Talk to anyone that knows me and they’d be surprised that I subscribe to a minimalist school of thought. Owning 50 pairs of shoes doesn’t exactly scream minimal consumption after all. But over the last year or so I’ve increasingly been exploring the concept of minimalism and incorporating it into my life. During that time I’ve come up with a few key questions that keep my shopping habits in check.
1. What does minimalism mean for me?
Before you buy anything, you need to define minimalism for yourself. What does it look like? What aspects of your life does it and doesn’t it apply to? For me, the aforementioned shoes and also books don’t fall into the minimalist category. They’re items I collect and intend to keep forever. I define minimalism as bringing an awareness and thoughtfulness to my purchasing habits, knowing where my money is going and ensuring my spending moves me towards my goals. Which brings me to my second question:
2. What are your goals, financial and lifestyle?
This question is all about exploring where you want to invest money, where to cut back, what you’re saving for. The amount of money I spend on my health (yoga studio, Naturopath, natural supplements, food) is obscene to some people. However, my health and well-being are hugely important to me and my spending reflects this. Money should be a tool for helping create the life you want. Figure out what that life looks like and where your money should and shouldn’t be going will become clear. And naturally, there will be an alignment between how you define minimalism and what your goals are. After all, your definition needs to work for your lifestyle!
3. Is this purchase moving me closer to my goals?
Finally, we’re shopping! The reason you need to understand where you want to go is to provide a set of criteria to filter your buying decisions with. One of my goals is to spend fun time with my friends and family so spending on flights is a well-aligned use of my money. Spending the equivalent money on a dress can be less so. I say ‘can be’ because I still need to wear clothes and part of my minimalist philosophy is to buy the best quality I can afford so it lasts and I buy less over the long-term. Sometimes it’s less about goals and more about values. Spending extra to buy organic, supporting local producers. Understand how your values fit into your minimalist vision (all part of question one).
4. How does buying this make me feel?
So far my questions have been pretty rational but actually spending money is often an emotional decision. We need the latest and greatest to be perceived in a certain way or I deserve that piece of cake because I’ve been working hard or if I wear cute outfits I’ll work out more. Logically we all know this thinking is flawed but that doesn’t stop the thought patterns. Another big trap is marketing. I’m a huge sucker for marketing. Coke ads get me every time and I don’t even remember the last time I had a Coke. The way to avoid these pitfalls is to dive head first into the emotions. Wallow around in how you feel. Think about why you want to buy something. Be brutally honest with yourself, especially with how long the feel-good vibes will last after you buy. 6 months? A year? 5 minutes? Is that long enough considering the investment? Don’t just look at the good feelings but the bad stuff too. I fully resent spending money on practical ‘need’ things, I want to have fun with my money. By acknowledging I feel that way I manage to strike a balance between practical and fun.
5. Did this purchase turn out how I thought?
Minimalism is an evolving thing, a process you learn and refine over time. You progress a lot faster when you consciously stop and reflect. I’m not saying you need to do this for every single dollar you spend. Focus on big investments. Did you move closer to your goals? Did it feel good? Does it still feel good? Would you make a different decision now? Especially notice when you’re disappointed. Why are you disappointed? What could you do differently next time? This is not about beating yourself up, it’s simply giving you a process to learn and grow. I learnt a long time ago that I’m almost never happy with online clothes purchases and I NEVER return anything bought online. Too lazy. So I’ve stopped buying online. Simple.
I think successful minimalist buying comes from doing thinking outside of the heat of the moment. If you wait until you’re in the middle of it all you won’t have the clarity to make a good decision. So my questions focus on getting things figured out up front and then refining as you go. Don’t aim to be perfect from day one. Aim to learn and grow and evolve. Let your definition of minimalist move with you as move through your life.
Today Sara from Business Best Friend Consulting discusses the ways in which she has applied minimalism to her shopping strategy. Thanks for sharing your minimalism story with us, Sara.