• Home Home

How I got over my breakup — and saved $1,200 dollars — by trading free stuff with strangers online

Like most people, I also started coping with my break up with some retail-focused therapy.

Old furniture from Buy Nothing group

Photo Credit: iStock

If you’ve recently experienced a breakup, you know the roller coaster of feelings that follow. Your mood can range from it’s the end of the world to let me finally apply for that MBA program across the country within the same hour.

So, how do most people cope? To borrow from “Parks and Recreation”: “Treat Yourself!” The average young adult will spend about $1,400 in the aftermath of a split. But there’s another way to deal with a breakup without going broke.

Breakups are a big business. From getting your “revenge body” to retail therapy, there’s a $50 billion industry catering to us at our most vulnerable. 

Someone coping with a breakup may spend an average of $160 on new wardrobe items, sign up for a new gym membership ($15-$200 a month), plan a weekend getaway (nearly $200) with friends or some alone time, and order tons of takeout food.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t invest in yourself after a breakup — that’s one of the healthiest things you can do. I’m just saying that I discovered a cheaper way to get over your breakup that won’t damage your bank: your local Buy Nothing group.

If you’re not familiar with the Buy Nothing Project, it is a network of hyperlocal Facebook groups where community members give free things to each other. There’s no selling or trading, just giving items you no longer want or need to those in your local community who want it.

Instead of going into the landfill, these “unwanted” items get a second life with someone who really cherishes them. The best part is you never know what will be posted; I’ve seen people give away everything from a jar of half-used honey to a fancy three-piece bedroom furniture set. All for free.

Like most people, I started coping with my breakup with some retail-focused therapy. At one point, I had my browser open with a cart full of about $400 worth of items from Nordstrom Rack. I know I didn’t need those half-price sunglasses, I just wanted something to feel excited about.

Luckily, I’ve learned to let things sit in my cart before hitting the ”buy” button just to make sure I really want it. I popped over to my social media accounts (anything to distract myself) and had a notification from the Buy Nothing group I’m in, so I clicked over to check it out. 

Just when you think you’ve seen it all in a Buy Nothing group, one of my neighbors posted a picture of an inflatable kayak. In a slight twinge of sadness, I remembered how my ex and I had talked about getting one after we went kayaking together.

Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota

But just because I wouldn’t have her to go with anymore didn’t mean I couldn’t try it for myself. I commented below the picture, and milking my breakup (because what better time to use it), I wrote:

Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota

Boom! I was heartbroken, but at least I had a kayak. I looked it up on Amazon and found the original price was $135. Thank you, neighbor!

When I went to pick it up, it was also a moment of connection. One of the comforting parts of a breakup was knowing that you’re not alone, even if you may feel like it. It’s a life event that almost every human experiences, and this, too, shall pass, whether it’s Day 4 or Day 1,000. 

That moment of connection was something I wouldn’t have experienced if I just bought something online.

Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota

Now that got me thinking, what else could I find in my Buy Nothing group?

My wardrobe was one of the first things I wanted to redo. I get why grief leads to new clothes — it’s a simple way to feel good about yourself. 

Since my ex lived 45 minutes away, I had felt like I was living out of a suitcase and would only wear what was easy to travel with (read: comfort over cute). 

This was an opportunity to figure out what I actually wanted my closet to look like. As I was creeping back into my cart at Nordstrom, I got a notification that someone was giving away a huge box of clothes in my size. The universe was listening!

I commented under the post, and later that day I had half of a new wardrobe. That was even faster than Prime.

Savings: $380, including these Tevas I scored!

Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota
Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota

I had also just started my new job at The Cool Down days before the breakup, which meant I was revamping my home office space since I would no longer commute two hours to work everyday. 

Normally, I would have gotten a new chair from Target, but instead, I checked the Buy Nothing group. Within a few days, I picked up this bad boy and was typing away from my home office, sans back pain from driving.

Savings: around $220 compared to buying it new

Buy Nothing group
Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota

The year prior, my friends and I went on an annual lake trip that we had planned to repeat this summer.

I remember not wanting to go because, ironically, I had chosen this Maryland destination because I knew my ex would have loved the waterfall hike and lake house vibes. But since she was no longer coming, I committed myself to having the best time anyway, including going swimming in the lake. 

Now, mind you, I only have a Guppie Level 1 certification from the local swim class I took two summers ago, so I needed a life jacket. I checked my Buy Nothing Group and found a neighbor giving one away, also again in my size. 

I brought it with me to the lake for a much-needed few days of friends, water, and thanks to my neighbor, no drowning incidents.

Savings: $50, and this one was new with tags

Buy Nothing group
Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota

Coming back from a few days of vacation had me rethinking my living space, too. Before the breakup, I was in a constant state of travel between my home, work, and the city where my ex lived. 

I felt like I hadn’t actually lived at home for a while. Now that I was home all day, it was giving 2020 quarantine era remodeling. 

But this time, I was motivated to make my home a calm place where I love to spend time. Instead of buying new items, I hopped on Buy Nothing to find someone who was moving away and needed to get rid of furniture ASAP.

I was able to get an assortment of frames for a new gallery wall and also a new dresser to fit my new wardrobe.

Savings: $420, including the frames and barely used IKEA Malm dresser

IKEA Malm dresser, Buy Nothing group
Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota
IKEA Malm dresser , Buy Nothing group
Photo Credit: Ashley Baboota

I won’t lie to you, it was tough dealing with the stages of grief, breakup edition. But because of the generosity of internet strangers and the mission of the Buy Nothing Project, I was able to spend my time kayaking, learning new job skills in my home office setup, swimming with my friends at the lake, and redoing my bedroom so I can spend alone time in a space I liked.

I saved myself more than $1,205 dollars on all of this gear — much better than the nearly $1,400 spent after an average breakup. 

If you’re going through a split, here’s my advice: Don’t go broke after a breakup. Instead, find your local Buy Nothing group and see where the kindness of internet strangers takes you.

Psychologists say the healthiest way to process the grief of a breakup is to find new activities and forge new connections. Your local Buy Nothing group can be a source of both.

Want more? Follow The Cool Down on Instagram and join our Weekly Newsletter for cool stories and easy tips that save you money, time, and our planet.

Cool Divider