The Nothing New Approach to Shopping

Sometimes, a no-spend or low-spend month might seem daunting despite needing to fix spending habits. For recovering shopaholics, or even just minimalists like me who enjoy shopping a little too much sometimes, there is an alternative to no-spend/low-spend that can still help to curb bad spending habits and fix finances; the concept is literally Nothing New.

What is Nothing New?

Nothing New is a shopping method that allows someone to keep shopping, but not for anything brand-new. Instead of shopping in big box stores or online retailers, shopping for Nothing New happens in secondhand stores (both brick-and-mortar and online) and in social media swap groups.

Benefits of Nothing New

As with any spending challenge, the longer you commit to the plan, the more you can do to fix bad habits and get your finances on track. I definitely recommend trying Nothing New for at least a month, if not longer. Here are some of the benefits:

  • It's eco-friendly. By shopping secondhand or swapping, items are kept out of landfills for longer. Although we as individuals can't do much to reduce overall demand for new items, every little bit of eco-consciousness helps the planet in the long run.
  • It's economical. Secondhand stores, even upscale resale shops, generally have high-quality items available for far less than they are brand-new.
  • It keeps money local. When you buy from a secondhand store, resale shop, or swap group, you're keeping money local and allowing it to do more good for your community versus buying everything from huge online retailers. 
  • You can find unique items. Secondhand chains have the advantage of swapping inventory with other stores in the chain, so even if your town only has only one clothing store, there's a chance that your local secondhand store will have stuff you can only otherwise find in bigger cities. Plus there's always a chance that you'll find well-made vintage pieces that will essentially last forever.
  • There's something for everyone. If you shop for your family or for other people, secondhand, thrift, resale, and vintage shops are usually good as a one-stop shop to get something for everyone. My husband typically doesn't do much clothing shopping for himself, and I've found great clothes for both of us at upscale resale shops. When we were in college and didn't have much money, thrift stores were my go-to to keep us both clothed.
  • It isn't obvious to others. When you find a high-quality item secondhand, no one will likely even notice that it's secondhand unless you tell them. I know that in some social circles, it's important to keep up appearances... but doing so shouldn't mean you max out your credit cards just to fit in. (Tip: if you're in a social circle where everyone asks where you got a new thing, just tell them the brand name. Or better yet, stop caring what they think and tell them you got it secondhand like an eco-champion.)

Making the Most of Nothing New

Buying things used does come with some risks, but they can all be mitigated by adopting good shopping strategies. To avoid leaving a swap meet or secondhand store with a broken item or bad garment, do a little bit of prep:

  • Make a list and stick to it. Don't buy just anything because it's inexpensive--that's a great way to accidentally become a hoarder. Be a well-prepared shopper by committing to buying only what's on your list.
  • Be flexible with shopping list items. For example: if you're out shopping for a new outfit and want a matching blouse and skirt, try looking at dresses in addition to separates; if you're on the lookout for a food processor but find a blender that can do the job, opt for the blender if there's no food processor in sight.
  • Give everything a once-over before buying. I love secondhand shopping, but sometimes clothes aren't as awesome on second-glance as they are on the first, and not all other items work as anticipated. To go home with the best possible items, make sure clothes don't have any tears, holes, or threadbare patches that you can't fix, and make sure anything that plugs in has a "tested and working" label (or that the store will let you plug it in to make sure it works).
  • Give back at least as much as you take. Every time I plan to go secondhand shopping, I drop off at least as much at a donation site as I plan to bring back home. Dropping off as much as you plan to shop for helps prevent new clutter.

I'll be combining the Nothing New approach to shopping with my Low Spend Winter to make the most of the money I do choose to spend in the coming months. I have core pieces of my wardrobe wearing out from frequent use, and I'm excited to see what I can find secondhand. If you're interested in trying the Nothing New approach, I wish you all the luck I seem to have with finding great things!