Saturday, November 20, 2021

How do Minimalists Spend Money?

Experienced minimalists have a strong grip on how much stuff is the right amount to have in their lives. There comes a point when there's not a lot to shop for anymore... So how do seasoned minimalists spend money? 

I can't speak for every other minimalist but I will share where my money goes. Of course, without huge purchases to worry about, a good chunk of my money goes into savings. I have better-than-average retirement accounts through work, so I don't really bother much with additional investing. Any money that doesn't go into a savings account goes toward making life better and more joyful. I use my disposable income to cook and eat better foods, wear better clothes, and buy back my free time. I've elaborated on each spending category below, and hope this post inspires you to make your own life better.

A Healthier Pantry

When my husband and I were saving for a house a few years ago, we cut back everywhere we could, including on the grocery budget. We weren't eating poorly, though--everything we ate was fresh and tended to not be prepackaged--we just weren't keeping the pantry stockpiled so we planned meals carefully. Our grocery budget was about $200 per month to feed us and our senior dog.

Now with the house purchase out of the way, I have very few other large purchases in my future, so I've upped our grocery budget considerably so that we have higher-quality foods available to us. The grocery budget has almost tripled (to about $550 per month) so I can bring in more sustainable, ethical, and healthy food choices. I also keep our pantry and freezer well-stocked with good foods to make getting through the harsh Minnesotan winters easier.

Upgraded Replacements

My money also goes toward higher-quality items as old things wear out. My kitchen is the usual target for upgrades because my husband and I cook a lot. As our older, cheaper pans and tools wear out (we had a cheap frying pan last us almost 10 years before it got too beat up), I'll replace them with stuff that's better-made. We went from cheap "college student budget" cookware made of aluminum and Teflon to high-end enameled cast iron pots and ceramic non-stick pans. Cooking is important to us and we do it almost every day, so when our old equipment wears out, it's worth it to us to choose more expensive, high-end replacements that will last much longer.

A Sustainable Wardrobe

I essentially have a personal uniform comprised of dresses paired with leggings and tights, capped off with black leather boots. I used to shop at huge department stores and online retailers when my focus was on budgeting, so my clothes and shoes were cheap and would wear out quickly. Without large purchases to worry about now, I put a lot more thought and consideration into how my clothes and boots are made, what they are made of, and how ethical and sustainable the entire supply chain is. 

Sustainable, ethically-made clothing comes with a higher price tag, but to me it's worth it because I know that my clothes aren't polluting the environment and aren't hurting the laborers responsible for garment construction. I've gone from $15 dresses and $10 leggings to $85 dresses and $70 leggings, and while the jump in cost is high, so is the jump in garment quality and longevity. I used to wear through the soles of cheap boots about every two months, and wear through cheap leggings every two or three weeks. In my newer sustainable wardrobe, my oldest leggings and boots are approaching two years of wear, but they look as good as they did when they were new.

Buying Back Time

I'm gone from home about 10 hours a day for work and the to/from commute. Once I get home, I don't really want to hop back in the car to run errands. I've been opting to pay extra for convenience services to buy back time so I can maximize my time spent enjoying my home life, and minimize the time spent shopping for everyday goods.

I take advantage of scheduled shipments to buy back a lot of time that would otherwise be spent shopping. Even a short grocery trip takes about an hour from start to finish when you factor in the drive there, time spent selecting food, time spent in line, the drive home, and the time it takes to put everything away. Paying a little extra for the convenience of having my groceries delivered buys back a lot of time, as I no longer have to worry about the drive, and I can shop any time I have a few minutes. All I really need to spend time on is putting everything away, which only takes a matter of minutes. My work time is worth a lot to me, and my free time is worth even more, so it feels well worth it to pay an extra $10 here and there to save me hours of time that would otherwise feel wasted.


I still buy stuff and spend money as a minimalist. Obviously I buy less than I did before I became a minimalist, but I also shop differently now. Instead of spending money on "just get by" items, I've shifted my spending to "don't need to re-buy" items. I now think long-term about the impact my purchases are making. I don't want to buy meat butchered from poorly-treated animals, or eggs gathered from chickens raised in cramped quarters. I don't want to buy clothing made through water-intensive methods with toxic dyes, or by slave labor. 

What I do want to buy is joy, and time to soak in that joy. Money can't buy happiness, as the old cliche goes, but money can buy better choices that lead to happiness... and that's how I go about spending my money as a minimalist.

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