There are a lot of different kinds of minimalists. According to Psychology Today there are 14 types. Underlying all is the same concept, though: let go of the extraneous and focus on the most important. For this post I’ll focus on the “expense minimalist” aspect, which uses minimalism to lower expenses. Here are 14 things you can stop buying to save money.
Expensive Personal Care Items
Car Insurance and Maintenance Costs
Cable or Satellite TV
Recurring Memberships to Receive Discounts
Credit Card Interest Rates
Keepsakes, Holiday Decorations, Etc.
Items You Might Use “Someday”
Mobile Phone Upgrades
Trendy Clothes, Purses, and Jewelry
Vitamins and Supplements
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1. Perfume, Most Cosmetics and Other Expensive Personal Care Items
It's been so long since I bought any perfume, I had to do a search to see how much it costs. $15-25 seems like an average (Amazon link) for the lower-end brands, but you can certainly pay more! Why would you want to pay anything, though?
For those of you who do wear perfume, cologne, aftershave, scented lotion, etc, this may be hard to hear. First of all, there are a lot of people out there who don't like how it smells. Most of the men I've spoken to don't care for it at all, and lots of women too.
Second, some people have allergic reactions to scents. I personally get congestion, sneezing, coughing, and headaches from scents. I have a friend who breaks out into hives just from handling paperwork touched by someone wearing perfume. Do you really want to wear it so badly you're willing to hurt someone else to do so?
And are you willing to make a poor impression when you first meet someone because you don't know they don't like perfume? At my job, we interviewed someone for a position that had been open for over a year. My coworker and I both didn't want to hire her, because she wore perfume to the interview. My co-worker especially didn't want to sit in an office with her all day. Guess what? She didn't get the job. And even though it took us another year to find someone, and meant being short-staffed, we don’t regret that decision.
There is also evidence that inhaling fragrances can worsen lung disease. When I worked in a pulmonary clinic, the doctors and nurses told the patients who came in wearing perfume or cologne they needed to stop wearing it immediately, because they might be making their condition worse.
I just gave you a lot of reasons why wearing perfume is not a good idea. If you don't like any of them, just think of how much that fragrance cost and if you could use the money instead for groceries, paying off debt, or for building an emergency fund.
Nail polish smells horrible and is very toxic. I cringe when I walk by nail salons. And nail polish remover is not the safest thing in the world either.
I worked in patient care for a long time, and it wasn't practical to wear nail polish. Also, in clinical training we are taught that nails are a great place for germs to accumulate. In most places, they don’t allow nurses or patient care technicians to grow their nails past the tips of their fingers. Even though I no longer work in patient settings, I stuck to that rule, and I rarely get sick.
I remember during the recession I worked with someone who was behind on her mortgage. She said she went home every day expecting a foreclosure notice on the front door of her house, and how stressful it was. In the next breath she was talking about her weekly nail appointment, and going to the salon twice in the same week because she changed her mind about the color.
A manicure may seem like a small amount to pay, but add them up over the course of a year. I can trim my own nails just fine, thank you very much.
Some women may go a little nuts when I say this, but I actually don't do much for my skin. I don't have a special cleanser. I use body wash on my face. I tried several types of moisturizer, and didn't really like any of them. I don't really have facial moisturizer or body lotion either. I have some Argan oil (Amazon affiliate link) which I keep on hand for when we're in dry weather. I’ll put in on my hair, and will dab a bit on my skin as well sometimes.
For body moisturizing I have raw shea butter (affiliate link). All the stuff I use is relatively inexpensive and does the job.
The only thing I spend money on is a good sunscreen (link to Amazon). It has minimal ingredients so it doesn't irritate my skin, and I use it all the time.
I use a natural shampoo and conditioner that have just a few, non-toxic ingredients. I gave my blow dryer away when we moved into the smaller RV, because I never used it. I either wear my hair down or pull it up with a hair tie.
