Imagine a World Where We Buy Nothing (Spoiler: It already exists!)

Imagine a world where we don’t have to buy a gosh darn thing because our neighbor has exactly what we need sitting in his house collecting dust, and he’s happy to lend it or even just outright give it to us. In reality, this world already exists – and you can be a member of it.

The Buy Nothing Project in a nutshell
The Buy Nothing Project “is a gift economy based on the simple acts of giving and receiving, no cash involved.” Started in the Pacific Northwest, the project expanded to more than 280,000 members in 18 nations in less than three years. Members give and receive items, time, and services from their neighbors. Group members can post an “ask” for something they would like or a “gift” they want to pass along to a new home on their neighborhood’s “Buy Nothing” Facebook group. The project describes these local groups as being made up of “random acts of kindness all day long” and this is not an exaggeration.

During the first week of trying to change my spending habits, I joined the “Buy Nothing” Facebook group for our neighborhood. It was an experiment in stretching my dollars and finding non-traditional (see also, super thrifty) ways of getting goods. Maybe someone would offer up some cute curtains when I was feeling the urge to redecorate or I could borrow a pressure washer the next time I needed one. Joining was easy: I had to provide them with my age (it’s adults only) and some general information about where I lived. The benefits were much bigger than pennies saved.

You get what you give
On my first day as a Buy Nothing member, I fulfilled a neighbor’s “ask” by giving them an old lampshade taking up space in our garage. That lampshade took on new life as an art project. Later that week, I posted a gift of unopened s’mores supplies leftover from our family camping trip. The goodies became a fun, end-of-summer treat for two young neighbor girls (Extra bonus: I didn’t have to worry about the teenager in our house eating an entire bag of marshmallows in one sitting!) I have organized food drives, made donations to charities and been part of volunteer trail maintenance crews. Yet the personal nature of the gifts I’ve seen given through our Buy Nothing group is particularly touching.

Howdy, Neighbor!
One of the huge bonuses for me has been meeting more of my neighbors. It’s fun to get to know so many people in the town where I’ve been living for ten years. Even more, the generosity, sense of community and gratitude I have witnessed has been humbling. I’ve seen hardworking, resourceful neighbors reach out with requests for household staples such as baby formula and school supplies. These same families are often frequent contributors in the Buy Nothing group – fulfilling the requests of friends and neighbors without any expectations of repayment. They are living proof that we can do more than we think we can with what we have. And they are motivation – The more successfully I can control my spending on meaningless things, the more I will be able to give to others.

Thrifty solutions are good for everyone
While some members of the group live on tight budgets, neighbors of all kinds giving and receiving are what make the group work. To encourage everyone to be actively involved, our group has a “Wishful Wednesday” event where everyone is invited to comment with a small wish and a large wish and see if any magic happens.

Not too long ago, I discovered my brown tights somehow had disappeared since the prior autumn.  Many of my cold weather work outfits require brown tights, and I had been debating whether this kind of purchase was necessary while I was learning to spend more mindfully. I had decided it was not even close to a necessary expense, but… brown tights were worth making a Wednesday Wish. Surprisingly, my wish came true! I met a new neighbor (win for me!) who offered me not one, but TWO, unworn pairs of brown tights (win-win!) that had been taking up valuable space in her home (win for her!). I picked them up, possibly saving her from having to drive and donate at a thrift store (win for her!). And they won’t end up in a landfill (win for the environment!). I also kept my promise to myself to spend less on non-necessities (win-win-win-win-win!!!).

Declutter in a flash
If you ever wished you could make a few things disappear with a wave of a wand, Buy Nothing is your pixie dust. When my husband and I took on a big reorganizing project, the things we no longer needed were out of our hair almost instantly. And, it required no errand running on our part!

Your turn
Your own local Buy Nothing group likely can be found with an easy Facebook search. If you don’t find one, you can start one. Make your household clutter disappear, feel a deeper connection to your community, give to a neighbor in need, or just plain be resourceful as a member of a Buy Nothing group. You can participate to your level of comfort. If you don’t like the idea of wearing pre-owned tights, you still can borrow that pressure washer or supply someone with the lampshade they need for their art project.

Talk to me in the comments below!  Have you ever participated in a Buy Nothing group?

Melanie Harding believes in public service and creative endeavors. She writes about using time and money in a way that is meaningful at Mindfully Spent. Home is an itty-bitty place in the Pacific Northwest that she shares with her husband, son and their not-so-itty-bitty American Bulldog.  

P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp!


15 thoughts on “Imagine a World Where We Buy Nothing (Spoiler: It already exists!)

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  1. Carrie Willard

    Yes I have! I posted two boxes of new haircolor on my group but they were never requested. However, I was a beneficiary of three huge bags of Seventh Generation disposable diapers for my baby!!

    I’m hoping to be more active in the group once we move into a new area (it has a busier group).

  2. Jennifer B

    Love my local Buy Nothing Group. Everywhere I look are things I’ve been gifted to make my life a little better, and I’ve done the same with a lot of things from our home. A 2 drawer filing cabinet, a computer monitor, a pair of shoes for my teen, a set of 25 glass dessert plates, extra yard waste bags, a duplicate replacement lunchbag for my teen (exactly like the ones she had worn out), snowman candles, a huge pile of yarn for knitting, a vintage Nintendo Gameboy with lights and games, fresh Challah, fresh Ranier cherries off someone’s tree, some day lillies for my yard — seriously, all of these are things that I’ve been gifted over the last 18 months from my local buy nothing group. It’s an incredible resource.

  3. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Oooh, thank you for reminding me about this! I follow a few blogs that have already taken this challenge and it’s super-cool to see what everyone comes up with. I’m completely on board with this line of thinking; it’s Mr. Picky Pincher I’ll need to convince. ;) In fact, I’m looking for our local Buy Nothing group as I type this. :) We’re doing the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month in January so I’m looking for tons of tools to help us save as much money as possible. I’d love to increase our savings rate from 50% to 60%.

  4. Green Revelation

    I love this! I have also had a great experience with my local Buy Nothing Group. It seems like it gives decluttering a purpose. It’s one thing to send stuff to Goodwill or a thrift store where its future is uncertain. However, I think you have more certainty that the items you give away on Buy Nothing will get repurposed and appreciated by the new owner.

  5. Lauren Warmke

    I love this, so often I post things on facebook and people come to the rescue. A place where we all help eachother out a little is perfection!!!
    I just started a FB group for it!


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