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If you are into minimalism or a simple life, you might have heard of No Buy. Like the Packing Party by The Minimalist or Project 333 by Courtney Carver, No Buy is another of those “minimalism challenges” that you might want to if you are getting into minimalism or simply want to downsize your life.

What is a No Buy Year?

A No Buy Year (or sometimes called a “Buy Nothing Year”) is as literal as it sounds. It's a year where you buy nothing.

Of course, putting a time period on a challenge isn't a new thing. While most time-limited challenges are set to a period of a month, like No Fap, No Buy is usually one year, since most non-hoarders wouldn't buy that many products in a month.

While I usually prefer if I could integrate the habit directly into my life, I'm not against the idea of doing these challenges. They help kickstart the right habits and it should be more natural to keep the rules after you finish the challenge.

Why do a No Buy Year?

Even with so much student debt, more money is spent on fashion accessories than on college tuition. Based on this Forbes article, the average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. This is more than three times compared to women in the 1930s where that number was nine.

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Needless to say, we are accumulating a lot of stuff, much more than we can get rid of. So much so that 1 in 10 Americans rent some form of offsite storage unit.

No Buy is a way to put a pause on your mindless consumption, even if just to get your house in order. While this isn't strictly an exercise limited to minimalists, one would be able to enjoy some of the benefits minimalists work towards;

  • More money
    By spending less, you save more. Whether is it for a bigger, more necessary and intentional purchase, or as a safety net.
  • More time
    Since you no longer need to look for things to buy, the time you spend browsing on Amazon or in the store is no longer needed. You can then spend that time on things that truly matter, like relationships or a passion project.
  • Immunity against advertising
    Most of us like to think that we are immune to advertising, but in reality, we are easily influenced even without realizing. A No Buy Year will help you curb the influence and make you conscious of the consumer decisions you make again.
  • Know your wants vs needs
    If you think about it, there is really very little a person needs to survive. Food, water, oxygen, and for most, accommodation are the bare minimum. Doing a No Buy lets you understand where your line is. Things are necessary for us to have a good life, but the question is, “how much things?”.

What are the rules of a No Buy Year?

Does this mean you can't spend a single dime? What would you do if something breaks? I know many of us worry about the rules of this exercise. But really, like in minimalism, there aren't any official rules.

You can pick the rules that you are comfortable with. It should be difficult enough that it feels like a challenge, but so hard that you give up halfway through. That said, these were my rules when I did a No Buy Year as well as some variation for those looking for something less extreme.

Consumables are allowed

So anything that you can eat or consume like food or skincare products are allowed. However, as I wanted to challenge myself within this category, I had a few rules. They are

Don't buy the same category product unless the last one has been finished.
I know some people like to “stock up” but I find the convenience of having the product is quickly overshadowed by the hassle of maintenance. For consumables, expiry dates and space are factors that you have to take into consideration. With the speed of Amazon delivery these days, you don't really need to stock up at your home.

Don't try any new products.
I would replace the ones I have with the same brand. I use Dr Bronner's Magic Soap as my shampoo, soap, face wash, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, and shaving foam. Sometimes I would feel bored and get a new product to try it out. This isn't really necessary and is really out of boredom really.

Alcoholic drinks are allowed, but only within social settings.
I definitely have a small problem with alcohol with a strong drinking culture in Japan. Sometimes I would even “crack open a cold one” when I'm on my own. I think it's alright to enjoy a beer or two within a social setting, but only if it's limited to a beer or two.

No new clothes, gadgets, home decor, books, basically anything physical.

This is the crux of the No Buy Year. I wouldn't buy any of these. Not at all. There are a few sub-rules under here too.

I designed a thing.
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I found a 100 year old company that would create these heirloom quality canisters for me. They are handmade and will keep your tea leaves, coffee beans or anything that you need dry for years to come.

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Replacements should be considered carefully
Technically, you are allowed to buy something new if you get rid of the same thing. For me, this is only allowed on essential items. For example, if the socks I wear three times a week develops a hole in it, I can toss it out and get the same pair. But if I feel like I don't wear that coat I got five winters ago and toss that out, I'm not allowed to get a new one.

Digital products are not allowed
This is also considered buying something. This could be an app, an ebook or a subscription service. Some might want to allow this if their No Buy Year is specifically aimed at reducing clutter.

Buying something for work is allowed
I admit, it might seem a little like cheating here, especially if you are a product reviewer like me. I get new products for free each month and I'm still technically not buying while getting to try new products. But honestly, I follow the same one in, one out rules with these products sent to me review. They either replace something I use daily, or they are sold, donated or given away.

Getting Started

There you go. Those are just sample rules, and you should definitely refine them to your personal lifestyle and needs. Once again, you want rules that will make this challenge difficult but not too much that you give up halfway through.

If it's too hard to follow all those rules at once, I suggest doing so with less rules, for just one category like clothing or for a shorter period of time.

Not sure how to go about a certain rule? Let me know in the comments below.

Tagged minimalism