I don't own hairspray, mouse, styling cream, hair dye, hair repair serums, a curling iron or straightener, or anything else. I've come to accept that my hair will not take a curl, and am not longer interested in forcing it to behave in a way that it was not built to behave.
When it’s wet, I let it air-dry before I brush it, because wet hair is more fragile. The times when I have gone to a salon for a haircut, I am always complimented about how healthy and strong my hair is (even if it's been 6 months since my last haircut). I don't get breakage, damage or split ends, because I don't do anything to harm my hair in the first place.
I started going grey when I was 30, but it’s very few hairs that are grey. I barely notice them, because as you may be able to tell, I don't spend much time worrying about my appearance or looking in the mirror. I'm accepting of myself the way I am.
My hair doesn't require a professional cut. It's long, straight and does not hold an type of curl. I googled a way to create layers cutting my own hair, and it works great. My friend and her husband have been cutting each other’s hair for decades. His is long and straight; hers is short and curly. I never would have known if she hadn’t told me.
3. Dry Cleaning
Dry cleaning chemicals are bad for the environment. Even most of the eco-friendly places use organic compounds which are not environmentally friendly. Additionally, the fabrics that require dry cleaning are typically synthetics, which are often not eco-friendly either. I prefer to wear washable fabrics, especially cotton. It's one less hassle and expense I have to deal with and I feel better about my impact on the planet as well.
4. Car Insurance and Maintenance Costs
Ryan and I sold our car in 2016 and haven’t bought a replacement. Being car-free means not having to pay for car insurance. Our motorhome carries a different type of insurance because we live in it, so it’s kind of like renter’s insurance. Towing a vehicle also means more wear and tear on both the motorhome and the towed vehicle, plus increased fuel costs. So we are saving a LOT of money by not having a car.
5. Cable/Satellite TV
We cut our cable cord nearly ten years ago, and have not missed it one bit. It kept getting more and more expensive every year, with less value in the programs we had access to. Also, TV in general is such a time-sucker. There are so many other things you can do. I stopped watching the news regularly over 15 years ago, because I found it was too stressful and not providing much useful information in return. We do still have subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu, which cost less than $20 per month for both.
6. Magazines/Newspapers, Media Subscriptions and Books
Even if I did have these, they probably wouldn't hold my interest long enough for me to read them. I find most of the information in just about any type of printed publication can be found for free on the internet. And most information of substance is not found in magazines or newspapers.
I love books and read for fun every day. I prefer to read printed copies because it's easier on the eyes. But I don't need to buy them to do that; I borrow them from whatever library is close to us (lots of campgrounds have libraries too). If that isn't available, there are thousands of books for free on my Kindle app .
7. Gym Membership
The world outside my door is my gym. There are also tons of free workout videos to be found online, and free workout apps you can download to your smart phone.
If we ever downsize further to a van, we will probably get a basic gym membership. But for now, our water tanks are big enough that we don’t need it.
8. Recurring Memberships to Receive Discounts
I think this is quite the racket. Sign up for the store discount program, and we'll give you discounts on our products! They are just banking on you never buying enough stuff to get your money's worth on the discount, and I think that is usually what happens.
REI was a one-time fee for a lifetime membership. Not only do we get discounts and special sales just for members, but we get dividends on what we purchase. I often buy my shoes here, and the dividends from the purchase help pay for the next pair. Totally worth it!
Good Sam gives us discounts to Camping World products and tons of other RV-related stuff, including maintenance. Unfortunately, most RVs always need something, so we feel it’s worth it for the time being.
I recommend you think about the cost of any recurring membership fees you currently have, and see whether they are worth it to you. For example, do you have a Costco membership but only shop there twice per year? What about other memberships to stores that are just too far away to be convenient, or only sell items you don't buy anymore? Take the time to cancel anything that you're not using or is not providing you with a positive return for your money.
