Seven Ways to Avoid Buying New Stuff — A Guest Post from Leo Babauta of

by Katy on October 20, 2009 · 4 comments

The following is a guest post from Leo Babauta of both and It came to my attention this morning, as there’s an imbedded link to The Non-Consumer Advocate, as I am the “woman who decided to buy nothing new.” Cool.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

7 Ways to Avoid Buying New Stuff

As we talked about in the True Cost of Stuff, buying something new requires the extraction and destruction of a lot of resources, not to mention the destruction of our environment in extracting, hauling, manufacturing, packaging and shipping the item.

So if we want to avoid buying new things, what should we do if we need something? After all, there are always times when we feel we need something — not just want or desire, but need it for a real purpose. We might need new clothes, or books, or a bike so we can cut back on using a car.

One woman decided to buy nothing new, which is an interesting solution, but probably not for most people. But while you might not want to put such a drastic moratorium on yourself, here are 7 things you can do before even considering buying a new item.

  1. Reconsider your need. Do you really really need it? Or is it a want? Or can you change things so you don’t need it? This should always be the first thing you do.
  2. Borrow. You might only need it temporarily. Borrow books from friends or the library. Borrow a dress for a special occasion. Borrow a tool for a short-term project. Be sure to lend things in return, when you can.
  3. Ask friends and family. Sometimes people you know might have the item you need, but not need it any longer. Instead of loaning it to you, they might be glad to give it to you. You only need to ask. I’ll often send out an email (or tweet) if I need something that others might have.
  4. Freecycle. Same idea, but using a wider network. There are Freecycle networks in many areas — people who want to give something away, or who need something, post to the list and very often exchanges are made — for free.
  5. Buy used. It’s infinitely better than buying new, because when you buy used you’re not having new resources taken from the earth and manufactured, but rather extending the life of resources that have already been used. Try thrift shops, charity stores, yard or garage sales, Craigslist or Ebay.
  6. Make your own. This won’t work in every case (if I had to make my own clothes people would laugh at me more than they already do), but sometimes you can make something that’s just as good as buying, with inexpensive materials or materials you already have. This works if you’re good with crafts or carpentry especially. It can also be fun to get the family involved.
  7. Go without. I know this seems the same as the first item on the list, but actually it’s a bit different: say you decide you really do need something, but can’t find it anywhere or make it. Should you buy new? Well, maybe you can go without it for awhile, until you do find a used version. Maybe you need it but don’t need it right now. Often things will turn up when you keep your eyes open — someone will happen to mention they have the item, or you’ll see it on Freecycle or Craigslist after a week or two. And sometimes, the need for the item will go away, and you’ll be glad you waited.

Sometimes you might have to buy a new item, even after exhausting all these options. But if you can run through this list first, often you’ll find you didn’t need it new.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

HeatherS October 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm

I had a great experience recently with Asking Friends and Family. I have been looking for a small desk and a dresser for my sons bedroom and had found the desk at Goodwill but no luck on a dresser. After resigning myself to buying a new one, I spent many evenings searching online only to be put off by the price of a good dresser and the quality of the ones I could afford. I mentioned this to my mother-in-law one day and she said they have a great wood (not particle board) dresser in an extra bedroom that we could have. It’s unfinished which is perfect as I want to paint it anyway. So glad I made the need known! I bought nothing new and am getting a great piece of furniture for free.


ksmedgirl October 20, 2009 at 7:17 pm

My resolution was not to buy nothing new this year, but nothing unnecessary. Totally different ballgame, at least to me. And I’m happy with it and the results over the last 10 months.


charlie aka oldboyscout2 October 21, 2009 at 6:02 am

Gentle Hearts: I’m a BIG believer in loaning and borrowing. What else are friends for? A couple of rules : An agreement BEFORE BORRROWING on how much money paid if item is not returned in the same condition – suggest replacement value. Item should be clean before return. Don’t loan anything you can’t lose. Don’t loan something that needs some skill to use, for example , a chain saw. ( don’t ask how I learned the above )


Sierra October 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm

We’re doing that last step right now with our family car. Our car died, and after a lot of soul-searching and a very small amount of budget crunching, we decided to go without a car until we can afford to replace it with a gently used one instead of another clunker.

It’s a pretty big thing to “go without”, and we’re learning a lot about our own lifestyle and our community doing it.


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