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Buy Nothing Day

Updated on September 13, 2015
drpennypincher profile image

Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

Could You Buy Nothing for a Day?
Could You Buy Nothing for a Day? | Source

What Is Buy Nothing Day?

Buy Nothing Day is an annual event each year to bring attention to anti-consumerism and highlight the excesses and negative impacts of consumerism.

See below for the date of Buy Nothing Day every year.

What's Wrong with Buying Things?

One question that Buy Nothing Day brings into focus: What impact does buying things have on the world? Let's look at one of the things I consume every day- coffee.

In my house, you'll find coffee beans imported from Central America and sometimes from Sumatra in Indonesia. Of course buying these coffee beans stimulates the expendature of lots of resources. Land is used to grow coffee beans. Labor resources are consumed to harvest the coffee beans. Fuel is consumed to transport the coffee beans thousands of miles from the place where they are harvested to roasteries and eventually to my house via a grocery store.

Does Buying Coffee Make The World A Better Place?
Does Buying Coffee Make The World A Better Place? | Source

Find ways to save money- and resources- every day at Penny Pincher Journal!

1. Consumption of the Earth's Limited Resources

So my decision to buy coffee beans drives a lot of economic activity and consumption of resources. Does this make the world a better place? I would say no. Pollution is produced burning all of the fuel required to transport the coffee beans. The laborers who harvest the coffee beans may not enjoy good working conditions. I sometimes buy "Fair Trade" coffee beans, but the net impact on the planet of my consumption of coffee beans is negative. This is the first issue with buying things- it often has a negative impact on the planet in terms of generating pollution and consumption of non-renewable resources.

2. Economic Benefits Are Directed to an Elite Few

Next question: who benefits when I buy coffee beans? Obviously I benefit, otherwise I wouldn't spend the money. I enjoy a great cup of coffee every day and it is worth the 60 cents I spend to make 16oz of world-class coffee every day.

The owners of the coffee companies, coffee plantations, fuel companies, and grocery stores are the ones who receive most of the economic benefit from my purchase of coffee beans. The people who harvest, roast, and transport the coffee beans make enough to get by- maybe. The people who own the businesses in the supply chain receive very high compensation. This is the next issue with buying things- the economic benefits are directed to an elite few.

Buy Nothing Day Raises Awareness of Consumerism

Most people don't really think about the impact of their spending habits. Buy Nothing Day attempt to bring attention to the impacts of these purchasing decisions by encouraging people to buy nothing for a day. Buy Nothing Day is not intended to have impact for only one day- it is intended to get people to reflect on the impacts of their consumption and change their spending habits and reduce their consumption year-round.

The timing of Buy Nothing Day was likely selected to have maximum impact on the Christmas shopping season. One of the negative aspects of the Christmas holiday is excessive consumption- people buy things that no one needs just to give presents. There must be a better way to express the holiday spirit...

Buy Nothing Day Video

When Is Buy Nothing Day?

In North America, Buy Nothing Day (BND) is held on "Black Friday", which is the day after Thanksgiving. In the rest of the world, Buy Nothing Day is held the last Saturday in November.

Dates for Buy Nothing Day 2014 - 2024

Buy Nothing Day (North America)
Buy Nothing Day (Outside North America)
Nov. 28 (Friday)
Nov. 29 (Saturday)
Nov. 27 (Friday)
Nov. 28 (Saturday)
Nov. 25 (Friday)
Nov. 26 (Saturday)
Nov. 24 (Friday)
Nov. 25 (Saturday)
Nov. 23 (Friday)
Nov. 24 (Saturday)
Nov. 29 (Friday)
Nov. 30 (Saturday)
Nov. 27 (Friday)
Nov. 28 (Saturday)
Nov. 26 (Friday)
Nov. 27 (Saturday)
Nov. 25 (Friday)
Nov. 26 (Saturday)
Nov. 24 (Friday)
Nov. 25 (Saturday)
Nov. 29 (Friday)
Nov. 30 (Saturday)
Buy Nothing Day is held the day after Thanksgiving in North America (Black Friday), and the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the rest of the world

What Activities Take Place During Buy Nothing Day?

There are several sorts of activities that take place during Buy Nothing Day. One event that you may come upon is cutting of credit cards. In pedestrian areas that are frequented by shoppers, you may find people offering to help you cut up a credit card. This is intended to reduce consumption and also reduce the shopper's dependence on debt.

The primary activity promoted during Buy Nothing Day is to not make purchases. This is difficult in the USA since Buy Nothing Day is the same day as "Black Friday". Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and is the kick-off for Christmas sales.

Last year, I went to a Black Friday Doorbuster sale. This sale was actually held on Thanksgiving evening. I was able to get $100 of savings on an iPad that I got my wife as a Christmas present. I guess having the Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving Thursday gives people a loophole to spend money on Thursday and then participate in Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday if they want to...