9. Credit Card Interest Rates
We do own a credit card. But we use it strategically. For example, the fees for a work conference were $1300. I had to pay up front and then wait to be reimbursed at the next pay period. I didn't want to part with that money from savings for two weeks, so I put it on the credit card and paid it immediately when the reimbursement came.
We use the card for rental car fees, because it carries insurance in case of an accident. Most rental car agencies won’t accept a debit card. It also has travel insurance, so if we have to put a deposit to an RV park and cancel it due to emergency, we will have coverage if the park won’t refund us.
But all of these charges are for things that we have the money to pay for immediately. We don't ever spend something we don't have money in the bank for.
10. Knick-Knacks, Trinkets, Keepsakes, and "I Visited This Place" T-Shirts, Hats, etc. and Holiday Decorations
I never liked trinkets. Having them in an RV is really not practical, so it isn't something I miss. As for picking up keepsakes on the road, I don't like the idea of assigning a cost to my memories. They are priceless. This experience has been incalculable. So I take pictures, I create film, and I write about it. Sharing the experience with others and seeing them take joy from it makes it even more special.
We don't have kids. We have a dog who likes to climb on things and knock them over with his nose or tail. Even when we owned a home we didn't do decorations. We value every day we have, and celebrate our lives constantly. We don't need special occasions to do so. Decorations also take up storage space, cost money, and aren't usually built to last. I can't imagine how well Christmas tree ornaments or a Thanksgiving cornucopia would hold up bouncing down the road for thousands of miles every year.
I like to think of the scenery as our decorations. As I write this, I’m looking out my windshield at the San Francisco bay. In the past 12 months we’ve been in snow, the desert, by the beach, and in forests.
11. Items that I Might Use "Someday"
Have you ever gone to a store, seen something (maybe it's on sale), and thought "I might need that someday?" And then you buy it. And it sits for months or years, collecting dust, being shuffled around. Maybe you don't even try it out. And then one day, you go to use it, and it doesn't work, or doesn't fit, or expired before it got used.
That money was wasted. When I go shopping, I always have a list and a plan. I try to stick to that as much as possible. It saves time, reduces clutter and waste.
12. Mobile Phone Upgrades When My Phone Still Works Fine
I don't need the newest, coolest gadgets. I'm about three years behind on the latest model, and my phone still works great. I will keep it until it stops working. To protect it, I have a sturdy case and screen protector, because I'm a klutz and often drop my phone.
13. Trendy Clothes, Purses, and Jewelry
I really don't buy clothes at all. My first choice is a thrift store, except for swim suits, socks and underwear. If something needs replacing, I go for second-hand cotton.
I have what's called a capsule wardrobe, where every piece is something I feel comfortable wearing. My choice is classic styles with clean lines in solid colors. Just about everything in my closet can be combined with everything else.
I have always been puzzled by the designer purse trend. I am even more puzzled by the purses the size of diaper bags. Doesn't that hurt your back and neck? I know it would hurt mine! I have a tiny purse that is actually classified as a runner's belt. It has enough room to hold my cell phone, a small wallet, keys and a small bottle of Tylenol. But most of the time, I just carry my ID and debit card in the pocket of my cell phone case.
I have a few items that I've had for a decade or more, but I don't buy anything new. I barely wear what I have; I’m gradually giving it away to my sister in-law and niece. When I worked in a hospital and in home care, I didn't wear jewelry at all. You don't wear anything dangly like long earrings, necklaces or chunky rings when you're in patient care. It's a safety hazard and a place to collect germs.
14. Vitamins and Supplements
It has been proven over and over again that the best way to absorb nutrients is to consume them through food. You may notice that a lot of vitamins have 300% or even 1000% of a lot of the components--that is because your body won't absorb all of the vitamins in the pill. I get regular check-ups and blood tests so if there is a deficiency, I will know about it. I also periodically track what I eat to check on the nutrient content of my food.
What are your favorite techniques for spending less?