, Katy – the importance of the challenge has made better at consuming less! Happy New Year and blessings to you and your family! 🙂


Ruby January 1, 2017 at 5:25 pm

I stuck as close to The Compact as I could in 2016, but did have to buy a few things new. My husband and adult son aren’t doing it, but they are fine with shirts, sweaters and housewares from thrift shops. I personally branched out into new territory with buying pajamas and a nightgown from a consignment sale.

So I am in for another year of consuming mindfully.


Abbi January 1, 2017 at 5:38 pm

I have never signed the Compact before but that is my lifestyle. Not completely 100% (though I think there has been a year or so that may have been) but mostly. Concerning underwear – I make my own from used t-shirts. I like them better. I have done a lot of patching of socks to make them last and some knitting and sewing of socks too and I honestly don’t have a problem with used but still we do tend to have to buy them new some as well. Harmonicas are indeed bought new around here. 🙂 My son just special ordered (using a gift card he was given) an E minor one. This year my goal is to only give hand-made (using materials that I already have on hand or can collect from my woods) or bartered gifts. Otherwise that can certainly be a temptation to buy new.


janine January 2, 2017 at 2:33 pm

I tried this last year with mixed results. Looking back on 2016 I believe a lack of patience played a part in some of my failures .

Will try again this year with the proviso that I regard the compact as a goal but definitely not always achievable. Good to grapple with this principle before venturing out into the world of stores and malls. Feel somewhat blessed because I don’t care for malls so there is correspondingly less temptation.
Additional goal is to rein in my appreciation for thrift shops.


Nicole from Canada January 2, 2017 at 7:19 pm

I will be going for year two of the Compact. I would say I was about 80% successful this year. I have no problem doing without until I can find used for myself, even for things like a cat carrier or a special interview outfit, but I did give in and buy toys for my 5 year too much. Clothes for him I’ll always buy used including his coats and have bought only used books for him this year but I do have a soft spot for Lego.
But it’s all a learning process and hope to stick to it even better this year. Happy New Year Everyone 🙂


Caroline January 3, 2017 at 6:05 pm

I’m in. Probably waited too long to commit for this post to be monitored, but I googled The Compact to see if there was an official log to sign and didn’t find anything. If anyone else did could you please let me know? The Hermione Granger in me wants class credit


splendidcakes January 5, 2017 at 10:49 am

I’m in!


splendidcakes January 5, 2017 at 11:33 am

However, if our ailing furnace dies this year, we will be buying a (much more energy efficient) new one. It gets REALLY cold in Chicago… My son owns a harmonica so we’re set there. He has terribly severe eczema so his clothes have to be very soft, with taped neck seams, etc., but he should be set for a year. He’s almost 19 so I can tell him to suck it up without too much guilt 🙂


Vickey January 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

I *want* to play, but the problem I have with secondhand textiles – domestics or clothing – is the fragrances. I’m highly allergic to laundry and other synthetic fragrances, and they don’t wash out easily – half a dozen washings often doesn’t touch the smelli. I hang things outside on the line to air out, which takes several weeks or longer, and they often fade and degrade a bit. I’ve actually lost clothing and textiles to mildew when hanging them out in our humid climate to air out.

So. Any helpful hints on how to get the smell out? None of the non-allergenic approaches I’ve tried have been effective.


Mand01 January 7, 2017 at 12:32 am

I’m not sure if this will help or not: I usually wash with a fragrance free sensitive laundry liquid but it does not cut the mustard for op shop clothes. I have found a laundry sanitiser purchased from ALDI, along with my usual laundry detergent, added in the fabric softener section of my washing machine (my family has sensitive skin and allergies so we have never used fabric softener and we line dry indoors), does the trick of removing the smell. It does have a eucalyptus fragrance but it is not thick like a detergent- it is very thin and watery, and the eucalyptus smell is not retained in the clothing. The op shop smell is removed, however. I think one bottle cost me about $4 from ALDI and I’m still on my first bottle after six months. I’m in Australia though – I assume these things are also available in the US ALDI.


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