Excessive Consumerism!

Doorbuster Crowd at Walmart on Black Friday Eve (Thanksgiving Night)
Doorbuster Crowd at Walmart on Black Friday Eve (Thanksgiving Night) | Source

Can You Survive If You Literally Buy Nothing?

There are penny pinchers around that literally buy almost nothing every day of the year- not just on Buy Nothing Day. I recently came across the story of Bill Hatke who survived on $120 per year living in Lawrence, Kansas. And most of the $120 he spent went to pay property taxes on his small lot.

This post on has the details of how Bill Hatke raised his own vegetables and survived almost entirely while buying nothing: Penny Pincher Gets By on Only $120 a Year.

Consumerism- Finding Balance

Compared with Bill Hatke, I am a ravenous consumer. I spend many thousands of dollars every year on energy, food, clothing, and many other things. Yet, I am glad to receive the benefit from the efficiency of mass production of goods and services. I like the fact that I can find coffee beans from around the world sold conveniently at my local grocery store.

For me, consumerism is a matter of balance. There are a few people who choose to consume almost nothing, and I find this interesting- but I would not want to live like this. I want to take advantage of what the world has to offer, but in moderation. For me, the best approach is "Buy Little Day". For me, every day is "Buy Little Day". I buy things that I appreciate and enjoy. I know that this has an impact on the world, but I am willing to accept this. I hope that I will be able to contribute overall to the world in a way that offsets the impacts of my consumption.

Do You Plan to Participate in Buy Nothing Day?

See results

© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher


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    • drpennypincher profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Penny Pincher 

      6 years ago from Iowa, USA

      jtrader, there are examples of trade where many people benefit, but as you suggest this is often not the case. Thanks for your comment and your vote up!

    • jtrader profile image


      6 years ago

      As you pointed out, consumerism is a matter of balance. Jamaica grows the finest coffee in the world and it is done by small farmers who group together to sell their produce overseas through Wallenford. They benefit by growing coffee. However, in some industries people are working for big businesses and get nothing out of it. Voted up and useful!

    • drpennypincher profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Penny Pincher 

      6 years ago from Iowa, USA

      MJennifer, it sounds like you celebrate "Buy Nothing" day unofficially many times each year without even trying! That is cool that you have days where you can look back and see that you spent nothing. Thanks for reading and sharing!

    • MJennifer profile image

      Marcy J. Miller 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      I am much in synch with the "Buy Nothing Day" philosophy, although I never knew there was an official day of this sort until seeing your hub. I try to track my own expenditures in my planner daily and always write "Spent Nothing!" in large block letters on those fortunate days in which I have not bought anything. (I really should get those gold stars teachers used to put on kids' papers … although that would defeat the purpose of limiting reckless consumption, wouldn't it?)

      Buy Nothing Day is a great way to build awareness of our own habits in consumerism. Thanks for sharing the information.

      Best -- MJ

    • drpennypincher profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Penny Pincher 

      6 years ago from Iowa, USA

      AliciaC, it is very difficult for most people to go more than a few days without buying anything. Even buying nothing for one day makes you more aware of what you consume. Thanks for your comment!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Buy Nothing Day is an interesting idea. Even though I live in Canada, I've never heard of this event before. I'll celebrate it in 2014! On other days, your idea of having a "Buy Little Day" sounds like a great compromise.

    • drpennypincher profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Penny Pincher 

      6 years ago from Iowa, USA

      lmoyer92, I think it is a good exercise to think about the things you buy and how this impacts the world. I think the main point of Buy Nothing Day is to raise awareness. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    • lmoyer92 profile image

      Leon Moyer 

      6 years ago

      As much as I like the idea, I feel as though the impact of Buy Nothing Day would be more of a negative impact.

      Businesses have budgets in which they expect to sell certain volumes of merchandise on a given day, and if it's immensely thrown off on such a crucial day (Around Christmas season) it could really hurt some businesses. Perhaps not so much the large businesses, but the smaller ones.

      Regardless of my thoughts on this, I'm not sure if I've decided not to participate. The reasoning behind me possibly participating is to see if Buy Nothing Day actually does show negative results.

      Thank you for the Hub. Very interesting information.

    • drpennypincher profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Penny Pincher 

      6 years ago from Iowa, USA

      kidscrafts, Buy Nothing Day originated in Canada so there are probably lots of people in your country who are onboard with the concept. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • kidscrafts profile image


      6 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Buy Nothing Day is a great concept that I apply on a regular basis because I hate shopping :-) I try to do my groceries as efficiently as possible.

      What an interesting fellow Bill Hatke was! Great principles!

      Thank you for sharing! Have a great week!


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