There Is No Such Thing As Free Stuff

This post brilliantly explains why I am trying to extend my Buy Nothing Year to things with a $0 price tag. Why does money influence decisions so much? After the money is paid or not paid there is absolutely no difference to your long-term happiness and enjoyment of your home. So why do we forget to question whether we really want the item just because it’s free?

Minimal Millennial


If there’s one thing I remember from high school economics, it’s that acronym. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

And I think I know why it’s stuck with me for so long – it’s true.

In college, I loved getting free lanyards and water bottles and coozies (I’ve never even used a coozie) from career fairs and other campus activities.

Once I got my own apartment, I often picked up furniture that was left by dumpsters and brought it home with me. I didn’t even do anything cool with it, like my friend Meg does over on her blog – her buffet and mini chest are breathtaking.

I still have a hard time resisting the “free stuff” I find sitting out by the curb. But it’s not really free.

There is no such thing as free stuff

How we’re paying for this free stuff

Free stuff can actually be really expensive when you do the…

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Op Till You Drop!

Well my Buy Nothing Year is going well (Day 33). I haven’t bought anything new other than gifts and consumables. I am struggling a little with free items given to me by others, but more on that later.

Today, let’s talk about SHOPPING. Op shopping, to be precise. For those of you on the other half of the world, I’m talking about charity shops, second hand shops, good will shops, whatever you like to call them.

Australia’s National Op Shop Week started today and runs until August 30th, 2015.

Why this week? The start of spring is the most popular time of year for women to clear out their wardrobes. Nearly a quarter of women sort and de-clutter during September. That means a whole bunch of new stuff appearing in shops, and shopping heaven!

It’s also great timing for the Garage Sale Trail, which will be happening all over Australia on October 24th. If you’re a little behind in your spring clean or you’d like to make some money for your efforts, maybe it’s time to start planning your garage sale.

Here are some scary stats to motivate you to cull your wardrobe:unnamed

  • 62% of women have clothes that have never been worn or still have tags on.
  • 83% of women have clothes that they’ve only worn once or twice.

Luckily, it sounds like we’re already on to it:

  • 97% of Australian women have donated an item to a charity op shop at some point in their lives.
  • nearly 9 out of 10 women (88%) have purchased something from a charity op shop.

Before I started Buy Nothing Year, I did a Buy Nothing New Year. You have no idea how much time I spent on op shops that year. These are my top tips for celebrating National Op Shop Week:


Op shops aren’t just an easy way to get rid stuff you no longer want. They don’t make their money from the clothes, they make money from the sales. There are way more reasons why it’s better to shop second hand than buy new than I could fit into this post.

If you are donating, remember that anything you give has to be of good quality. Look at the item that you’re donating and ask yourself if you would buy it. Op shops have to do something with all the stuff they can’t sell. Some clothes might be turned into rags, but many items end up being thrown away. Don’t think that an op shop can throw something away just as easily as you can. Charities pay millions every year to dispose of rubbish and unusable ‘donations’. The more they throw out, the more they pay, and the less money they have for a good cause. Don’t be a dumper, be a donor!

The best thing to do is find out what each shop is willing to accept. Look at their website, give them a call, or bring your stuff to them during opening hours. Many charities will also collect items from your home. Check out these tips for how to donate to op shops.

Grab a bargain

You really can’t beat op shop prices. I’m still chuffed with an op shop purchase from a few months back. After already having scored a Cue top and several other fabulous work tops, I felt like a shoplifter upon finding an Alannah Hill top (worth at least $150) on the ‘Manager’s Special’ rack – for 50c! I was sure it was a mistake and had paranoid visions of someone catching me committing this fashion crime. I was certain that the instant I walked out of the store someone would come racing after me, yelling out that it was actually $20!

And you know what? I didn’t pay 50c for it. When the teller added up my purchases and named a price I wasn’t expecting, I felt even more like a criminal. I couldn’t even think clearly enough to do the math. I quickly grabbed my things before they realised and rushed out of the store, only to later realise… I’d been overcharged!! I’d paid $1!!!

I didn’t complain.

But don’t be fooled by the bargain

How many clothes have you bought because they were a steal, and then never (or rarely) wore? Pay attention to your inner dialogue when op shopping (or new shopping). Maybe you could relate to my typical shopping experience, which goes something like this:

“Hmm… this top is alright, I wonder how much it is… $1.25! Wow! That’s amazing! What a bargain, I must have it!”, I think as I quickly pull the top off the rack, miraculously adding it to my hand already holding 12 other items as I madly continue to hunt through the racks.

