Buy Nothing Challenge 2019

While I was reading other blogs about personal finance and spending less, I came across a post on the buy nothing challenge, written by Dr. McFrugal (the buy nothing challenge was invented by The Happy Philosopher). Then I thought: “We should do this too!” My husband and I are always talking about how we (actually I…) spend too much and buy too much stuff we don’t really need, like too much clothes or toys for the kids.

Why a buy nothing challenge?

Besides saving money from not buying unnecessary stuff, this buy nothing challenge is also good for thinking about what we’re all buying all the time, while we could do with much less. What is it like to postpone the need to buy something, do I still want to buy the item after a week or a month? Have I found another solution for it or do I realize I don’t really need it? I also like to show our children that we don’t need to buy stuff all the time or just go to the store immediately if we want something.

To buy nothing also means that the pile of clutter in our home doesn’t grow. Our house is already pretty full with things we don’t use. Because of that, this year we will also start minimizing a bit. We aim to sell a lot of things (which also gives more money to invest :-)), give some stuff away to others or good causes and throw some stuff away.

Buy nothing challenge, the rules:

We will buy nothing for a whole year, with some exceptions. I used the list from The Happy Philosopher as a guideline and changed some of it to fit our needs:

  • We won’t buy any “stuff” this year. And by stuff I mean everything from clothes to books and toys, to cabinets, chairs and tables. If something we really need breaks down, like the washing machine, we are allowed to replace it. We are also allowed to repair things or buy batteries to replace empty ones.
  • Consumable goods, hygiene products and household products don’t count. We actually do want to spend less on groceries, so we will try to stay below € 400 per month for groceries.
  • Experiences don’t count. We will still do things like go to restaurants, visit theaters or an amusement parc or go to hotels or on a holiday with the kids.
  • Gifting: Food, drinks, flowers or experiences don’t count. Therefore we have to think a bit more outside the box than just buy some present. I do think we will make an exception for the birthdays of our boys although giving an experience might be worth more.
  • We are allowed to receive gifts, but we will eliminate something else for every item that we are given.
  • Borrowing or renting stuff is allowed.
  • Home improvements: Only necessary improvements or improvements that are good for the environment. For example: We are discussing solar panels and we really want to fix up a room that used to be a garage to make a guestroom for our parents.


A short list of things that we already planned to buy this year or are really necessary:

  1. A light for the dining table. There is still no good light above the dining table. We already know which one we want, we just still have to buy and install it.
  2. We really really need new window covering. What we’ve got now is still from the previous owners and it’s old, broken and ugly.
  3. Kids grow fast, which means we might need bigger clothes or shoes for our oldest son this year. We will however look for 2nd hand items.

These are the only exemptions I can think of at the moment.

Starting date

We are already close to February while I am writing this. The first days of the year we were still on a holiday, so I will set the starting date at January fifth. We did already buy something in the days between the holiday and now, but it was really necessary. Our youngest had holes in all of his jeans and I found a bag full of second hand clothes for him for only € 15. Maybe I should learn to repair or even make clothes myself some day… Well, that’s a nice challenge for next time :-)


I will publish an update every month about what we spend, how we are doing, how we feel and how the minimizing is going.

Have you done anything like this? Or do you like to join our challenge? Let me know how you did / how you’re doing. Feel free to leave your comments below!

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