Buy Nothing Day: 5 Things To Do Instead of Shopping

In the week of Thanksgiving, my anxiety goes through the roof, and it is nothing to do with preparing pumpkin pie or family social gatherings. I’m not American, I don’t live in America and the only reason I even know that this week is Thanksgiving is because of all the emails I receive and ads I see which are talking about the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday.

Basically, the day after Americans give thanks for everything they have, they are encouraged to buy more stuff they don’t need through sales and price drops and special “Black Friday” offers.

Whilst Thanksgiving may not have spread across the ocean, Black Friday most certainly has.

As someone who has unsubscribed from almost every store newsletter, has a “no junk mail” sticker on the mailbox and uses adblockers on my laptop and phone, I’m still being heavily exposed to ads this week. Every business (whether selling products or services) seems to be trying to get me to buy stuff.

I don’t want to feel bullied or worn down into making a purchase. I don’t want to feel pressured or guilt-tripped into making a purchase. I do not enjoy being bombarded by adverts. Even if I actually need something, Black Friday will not be the day that I buy it.

On the day that every business on the planet seems to want to sell me something, I put my foot down, and buy nothing.

Black Friday is also international Buy Nothing Day.

Buy Nothing Day is an international day of not buying stuff. First organised in 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of overconsumption”, it has been held on Black Friday since 1997 (technically outside the USA and the UK, it is the Saturday after Thanksgiving).

For me, Buy Nothing Day is an opportunity to take a quiet personal stand against the pursuit of more. It’s a gentle protest.

Yes, it is only one day. It is not so much about giving up shopping for a day, as the significance of giving up shopping on this one particular day.

On the day where retailers are counting their customers and raking in profits and celebrating one of the top ten shopping days of the year, I choose to opt out.

And I’m going to invite you to, too.

Buy nothing. Sure, not the new electronics and new white goods and new clothing and new footwear. But also, no second hand items either. No eBay shopping or charity shop purchases. Not the groceries. No petrol. No stamps from the post office.

Literally, buy nothing.

It’s just one day.

It shouldn’t be that hard, should it?!

If you need a distraction from the pull of shopping, here’s 5 things you can do instead. No buying stuff required.

1. Borrow Something.

Head to your local public library and borrow books, magazines, board games, DVDs and more. Or, if the library is shut, browse the online catalogue and make some reservations. Some local libraries have ebooks, emagazines and even digital copies of movies for borrowing.

Or, if you’re not a member, become a member! At the very least, pencil in a time that suits you (and they are open) to join up.

Find out if there’s a tool library, or a toy library, or a library of things in your area.

Ask a neighbour or a friend if they can lend you something that you’ve been needing or wanting for a while.

And then, once you’re done with whatever it is that you borrowed, give it back.

2. Write Something

Write a blog post. Write a comment on your favourite blog post. Write a thank-you note to a friend. Write a to-do list of all the things whirring round in your head.

Write a letter to your local councillor or MP. You could add your voice of support or concern for a local project, or raise issues you think are important and would like them to address.

Write a letter to a business telling them what you think of the way they do business. Do you love their commitment to zero waste? Let them know? Do you find their lack of commitment to zero waste disappointing? Let them know.

Do you have a question about their sustainability policies, stance on single-use plastic, or eco-friendly initiatives for the future? Have you been wondering why they choose to do business the way they do? Do you have ideas for making their business more sustainable?

Don’t just think it…say it. Tell them what you think.

3. Bake Something

Don’t go out to the shops, though! Instead, look in your pantry and fridge and see what ingredients you already have, and then find a recipe that suits. It’s a great way to use up random ingredients that have been languishing in the cupboard a little too long.

Not a baker? Don’t have the ingredients to make cakes and cookies and sweet things? Well, get creative with what you do have. Discover a different way to cook a vegetable, or make a dish you’ve never made before.

4. Plan Something

We all have more ideas and less time than we’d like. Rather than go shopping, make a plan for putting one of your ideas into action. Whether it’s a bit of decluttering, planning a holiday, finding out where you can learn a new skill and when it would fit into your calendar, organising a catch-up with friends or family, or figuring out a few days to go hiking in nature, take some time to turn one of your great ideas into an action plan.

Next step, execute the plan!

5. Donate Something

Even better than not buying anything – give something away! Gather together some items that you no longer need, use or love, and take them to the charity shop, list them for free on Gumtree or another online classifieds platform, or – best of all! – join your local Buy Nothing Group and offer them for free there.

If you have packaged food or unopened toiletries, you could donate to a local food bank or refuge. If you have unopened pet food, or old towels and blankets, you could donate to an animal refuge.