Later, as I stand frowning at the changing room mirror, the monologue becomes a conversation:

“It’s a bit tight under the bust.”

“Well I have just had a really big lunch. I’m sure it’ll fit once the curry goes down.”

“The straps keep slipping down.”

“I guess I could shorten them,” and as I pinch the straps to see how that might look “Yes, I can sew that up easily”, forgetting I have no sewing skills.

“I’m still not sure about the style.”

“Oh stuff it, it’s $1.25!”, and I rush to the checkout.

I would say that about 10% of my ‘bargains’ are well worn and loved, and make me happy every second I wear them. About 50% are ok – they’ll do. The other 40% annoy the hell out of me. They squeeze or scratch or flop or crease or slip or jab… or just don’t look right. They’re the first to go, but eventually all 90% of my unloved bargains end up being rehomed. So were they really a bargain? Would I have ‘saved’ more by keeping that $1.25 and saving myself the stress of imperfect clothing, clutter, and the ordeal of finding clothes a new home?

I’ve now started asking the same questions for a $1 item as I do for a $100 item. Do I love it? Will I still love it in a month, a year, 5 years? Is it durable? Do I need it? How will I get rid of it when I no longer need it? Is there a better alternative? Do I reeeaally need it? Shop within reason!

Find an op shop

So what are you waiting for? Head down to your local op shop to donate or upgrade your wardrobe or home (I am obsessed with buying old teapots). To find charity shops in Australia, check out this list or search using your postcode.


I’d love to hear from you. Do you love op shops too? What’s the best/worst/weirdest thing you’ve ever bought?

Beautiful Blogger Award

I was pleasantly surprised to find All Round Better Me nominated me for a Beautiful Blogger Award!


This is how it works: link the blogger who nominated you; list seven random things about yourself; nominate seven creative, beautiful bloggers; notify the people that you nominate.

I’m going to be a party pooper and not nominate anyone. I don’t think I even know 7 bloggers in total!

But being new on the blogging scene, I’ll gadly introduce myself with 7 random facts. Here goes….

  1. I have a beautiful rescue dog called Sophie who is currently snoring on her bed, snuggled up in her hoodie (it’s a cold night).
  2. I have a hubby, whom I married nearly 2 years ago. Let’s not tell him that he came second on this list, shall we? Love you….
  3. I used to go out bush and study wildlife for a living.
  4. I’ve been decluttering for the last couple of years and aspire to creating a minimalist home.
  5. I’m a hoarder (reformed?).
  6. I live to eat. I also travel to eat. I like to eat.
  7. My favourite kind of movie is animated, but I prefer to read.

I think I might go eat something now….

A new thing

Hubby bought a chest freezer today and I’m so happy with it. I do feel like I’m cheating though. It’s silly to have purchase guilt over this when it fits within the rules.

The freezer counts as a pet purchase and furniture, both allowed, and was bought second hand. We’d been talking about getting one for a while. We have a large dog who eats a lot. We’ve been struggling to fit all her food into our tiny freezer in the fridge. With a chest freezer, we can bulk buy meat when we find it cheap, and not have the fortnightly stress of running out of food for her. It will make life so much easier!


So why the guilt? Maybe it feels like the challenge has been to easy so far, because there are exceptions in the rules.

International Buy Nothing New Month is only a couple of months away (October). I think I might up the challenge and try to acquire absolutely nothing in October.

No exceptions. No gifts, no furniture, no dog stuff, no nothing. Only fresh produce like fruit, veg, bread and milk (and dog food). I have enough toiletries and pantry supplies to last a month.

The biggest challenge will be avoiding eating out – am I ready for that?

Spending time

It’s day 18 of Buy Nothing Year with nothing bought.

I was reading these 10 ways to stop shopping and thought about what makes me stop shopping. I really think it’s a habit you have to learn. I’ve taught myself to stop and ask myself ‘How will this make my life better?” with each purchase.

But it’s easy to kid yourself. “This dress will make me so happy because none of the 40 dresses I already own flatter me like this, and it has slightly larger polka dots than the three other polka dot dresses I have.”

It’s much easier to not even let yourself find a purchase to question by not going into or near any shops. A question I ask myself then is “What could I do instead?”


