The Lizzie List: Our top 5 tips for Buying Nothing New

The Fearse Family: Top 5 Tips for Buying Nothing New

Recently my friend and colleague Lizzie told me that after reading our blog she was thinking about taking on a buy nothing new challenge of her own.  She asked me for my top five tips for starting a journey such as ours. I told her it might take me a day or two to compile a top five, but when I pressed, this is what I came up with. I feel like this top five is the kind of list that would be completely different for every person undertaking the challenge – how it is done varies so much from person to person. I often find my passion for this project again when talking to someone new about it. So to celebrate that burst of renewed buy nothing energy for 2015, here is the Fearsian “Lizzie List”: top five (read: ten) tips for buying nothing new for a year.

1. Know your limits. Make your own rules. You can read ours here.

2. Stop going to the shops.

3: Stock up on stuff used to repair things. We used heaps of glue, electrical tape, packing tape, sticky tape, gaffa tape, nails, fabric etc. Alternatively, make this an exception. If you are going to avoid buying new things you will need to repair your old things when they break down. This is all a part of the overall philosophy. If repairing stuff becomes hard you’ll be more inclined to try and find second hand replacements, which still leaves you with the issue of ethically discarding the original. Repair, repair, remodel, redesign, repair!

4: Build up your resources. Join your local buy/swap/sell groups, join Freecycle, join your local Buy Nothing group (or start your own – I highly recommend this), lose any shame you have in asking people for their unused or unwanted goods. Interestingly this is one of the biggest criticisms I’ve read of people doing challenges like us – that they are leaning on others to resource them when they are unable to purchase something new. I find this a really narrow view point of how we work as a society and I like to think that we can be much more generous and connected to each other if we stop putting a force field over our stuff and start seeing them as resources to be shared and used, rather than symbols of who we are and what status we have in society.

5: Delay gratification. When you think you need something, put off buying it (second hand, of course), for at least a week. Nine times out of ten you find you no longer need or want it. Find a second use for all the stuff you already have and you’ll probably discover that broken / missing item is unnecessary anyway.

6: (Because all top 5s should have a 6??) Really look at what you have. Pare back – use this as an opportunity to get rid of all the excess stuff in your life that you don’t need. Find the best new home for stuff, not just any new home.

7: If you buy new, buy the best. I’m not talking the most expensive here (though sometimes it’s the case). Find it made locally, or artist designed, or super durable, or ethically sourced, or buy it from a charity. Find a way to buy stuff that also helps another individual, not just a corporation.

(Ok…it’s going to be ten.)

8: Don’t beat yourself up. If you buy something new, or you find you have to, learn from the situation. Last week we bought a new litter tray for our kitten because we were disorganised and didn’t seek out one second hand early enough. Shit happens.

9: Enjoy what you have. Stop bemoaning what you don’t have. Having that stuff won’t make you complete. There will always be other stuff you don’t have.

10: Be open and tell others what you’re doing. It helps explain why gifts might be a little different for now on, or that you can’t go shopping with mates any more. It also helps keep you accountable. Allow others to have an opinion about your philosophy (you can’t prevent it!) but don’t let people bully you. You make your own rules. Make your life your own.

I hope that Lizzie will take up the challenge. If she blogs about it, I’ll let you know.

Mama xo

Believe in what you buy.

Buy something new. I don’t mind. It’s not my choice, it doesn’t impact on my decisions. That’s the great thing about our BNN project – we buy nothing new. It’s pretty cut and dry, it doesn’t have too many grey areas, we can live by that. It doesn’t mean we feel judgemental towards anyone else for their consuming decision making. What it does mean is that we get to show others that buying nothing new is possible, and it also might give people an opportunity to think about their consumption habits in a conscious way. I think, mostly, the buy / sell process is automatic for most people now. We never really thought about it before our first year began. We had started to buy fair trade coffee and avoid products with palm oil. We were becoming more aware of where our food came from. We knew a little about the unethical production of Nikes. We avoided Nestle. If it was a well-publicised boycott, we knew about it. Otherwise, we were a bit mindless when it came to our spending. We also didn’t realise that there were alternatives to consuming.

