A Shopaholic's Guide to Living Minimally.

I am a self confessed shopaholic. Ever since I was young I loved the feeling of buying things, having new things, and craving it, almost like a rush. I would spend what little pocket money I had on toys, and then as I got older, clothing and makeup. These things were always fun to have, but like a drug, their effect wore off within a few days. It felt exhilarating to have something new to take home, a new outfit to show off at school; but even since the beginning I always felt a pang of guilt every time I spent money. I didn't realize this until later how important it was to pay attention to that feeling.

The concept of saving money never really was something I did until i was 17. Ironically or not that happened when I started my first job and working for my own money.  My spending habits didn't change much, with the disposable income i did make but I did start putting half of each paycheck into savings. That was my first big step towards "becoming an adult", as my mom said. That savings was supposed to be, in her eyes, for my future house or apartment or car. Well, I turned that money into various trips and travel excursions over the years! Everyone's got their own goals to work towards.

I am about to spend a year doing a working holiday visa in Australia. I will most likely be living out of a backpack and/or a suitcase during that year. I will be getting rid of/selling/donating most of the items I own to prepare me for a life "on the road". I want to be able to travel at any given time and not have material possessions hold me down. In the past year I also moved out of my lovely studio apartment in SF, and back to my parents house following my arrival home from my 3 month solo trip. During the move I did manage to get rid of a bunch of stuff I felt no longer served a purpose to me. It felt good to say goodbye to a chapter of my life(and things I accumulated). But upon coming home from my trip, seeing the amount of boxes I still had was a shock. I had lived out of backpack for 3 months, not once thinking about or missing the stuff I had packed away at home. I knew I was ready to get rid of more.

Life is stressful enough with work and trying to balance hobbies and a social life, I figured now more than ever this was the best chance to minimize my material possesions(increasing monetary wealth!) and therefore minimize stress caused by having so many attachments to things. I came back from my trip with almost no attachments to the things I left behind. That's really what inspired me to write this blog post and here are some tips I have to prevent you from splurging or spending:

  • Really think about why you want to buy something. Ask yourself: Do I really like it that much? Do i have something that fits a similar purpose? Is there an emotional reason why I'm buying something(big trigger for me)?Someone said to me recently, if you have to talk yourself into buying something, it probably isn't worth buying. During the past year I also read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, where the author talks about purging stuff you own to necessities based on how much "joy" that item brings you. I found this so helpful especially when moving because sometimes we hold onto things that really don't serve a purpose anymore. Go out and read the book if you are serious about making this change in your life! That is why my new rule is : Buy things that bring you genuine joy. If something isn't a full on "yes" for you, don't buy it.
  • I used to buy things if they were a great deal/on sale even if i didn't really need them. I would never really think about it until later how much those purchases add up. Also to feed into the first rule, if it doesn't fit a need you have, it's not necessary.
  • This one always works for me: Compare this purchase to whatever you're motivated to save up for. For me it is traveling. Is the dollar amount worth a meal in Barcelona? A nights stay in Bangkok? Or maybe even part of your rent/deposit on your house/car bills, etc. Point is, unless you love the item, there's always something else that will mean more to you(like working towards your goals!).
  • If you feel guilty after spending money/at the thought of spending money...don't buy! For me I feel like I'm cheating on my goals.
  • Learn how to differentiate between a want and a need. This one gets easier as you get older...and will save you a lot of impulse buys! For example, if I need a new pair of professional pants for work vs. I see a couple cute tank tops in a store that are just so cute but don't really fit a definite part of my life. Recognizing the difference and applying that way of thinking to all your purchases.

This may be an extreme way of thinking for some, as I believe the American system has brainwashed us to think we need so much more than we have to be happy...but for me, and hopefully many more out there, I truly believe less stuff=less stress. I am now realizing I want to save my money for experiences and memories, rather than some clothing I will get tired of in a few months.

I will share more tips and updates on making my life more minimal in the next few months as I prepare for my move. Share your tips in the comments, would love to hear from you!