2013 Resolution: Buy Nothing New for a Year!

nye_times_square_ballWelcome to the future! 2013 is upon us, and what would a new year be without some crazy, far-flung resolution that is sure to drive you insane by the 5th of January? Here at Thrift & Thrive, we figured we could find a way to make a resolution that was all at once a way to make us better people and drive a deeper commitment to the overall mission of our business…and thus it was born: We resolve to purchase nothing new for an entire calendar year.

So you may ask yourself, “yeah, what about food and stuff?” to which we answer, “OK, wiseguy…there will be a few exceptions.” Better to get those exceptions listed out of the gate, so here they are (and we hope we covered everything, or else it’s going to get real interesting):

1. Food/Seed/Plants: While dumpster diving behind Whole Foods sounds appealing…we are not quite there yet. In addition, seeds will be bartered or purchased thru seed exchanges, and plants will be bartered and purchased at Farmer’s Markets.

2. Utilities: Electric, Water, Trash Removal. Heck…I’ll even throw Public Transit in here. ‘Nuff said.

3. Personal Hygiene: No used tampons for us, thank you very much.

4. Vehicle/Home repair and maintenance: Some things just cannot be found used, though we will do our best to purchase leftover or reconditioned supplies to work on our 7 year old vehicles and our 100 year old house.

5. Santa Claus: He comes but once a year to bring our children each ONE toy. Considering we are not Santa Claus, this shouldn’t be a problem, right? Any gifts bought by us for Christmas, birthdays, etc. will be second-hand. Sorry, Mom.

6. School Supplies: While most of this should be relatively easy to find in secondhand shops or garage sales, Chicago Public Schools can get pretty picky…right down to the exact brand of pencil sharpener you need to send your child in with.

7. Travel/Outings: Money will be spent on food, transportation and lodging, but it will be done on the CHEAP and there will be no superfluous purchases like souvenirs, new tents for camping or beach towels for the lake. All of that can be borrowed, found in our closets or purchased used fairly simply.

8. Medical/Veterinarian: If we need stitches for our boys or vaccines for our cats, chances are they will be new.

9. Business Supplies: So, YES! This resolution of ours does include what we purchase on behalf of Thrift & Thrive. However, while we already purchase 90% of what we use secondhand, there are some supplies (reams of paper for fliers or pricing labels) that typically cannot be found used…but again, we will try.

Allow me to reinforce this: while there are exceptions to the rule, we commit to going above and beyond to barter, borrow, scour thrift stores/garage sales/craigslist before we purchase even these discretionary items new. Also, every single acquisition of ours (with the exception of detailed grocery lists) will be published on this blog, so there will be complete disclosure in what/how we acquire items all year long. We are also doing our best to find a way to keep a public running tally of the cost of purchasing used vs. new so that you will be able to see the financial impact of our commitment in real time!

A few sidebars:

First: We are not the first people to commit to this lifestyle, and we know this. As a matter of fact, while we came up with the idea independently, a quick Google search turned up dozens of listings with a wealth of information that inspired us to make this half-boiled, late-night idea into a reality. Check out The Compact, a collective of friends in San Francisco that started doing this waaaay back in 2006. They also inspired Kate Wolk-Stanley, who has been doing this for FIVE! years now and blogs about it on the Non-Consumer Advocate.

Second: We are privileged to be able to make this decision for ourselves. While this certainly is a choice for us, in most of the world, it is not, and therefore not something that anyone would find challenging or admirable. That being said, we are not looking for praise; we are hoping to further an ongoing movement to get people in our community to rise up and think about ways they can simplify their own lives. However, considering that we no longer have our day jobs in corporate America, and our family of 4 survives completely off of a 1,200 sq. ft resale shop, it isn’t too far off from being imperative.

Third: We’re not the most materialistic people in the world, so this is probably not a huge stretch. It’s been a long time since we’ve gone out and done retail therapy above and beyond $20 at someone else’s thrift store or yard sale. Also, most of our Christmas presents this year were already second-hand items. As well, we drive used cars and for years have furnished much of our house from they alley. There. I said it.

What do we need from you? Well, I’m glad you asked. Comments, suggestions, feedback, encouragement, motivation, and keep us honest. It’s bound to be a fun ride, and while right now we’re reeling off of the excitement and it already feels like we’ve got this “in the bag,” I’m sure there are going to be a few hair-pulling moments of fury and agony when that ONE THING we need cannot be found. Remember as well that we have 2 small boys, 7 and 2 years old, that may have a hard time understanding this commitment from time to time. So stick around…we hope you enjoy this blog and our resolution, and hope it inspires you to find things that you can simplify in your own life.

Now who’s got a beard trimmer I can borrow?


  1. Carrie Lawlor says:

    You guys rule! I look forward to following you on this quest and doing my best to mimic your actions.
    I’ll also see if I can get you some press… never hurts! 🙂
    Good luck!
    Carrie Lawlor

  2. vinidemon says:

    Sounds like a great idea to me. Even if people committed to buying half of their stuff used it would make one hell of an impact. I’m going to see how many used purchases I can commit to. Thanks, guys.

  3. Jack Heilgeist says:

    Hey guys! This conservative Republican has been living that way since 1989. The resale furniture store here in Dillon loves me. Not only is it good for the environment, there are really great things to be had for a song. I went to the thrift store the other day and bought a hand painted and numbered platter from Portugal for $3.00. I’ve been to Portugal and $3.00 wouldn’t have covered the VAT. All the frames, decorations on the wall, etc. came from a thrift store. Keep on the good work and make some converts. I’m doing my part here!

  4. kikikierkegaard says:

    Yessss! We are with you in spirit and spit and song. I made this same commitment for Xmas this year and besides a couple coloring books (pretty hard to find/give used, though I still may) we had a beautiful secondhand holiday. Complete with sanded down & repainted craigslist/goodwill bikes for all 3 kids. And if we lived in the same town we’d often bump into each other in da alley. The queen of curb furnishings, oops-paint and slightly-too-tight shoes salutes you!
    Bee tee dubs Rock Auto is the rockinest for used/refurbished auto parts. We’ve kept a stuttering, sputtering parade of $500 craigslist cars lurching ever forward for many years with the help of Rock Auto.

    • admin says:

      Rock Auto, you say? We’ll definitely have to check that out! Love the fact that you guys did a secondhand holiday…it’s really challenging and puts more meaning and thought behind each gift 🙂

  5. Renee DeMan says:

    Per usual, you guys rock!!! Looking forward to this year.

  6. Shylo says:

    For home stuff, you should totally check out the ReBuilding Exchange. I’ve found amazing stuff, from sinks to lumber, for my old house. There’s also Habitat for Humanity ReStores in Evanston and Elgin.

  7. Leslie says:

    A great website that has a similar goal of being conscious of the money being sent each day:
    Kate Bingaman-Burt’s approach — the Portland-based illustrator has drawn every single item she has purchased since February 5, 2006.

  8. […] of you have been following our story on not buying anything new for a year…a story which had several twists and turns throughout 2013, not the least of which was losing […]

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