The thing about becoming a conscious consumer is that it doesn’t mean you have to stop consuming.  For us it means buying second hand or not at all. For others it may mean buying fair trade, or from stores that provide something back to communities who need it (think Oxfam shops). For some people it may mean buying locally, or supporting small business. For some people it is about buying Australian (or American or Mexican or wherever you happen to be based) made. For some it is about avoiding purchases that may inadvertently support labour camps or that encourage criminally low wages and the exploitation of children. Some may splurge on high quality household goods, knowing they will (probably) never have to replace them. Some will buy branded clothing that can then be passed on at a fraction of the price to people like us who buy nothing new.

The point I’m making, is that buying nothing new is one way. It’s our way, and we like it. We will probably do it forever.

Either way, I think it’s important that we think about what we’re buying, whether we need it and where is has come from. Don’t just be a cog in the wheel of someone else’s design. Make your own wheel, or become a part of something you believe in. Contribute your hard earned dollars to something that matters.

Well, that’s my 2 cents. It’s about all I have spare…

Mama xoxo

Today I bought something new.

I had been eyeing off this beautiful colourful teething jewellery for a few weeks at the market. It is designed to look great on but also provide your child with relief when teething. Little Fearse loves chewing on my necklaces, teething or not. The business is run by a local Mum. She sells her product through Facebook and the market. It ticks a lot of ethical buying boxes, except the fact that a) it’s not a necessity and b) it’s new. Little Fearse isn’t even teething at the moment. (I’m still a little traumatised from her last bout of teething, to be honest, which left us all sleepless – and helpless – for over a week.) I bought a teething bracelet without even really thinking about it. It was a strange anomaly in my personality – some kind of minor blip in the system. I have spent the rest of the day feeling guilty.

This is also on top of (full disclosure) the breaking of my no “new” clothes rule – I purchased a pair of jeans at the op shop on Saturday (half price purple tag got them down to $3.65) and a shirt at the market today ($1). I have kind of evened that out by donating a pair of jeans and shirt from my wardrobe. I still feel a little alarmed at how easily I slipped back into old habits.

Purchasing something new didn’t feel good and it didn’t give me any buzz. Finding the vintage shirt at the market for $1 gave me a buzz…but it still didn’t feel good afterwards. I’m a little disappointed in myself, to be honest.

These are minor purchases that really don’t mean much in the scheme of things – except that I feel I’ve let down our project a little.

On the upside (because it’s always good to end on an upside) we discovered the joys of frozen watermelon today thanks to a comment on our last post from Verity. If you love our blog, I reckon you will enjoy Verity’s blog The Happy Rebel. She is also working on reducing her consumption, but in a much more challenging environment. Read! She’s very inspiring.

I hope those of you in Victoria are surviving the heat okay.

Mama xo

Our BNN celebration

Last weekend we held a “thank you’ op shop themed BBQ for our friends who have supported our Buy Nothing New journey. Every time someone takes the time to talk to us about our Buy Nothing New lifestyle it is really touching to us. When people ask questions, or tells us we’ve inspired them to make a change it helps us to feel that we have made progress and that our small contribution is worthwhile.

We invited our friends to wear something silly or serious they’ve picked up second hand along the way. Many came in outfits that included second hand items – handed down hats, pretty brooches and bright blazers. And then there were our friends who came dressed entirely in op shop outfits and looked both fabulous and fun. We had a great time choosing our own outfits.


BP found most of his outfit (robe and boardies) at our local second Savers. The jersey was purchased second hand at a Brooklyn flea market. I found my dancing costume (great for spins with Little Fearse) at Savers, too. Little Fearse’s princess dress and chicken hat were a lucky St Vinnie’s find that I thought were ridiculous. Little Fearse thought they were BRILLIANT. I tried them on her for size one day earlier in the week and she refused to take them off, chucking a spectacular tantrum when she had to have a shower that evening. She knows what she wants, our daughter.

I finally felt like I found my food mojo on Sunday. We planned a simple meal of local meat and a few simple salads plus barbequed veggies and corn. That week a few great recipes popped up in my feed from Mamabake and I added those to the menu. I cooked from the time I woke up until the time we all sat down to eat and I was happy with all the food we provided. I feel like it was a bit of a foodie break through for me.

The best of all was where most of the food came from. It was really something to be able to serve local or home grown foods to our guests, showing that our food habits really have changed in our first BNN year.