How many hours have you spend browsing shelves and racks, trying on clothes, or just wandering around between shops? What could you have done with that time instead? I think it’s too easy to just fall into shopping by accident.

Last week, I found myself leaving work earlier than usual. I work in the city, surrounded by shops. I walked towards the bus station and thought “Maybe I should make the most of this extra time and have a look in some shops?” I even veered towards a gift shop, full of pretty things. It didn’t take long for me to catch myself falling into the trap.

Is mindlesss shopping (even if it’s just window shopping) really ‘making the most of it’? What else would I do with that time if I walked right past all the shops? I would squeeze in some extra play time with my dog and cuddle her and my husband. I think it’s pretty obvious which would make me happier. I really enjoyed my puppy play time.

Buy Nothing Year – The Rules!

Buy Nothing Year really should be called Acquire Nothing Year, but that’s not as catchy.

The goal of Buy Nothing New Year is to have less stuff. To have fewer distractions, less to clean or maintain, less clutter, less to worry about. Buy Nothing New Year is about realising that I do not need more stuff to be happy. It’s about reducing my environmental footprint by consuming less resources and generating less waste.

Saving money is not the goal, but it is a rather obvious benefit of buying nothing. Because it is just a side-effect, not the goal, this means I can’t just hop on freecycle and still acquire loads of stuff this year. The same rules apply to stuff at any price: retail, cheap or free. It’s still stuff, and the rules apply equally.


The rules for Buy Nothing New Year

My Buy Nothing New Year goes from 21 July 2015 until 20 July 2016.

What’s allowed:

In a word: consumables – the stuff that I need to live and that won’t stay in my life permanently. But even these I’ll try to keep to a minimum.

Specifically, I am allowed:

  • Food & drink but I will try to use up my pantry and freezer contents first, wherever possible.
  • Toiletries and cleaning supplies only once all supplies are used up.
  • Cosmetics, but only foundation and mascara (I have too much of everything else).

I will also allow some non-consumables:

  • Dog stuff – things like a new dog bed, harness, collar, toys… but within reasonable limits. Really, I should only buy new things once the old things no longer do their job (e.g. her harness is starting to wear through and her bed is flat and lumpy).
  • Gifts – because the challenge is about acquiring stuff, not just buying it, this one applies to giving and receiving gifts. As hard as I may try to convince people not to buy me stuff, and to buy my friends and family experiences instead of material possessions, gifts will remain a part of my life.
  • Furniture and house renovation items – hubby and I have lived in our house for 5 years now, and we’ve been waiting until we finish renovating before buying furniture. Renovating and furnishing our home is one of my main priorities, so it would not make sense to put it off for a sixth year. I really hope to have a new kitchen and floor tiles before this challenge is over.
  • Materials needed to repair, upcycle or create items that will prevent me from buying new stuff.

What’s not allowed:

  • Kitchen equipment or supplies like glad wrap or aluminium foil (dishwashing tabs count as ‘cleaning products’ and are allowed).
  • Clothes, shoes, handbags & accessories.
  • Unnecessary makeup, cosmetics, cleaning products or toiletries (this includes more than you think! More on this later…).
  • Decorative items and nick-nacks.
  • Books or jigsaw puzzles (though I may borrow them from friends or the library, provided they are returned or passed on).

The exceptions:

If I genuinely need something, like if a shoe fetishist were to break into my house while I slept and take off with every single pair I own, then I may allow myself to buy something. But  it wouldn’t be much of a challenge without a few restrictions, would it?

If I decide that I need something:

  • I will ‘shop on paper’ and write it down. Unless the purchase is urgent (damn you, shoe thief!), I will only be allowed to buy items off the list after 20 July 2016. This will allow me to re-evaluate the list after some time has passed. I bet half the items I ‘need’ will turn out to be ‘wants’.
  • Before letting any new item into my life, I must rehome three other items. This means completely removing them from my life, not just throwing them on a decluttering pile to be dealt with later (my tendency thus far!). This will guarantee that, no matter what happens, I will have fewer things in my life at the end of the challenge than at the start.
  • I will first try to borrow the item, then try to buy it second-hand, and only buy new if I can’t get it any other way. This will keep my environmental footprint and waste generation to a minimum.

That’s it for now! What do you think? I’d love to hear what rules you would add to the challenge, or what dilemmas you think I might face! Is there anything you might try doing too? Or did you maybe read something and think “Impossible! I could never  do that!”?