Buy Nothing Day: Should You Participate?

Posted by Shaun Morgan in Family & MoneyNovember 15, 20225 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Buy Nothing Day is about anti-consumerism, supporting the local economy, and sustainability.
  • Buy Nothing Day is held annually on November 25, the same day as Black Friday.
  • There are many ways to celebrate Buy Nothing Day, like not buying anything or protesting publicly.
Are you ready to make some real money moves?

If you are tired of the commercialism that seems to overtake all of us during the holidays, then you’re not alone. The over-the-top push from retailers, advertisement agencies, and mainstream commercials to buy more has pushed some people away from buying anything. This is where Buy Nothing Day comes into action.


What is Buy Nothing Day?


Buy Nothing Day is a day celebrating anti-commercialism. It occurs on November 25, also nationally known as Black Friday (in the United States), or the next day, the last Saturday in November (in other countries). Naturally, the goal of the day is to buy nothing. It is a protest against consumerism.


How Did Buy Nothing Day Start?


In 1992, a Canadian artist named Ted Dave was feeling bogged down by commercialism. He felt as though it was ruining many people’s lives and the planet. To protest this, he created a drawing with the simple phrase, “Participate by not participating.”


Ted Dave’s idea was to push back against commercialism by not buying anything for just one day. This was an anti-shopping campaign against the constant noise of advertising. This idea was picked up by a popular non-profit magazine called Adbusters, which allowed it to grow quickly throughout the 90s.


Later this idea got matched with Black Friday, and the official Buy Nothing Day was born. From there, Buy Nothing Day has transformed from a painting to a meme and spread virally worldwide. It has also transformed from a single day to a whole season called “Buy Nothing X-Mas,” which promotes anti-consumerism, buying from our local economies, and sustainability.


There are a wide variety of ways to celebrate Buy Nothing Day. The most basic observers simply follow the instructions not to buy anything. Others try to raise awareness by doing such hilarious things as a Conga Line of empty shopping baskets around a store or doing a zombie walk around the store to raise awareness.


Then there is the spin-off group which focuses not so much on avoiding making any purchases but focus on buying locally and sustainably instead. Depending on how committed you are or where your priorities lie, you can celebrate Buy Nothing Day in any of the ways mentioned above.


Woman shopping with an empty basket - Buy Nothing Day


Buy Nothing Day sounds like a great idea, especially when we have a squeezed pocketbook for the holidays, so let’s weigh some pros and cons.



  • You can save money by not spending it, helping the environment, and supporting local economies.
  • Avoid the hustle and bustle of Black Friday shopping (and sleep in!).
  • Join the growing anti-consumerism movement.



  • You miss out on Black Friday savings and the excitement around it.
  • Buying local and sustainable can be more expensive, making celebrating that way harder for disadvantaged groups such as low-income families.
  • You miss participating in the prevailing cultural celebrations.


Recommended Read: How to Stop Impulse Buying


What About Black Friday?


As with anything, there is always another side to consider. Historically speaking, Black Friday has been a very important day for the global economy. Unlike other days labeled black days like “Black Tuesday” (the day the stock market crashed beginning of the Great Depression), Black Friday has a very positive meaning nowadays. 


In regards to businesses, when a company is operating at a loss, they are “in the red.” When they start operating at a profit, they are “in the black.”


So, when Black Friday started to catch on in the late 80s, the idea was that spending money for the holidays was vital to helping businesses continue to operate. This may not be the original meaning of the name “Black Friday,” but knowing that holiday shopping keeps businesses operating does put a more positive spin on it. But, with all of the materialism and overspending that consumes Black Friday shoppers, it is important to weigh the benefits of this global holiday.


Woman shopping for christmas gifts during the holiday season



  • Save money on purchases that you have already planned to make.
  • Supporting the national economy depends on consumers shopping online and in-store.
  • Holiday shopping is intended to promote family togetherness during the holidays.



  • Black Friday can lead to stampedes and even death in massively congested areas.
  • Many Black Friday deals have large carbon footprints since they are being imported from other countries.
  • Local businesses can’t compete with the price cuts that large retailers can give.


Recommended Reading: 4 Tips to Avoid Debt While Holiday Shopping


Tips to Celebrate Buy Nothing Day


Okay, so you’re convinced it is time to celebrate Buy Nothing Day. So how can you join the anti-shopping campaign? Well, as simple as it sounds, the first thing you can do is avoid buying anything on Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day on November 25. 


However, if participating in Buy Nothing Day is meant to protest consumerism, you can’t turn around and buy everything you were going to shop for on Black Friday the next day. That defeats the entire purpose. For Buy Nothing Day to mean anything, you must not do any Black Friday shopping. This includes not shopping on Cyber Monday!


Family sitting in the living room at home and watching TV


If this sounds difficult, it is meant to be. Part of Buy Nothing Day is a protest against accumulating holiday debt. One way to celebrate is to store your credit cards in a safe place where you won’t be tempted to spend on those cards. 


How Can I Still Participate in Holiday Giving?


  • Price track and buy local. Consider tracking prices of what you want to buy for a few months before the holidays to know a good deal and then buy it on sale from a local dealer. Buy Nothing Day generally gives exceptions for buying local during the holiday season.
  • Make gifts at home. Homemade gifts can be a lot of fun to make. Remember, many gifts that we give often go unused. Making something will have a larger impact on the receiver emotionally than a store-bought item.
  • Buy from sustainable companies. Buy Nothing Day is about reducing the impact on our planet, so if you need to buy something, consider finding a sustainable alternative.
  • Buy from a thrift store. Consider buying from a charitable organization or thrift store as well.


Recommended Reading: 3 Reasons to Start your Holiday Shopping Now


The Money Wrap-Up


Buy Nothing Day is an international day of protest against consumerism and a materialistic lifestyle. But it doesn’t have to be strictly observed to greatly impact your financial well-being. Any steps you take, such as cutting back on Black Friday shopping, not using your credit cards, or just buying locally instead of internationally, can make a big difference. 


Buy Nothing Day can be a great starting point to revert your hard-earned funds to other financial goals.

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