Our menu included the following home grown goods:

– Jimmy’s lettuce and spring onions

– Pam’s zucchini

– Dave’s olives (which I pickled, successfully!)

– Tanya’s cherry tomatoes and beetroots

– Dad’s lemons

I was also able to offer guests Emma’s beetroot chutney, Tanya’s onion relish, Dad’s & my pickled lime, Dad’s quince chutney, local green tomato chutney and the Wedderburn Community tomato sauce. The eggs were local (bought at the market) and the meat was from a butcher who is now selling at the market and sources his meat from local(ish) farms with good practices. Almost all the other veggies were from a local grower who sells at the market. The fruit was also bought at the market, but not locally grown. Our gorgeous Barb made a passionfruit sponge to go with our fruit platter. It was the crowd favourite – who can resist a perfect passionfruit sponge?

I really want to get our own veggie patch underway this year. I’m quite overwhelmed by the thought of starting it off, as I’ve had little success with growing anything in the garden previously. In fact, I had to hide three pots of dead plants before our guests arrived on Sunday! I have an old bath and bricks donated from a friend to create a raised bed, probably at the back of our BBQ area, where there is a lot of sun. Any tips or tricks (or good starting points) much appreciated. I’d love our next celebration to include foods from our own garden.

Thanks to all of you who were not able to come on Sunday, too. Every comment or view gives us a thrill!

Mama xo

PS This year we are sharing a photo a day of something we are grateful for, inspired by Hailey at 365 Grateful. We are doing this on our Facebook page. Please like us if you want to keep up with our grateful photos. Our Facebook page is a companion to our blog. We often share stories, post photos, ask questions and post links to things that we think our fans will enjoy reading. We’d love to include you in our social media community as well as our blog community. xo

A break from Buying Nothing New

Since January 1st The Fearse Family has been on a break from Buying Nothing New. It was very liberating to not be bound by the rules of our BNN year. We knew we’d need a breather if we intended to go on with Buying Nothing New in 2014. There were things we’d been holding off purchasing and it was very important to give ourselves the opportunity to purchase these things before we begin again.

In the past 9 days we have purchased the following new things:

  • gloss paint to finish our wardrobe doors.
  • a gigantic pile of nothing.

What do we need? Well, I’m out of tinted moisturiser, and when I can find a brand I am happy with ethically I will purchase this. I’m not a big make up wearer, but there are times this year I have missed it (it ran out half way through the year). We have no other plans to buy anything new.

So – what are our parameters for 2014? We will continue with the same exceptions and rules, though we will also add anything needed for repairs. We usually came up against problems when needing to fix things around the house and repair broken things with different types of glues. This exception will help us to maintain what we have and seems logical to our main aim – to look after and use up what we have.

For the time being I will continue with the book embargo and I will not buy any clothing at all. I received a handmade skirt from a friend for Christmas and a voucher for a dress hand made using vintage material from my brother and his fiance. These are two incredibly beautiful items of clothing and so much more special for my not buying any new clothes throughout most of 2013. These two decisions (books and clothes) will be reviewed throughout the year.

In the event that we are unable to find something that satisfies our needs second hand we will buy from either local businesses or small businesses. This will allow us to support those that we believe are offering a good and ethical service.

We are also on a quest to reduce our trash, so this will involve some new purchases, such as reusable sanitary products. This is something we will blog about in more detail later this month.

We’re excited! Who is going to join us? Please leave a link below if you discover any other blogs for those that are buying nothing new in 2014. We’d love to offer our support. We are looking forward to following the journey of Inked in Colour, who has recently made the pledge.

Much 2014 love,

Mama Fearse

The end is nigh.

You couldn’t even call this the home stretch – we’re sliding into the home plate. We have TWO BNN days left. Just two!

Deep breaths. Gulps.

Many people have asked us about our plans for next year. BP and I have had dozens of conversations about this very topic. We have some firm ideas about what we want to do, but some of the details are hazy. We’re not ready to officially announce anything yet, but what is certain is that I will be continuing the blog into the new year.

We are looking at continuing to Buy Nothing New in 2014 with some tweaks. We may need a breather for a few weeks, though with our previously negotiated gift card clause we may just be able to get the things we are currently seeking with the gift cards we received for Christmas.

