Buy Nothing Groups-Feel Good Ways to Save Money

Buy Nothing groups measure wealth by personal connections made and trust between people.

As an Organizer I see, firsthand, VAST amounts of stuff. We are mega consumers. I physically remove and transfer boxes (and boxes) and bags (and bags) of donatable items to charities and other organizations. Much of which will end up for resale. I’m fond of the proverb-Charity begins at home. One’s first responsibility is for the needs of one’s own family and friends. To me, this also includes community.

I am a thrifter at heart. I love second-hand, consigned and bartered items. Not only do you save money, you’re diverting useful things from landfills. And, helping out your neighbours! So, when I was invited to join a local, “Buy Nothing” group, I JUMPED at the opportunity!

A Buy Nothing Group? Be still my thrifty heart!

Buy Nothing & Love Thy Neighbour

A Buy Nothing group is typically an online or Facebook group. It’s hyper-localized to your town or neighbourhood. Locals can post items they want to give away or are in need of-for FREE. Members can post requests for specific items too! Selling is not permitted. It’s known as a “gift economy” that allows members to give where they live.

I asked my dear friend and active Buy Nothing group participant, Aviva Troemel, about her personal experiences as a member of a local Buy Nothing group. Essentially, she wrote this blog. (Thanks, Girl!) Here’s what she had to say:

Fast Fashion & Cheap Plastic Goods

“We live in a culture of fast fashion and cheap plastic goods. With exploitive labour conditions in third world countries, many electronics are designed to break or are not easily reparable. Replacement parts are either difficult to source, more expensive than buying a new unit or, non-existent. In short, we are drowning in stuff. Beyond that, we are spending money hand over fist. We used to buy something once and have it for a long time.

Buy Nothing groups may help divert objects destined for landfill.

…we are drowning in stuff.”

Aviva Troemel

So, how do we stop spending money and declutter at the same time? Sure, you could try to buy and sell items online but that can quickly turn into a big headache. Negotiations. Arranging schedules. Delivery requests and no shows. These all add up to little or no real profit.

The Buy Nothing Movement

Then, I discovered this movement across Canada consisting of Buy Nothing groups on social media. I joined my local Buy Nothing group to do exactly what I outlined above-stop buying too much stuff AND to purge a bunch of my “still good but no longer used” items. As I began participating in the group another amazing benefit emerged: Community Spirit.

It started kinda the way you would expect. You look around a bit and see a thing here or there. Soon enough we were coordinating pick-up routes and exchanging porch gifts like farm fresh eggs and jams in gratitude. We would remember when another member had been looking for something and tag them in posts. It feels pretty great to give and to see your old items bring joy or be of use.

Many Buy Nothing groups in Canada use this as the page profile picture.

“It feels pretty great to give and to see your old items bring joy…”

Aviva Troemel

I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, I feel like it’s more than that, but the idea of sharing in your community and not spending anymore of our hard-earned dollars seems alright to me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a coffee maker and area rug to pick up!”

Rock on, Sister! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Oh, and for the awesome, oversized glass jars that are currently housing my oatmeal.

Buy Nothing. Give Freely. Share Creatively.

These are just a few of the reasons why Megan Ashworth Hartlen is an Administrator for Buy Nothing Canada group in the Musquodoboit Harbour area in Nova Scotia: “I liked the idea of fostering a gift economy for so many reasons, from strengthening community to repurposing things that might otherwise be discarded. What I didn’t expect was how popular and active the group would become! There is so much joy in the group, people are so appreciative and willing to come up with ways to share when more than one person would like the same thing.”

Buy Nothing Canada can trace its roots to the ever evolving Buy Nothing Project that started over 7 years ago on Bainbridge Island in the Salish Sea by co-founders Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller. Today there are over 1.5 million participants in local groups around the world, in at least 26 countries! The entire movement is led by volunteers like Megan.

“Not only does this forum encourage & facilitate purging of unnecessary items, but I really feel that this giving thing is so good for people’s mental health too. Speaking for myself, it makes me happy.”

Megan Ashworth Hartlen
Can confirm-Giving on Buy Nothing groups feels this good!

Building Community

I have noticed some unique engagement with my local Buy Nothing group including: Wish List Wednesday and the Buy Nothing Travelling Bin. On Wednesdays, members can use the hashtag #wishlistwednesday to post petitions for specific items. Other group members actively keep their eyes open and often tag or notify the requester if that item becomes available during the week.

The Travelling Bin was originally created in 2018, we have Megan to thank for its birth! The goal was to pass it around, take what you can use out of it and put stuff in that you no longer need. Well, Covid has changed the way we look at things being passed around. Currently, the revamped Buy Nothing Travelling Bin resides at local clothing store, Piper and Max in Porters Lake. I am LOVING the inclusivity and accessibility of a local public Buy Nothing bin!

The Buy Nothing Travelling Bin located at Piper and Max in Porters Lake

Pits & Pearls of Buy Nothing Groups

Members can offer items in the group in a couple of ways: They can decide to “flash gift”, which is when an item is given to the first person who responds, or they can let an offer sit for a few days before giving it away at their discretion.

If you are active on the group, the “first come, first served” approach can really work to your benefit. I know that it can be a source of frustration when you see the same members scooping up available items again and again. Hopefully, in turn, those members reciprocate by contributing items to the group as well. That is the essence of the group after all.

If You (No Longer) Love Something Set it FREE!

I sometimes marvel at the volume of items exchanging hands on the Buy Nothing group. As an Organizer, I wonder if one day I’ll be gathering them for donation. If anything, for me, a Buy Nothing group helps me realize how much stuff I have that I don’t need. It’s also a really good reminder that it’s easy to accumulate objects out of impulse or habit. Although, I did score a sweet pair of black leather booties that I didn’t exactly NEED. Accordingly, I will post a pair of shoes collecting dust in my closet.

If you are ready to declutter, organize and simplify then joining a local Buy Nothing group is a good way to rid yourself of unwanted items. Just be careful not to replace your purged items with all the tempting, free stuff! If you aren’t sure where to start, please reach out to your friendly, neighbourhood Organizer for advice.

Yours in All Things Sorted (and FREE!),


Too cute, couldn’t resist. Perfect fit!

4 thoughts on “Buy Nothing Groups-Feel Good Ways to Save Money”

  1. that is a wonderful idea we have something similar in the small area I live but it is mixed in with a neighbourhood information site….would be a great idea to have it on its own for sure.

  2. This is an awesome article! I could feel the enthusiasm throughout. I love the story and the concept. Free stuff for our community…I’m in!


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