The Buy Nothing Project

*This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure


We can’t seem to live without it. Over the decades, Americans have mastered the art of owning stuff. We even have stuff for our stuff. Heck, we even have stuff that stores the stuff for our stuff, all stuffed into a storage unit. It’s ridiculous.

Now, I’m not trying to bash the use of stuff. Stuff can be useful. It entertains, assists, satisfies our aesthetic needs and can even solve problems. Stuff is pretty great. But for some reason, we can’t seem to find a good way to deal with it once it has outlived its usefulness. We either try to sell it, throw it away, or store it FOREVER. All pretty lame solutions.*

Luckily, the internet (once again) has provided an avenue to help us get out of the endless cycle of buying more crap just to store it for 30 years.

Enter: The Buy Nothing Project

The title is pretty self-explanatory. The Buy Nothing Project is part of the “gift economy”, and exists to connect local neighborhoods and cities with each other to give away your things. Here’s a quick description from the Buy Nothing Project About Page:

The Buy Nothing Project began as an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, WA; in just 8 months, it has become a social movement, growing to over 25,000 members in 150 groups, in 4 countries. Our local groups form gift economies that are complementary and parallel to local cash economies; whether people join because they’d like to quickly get rid of things that are cluttering their lives, or simply to save money by getting things for free, they quickly discover that our groups are not just another free recycling platform…

The Buy Nothing Project started here in the beautiful state of Washington, but is quickly spreading worldwide, and for good reason. It’s simple to use, it creates community with your local city, and allows people to pick up things for free that you would otherwise spend thousands and thousands on over the years.

How It Works

The Buy Nothing Projects connects with people using simple Facebook groups. People can join the group if they are within the locale (say, in the city of Mill Creek), and start requesting items they are in search of, or posting items they wish to pass on. There is ABSOLUTELY NO MONEY or payment allowed for an item, it’s all free.

ISO: People who are looking for a certain item can post an “ISO” or “In Search Of” request on the Facebook page. Others then can jump in a comment if they believe they have the item they are looking for.

Item(s) To Pass On: Others who want to pass on an item will take a picture (or several) of the item and post it on the Facebook group page. Then they allow some time for others to jump in and request the item. If there are several takers, they do a random drawing (usually picking a number from Random.org) and select the commenter to gift the item to.

How To Pick Up The Items

Since we’re all crazy busy, and taking time out of two people’s schedule may be cumbersome, these groups have started using the PPU (or Porch Pick Up) method of distribution. When a winner is awarded the free item, they person giving sends a private message (PM) to the winner and gives them their address. They then set the items outside with a name tag on it for the winner to pick up at a later time.


More Than Money

But it’s not all about saving money. We have witnessed our city become a close knit community through this group. People who are hurting are getting helped. People who have abundance are blessing others. And people are getting to know their neighbors, become friends and sharing life together. It’s honestly weird to get to know people, as smart phones and other electronics rule our attention, society as a whole seems less connected. But the Buy Nothing Project is taking that same technology and breaking people out of their shell, as well as helping keep a bunch of stuff out of the landfills. How awesome it that?!

How We Use It

We joined our local Buy Nothing group almost a year ago. My wife thought the group sounded pretty awesome and we’re always down for some free stuff instead of draining our wallets. We got a few items (baby PJ’s and a baby sling), and we were pretty stoked. Then we saw someone give away a CAR! WOW!

I think that’s when we realized that this group was kind of a big deal. People who no longer needed an item could bless others with it instead of trashing it. Items now have a WAY longer lifecycle and could last through multiple families. There is an ABUNDANCE of stuff in the world, why waste it?

We even had a kid in our neighborhood who didn’t have a bike. He was so friendly with our son and loved playing with all the neighborhood kids, we wanted to give back in some way. He was moving soon, so we posted on the Buy Nothing group that we wanted to get a bike for our neighbor very soon. That’s when our group sprung into action.

On person said they had a bike, but it needed some work. Then a gentleman jumped in a said he repaired bikes and would be able to fix it. The group admin then jumped in a few seconds later and said she could swing by, pick it up and drop it off at his house. A few house later, the bike was dropped off at our house, in almost brand new condition. All within 6 hours! We gifted the bike “from the neighborhood” and he was ecstatic. That’s just a snippet of the kind of community that has formed.

Kid Bike

We have been blessed to save a TON of money on many items we would have paid hundreds out of pocket for. And we have been able to pass on and bless others as well. We no longer feel a sense of ownership of our stuff, but rather we “borrow” items until they have outlived their usefulness in our family, and pass it on. We no longer have the burned of trying to sell small items (and some big ones) because it’s much better passed on to those who may need it (plus they pick it up themselves)! We don’t carry the burden of having to keep something because “we paid a ton of money for it”, and instead we give and receive openly, knowing that we can probably find what we’re looking for, and help others do the same. It’s really a whole new way of looking at “stuff.”