I am very nervous about the year ending. I don’t for one minute believe that we will go on a crazy spending spree, but I am concerned that some consumeristic tendencies will creep back in if we allow ourselves to buy new things. It is hard to know how much of our will power has been spurred on by the fact that you (our readers) hold us accountable, that our rules prevent us from buying new things. Without these rules, what will become of us?

I’ve read Lord of the Flies. I’ve even seen both films.

lord of the flies

All I’m saying is, I don’t want to have to crush BP to death with a giant rock…over an unnecessary purchase. Or, you know, for any reason.

Mama xo

A second hand wedding.

Big Poppa and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary this week and I had always intended to prepare a post describing how we put together our wedding buying as much second hand or small business products as possible. Even in a simple life time flies when you least expect it to, so here is an abbreviated version of what I originally planned:


  • I bought my dress from a small business near my parents holiday house. It was handmade using vintage material and a 1950s pattern, one-of-a-kind. It had a water mark on the sleeve, so I got it discounted. It cost me $315. The water mark came out at the dry cleaners.
  • I paid what I had to for a hand made vintage style fascinator from a local business. The milliner and I designed it together. The tiny veil was made from vintage netting. It was gorgeous and I was even able to lend it to another friend for her wedding a year later.
  • I bought a 1920s French made purse from the op shop, still in its box. It was in perfect condition, a real find.
  • We married at the registry office in Melbourne, which cost about $300. We couldn’t decorate the room, so I didn’t need to worry about flowers or ribbons. The room itself is beautiful, not what you’d expect from the registry.
  • I designed and made the wedding invitations myself (with a little cutting and gluing help from friends) and my brother designed the invitation for the evening party, which were also cut and glued by myself and friends.
  • I had no wedding party, so instead of paying for loads of different bouquets etc I happily spent $200 on a huge, gorgeous, messy bouquet full of roses and succulents for myself. This was made by a small local business recommended by my brother’s partner. A wedding guest planted the middle succulent in a pot and we still have it.
  • I decorated the tables at our wedding lunch (in a cafe overlooking gardens, not specifically reserved, saving HEAPS of money) with 1950s vintage scarves and seashell vases, all purchased at a second hand store.
  • Even though we asked for no gifts, we gave bomboniere to thank those people who supported our relationship and our marriage by being there on the day. I found vintage cuff links and brooches on eBay all for under $10 each. Mum and I made chiffon bags for these out of some more vintage scarves.
  • We only had 25 guests at our ceremony and lunch, but had a party that night with 75 guests. We hired a room (no charge) and Big Poppa’s band played.
  • I bought a 1970s maxi dress for the party and dressed in shoes and accessories I already had.
  • I had secretly purchased vintage cufflinks for Big Poppa on the last day of our holiday earlier that year in Brooklyn. I had a friend give these to him on the day of the wedding. He wore these with a vintage polka dot shirt, which I had secretly taken away and had altered at the cuffs for the cufflinks. He wore one of my vintage ties.
  • My wedding ring was purchased from an antique store, although it is not antique. It’s a 1960s white gold band with a few small diamonds. It cost a fraction of a new band with the equivalent gold and diamonds and has plenty of vintage charm.
  • Instead of having a cake made we ordered a berry cheesecake (our favourite) from the cafe. It was delicious and cost about $20. No one cared that it wasn’t multi-layered and white.
  • Big Poppa’s wedding present to me was having the band learn one of my favourite Beatles songs (the wildly inappropriate Norwegian Wood) for our first dance.
  • We asked for no gifts, but understood that many people felt this was important, so offered the options of donating to one of our favoured charities or the challenge of finding something second hand. We received beautiful handmade and vintage gifts that meant a lot to us. Some people gave us nothing which was also 100% okay.


The biggest costs were Big Poppa’s suit, food and photography. Big Poppa has worn his suit a bunch of times since, so that’s not really a concern. The food was great – I just wish I’d eaten more of it and had less alcohol! As for the photography, we have beautiful shots from the day, 1000s of them, but the situation itself was a little fraught in the end. Having a clear expectation at the start on both the photographer’s behalf and the customer’s is really important, especially if you’re utilising the services of a friend.

