Nothing New for a Year?

Being an avid thrift shopper as I am, I always think of thrift before I think of retail when it comes to shopping.  I think most die-hards like me are the same. But what if we were to challenge ourselves to buy nothing new for an entire year?


Cindy Nickel in front one of her favourite thrift shops

That’s what thrift Shopper Cindy Nickel decided to do as her New Year’s resolution for this year. Six months into the challenge, she’s doing really well. Cindy says she’s always loved retro things and finds finding treasures in a thrift store a “thrill.”

“Some of my favourite clothes come from thrift stores,” she says. “I love the idea of not new stuff and that it’s one of a kind.”

She decided to challenge herself to not buy anything new after a friend said she was doing the same thing.

“It was the beginning of January and my last (new) purchase had been a pair of runners on December 31st, so I decided to take up her challenge and do the same thing,” Cindy says.

She set some parameters for herself but realized that there are some things that you obviously have to buy new: food, for instance, and household things like light bulbs. One of her first challenges came along when she realized she had to buy textbooks for her Master’s program. She started by checking the books out of the library but that got old pretty fast (no pun intended.)

“I was getting frustrated with having to return books to the library,” she says. “Fortunately, I was able to buy them second-hand through Amazon – even though some of them were more expensive than the new ones!”

Cindy has a few favourite places to shop. One place she used to shop a lot at was Value Village although she’d heard a rumour  that it was owned by Walmart, which made it less attractive, but this is a myth I’d like to dispel right here because someone else also mentioned this rumour on this blog. Value Village is NOT owned by Walmart, you can read more about that here. Value Village is a retail store (for profit) that does benefit charities to a small degree. I encourage you to visit their website and check out their history. I like shopping there for the same reasons Cindy did – sheer volume makes it more likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for. I just get grumpy at their pricing.

But back to Cindy’s challenge… She works at an elementary school near the MCC Thrift Shop on Fraser Street in Vancouver. Since it doesn’t have the same volume as a Value Village she just concentrates on the sections where she happens to need something.

43rd and Fraser Street in Vancouver

She’s been able to find her son’s birthday present on Craigslist –“he didn’t mind at all” (doesn’t that warm your heart?) and has found that her challenge has affected her thoughts about shopping.

“I’m not a big shopper anyway but it is kind of interesting,” she says. “I find myself slowing down while passing by MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) and then reminding myself that I can’t buy anything new anyway! “

Cindy feels good about the fact that she’s consuming less, using less energy and creating less garbage, thereby using less of the Earth’s resources.  Even so, she’s not sure if she’ll be able to sustain it for the full year because she’s heading to Cuba in the fall to teach at the International School of Havana, and might “have” to buy something new.  She’s looking forward to that adventure.

“Maybe I can learn as lesson from Cubans on how much I really ‘need’” she says, adding that she hopes she’ll have lots of opportunity to meet locals, learn Spanish and more. “I want to expose my son Simon to the world beyond Vancouver and Saskatchewan.”

What I think is significant about the challenge is that it makes you much more intentional about what you buy in general.  I think I might try this for New Year’s or maybe even Lent next year and see how difficult/easy it really is. What do you think?

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7 Responses to Nothing New for a Year?

  1. Darcie Brown says:

    I wish I could say that I could do it but I don’t think I could. It’s a great idea but I think I’d have to start with a smaller commitment. One thing I find when I thrift though is that I’m more likely to buy things that I don’t need or use. I guess that’s part of the thrill that makes it a treasure hunt. In my retail shopping defense, I am very purposeful with my shopping and purchases. Perhaps if I had more thrifting time and experience, I’d be able to work off a list and stick to it. 🙂

    • angelika says:

      It’s true Darcie that thrift shopping and retail shopping are completely different. With retail shopping you go and get what you need, with thrift shopping you go to see what you will find. I always say that i might go into a thrift shop looking for something specific but i never go with the expectation that i will find it. If i do, I’m thrilled. If i don’t, then I”m not too disappointed because I’ll probably find it the next time or the time after that or… And in the meantime, I have probably found something else that I wasn’t looking for but needed anyway! And it is true that you can totally be responsible when you’re shopping new- especially if you’re conscious of where your products come from, how they’re made, who is making them, etc. Lists are a good thing whether you’re shopping new or used!

  2. BeckyKay says:

    Hooray for MCC Thrift! Down in Newton, KS, we call ours The Et Cetera Shop! 🙂

  3. Laura says:

    Thanks for dispelling the myth about Value Village. I was probably one who mentioned that earlier, and I’ll take that back. It remains lesser favoured for me still since they operate for profit.

  4. Pingback: Before and After and Some Fun Finds | thrift shopper for peace

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