For those interested, see some of the stuff we’ve picked up and given below…

Some Of Our Received Items

  • 2 Dining Room Chairs
  • TONS of baby clothes
  • Kid’s motorcycle for Nolan
  • Hutch to refinish for our room
  • Picture frames
  • Shoes
  • Adult clothing too!
  • Plants

Some Of Our Given Items

  • Tons of clothes (after Naked Lady Party)
  • Household items
  • Rhododendrons
  • Outdoor toys
  • Jewelry
  • Purses
  • Books

How To Join

Ok, so now that you know the Buy Nothing Project is THE best free recycling group out there and you also realize you don’t want to spend money on stuff anymore, how do you join today? Well, it’s simple. Just head on over to www.buynothingproject.org/ and look for their “Find A Group” tab. And if you don’t find one near you, why not start one?! Just click on the “Start A Group” tab and follow the instructions!

Stop wasting money and buying more stuff just to end of tossing it in the landfill a few years later. Enjoy the “gift economy” of Buy Nothing, and start saving and giving today!

I am in no way affiliated with The Buy Nothing Project, and just think what they are doing is awesome. I don’t receive any compensation for promoting them.

*Note: Selling is useful when you can get $25 or more for something, as a rule of thumb. But most everything we don’t need anymore probably won’t pull in much cash and isn’t worth your time. Focus on selling furniture, vehicles, artwork, and collectibles. Most everything else is a waste of time.

photo credit: khawkins04 via photopin cc

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

40 thoughts on “The Buy Nothing Project”

  1. There’s boatloads of Facebook pages that give away FREE stuff and we’re on almost all of them for our city. The premise is you have to give something away for free first before you can start accepting free stuff. That makes sense otherwise you might just end up with people looking for items rather than donating items to those in need. It’s a great way to keep items from the landfill and to stick to a budget especially if the items are in fairly decent condition. I haven’t seen a car yet on the Canadian end but who knows.

    • I like the premise, but there’s no prerequisite on this site to give, it’s based under the assumption that people give as they can. Obviously there are admins of the group who can flog people for abuse. And because it’s linked to Facebook, there’s no anonymity to hide behind. Just real people helping real people 🙂

      • Hi, just wanted to chime in that Buy Nothing Project encourages members to communicate just as if they were having a conversation. Abbreviations such as ISO are discouraged and using fully spelled words and complete sentences are encouraged. Besides, not everyone participates in other pages and therefore are not familiar with that lingo. I am an Admin for a local Virginia group of over 900 members.

  2. This sounds like a great program! Our city has a fairly robust “free” section on Craigslist, but this sounds like a much more cohesive community. I’ll have to see if they’re active here too. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This just sounds like Freecycle, which has been around longer than Facebook and has branches world-wide. =).
    We’re participants in Freecycle, and do our best to give there before a thrift shop since we’ve heard there is actually a ton of waste produced by thrift shops tossing items they don’t think will sell.

    • Freecycle is similar, but they force you through Yahoo groups. Buy Bothing uses Facebook, which most everyone already has. It also is much more than recycling your old stuff. Definitely more about community and giving than just getting rid of stuff 🙂

      • Actually in recent years, Freecycle Intl has been forcing local Freecycle groups away from Yahoo into their own website platform, so it’s more of an email/forum messaging service and it’s easier to subscribe to multiple groups if you live in between major cities. Works well in our community where social media isn’t really all that popular.

  4. Good to know because we normally donate to Value Village but I didn’t realize there was so much waste like Mrs. Popp said. I’ve got some purging projects lined up for the fall so will look into this. What you all did with the bike was fantastic!

  5. I LOVE Buy Nothing! I have received clothes (adult), an air mattress, a bedspread, broom, laundry detergent, and wine glasses, just to name a few things. I have given a set of drawers, books, paint, a puzzle, etc.

    A very good use of social media, in my opinion.

  6. Our neighborhood listserve works in a similar way. People do sell goods and services on there, but everyone also passes around free items/services. We live in an older neighborhood and the houses are fairly small, so no one wants to keep around things like baby items, etc. We used to have a physical Free Store in the neighborhood, but it got shut down, sadly.

  7. This is awesome. The premise and everything else about the community. Can’t imagine some of the things I have thrown out over time that could have benefited somebody else and changed their lives for the best, or something I could have gotten for nothing. It also creates a real community…sorta actually bringing people together, virtually and physically.

  8. Wow. Thanks for telling us about the site. I think it’s wonderful.

    Our city, Winnipeg, has an “exchange” program. The first Tuesday of every month, folks put stuff on the curb they no longer want and you can pick anything up. It works well, but I like the community aspect of The Buy Nothing project. Restoring a sense of community is priceless.

  9. I think this is a great idea. We live in a very rural area so don’t have anything close. We do have a free store where you can drop off donations and those in need can get what they need without having to pay.

    • That’s a very cool idea. Community is so important for helping those in need, it’s sad that we’ve become the “iPod Nation” and don’t interact with real human beings as often.

  10. I love what you and your wife did for your neighbor. I get pretty emotional when it comes to helping kids and that seriously brought a tear to my eye. It sounds like an amazing group. Not only in the saving money area but it sounds like it’s a good group of people who are concerned with helping each other have better lives. very touching!

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