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Go cold turkey in October and Buy Nothing New

Photo credit: The Bees (Flickr)

Photo credit: The Bees (Flickr)

Got a case of affluenza? Want a new challenge or just love the idea of buying nothing new? Jump on board Buy Nothing New Month this October and be liberated from the consumption cycle. Otter catches up with veteran BNNMer Alexis Drevikovsky for her tips on how to survive and thrive these 31 days.

Like with diets or exercise, it can be hard to know where to start when trying to kick the consumption habit. Luckily, it’s Buy Nothing New Month (BNNM) again in October – a month to go cold turkey with shopping and take stock of your spending habits.

What began as a homegrown idea back in 2011 is now a global movement that encourages consumers to ask ‘do I need that?’ and ‘can I get this secondhand?’ before whipping out those overworked credit cards. It’s all about being conscious of our finite resources and making do with what we have, because, let’s face it, we probably can.

Plus, it’s only a month.*

We caught up with BNNM veteran Alexis Drevikovsky to see how it’s changed her life and for her top tips to stay motivated.

How many times have you taken part in Buy Nothing New Month?

This will be my fourth year. I look forward to it each year.

What are your normal shopping/fashion habits when it’s not October?

I will always buy the best quality (often – but not always – the most expensive) that I can afford, which might mean waiting for something to go on sale, or saving up for something. I’ll go without in the meantime. I hate buying a cheap in-between option that will just end up as landfill. It took me six months to be able to buy a toaster this year, so there was plenty of grilled bread in the meantime. I do get carried away by the principle.

What prompted you to get involved?

I’d been living in the developing world for years and coming back to Australia, I was hugely excited about earning Australian dollars and shopping again. But after ten months, I was frightened by how rampant my consumerism had become. I didn’t like what it was doing to me, and I wanted to curb those habits.

BNNM is about making use of what we have, and being more considered in our purchasing. Has this trickled into other aspects of your life, beyond fashion or beyond October?

Definitely. I worked for an organisation that promoted sustainable and ethical food systems for a while, so my food shopping is pretty considered. My furniture and homewares are mostly second-hand, whether given to me or found on the street or bought cheaply, and my home is pretty gorgeous.

But I always struggled with finding second-hand clothes that were flattering, comfortable and good quality. This time last year I started going to Melbourne’s A Plus Market, a huge market selling preloved clothes in 16+ sizes. I’ve found fabulous clothes there that I’m regularly complimented on, and I depend on it to revitalise my wardrobe.

Last year, at the end of Buy Nothing New Month, I decided to stretch not buying new clothes to a whole year. It’s flown. Of course I’ve had to buy some things (hiking boots, underwear, jeans that fit right, a new dress for a special occasion) but it has actually been really easy and I intend to keep it up past the one-year mark.

What are some things you’ve learned from BNNM?

I’ve learnt how much I think that things will make me happy, and how much I think that I’m entitled to buy brand new things for myself. I’ve also learnt how much I judge others based on what they have. It’s sobering.

What’s one unexpected outcome of BNNM?

Learning the difference between frugality and stinginess. Stinginess is a selfish, obsessive thing; frugality actually allows you to be more generous and flexible with what you have. It’s a daggy idea, but it shouldn’t be.

BNNM is about buying nothing new (not necessarily about buying nothing at all). Did you spend the money elsewhere?

I wish it saved me money! But I save nothing. I try to use the month to get repairs done. I’ve bought a new battery for my alarm clock, gotten my sandals resoled, taken skirts to the tailor be taken in, replaced dead light bulbs. It’s not about the money for me; it’s about changing the way I think.

What was the hardest part of the experience?

Wanting stuff. All the time. I changed the route I walk to work so I don’t walk past the shops. The lovely shops with all the lovely things.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to give Buy Nothing New Month a go?

Write down everything you want to buy during the month. Once the month is up, look at your list. If you still want the things a month later, you probably do need them, so go ahead and buy without remorse. But you’ll find that you can probably do without a lot of the stuff you write down or buy later.

Alexis’s tips for a successful and frugal October

  • Research what second-hand markets, shops or swapping events you can visit if you need a (second-hand) shopping fix
  • Saving money isn’t the only goal – while you most likely will, Buy Nothing New Month is more about changing your mindset. You may need to fork out for good quality repairs or high quality second-hand goods
  • Avoid temptation. Keep away from those glossies with their perfect, airbrushed products and don’t pop into the shops to see what’s new on the shelves
  • Make a list of things you want during the month. Revisit the list at the end of the month to see if they’re things you still need/want
  • Enjoy it! You’ll be surprised by how liberating it is. What seems like an enforced break from consumerism is actually a time to be more considered and to resist the marketing ploys out there demanding that you buy mindlessly

If you need more suggestions or reasons to get involved, visit the Buy Nothing New Month how-to page or get inspiration from Buy Nothing New Month’s treasure trove of information.

* Disclaimer: Lots of participants comment on how the lessons they’ve learned filter into their lives the other 11 months of the year. So while Buy Nothing New Month is only 31 days, you may find yourself shifting towards a Buy Nothing New Quarter, or Buy Nothing New Year, or (dare we say it) Buy Nothing New Life.

Photo credit: The Bees cc

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