Guest blogger Nicole Lutze lays down the challenge to buy nothing new for a month.

Challenging modern day consumer habits by buying “nothing new” is an idea that has been slowly gaining traction over the last half decade.

The nothing new concept is about much more than just saving money. It’s about stopping and taking the time to consider the true cost of our purchases, recognising the power of our dollar, and shifting away from consumption towards community.

So how does it work?

The nothing new movement is very simple: commit to buying nothing new or non- essential for a time and stick to it. One month is usually long enough for you to get a taste of the concept and hopefully change some habits.

Essentials like food and medicine are of course vital, and you shouldn’t skimp on purchasing anything crucial to your well-being or your hygiene. Taking a consumer break is really about making time to consider the purchases you make and recognising the power of your dollar to make a difference.

Three questions

There are three questions you should ask yourself when making a purchase during your “nothing new” month:

  1. Is it necessary? Is this something you really need? Do you have something similar at home that could provide the same function?
  2. Is there an alternative? Can you borrow, swap, trade, repair or buy second hand?
  3. What does it cost? Let’s think about this question on a larger scale than just your hip pocket. What is the cost to the environment in the product’s lifecycle? What did it cost the people who made it? What will it cost you now and into the future?

Recognise the value of your dollar

Every time you use your money to make a purchase you make a statement to the manufacturer. You choose to support the working conditions of the employer and supply chain. You accept the quality of the product they’re selling you and the environmental impacts of that product.

Once you fully acknowledge the importance of your dollar, you can start to make purchases with purpose and make changes in the world.

What are the alternatives to new?

There are always going to be times when things simply need replacing or you want to give someone a gift. If you’re boycotting new purchases, what do you do? Can you buy second-hand, borrow from a friend, hire, repair, swap or even make? Thanks to the internet it has never been easier to explore your options and reach out to your community for help.

  • Social media – Use social media sites such as Facebook to join “buy/swap/sell” pages or use their community notice boards. You can organise clothing swaps, barter your services for a product or look for someone to make repairs. For clothing swaps and wardrobe updates, check out www.events.clothingexchange.com.au.
  • Online shopping – Dedicated sites such as Etsy, eBay and Gumtree are an easy way to buy handmade, locally-made or shop second-hand.
  • Charity stores – Charities such as Lifeline and The Salvation Army have second-hand shops dotted throughout most suburbs. You can buy everything from clothing to cake tins, toys, games, books and furniture.
  • Council and community services – Councils and communities provide a variety of free or cheap services that can help you on your nothing new quest. Consider local libraries, markets and suitcase rummages, and local tip shops.
  • Give experiences and handmade – Instead of ducking down to the shops to pick up a birthday gift, why not give an experience or a handmade item. Take the lucky recipient out on a picnic by the river, whisk them away for a weekend, or make them some homemade treats. The possibilities are endless.
  • Time banks – Time banks work on the premise of a time-based currency. People volunteer their time and in return they earn time credits. These time credits can be personally redeemed to get work done for yourself. Research to see if your local area has a time bank in place or ask around to see if you think establishing one would be beneficial to your community. For an example see www.timebanking.com.au which is supported by the NSW Government and is now spreading to Queensland.

Give it a go

So what happens if you fall off the nothing new bandwagon mid-month or decide that the whole thing just isn’t for you?

At the end of the day this isn’t a challenge that’s about being perfect, it’s about being conscious of the choices you make and the impact they have. Conscious that our planet has finite resources, and of being part of a wider community that can provide for you and that you can contribute back to.

Give it a go and see what possibilities open up. You never known if you don’t take the chance to try something new…or in this instance, not new!