How a 'Buy Nothing' group can save you money and build a community

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Posted at 11:18 AM, Nov 30, 2022

"Buy Nothing" groups have exploded in popularity. They can help people save money, cut down on waste and connect with their local community.

Idgie Watkins and Cathy Kusman-Kelly participate in their community "Buy Nothing" group. In their group, neighbors exchange items and services for free.

“Someone gave away plumbing work. We have a brand-new harmonica kit. We went from beds and furniture to household stuff, pots and pans,” said Kusman-Kelly.

Saving money wasn’t the original motivation behind the Buy Nothing Project.

Liesel Clark and her friend noticed plastics washing up on beaches near their Washington state home. They and their children logged all the plastics they were finding and learned they were coming from everyone.

“They’re coming from our homes, our cars, our workplaces.”

In 2013, the Buy Nothing Project started off as a social experiment to see if they could find items they might need or want from neighbors before purchasing something new.

People started sharing and giving right away. Soon, Liesel developed rules and guidelines for others to start their own hyper-local "Buy Nothing" groups. Now, there is an app that has grown to more than 6.5 million users nationwide.

Liesel says most people start by posting items they want to give away. She encourages people to ask for something they need before buying it.

“We’re challenging people to think creatively about how they might be giving to their loved ones," she said. "People share food even over the holidays. And this is a great time when people are traveling, you can borrow luggage.”

The Buy Nothing Project also offers free online courses to teach people how to grow this gift economy.