Buy Nothing Groups: Save Money, Get Free Things, and Make Friends

by Jessica Sommerfield · 1 comment

facebook groups
Recently I joined a Facebook Group called Buy Nothing. At first, I thought maybe it was a type of bartering platform or re-sell market like Offer Up. Maybe it even had something to do with Buy Nothing Day, Buy Nothing Month, or No Spend November. But, as I read more, I realized the group wasn’t about any of these.

The Buy Nothing Project (buynothingproject.org) was started in 2013 by a few ladies from Washington state who wanted to help people reduce their consumption of new merchandise and lengthen the life of used goods already out there—and might otherwise end up in landfills. While this concept is shared by groups like The Freecycle Network and the free section on Craigslist, Buy Nothing groups center them around the local neighborhood.

Members of Buy Nothing groups are invited to both request and gift, lend or share items, services, time or help: selling or bartering are strictly forbidden. The possibilities are endless, and so are the advantages for those who participate.

Here are four reasons to consider joining a “Buy Nothing” Facebook Group.

buy nothing groups1. To Get Rid of Clutter

All of us have items lying around that we know we’ll never use again. If they’re worth something, we may sell them; if they’re not worth anything, we may donate them to a thrift store. Everything that’s left goes in the trash, right? But even if an item can’t be donated, someone in your neighborhood might find it useful.

Buy Nothing groups allow you to pursue a more ordered, minimalist lifestyle while giving someone specific the opportunity to benefit from your “junk.” It’s a good feeling to know you’re helping someone out while you help yourself de-clutter and de-stress.

2. To Save Money by Getting Things for Free

Maybe you need a large quantity of an item for a project or something odd and specific that, if purchased, would mean wasting a portion of it. Asking for these things in a Buy Nothing group doesn’t cost anything, and someone might have exactly what you need, for free.

On the flip side, people regularly offer new items and consumables they purchased in error or otherwise can’t use. While you may not be looking for these items, they could be things you use regularly or were planning on purchasing in the future. All of this can create more wiggle room in your budget for the things you do have to purchase.

3. To Enjoy Giving of What You Have — Even If It’s Just Time

One of the coolest things about these groups is the way they stimulate generosity.

They get you thinking about what you have that fulfills a request, even if you weren’t intending on gifting or lending it. For example, someone who just moved into the neighborhood on a tight budget might request bath towels or other household items, making you consider whether you have any to spare. Another member just wants to borrow a power-washer for a day so they can clean their siding — and you have one.

Maybe you won’t have many of the items you group is requesting, but you do have time, skills, and knowledge. This type of giving is even more valuable because there’s no way to price a kind deed. Doesn’t it feel good to have something to give or share?

4. To Create Connections With Your Neighbors

Buy Nothing groups aren’t anonymous, and they’re not just social networks. They build hyper-local connections among neighbors — a reflection of the project’s core principle to “give where you live.” The groups are kept small so everyone gets the chance to know their neighbors. To join, you’re asked to verify that you’re an adult who lives within the area designated, and you aren’t a member of any other group. Whenever groups get too big, they’re divided up into smaller areas.

As a society, we’re more independent and anti-social with our neighbors than ever before. Call it respecting people’s privacy if you like, but it means missing out on the possibilities of making new friends and building mutually-beneficial relationships with those who live right next to us.

Getting Started

Buy Nothing groups are a great way to live less wastefully, save money, experience the joy of giving, and build better communities, so I encourage you to find one and get involved.

Remember that it’s not a perfect system because, well, we aren’t! Sometimes there will be no-shows or drama over who was picked for a gift, but overall, it’s a well-moderated, gracious environment.

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