No Buy Year – How To Get Back To The Basics

no buy year

As the world grows ever-more complicated around us, the concept of a no-buy year aims to reset our consumer minds. It’s one of many forms of extremism that is growing in popularity. It turns out, we need far less stuff than we might think.

What’s A No Buy Year?

Hint: the name is a bit of a giveaway.

A No Buy Year is a self-enforced set of rules where someone limits or eliminates their purchases for an entire year.

At its most rigorous, a no-buy year prevents all purchases. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. That means the food you eat comes from your garden. You revert to more natural forms of cleanliness. Just think about your monthly budget for a minute. All of those things – you can’t spend money on them anymore. It’s pretty extreme.

But there are many variants of no buy years, and most of them are less severe than the “all in” method. For example, no buy years are wonderful antidotes to “shopping addictions.” If you feel like you spend way too much on Amazon, perhaps a no-buy year targeting against online shopping is right for you.

Other folks focus on single products for their no buy years. Perhaps they don’t want to buy any clothes for a year. Other people aim to become carbon negative for an entire year. All of their purchases reduce carbon emissions rather than contribute to carbon emissions. If you have a specific weakness when it comes to spending money, that weakness would be an ideal target for a no-buy year.

Should I Consider A No Buy Year?

The principle underlying a no-buy year is that self-limitation can be empowering. This is one of the foundational principles of stoicism.

If you expose yourself to “difficult” conditions, you begin to realize that “normal” life isn’t nearly as challenging as you thought it was. This is a fundamental offshoot of psychological conditioning. Our environment conditions us, and we get used to it. If we choose to “get used to” something difficult, then we’ll gain a new appreciation for the previous “normal.”

I also think the no-buy year is a perfect reminder of the Fulfillment Curve. In short, the Fulfillment Curve states that there is a limit to “more spending = more happiness.” Eventually, more spending will actually lead to more stress and anxiety. A no buy year can highlight which areas of your budget led to more stress than they were worth.

If you’re worried that a no-buy year might be too extreme for you, then start small. What about a no buy week, or a no-buy month? What if you reduce your spending by 50% for the next month? There are many ways to impose self-limitations or to live on less. As an added side effect, saving that spending money might significantly boost your net worth.

We can apply no-buy years tactics to other areas of life. The two that first come to mind are Marie Kondo’s decluttering and the “OMAD” movement.

Decluttering And No Buy

declutter and no buy year

Marie Kondo is an author and consultant who took the American zeitgeist by storm in 2019 with her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo about organizing people’s houses.

It turns out that decluttering your bedroom closet acts as a metaphor for decluttering your life. Kondo’s method–KonMari–encourages people only to keep items that “spark joy” in their life. Those joyful items act to buoy one’s psyche, while all other things only serve to drag the mind down.

The KonMari method is best applied one category at a time. For example, Kondo suggests that someone first organizes all of the utensils in their kitchen, only keeping those that spark joy. This fork is joyful, but this spoon is not. Then they tackle all of the clothes in the house, then all of the decorations in the house, etc.

Similarly, a no-buy year can apply to the entirety of one’s purchasing or only to a small subsection. The underlying principle is the same as KonMari. The no buy year attempts to prevent items from entering your life in the first place. The KonMari method attempts to clean up those items after they’ve entered your house.

They both share the goal of having less stuff.

Does No Buy + OMAD = a NOMAD?

Much like the no-buy year and KonMari, OMAD is a growing trend that employs a “less is more” mentality. OMAD stands for one meal a day. Can you guess what it’s about?

If you answered, “Limiting yourself to only eating one meal a day,” then you are clearly a genius. The common thread between these three ideas is obvious.

Shake up your usual routine. Insert more considerable challenges into your life. Convince your mind or body to get used to less. Get used to this “new normal” and see how your mind/body responds. See life from this new perspective. While you assumed your previous behavior was optimal, you might surprise yourself.

Please note: OMAD deals with physical health in a way that KonMari and no buy year do not. This article is informational only and assumes you would consult with a medical professional before beginning an OMAD practice. Be smart with your health.

Some people view OMAD as a challenge to be overcome. Others see it as a dieting method since OMAD essentially closes down your kitchen except for one period per day.

Much like the no buy year, OMAD might be too extreme for some. There are other variations, like the also-popular intermittent fasting. In this diet method, the dieter limits their caloric intake to an 8-hour window per day.

So that 7 am breakfast and 7 pm dinner won’t work anymore – they occur 12 hours apart. Instead, many intermittent fasters choose to combine a big brunch (e.g., 10 am) with a big dinner (~6 pm). Intermittent fasters typically eliminate one meal per day, eliminate late-night snacking, and usually challenge their stomachs to overcome some mid-morning hunger pangs.

Other Examples Of “Extremism”

All of these ideas are part of a growing trend of “extremism.” KonMari pushes the personal organization to an extreme. OMAD pushes caloric intake to an extreme. No buy years push consumerism to that same extreme. And there are other new “extreme” practices popping up every day.

For example, some people are starting to go on “dopamine fasts.” Dopamine is the neural transmitter most often associated with reward-motivated behavior. In short, good feelings and positive emotions are often a product of dopamine secretion in your brain.

A dopamine fast occurs when someone intentionally chooses behaviors that limit their dopamine secretion in an attempt to “re-baseline” their brain’s reaction to dopamine.

In theory, the brain will get used to a lack of dopamine. As the brain becomes conditioned to less dopamine, it will start to be stimulated by even small dopamine hits. It’s very similar to someone abstaining from sugar in their diet. After a few weeks of no sugar, that person will start to notice just how sweet fresh fruit is. And artificial sugar, like in candy, will taste sickly sweet.

The idea of a dopamine fast is to eventually reset your brain into realizing that even the small things in this world can bring about joyous feelings.

Limits Create Growth

The common bond in today’s article is that limits can create growth.

We are creatures of habit, and those habits often define us. If we shake up our habits, we can break our old definitions and grow in new directions.

Whether with food or material goods or with spending money, a system of self-limitation might teach you something you didn’t know about yourself.