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How to Shop like a Minimalist: 10 Easy Steps

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The concept of minimalism is choosing to live with less to make your life simpler and happier.

The title “shopping like a minimalist” may sound like a contradiction, but it doesn’t have to be. The idea is to have a better purpose for shopping.

Shopping with a definite intent and purpose in every purchase not only saves you money but keeps you from buying things that will clutter your home with impulse buys and “useless” things.

The Minimalist Mindset

To be able to shop like a minimalist, we need to understand their mindset, this will clarify all the shopping habits I will describe later.

The minimalist mindset is where you accept the lifestyle of owning less. You change your views on of all your belongings and understand why you own them. This is much different from committing to declutter your house more often.

This mindset is not just about the things you own and wanting less, but how you view everything – what your priorities are, how you spend your time, and what you value.

Some minimalist thinking includes:

  • Value experiences – Do more instead of owning more
  • Limit stuff that enters your life – Paying attention to what comes into your life (things & activities)
  • Owning less than decluttering more – Minimalists do declutter as priorities change, but they limit what they buy in the first place
  • Make their time more meaningful – Less wasted moments, saying no to things that don’t fit your priorities
  • Happiness doesn’t come from materialistic things – Happiness and self-worth is not derived from what you own
  • Stop comparing themselves to others – No more competing with the Joneses
  • Stop thinking you’ll “need that just in case” – Learning to substitute things that would do the same job
  • Organizing things is not sufficient – No matter how well you organize things, the “stuff” is still there and still cluttering your life, having it gone is much better

Now let’s look at ten ways you can shop like a minimalist:

1. Avoid Malls & Shopping Centers

This is simply to remove temptation. Store windows are filled with enticing displays, huge banners and signs with attractive deals and eager salespeople.

Mall shoppers spend an average of $110 per visit and most of this is from impulse buys.

Instead of hanging out at a mall because you have free time, look for hobbies or interesting activities to do instead. This will bring more enjoyment and knowledge to your life in its place.

2. Do your Research

If you need to make a purchase it’s best to do all your research ahead of time.

Let’s say you need to buy a new mattress, do all your research on the different brands, what you want out of a bed, check online reviews, and look at prices – then narrow down your choices. Once you have a few choices in mind you then can go shopping for them.

Not only will this save you time and money, but you will also know what you don’t want and be able to resist sales pitches for the more expensive products.

3. Initiate Spending Freezes

A spending freeze is simply not spending any money on things we want. Only the bills and minimum groceries are bought – everything else is “frozen”.

You can decide how long to run it – a weekend, a week, or a month. The goal of a spending freeze is to save money, avoid unwanted purchases, and find more productive things you can do for free.

How much can you save during a spending freeze depends on the length, your monthly debts, and your commitment. Some people have saved $3,000 in a month, others have saved $540 in a month.

4. Adopt a “New In – Old Out” Habit

To keep clutter to a minimum in your home adapt a “new in – old out” habit.

This means whatever new thing you bring into your home you must pick one thing to take out. Let’s say you bought a new dress, when you get home you must now pick something from your closet to donate, sell, or toss.

Not only will this create less mess it will make you think more carefully before each purchase. You may find that after trying to think of something to toss in it’s place, that purchase isn’t so attractive anymore.

5. Wait on Purchases

Make it a habit to wait 24 hours or more before buying things to cut down on impulse buys.

Often the “urge” has passed and it doesn’t seem so appealing anymore. If you still want it, use this time to do some research on it – is it worth it, Is there a lower price elsewhere? (See #9)

Impulse purchases count for about 40% of all purchases online and about 80% of purchases in stores. Many of these purchases happen because of sales prices.

6. Unsubscribe from Store Emails & Flyers

Similar to avoiding the mall and shopping centers, you should unsubscribe from store emails and flyer distributions.

This again reduces the temptation for impulse shopping. If it’s not on your list of needed items, you don’t need to know about anything else right? When you are looking for something specific on your list – use your various shopping apps for cash-back opportunities.

7. Write Lists

Writing lists not only helps you remember everything you need to get, but helps cuts down on impulse shopping. Consumers are 13% less likely to make impulse buys when they have a list.

There are several ways to write efficient shopping lists:

  • List quantities – limits buying too little or too much
  • Group items – into categories, or store sections
  • Section list by place – need to go to several place, write sections per store visit
  • Track coupons – indicate items you have a coupon for (asterisk, checkmark, etc)

Other tips to help with your shopping list are to:

  • Plan your menus
  • Use recipes that share ingredients
  • Be specific (flavor, color, size, etc.)
  • Cut the bulk buying down to only essentials (you’re trying to be minimalistic)

With these shopping lists, you’ll soon notice your shopping trips are quicker, you’re saving money, and they’re not as strenuous as they used to be.

8. Shop with Cash

While you’re out shopping use only cash. If you planned ahead with lists and research, you’d have a rough idea of how much you’ll need to spend and can get the cash amount to cover it.

Shopping with only cash does several things:

  • Reduces impulse buys
  • Reduces the “instant cash” mentality we have with debit and credit cards
  • Avoids fees and interest
  • Gives you more control, initiate a “running balance” on a calculator while shopping and be more fastidious in your choices.

Using credit cards while shopping can cause an “I’ll worry about it later” mindset. The problem is, when “later” comes, you will probably will then have to come up with the cash to pay off your purchase (not to mention the interest). This is likely to disrupt your budget and your credit score.

9. Analyze each Purchase

Ask yourself these questions before buying something:

  • Do you really need it?
  • Do you really love it?
  • Where will you put it?
  • Will you use it often?
  • Do you already have something similar?
  • What will you get rid of to make room for this?

Analyzing each purchase really cuts down on impulse buys and duplicate items. Why buy a “specialized one-job item” when something you already have can do the same job anyway. Such as buying a specialized pasta pot with built-in strainer and locking handles when a $1 colander from the dollar store will do just fine.

10. Shop less Often

Once you’ve implemented many of the other habits, this part should be easy to do.

Shopping less often not only gives you fewer things but saves money and time in many ways. Some of these include:

  • Money saved on sales taxes – Each purchase you make you need to pay sales tax (anywhere from 2.9% and 7.25%)
  • Money saved on gasoline – Each run to the store to grab something costs gasoline (about $1 a round trip)
  • Saves Time – Time not spent shopping can be use more effectively elsewhere

This may not seem like much to fuss over, but let’s look at the average time to do things:

  • Grocery Shopping – 43 minutes (not counting driving there and back and putting it away)
  • Clothes Shopping – Women spend about 2 hours online and Men about 1 ½ hours online for clothing
  • Mall Shopping – 1 hour and 24 minutes is spent in a shopping mall each visit

All that time could be spent on things we cherish more – our family, friends, hobbies, learning and other things we rather be doing.

Final Thoughts

It’s been proven that having less clutter actually makes people happier. A UCLA study confirms the direct correlation between a woman’s cortisol (stress) levels and the density of household objects.

But remember, it’s not just about having less, shopping less, and spending less. It’s about changing priorities and not seeking happiness and satisfaction from material things.

Instead of being “happy” that you own an expensive car, a big house, and the latest iPhone – you’ve accepted happiness in travelling, trying new experiences, and “doing” more.

Here are a few articles about Minimalism you might be interested in:

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