Minimalists strive to only purchase items that provide meaningful value. If you’ve embraced this kind of lifestyle, you’ve likely pared back your possessions, but shopping can still pose a significant challenge. That said, it’s often worth the effort.
Learning to shop like a minimalist can help keep your budget on track as you leverage lists, spend less on impulse buys, and make other strategic decisions with your money. Here are a few ways to align your shopping habits with your lifestyle.
Keep a Running List of What You Need
It’s a common piece of advice for going grocery shopping: Make a list and stick to it. When you head into the supermarket prepared, you’ll only purchase the products you need and won’t end up wasting food or money.
You might find it helpful to keep a running list of what you’ll have to buy but don’t urgently need. For example, you might want to buy a new winter coat or a new pair of boots for fall. Forming a general idea of your necessities will give you plenty of time to research them.
Using your list as a guide, you can read reviews of products and compare their prices. You can note the particular brands or models you’re most interested in. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll know exactly what item you want, how much it costs, and whether or not it really is the best option for you.
Depending on the price of an item on your list, you might need to save up to purchase it without having to borrow money. Note when you’d like to purchase the item – such as buying a new winter coat before the first of December – and how much you’ll need to save monthly between now and then to comfortably afford it.
Steer Clear of Sales
When you’re a budget-conscious shopper, it might seem counterintuitive to avoid sales. Discounts and sales aren’t necessarily bad, as they can help you save money on the things you already have on your “to buy” list.
The trouble starts when sales and discounts distract you from the things you need and convince you to buy items that aren’t on your list. You can end up spending a lot of money on impulse purchases, which create clutter and conflict with your budget.
When you’re out shopping, try to avoid wandering over to the clearance or sale section “just to take a look.” If you shop online a lot, unsubscribe from the emails that retailers send out. They’re usually full of coupons and discount codes, all of which are designed to entice you into buying.
Avoiding sales and retailers’ emails doesn’t mean that you need to pay full price for your purchases. When it is time to buy, take a few minutes and do a quick online search to see if any coupon codes are available. You can also search for the name of the product you want to buy to see if it shows up at a lower price at another store.
Ask Yourself Questions Before Buying Anything
A big part of being a minimalist is only buying items you know you’ll use and need. To keep clutter down and avoid overspending, it’s smart to shop with intention. It’s also smart to question every purchase you might make.
When you’re in the research phase of shopping, ask yourself the following to see if you really need a new product:
- What does the product do? Will it improve your life in some way? For example, a winter coat will keep you warm when it’s cold outside.
- Do you already own something that can do the job? Is there another item in your home that can accomplish the tasks of the new product? For example, you might already own a winter coat. If so, is it still in good condition? Does it still fit you? If not, getting a new one might make sense.
- Can you borrow something? Instead of buying, can you borrow what you need from a family member or friend? For instance, if you live in a climate where you don’t usually need a coat, but are traveling over winter, you might be able to borrow one from someone else for your trip. Or if you’re temporarily in a different size, such as if you’re pregnant, you may be able to borrow a maternity coat from someone instead of buying a brand new one that you’ll only use for a few months.
- Do you like the item? Does the product make you feel happy? People sometimes buy things they don’t actually like because they feel they have to have them. In the case of a winter coat, you don’t have to buy a down-filled parka or a wool peacoat if they aren’t your style.
- Will you get a lot of use out of the item? Can you see yourself using the product for months or years to come? In the case of clothing, try to choose staples rather than statement-making fashion pieces or clothes that will wear out quickly.
Go for Quality Over Quantity
In some cases, spending more upfront on a product can help you save money in the long run. If you buy one pair of sturdy jeans that fit you well, cost $100, and last for years, you’ll end up spending less than you would if you bought a $25 pair that wears out in three months.
When looking for quality over quantity, don’t get distracted by designer labels or brand names, though. Designer pieces often cost a lot, but in some instances, you may be paying for the name as opposed to better quality. If possible, carefully inspect any clothing or other durable goods you’re going to buy to make sure they’re well made and likely to last.
PSECU Can Help You Shop Smarter
Shopping like a minimalist is just one way to get your spending under control. Visit our WalletWorks page for more tips on making smart purchases.