Buying Nothing New: vacationing challenges

When I took on this buying nothing new challenge, I figured the year would be a piece of cake. After all, I grew up wearing hand-me-downs. I lived in a laundry room during university for a year. I’ve never owned an iPod or felt particularly drawn to gadgets and gizmos. I’d rather roll through broken glass and take a vinegar bath than spend an afternoon at the mall.

For whatever reason, the mass-consumer switch has never been switched on in my brain which is why I was ready to coast through this year of buying nothing new. But already, only a month or so into the challenge, I’m finding it more difficult than expected.

I was away on vacation last week in Costa Rica (stay tuned for some I’ve Never posts about the trip) which presented a number of non-consumer challenges. Here are a few that forced me to stop and think:

Problem #1: Swimming trunks. Growing up, I’d often take a swim in Lake Huron in the nude. Unfortunately I don’t think the staff or guests at the Riu Gunacaste resort I was at last week would have been okay with that idea. So before I left I searched high and low for my swim shorts and realized that I had either thrown them out, left them at someone’s house, or they had disintegrated due to old age.

The solution: Mending. I ended up borrowing a pair of bright yellow trunks from my friend, Rob. They were way too big and they had a big tear in them but thanks to the power of the draw string and my friend Tina’s sewing skills, I was ready for the pool. And thanks to the all-you-can-eat buffets at the resort, by the end of the week the trunks started fitting a lot better.

Me, on Rob’s shoulders, showing off my swim trunks in all their mended glory.

Problem #2: Sandals. I do own a pair of sandals, but apparently I’ve been storing them in the same place as my lost swim trunks because I could not for the life of me track them down.

The Solution: Borrowing. One of the great things about being friends with Matt Kruschack is that he’s roughly the same size as me. And over the past decade or so since I’ve known him I’ve received many a garbage bag full of hand-me-down clothes he no longer wants. In fact there’s a “new” bag of clothes behind me right now as I write this. One of the great things about Matt’s wife, Natalie, is that she doesn’t like a lot of what Matt wears which means even more frequent hand-me-down bonanzas. As expected, Matt hooked me up with a pair of sandals and Natalie insisted that I never return them.  Score.

Problem #3: Souvenirs. I’ve never been big into knick-knacks or other souvenirs but it would have been nice to come home with some memento of my trip. Rob (whose generousity extends beyond old swim trunks), was charitable enough to buy me a little turtle souvenir which was awesome.

The Solution: Bend the rules. I know, I know – lame solution. But I’ve decided add another exception to the buy nothing rules to allow getting photos developed. I’ve always found pictures to be the best and most meaningful form of souvenir and there are just too many great photos from this trip to not get them printed. If anyone has suggestions for how I can creatively frame these photos without buying anything new, please leave your ideas in the comments below!

Problem #4: Thank you gift. My Aunt Ann was a rock star as usual and agreed to babysit my dog, Stockie, all week. And while Stockie is hardly a handful (especially in her advancing years), she did manage to barf at one point after eating a bunch of coyote poop. Stupid dog. I wanted to give Ann a token of my appreciation but was stymied by my buy nothing rules.

The Solution: Homemade. I’m not sure if my cooking will be considered a gesture of gratitude or punishment, but I’m making Ann supper on Monday to thank her for her help with ol’ Crap Eater. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of homemade gifts like a thank you dinner. It gives it a more personal touch and will give Ann and me a chance to catch up and have a few laughs.

The simplest solutions to the above problems would have been to pop by Wal-Mart to buy a new pair of trunks and sandals and to buy as many souvenirs as I wanted, including one for Ann as a thank you gift. But I’m liking how this buy nothing new challenge is forcing me to think a bit more creatively about consumption and how ingrained it is even in me, who considers himself to be quite anti-consumer already.


Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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10 Responses to Buying Nothing New: vacationing challenges

  1. Dianne Martin says:

    I have quite a few old frames not being used and store your pictures on your computer to develop them next year….hahahha.

  2. Sarah P says:

    I also have a bunch of old frames not being used, as well as some left over white spray paint if you want to make them look new again…if you want to jazz some of them up even more, you are welcomed to come and have a “craft” hour with me and I can show you how to make those frames look like you bought them while on vacation.

  3. Damien says:

    Sounds like and awesome trip. I’m wondering though if the plane that flew you there was fuelled by experiential riches or more conventional fuels. Perhaps since petroleum is just recycled dinosaurs it doesn’t count as “new.”

    (So says the man sitting in his large suburban home with his two resrouce sucking children in the background.)

    • I hear ya. definitely an ongoing tension. i also chose to move out of the city to get away from the hub-bub and have a quieter, simpler lifestyle but of course that means i’m driving ridiculous distances to work now and pumping that much more fossil fuels into the air… sigh.

      • Rob says:

        I hear getting down there via motorcycles is a lot better for the environment…

        To “within five years”.

        Also, that is some fabulous form in the pool.

  4. Marie McCrudden says:

    When the spring time arrives, there will be lots of yard sales. I suggest checking them out for old picture frames.
    Also, you could find some twigs/branches on the ground in the woods and build your own rustic photo frames. I have a glue gun and glue if you want to borrow….

  5. Heather says:

    Josh! You need to check out the MCC Thrift Shop. Everything goes to MCC projects, and the goods have been donated. It is always a ton of fun, and you know you’re supporting something great. Check out for a location near you! 🙂

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