We had set ourselves a conservative budget for the wedding, not because we necessarily had to, but because we liked the challenge. We honeymooned in New York, so it was important to us to keep the wedding costs down.

None of these choices compromised our day, which was quite simply magical.


Mama xo

What to BNN do when a fridge goes boom.

In one of our very first entries we shared our concerns about our not very old but not very healthy fridge. I purchased the fridge as a factory second (new, but with a dent in the door) quite cheaply about 6 years ago. It was an ‘off-brand’ fridge, which didn’t mean much to me at the time. I had made a deal with my Year 9 Geography class that year. We were all writing ‘green’ goals each week – long term and short term. I had told them about my low energy rated, very old and leaky fridge. I’d purchased it as a student for $100. I couldn’t have afforded a new fridge when I purchased it, but I knew it wasn’t great for the environment. In my first year of teaching I made the promise to my Year 9 Geography class that I’d save that year to buy a fridge with a high energy rating. So I did. I purchased the seconds fridge from a store in Brunswick which specialised in white goods with minor aesthetic faults. They were almost all off-brand white goods, inexpensive but with contemporary energy and water ratings. It seemed like a good deal at the time.

Part of the reason this fridge didn’t last as long as I’d have hoped was because I moved several times in the last 6 years. Every time you move furniture and electronics there is the risk of damage. Fridges, like pianos, don’t like being moved. Ours started making strange noises after the second move.

The other reason the fridge didn’t last long was explained to us when we purchased our new (to us) fridge a few weeks ago. Off brand, inexpensive fridges are designed to last ‘for the term of your lease’. They are made for students, people who are transient and don’t want to be saddled with moving their white goods with each new share house or rental. It made me incredibly sad to hear that, and even sadder that I’d fallen for the trap. These fridges look good on the surface. They’re inexpensive and, on the surface, environmentally aware. In reality they’re poorly made, “disposable” and an incredible tax on our environment and our landfill.


One Friday afternoon, a few weeks ago, I opened our fridge and realised that the entire top shelf was filled with mould. This literally happened over night – the mould that is, we knew the fridge was on the out and out for at least a year. Even though we knew in January that this as a likely scenario, and lots of people had given us suggestions then on how to approach this issue, we were totally unprepared.

In our old life we would have jumped in the car on Saturday morning, driven to our local shopping centre, gone into a major electronics store and purchased the best priced new fridge we could find, to be delivered that afternoon. (Admittedly, I would have spent Friday night scouring reviews on the web and searching for the best rated product.)

In our new life I searched the web for a reconditioned fridge store in the south eastern suburbs. There was one, Blue Ribbon Appliances in Frankston, and it happened to be open on a Saturday. We could only hope that it was a reputable business and had decent fridges at decent prices. We didn’t have a lot of options. We arrived at 9am Saturday and were greeted by an amiable elderly gentleman who explained their stock and left us to explore and choose. We were already delighted to not be pushed or harassed as we browsed. While we checked out the stock he put through a phone call to the owner to check if he could deliver that day. He could. We had lots of choice in a fridge of the size we required. What’s more, they only stocked fridges they could rely on as they guarantee them for 12 months.

By Saturday afternoon we were installing our new fridge. It’s not particularly old, it’s a great size and energy rated. We paid half what we would for a new fridge, including delivery and taking away the old fridge to recycle. Honestly, it was a pleasurable shopping experience. I don’t say this lightly.

The fridge did have a minor fault – the alarm started going off every 6 hours (including overnight). The owner of the business, who is also the fridge mechanic, came out and repaired it immediately. If the same thing happened with a new fridge you’d possibly face dealing with the manufacturer in a lengthy game of ‘whose fault?’ in order to get the fridge repaired or replaced. True, it might not have happened in a new fridge, but it’s fixed and working beautifully now. The outcome suits us.

Any previous year we would not have taken the bet on a reconditioned fridge. Time will tell if we’ve made a good purchase or not, but right now we feel very positive about how this problem was solved.

[As a side note, this was a great opportunity to clean out the fridge and declutter the stuff that had accumulated on top of and on the sides of the fridge.]

Questionable birthday decisions.

