How to buy less: minimalist shopping guide

When talking about minimalism, one of the subjects that comes up a lot is decluttering. It is definitely true that decluttering is a good way to minimize the amount of stuff you own and appreciate what you have. But it is what you do afterwards that makes the biggest difference. I have written before that minimalism is not just about owning less, for me it is mainly about buying less.

But how do you actually buy less, and prevent yourself from acquiring new clutter? It is not always that easy if you have a habit of buying things mindlessly, shopping online because you are bored, or buying things you don’t need because they are on sale. In this post, I will share some tips that have helped me to buy less and buy with intention.

Make sure you know what you have

First of all, it is important to know what you already own. If you’re aware of this, you’re less likely to make impulse purchases. For example, if you see a cute top somewhere, you will know if you already own a similar one or if you already own enough tops in general.

But knowing what you have also helps for things you stack up on, like food or toiletries. I used to walk into a drugstore because I needed something, see there was a good deal on for instance deodorant, buy three of them, only to find out I still had two of them in stock. By the time I actually would have needed the deodorant, there would have been a couple of other good deals already – and now I didn’t have enough space to store them all.

Knowing what you have helps to know what you actually need, and can prevent unnecessary purchases. And it can help avoid the other extreme as well: suddenly having run out of something you actually need.

A green, burgundy and blue sweater stacked on top of each other, with a vase, a picture frame and a glass with chestnuts in the background.

Make a list of things you want to buy

The single thing that has helped me the most with buying less and making less impulse purchases, is making a list of things I want to buy. I have found this is especially useful when it comes to shopping for clothes. Every time I think I would like to own a certain clothing item, I put it on a list. Every now and then, I re-evaluate this list to see if I still want these things. If I still want the item a couple of weeks or months later, I give myself permission to buy it. If I realize I can actually do without, I remove it from the list.

Unsubscribe from mailing lists

Most of us are subscribed to several mailing lists from stores. Often, if you subscribe to the mailing list you get a discount on your next purchase, so it may seem like a good deal and it might even be at first. But if you find that receiving these e-mails tempt you to buy a lot of stuff you don’t actually need, or if they make you shop online out of boredom, it might be better to unsubscribe.

Try “online window shopping”

If you still can’t stop yourself from occasionally checking out online stores, or you actually enjoy looking at new clothes online to get inspiration or to look for that one perfect item that’s been on your list for a while now – that’s totally okay! I still do that too, and what has helped me a lot is what I call “online window shopping”.

What that means is this: instead of immediately buying the items I like, I put them either on my wishlist or in my shopping basket and then just leave them there. Similarly to when I make a list, I go back to these online stores every now and then and see if I still like what’s on the list. If I do and the item is still available, I eventually allow myself to buy it.

Ask yourself questions before buying

When you are questioning whether you are going to buy something, there are certain questions you can ask yourself, such as “do I really need this?”, “do I really love this?” or “how often am I going to use this?”. I think most people have seen these kind of questions before, but I think they’re still worth mentioning.

Another question that might be useful to ask before buying is “can I borrow this instead?”. If you need a fancy dress for a one-time event, sometimes it can be a good solution to borrow a dress from a friend – and there even are clothing libraries out there these days. While this is definitely not an option for everyone, it can be worth considering.

Lastly, you can ask yourself “can I also get this second-hand?”. Buying second-hand might not be very minimalist per se, because you are still bringing something new into your house. But it can be a good option if sustainability is also important to you and one of your reasons to be more minimalist. Sometimes we cannot be sure if we will actually use an item until we own it, and buying second-hand can be a great way to try it out without being wasteful or money going down the drain.

A white t-shirt with black stripes, a grey t-shirt and a black t-shirt laying on a wooden floor.

So those were my tips to buy less and shop like a minimalist. Of course, no one is perfect and I think no one is immune to the occasional impulse purchase. But I find that if you have a better idea of what you want, and shop with intention, you are far more likely to actually make good impulse purchases instead of ones you regret later – because you know it is something that you’ll actually use and love.


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