Low Buy

At the start of this year, I decided to take up the “No Buy Year Challenge” that got popular on YouTube around New Years. More specifically I went for the “Low Buy” variant.

If you’re not familiar, the challenge is to go a whole year without buying anything, outside of a few predetermined exceptions like food and toiletries. I found out about the idea from this video by Grace Nevitt, but there are a ton of other videos out there.

The Low Buy variant is a less extreme version, with a significantly larger exception list.

I’m now 4 months in. I’ve been moderately successful in my stated goals. I’m giving up.

I wanted to do a break down of what my goals were, how it went, and why I’m dropping the challenge.



And no I haven’t bought that squat rack yet.


So my goals initially were to spend less, finally start selling stuff on eBay, and get more use out of what I already have. I also hoped to make more things.

I think I have largely succeeded, which is part of why I’m dropping the challenge.

How It Went

Well, the first thing you may have noticed is that my exceptions list is quite large. I really was doing the challenge on easy mode. I’m very lucky to have a good job and healthy finances. So this wasn’t really a problem.

Early on I ended up trying to avoid new items, even if they fell under the exceptions list, which made the challenge quite a bit harder. This hadn’t been my intention when I drew up the plan, but I got a sort of mental block on this point. More on this in a bit.

I was able to get more use out of what I already have. I returned to my PS2, Dreamcast, and Sega Genesis libraries for gaming. My girlfriend and I watched quite a few movies from our VHS and DVD collection. This was a nice win. I also started using the library again.

My biggest success from this entire project was that I finally started selling stuff on eBay. I had built up a large pile of stuff I wanted to get rid of over many years, but eBay selling just seemed daunting. It was not smooth sailing, and my anxiety definitely took over at times, but I ultimately prevailed. I got a nice influx of fun-money, and, on top of that, I cleared a ton of space in the house.

The goal of spending less didn’t go so well. I had a number of medical issues come up so any money I might have saved went there. But, even ignoring that, I still bought kind of a lot of stuff, and the truth is that I was already pretty close to following these rules before I started the challenge.

Unforeseen Consequences

One thing I didn’t anticipate is how much doing the challenge would make me think about the stuff I couldn’t buy. Like I said, I was already loosely following a lot of these rules before. But it actually became harder to do so now that I had written them down. I thought a lot more about not buying stuff, which is just another way to think about buying stuff.

Another problem I encountered was that the challenge added to my stress and guilt in unexpected ways. I mentioned earlier that I got a mental block around some of my exceptions. I avoided making purchases I had specifically intended to allow, or felt bad when I did make them. I ended up spending a lot of the challenge feeling guilty and overthinking every little purchase, even after it was complete. And ultimately this is the primary reason that I’m quitting.

Unforeseen Circumstances

A big hindrance to the project was my rapid realization that advertisement, microtransaction, and subscription based entertainment solutions are failing me (and, it seems, everyone else). Subscription fees were not something I included in the challenge - because, for me, the challenge was primarily about stuff not money. However physical media, like games, music, and DVDs, was part of the challenge.

I may write about this more later, but for now I will say that I’ve bought more DVDs this year than I’ve purchased in the last decade. That wasn’t hard to do, as before the number was “practically none,” and this year I picked up a lot of used DVDs for very cheap - entirely funded by my eBay and Craigslist sales.


If it wasn’t for this new fixation on physical media, and the increasing failures of subscription media services, I would have been incredibly successful in this challenge. Instead I’m ending on kind of an ambivalent partial success. I learned how to use eBay and gained back a lot of space in my house, but I didn’t really save much money.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in being more intentional about their purchases to give this challenge a try. Just don’t take it as seriously as I did.

I also want to be clear that I understand that it is a privilege to be able to do this voluntarily rather than out of necessity. I am extremely lucky to be in the situation I’m in. But I also want to stress that our culture pushes people of all income levels to spend beyond their means, and that can be very destructive for even very affluent people. This challenge is a good way to reset.