Bye-Bye “Buy Nothing Day”

“Buy Nothing Day” is a silly idea. I mean, cute…but silly.

In case you haven’t heard of it, “Buy Nothing Day” is the day when we’re all supposed to rebell, we’re supposed to stick it to the Man by not buying anything. ‘Cause after all, that’s what the Man, the System, the Capitalist Machine wants.

It always seemed silly to me. My reasoning was simply that, look, if I don’t buy that new CD today, I’m just going to buy it tomorrow. And the symbolic significance of a November 24 dip in retail sales is pretty effectively blunted by the corresponding — and inevitable — rise in sales on the 25th.

My friend Andrew Potter, co-author of The Rebell Sell gives a much more elegant argument in this really good interview, here.

…the gist of it is that it makes no more sense to talk about Buy Nothing Day in the absence of “Earn Nothing Day”, than it would be to talk about there being a surplus of heads over tails in the coin economy. They’re two sides of the same thing. And so our argument is you might as well call Buy Nothing Day, “Earn Nothing Day”, but that doesn’t have the same pleasantly cool ring to it.

You can get a fuller version of the anti-Buy-Nothing-Day argument by buying a copy of The Rebell Sell (which sells in the U.S. under the title Nation of Rebels).

So, my advice on Buy Nothing Day: go buy a book.

p.s. the contests from Tuesday and Wednesday are still open….

8 comments so far

  1. Loulou on

    I reallyl love, as does everyone here, the ‘Buy Nothing Day’ concept. We created our site for exactly that reason so let’s hope that people will get together and remind each other to make a difference.If we can all just stop and think about how much we consume without any thought of what we already own (and are ready to discard) then things might be, just a little bit, different and better. Please feel free to link to us, or not, it’s up to you.Enjoy the non-consumption day!

  2. Chris MacDonald on

    LouLou:I’ve approved your comment, even though it doesn’t really say anything about the arguments put forward in my blog posting.Also, it’s kind of odd — deceptive? — to imply that your website is an alternative to consumerism, when it says right on your main page that it’s a place where people “…can swap, barter, exchange, trade <>or even sell<> their products and services.” [emphasis added]Regards,Chris.

  3. Katie on

    I see what you’re saying, and I always have moments where I think “gee, what’s the point of this when I’m just going to buy this another day.” But I continue to celebrate Buy Nothing Day because I think it’s really valuable as an awareness tool. When I am consciously trying not to buy *anything* for one day, I notice all the little places where I just unconsciously buy things way more often than I think I do. A snack here, coffee there, etc. etc. BND makes me have to think about what I’m doing and how I’m spending, and ultimately, how I’m living. It’s a good reality check for my finances and how attached I’ve gotten to quick and easy things. I’m reminded how easy it really is to pack a lunch, resist snacks, and make dinner at home with what I have in the fridge. Oh yeah, cooking, that’s what that is! Anyhow, just wanted to share this perspective.

  4. Chris MacDonald on

    Katie:Thanks for your comment.That’s the most sensible defense of BND I’ve read in a long time. I think the STATED purpose of BND — to reduce consumption overall — is misguided, but you’re right, I think, that BND has two plausible roles for individuals:a) making them think twice about purchases that strain their own budgets; andb) making them think twice about the *kinds* of purchases they make, and whether the most highly-advertised thing is always the best thing for them.Chris.

  5. elaine on

    hello Chris, i think your post misses the point. No-one seriously espects that buying nothing for one day will toppple the capitalist machine. Just as Earth Hours doesnt suddently made everyone stop emitting carbon dioxide. But both events serve to create awareness for real issues,and demonstrate a strentgh of collective force which may just, with a little luck, change some perceptions and behaviours.

    best wishes

  6. Chris MacDonald on


    Thanks for your comment.

    I realize there’s supposed to be a symbolic & awareness-raising element. But what’s it supposed to be making us aware of? Consumerism? That we consume too much? Well, again, I return to the point above: consuming less is nearly impossible, unless you literally burn money. As Heath & Potter point out, every dollar earned is going to be spent, eventually, somewhere, by someone.


  7. elaine on

    thanks for your response , Chris. I think, for me, it’s both about how much we consume, and how discerning we are as consumers. Do we really need everything we buy? Could we not reuse and recycle more? Are we making consumer choices which support responsible business practices from ethical manufacturers? Maybe every dollar that will inevitably be spent could be spent in a more sustainable way.


  8. Chris MacDonald on


    The latter is a laudable goal, for sure.

    I just don’t see it as an obvious focus of Buy Nothing Day.


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