Sometimes we like to pretend that you’re here to read about things like how we choose to parent our daughter (so exciting and original!) or what books I like to read that you should, too, or uhh other stuff that is mostly irrelevant to our BNN challenges. Thanks for indulging us.

We often find we don’t have a huge amount to say about Buying Nothing New. This is probably a good thing. A great thing. It means that we are overcoming our challenges with more ease – it’s becoming second nature to solve our issues by purchasing nothing, borrowing something, adapting, mending, making or (as a last resort) buying second hand. But this doesn’t make for good blogging.

It was my birthday last week. When my parents asked me what I wanted I thought long and hard. I had been researching about the Kitchen Aid Mixer and whether it might be a worthy addition to my kitchen. It is possible to buy them second hand, though they don’t depreciate much and in Australia they are very expensive. I’ve really done a lot of research and I did consider asking Mum and Dad if they’d help me buy one second hand for my birthday. I still feel so undecided about it, though, and recently my brother and his partner suggested I borrow theirs for a little while to see how much I use it and if I like it. I think this is a really great BNN way to make a purchasing decision.

What did I ask for then? Honestly, I’m to sure how this gift sits with BNN. I feel a little uncomfortable about it, but I’ll explain the process we went through. I have an old doona that has lost most of it’s feathers. When I say ‘old’ I got it for my 21st birthday, so it’s not terribly old (I’m not terribly old, really, after all) and it was expensive at the time. I feel it should have lasted longer than it did. But it didn’t. I know that I could get it refilled, but I feel that it is an expensive solution that is also temporary.

As the weather has cooled down at night the three of us in our bed are less than cosy. We use no heating at night and no matter how many bed socks or singlets or blankets we add we’ve all been so cold and none of us have been sleeping well. So I asked my parents if they would give me a new doona for my birthday.

Mum and I went shopping – we ended up choosing a woollen doona by MiniJumbuck*. As an Australian brand using Australian wool we felt it was hard to go passed. I also like the fact that though the wool may get flatter over time it won’t lose feathers. Buying this doona first hand is the first factor that I felt uncomfortable with. I guess this probably counts as a personal purchase of something new, because really I made the decision and although I didn’t pay for it, I asked for it. Technically or not, this is a purchase on our behalf.

The second factor that made me feel uncomfortable was that we bought a king size doona when my previous doona was queen size. This means new covers. We ummed and aahed over what size to get, but honestly – BP and I are both really tall and we share a bed with a growing toddler. I want this to be THE doona we have for years and years to come. I don’t want to make the decision in five years time that it isn’t big enough. To solve the issue of doona covers we managed to purchase two second hand covers on eBay for $28. We don’t love the patterns, but we’re not that particular about our bedroom decore anyway, so at that price (and second hand) we’re happy to have them for the term of their natural life.

The old doona is going to be relegated to our spare bed for now as it sure beats the polyester summer doona in there currently (which will be donated).

It’s not a win – win situation, but it’s not a complete loss either.

Mama xo

* I know it’s weird to link a product website on a blog that is discouraging consumerism, but honestly – to me this seems like a perfect option if you are Australian and you want to buy ‘locally’. None of the other doonas were made here or used quality local products. This reduces the miles the product has travelled, if nothing else.

When we start buying again.

Next year, if we decide to end our BNN adventure, we are going to completely change our buying habits. If we decide to buy new things from now on we are not going to buy the best bargain. We are not going to buy the cheapest thing we can and we are not going to get sucked in by sales that are not really offering us a good product or a good price.

I want to buy clothing made from quality materials. When possible I want it to be locally or hand made. When we can’t do this we will continue to buy second hand. We will have less clothing, but it will be better quality.

I want to buy the best quality home wares. I want to buy kitchen pans that will last forever. Knives and forks that are sturdy and quality and lovely to hold. We will have less home wares, but it will be better quality.

When we start to think about new carpet and new curtains and other new things around our house we will search for Australian made, hardy and quality goods. We will have to save for longer and hunt harder to find things we can afford that meet our quality requirements. We will need to prioritise and be willing to wait for the right things.

Purchasing things we need will take time and research and sometimes a lot more money than before. If we shop this way we won’t be able to buy on impulse. All of our purchases will be considered.

In an ideal future, this is how I want us to be.

Mama xo