If you’re really keen to spend some money on Buy Nothing Day, make a pledge to your favourite charity or local organization. Be sure to check the “no stuff” option – donations in exchange for “things” (sponsoring an animal and receiving a “free” stuffed animal toy, for example) is a little too similar to buying stuff!

If you’re in North America, then happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a marvellous time eating good food with great company, and that you have enough reusable containers that all of your leftovers may be saved for later.

Whether you’re in North America or not, happy Buy Nothing Day. I hope you’ll choose to opt out of the spending frenzy, take the time to borrow something, write something, bake something, plan something, donate something – or however else you’d like to spend your day – and buy nothing.

It’s only one day. Let’s make the most of it.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on Black Friday? How have your views changed over time? Have you heard of Buy Nothing Day? Are you keen to take part this year? (Oh, go on!) If you’ve been taking part for many years, what tips do you have for things to do instead? What do you plan to do to avoid the shops and adverts and pull of buying stuff this year? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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26 replies
  1. Eleanor Trebicki
    Eleanor Trebicki says:

    Hear, hear, Another big brother ploy to destroy the planet. This finally hit South Africa last year and although nobody has money there are so many ads for Black Friday.

  2. Vicki-Ann
    Vicki-Ann says:

    Have you seen the show on Netflix called consumed. People have so much stuff in their houses that they can’t move. Yep we need a buy nothing day that is for sure. I feel sad for people that feel they have to buy so much stuff. I will be spending the day in my vegetable garden. Great blogpost.

  3. Stephanie Jane
    Stephanie Jane says:

    I’ve been swamped with ads this week too. We’re in rural Spain at the moment and I’ve not seen much Black Friday advertising in the streets, but my e-mail is overrun with UK companies jumping on the American bandwagon. I saw a newspaper (Independent?) article about how BF deals aren’t necessarily even the best price for consumers anyway. There seems to be a kind of whipped-up shopping hysteria, but it’s not based on anything but hype and assumptions. Very strange!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Stephanie, yes mine have mostly come in via email – I’ve realised gmail runs sponsored ads inside my email! – which I wouldn’t have noticed were it not for all the Black Friday deals. And also Instagram – some people I follow but plenty of sponsored ads that are hard to skip. The best solution was to keep offline as much as possible for the week! Now it’s “cyber Monday” and perhaps then they can give us some peace… perhaps?!

  4. Sue Winyard
    Sue Winyard says:

    I love reading your latest news & have found some good ideas to follow up on. I am doing my best to live plastic free but it is so difficult to avoid. I am becoming a bit of an anti-plastic bore I think! Keep up the good work!

  5. Shady lady
    Shady lady says:

    I only leave our piece of paradise once a week (if I can help it) to catch up with my sister for coffee, chat and lunch. I go with my list (which is always minimal) containing only absolute essentials. Most weeks I go home buying nothing, I hate waste and I never feel compelled to buy and as for adverts I ignore them. I always go home feeling I have had a good day, looking at the new fashions for my sewing or knitting, books to borrow at the library, the only sad part being how much rubbish people are thinking they really need.
    My husband and I continue to set ourselves up for a “semi self sufficient” life style, so thanks Lindsey for all the great work you are doing trying to show others by example.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Ah I love this, sounds perfect! I’m pretty good at ignoring adverts (I rarely find the temptation to buy, realistically it has to be something that I absolutely need, and even then I’ll mull it over for months. My last non-food purchase was socks, about a month ago, and they have been on my shopping list for almost a year!). I do still find that adverts wear me down though, and it isn’t even for “stuff” – every service provider (things like web hosting, internet, website plug ins) is sending me Black Friday offers! I delete, but even then the action wears me out!

      Thanks for your kind words and lovely comment :)

  6. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Hear, hear! I’m American – I live overseas but I’m in the States for the holidays. I especially enjoyed reading this post after deleting all today’s emails with “Black Friday” in the Re line. I’ve just been in the UK, where Black Friday has been creeping in like a disease for the past several years now. In fact, there was a news item about a survey showing that people were stressing (in October) about the possibility that they wouldn’t get enough Black Friday bargains. Why is it that other countries always seem to import the worst of American culture?

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thanks for sharing, Andrea! Yes, deleting all those emails that somehow made it into my inbox was very tedious also! That’s crazy – people are worried they won’t get “enough” bargains?! I’d be more worried (well, not really, I know I don’t need things but you know what I mean) that I’ll somehow succumb to an offer and end up with a “bargain” – with one being one too many! Much rather save 100% of my money and not buy stuff I don’t need :)

  7. Penny Dunning
    Penny Dunning says:

    Love this article! I am an American who has never participated in Black Friday. I’m sad to hear that the idea has spread so widely. I teach Family and Consumer Science at a small rural school in Louisiana. I taught my students zero waste living and they know I’m a minimalist – some tease me and call me ‘treehugger.’ However, it’s been interesting to see how many have begun to change their habits.

