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Wild’s Guide to a No-Buy Year

Grace Clift discusses the benefits of a no-buy (or low-buy) year, whether you’re aiming to save money, reduce your environmental footprint or value your purchases more.

We’re just leaving the season of new year’s resolutions, but it isn’t too late to start shaping what you want 2024 to be for you. A ‘No-Buy Year’ can be a great way to control your spending, save up for something in particular, or reduce your carbon footprint, all while working towards having more appreciation for what you already own. Finance journalist Michelle McGagh said it left her ‘wealthier and wiser’, and helped her to shop ‘in a better way than [she] did before’.

The challenge generally consists of only allowing yourself to buy essentials or replacements throughout the year, and everyone attempts it differently. If that’s sounding too intimidating, you could try a ‘No-Buy Month’ and see how it goes, or commit to a ‘Low-Buy Year’, which means buying only a limited amount of non-essentials in a year. Compulsive buying and shopping addiction affects around 5% of the population, and this is a great way to challenge these habits without starting out too intensely.

This article will let you know some of the best tips that previous participants have recommended for the challenge, so that you can be more financially and environmentally in control.

Figure out your ‘why’

Is your reason environmental? Financial? Are you saving for something in particular, or hoping to be more conscious with your choices? It’s important to know your specific ‘why’ in order to keep you on track. Some reasons that people have listed as helping them stay on track is a specific saving goal – Lara and her family had saved £25,000 towards a house deposit – getting to know your own style, and taking a step back from consumerism.

Make sure your ‘why’ is clear, something you really care about, and is in places around the house to remind you. It might be a good idea to put it on your phone background, or pin board – Lara’s family have it as a chart on their fridge.

Having a reason in mind will help you achieve your goals more effectively and with greater motivation. Image Credit: micheile henderson on Unsplash.


Decide on what’s essential

Of course, you’re going to have to buy some things, like groceries and replacements for broken items. This is why it’s good to lay out what you’re going to buy before the challenge starts, so that you don’t add things throughout. Grace Nevitt suggests a traffic light system – green for things you can always buy (e.g. groceries), amber for things you can buy in certain conditions (e.g. gifts if they’re for Christmas or birthdays) and red for things you shouldn’t buy at all (new dresses or books).

Remember to buy just the right amount of groceries to avoid waste. Image Credit: No Revisions on Unsplash.

See what you can get for free

Check out Eventbrite for film screenings and productions, SRO Audiences for live shows, and giveaways on social media for holidays. I have attended a pilot episode TV set with SRO Audiences for free, so join their mailing list to get updates! Local events are also a great way to find free things to do – subscribe to local mailing lists to see when events are taking place in nearby cities and town centres. Events like Christmas light switch-ons, film screenings, markets and more are often free on both local mailing lists and Eventbrite. Plus, Michelle McGagh notes that a “free” holiday can be possible if you cycle along the coast and camp on beaches; just make sure to do some serious research on where you can camp and where you could get events along the way for free.

Cycling is both eco-friendly and a cost-free mode of transportation. Image Credit: Marten Bjork on Unsplash.

Set out some helpful rules

There are going to be times where you want to shop. A useful tactic to know is the 30-day rule – if you want something after 30 days, it is important enough to buy. Usually, you won’t end up buying the item after this amount of time, so this shouldn’t impact your No-Buy Challenge much!

Another that I use to avoid turning towards takeout on a busy or tired night is meal planning and meal preparation. Dedicate an evening if possible to batch cooking meals, and separate them out into portion sizes with tupperware. Some easy meals to prepare in advance are soups, chillis and curries, and they usually last up to 4 days in the fridge.

Finally, removing your banking details from your account history can help to create a buffer on impulse purchases; if you have to go get your card, do you really want it that much?

Efficient meal planning and preparations are your key to delicious and stress-free weeknight dinners. Image Credit: S'well on Unsplash.


It should be noted that for lots of people, this challenge is extremely difficult alongside childcare, disability or a high workload – this list is not a checklist of things you must do to complete the challenge correctly, but rather some tips for you to pick and choose from. I will be using meal planning, Eventbrite and a ‘why’ to buy less this year – you do whatever suits your lifestyle!


Hopefully, these tips will help you to achieve your goals for this year, and work towards creating a more environmentally friendly approach to shopping. As recently as 2020, 65% of plastic packaging was going into landfills and being incinerated, despite being reusable or recyclable. A ‘No-Buy’ or ‘Low-Buy’ year is a great way to recognise your own shopping habits and carbon footprint, and if paired with pressure on companies for climate action, could be a positive way to force production industries to take note of their impact on the environment.


Whatever you choose to do, I hope this new year brings you closer to your environmental and financial goals. Happy 2024!

About the Author: Grace Clift is an English Literature student at the University of York with particular interest in UK politics, climate issues and literature. Grace can be contacted via her email,, or Instagram, @gracevclift.

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