    Like you, I minimize all exposure to emails, television ads, news stories reporting about Black Friday, etc. I stay home that day and avoid all traffic. I’ve never felt the pull to be a part of the frenzy. Most of my large family does the same. I read a good book, clean house, eat Thanksgiving leftovers, call family members I haven’t spoken with for a while, etc. This year, I’ll be spending the day keeping my sweet grandson!

    But today, on Thanksgiving, I’ll be visiting with extended family, eating some of the best Southern states and Cajun cooking, and most importantly of all – showing gratitude to God for a loving family and provision for all that we need.

    I enjoy your blog very much – keep up the good work!


  8. Vaness
    Vaness says:

    This is the first year I started getting those BF emails in Australia. I didn’t know what Black Friday meant till I asked and then noticed they’re everywhere. What on earth is going on, the world is drowning in plastic and rubbish and yet people are so incredibly compelled to buy buy buy. The behaviour of companies is atrocious.
    Thank you Lindsay for your gentle guidance through all this.

  9. Sheila
    Sheila says:

    I’m in Canada and I originally thought “black Friday” was a day of mourning! I don’t go to sidewalk sales at the stores because it’s all the junk the store couldn’t sell during that season and I have never done BF sales for the same reason, aside from the obnoxious crowds and pushing and shoving, ick!

  10. Judy Cinerari
    Judy Cinerari says:

    This subject really resonated with me. Before I reached your blog I was cursing all the “sale” offers on various sewing and quilting blogs I subscribe to. Such a waste of time and money. When I truly need something I will research it and purchase it. I refuse to be sucked into the buying frenzy.

  11. SarahN
    SarahN says:

    First – I didn’t have an adblocker on my phone and it was annoying (ads on such a small screen) so there’s a FREE app I downloaded – thanks. (I already had it for my browser).

    I’ll admit to some browsing and perusing of BlackFriday – particular through US bloggers I follow. Nothing bought however. Have been checking Christmas gift prices, but again, no purchasing.

  12. asimpelivingjourney
    asimpelivingjourney says:

    When I was reading this post I realized most of my days are “buy nothing” days. I shop once a week for my family of five, maybe have a coffee out once a fortnight, usually on the weekend with my husband if we are going to the beach as a family, or the botanic gardens, or where ever else takes our fancy. Friends and I usually go to each others houses to catch up, enjoying home made cakes and what not rather then ‘out’. Once a season I might purchase anything for the kids that might need replacing. A good half of our weeks are buy nothing weeks and I hadn’t even noticed.


  13. Leah Knapp
    Leah Knapp says:

    Black Friday has made it to Australia… boo. Most people seem to be perplexed by it, but I’m sure by next year it will be accepted as part of our culture. Hm.

  14. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    Just as I am reading this, another BF email ad pops up! I am having a week off in the Blue Mountains, enjoying going car free and walking in the very fresh air. As I am not at home I don’t have the ingredients to cook, so going out for a very nice locally made pie – at least I am supporting local industry and not some chain store. I also noticed the crazy things going on in the UK in the past few years, people literally fighting each other over some piece of polluting crap they don’t really need, and definitely cannot afford. Anyone would think BF is the end of the world! Anyway, off for that pie now.

  15. nofixedstars
    nofixedstars says:

    i have observed “buy nothing day” for some years now. i do so as a protest against over-consumption and also as a protest against the fact that for every shop featuring “black friday” sales, workers had to come in on thanksgiving day or work through the night (often without a choice in the matter) staging displays and preparing for the onslaught. even if neither of these issues were a consideration for me, i’d still boycott shopping anywhere on black friday due to the shocking displays of greed and obnoxiousness—even to the point of violence—associated with it. there is nothing i need or want that i can’t obtain some other day. sod it all! i’m buying nothing, and i’m very happy with that.

  16. Carletti Nina
    Carletti Nina says:

    Great blog spot, thank you for sharing those thoughts with us, they are simple things but that reminds us the important things in life! To live fully and with less.
    You are really an inspiring person and it helps me trying to do every day my best to have a better environment around me ! So thank you!

  17. Fyonna
    Fyonna says:

    Really agree with this post!! I don’t like feeling pressured into buying stuff on a particular day just because businesses have concentrated their advertising efforts to try and get me to (I’m a little this way inclined re Xmas too!).

    I make a pledge here and now to buy nothing today. Not even my usual morning coffee before work, not my weekly work lunch where I’d usually treat myself instead of bringing something in, and not even the work snack box which is full of chocolatey goodness.


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