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How Minimalism Can Help You Save Money and Reduce Waste

Pile of Clothes Ready to be Donated

Thanks to Marie Kondo, multiple articles, and the Netflix documentary The Minimalists: Less is Now, many of us have heard the concept of “minimalism.” No, not the 1950s art trend, but the sparse, simple lifestyle. In this blog, we are going to look at a few ways that you can leverage minimalism to reduce the number of items you purchase (or need!) and save money.

 

CAN YOU SHIFT AWAY FROM CONSUMABLE ITEMS?

Think paper towels, plastic cups, plastic bags, the tiny floss picks—any item that is single-use and gets thrown away once you’re done with it. If possible, avoid purchasing these items so you can buy less and throw out less. Buying less is an obvious way you can save money, but think about how much you also spend to throw away items.

Moving from the city to the country, where I no longer have my trash picked up, I have become more aware of the cost of waste. At the landfill, you pay for the amount that you throw out; the more you throw away, the more expensive it is. With that in mind, I continue to think of ways to get reusable items that can fill the same need/purpose. Instead of paper towels, I have specific washcloths and tea towels designated for cleaning kitchen counters. Instead of paper cups, I have fancy glasses that I can clean and rotate through my restrooms so my guests and I can swish in style after brushing. Take inventory of your single-use items and find creative ways to replace them with items that can be reused. This is good for both your wallet and the environment!

 

WHY BUY WHEN YOU CAN BORROW?

There are times when you will need to buy “stuff.” Still, to be intentional with your money, it is important to understand the true value that purchases add to your life. When you need something, what is the benefit of owning it outright?

In these instances, I tend to make myself wait a certain amount of time to assess if I truly need to make that purchase. If the answer is no or I’m not sure, I find others who are open to trading, borrowing, or sharing certain items when they’re not being used. Use the internet and social media to find other people near you who may have items that you can borrow. Check out what your community has to offer—for example, you may be surprised to find out your local library has items to borrow other than books, such as gardening supplies or board/lawn games.

By thinking ahead about what I need, taking time to see what my options are, and connecting with community members, I have found that I am able to spend less and keep less. Like single-use items, it also helps divert stuff that might otherwise find its way into a landfill.

 

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WHY BORROW WHEN YOU CAN SWAP FOR KEEPS?

I really enjoy “new to me” items. This can mean shopping at garage sales or consignment shops, but that still often costs money. One of my favorite ways to get something “new” for free is to host a clothing/belonging swap for friends (and friends of friends). Everyone comes and swaps anything and everything that they don’t need: books, clothes, lamps, camping gear, kitchen supplies, you name it.

It can be a relief to get rid of items that no longer have a use for you and fun to simultaneously see their value for someone else. The excess items can be donated to charity. The swap also gives everyone a chance to see how much stuff we own, what is important to have, and what ends up getting recycled again at the next swap.

 

HOW CAN YOU MINIMIZE WASTE IN THE KITCHEN?

I often think of my kitchen when it comes to owning less and minimizing waste. For someone who likes to cook and bake, my kitchen is the hub of all gatherings. It is easy to fill your kitchen with special gadgets and tools or your latest shopping trip to Costco. But do you really need an ice cream maker that you never use, or 50 pounds of King Arthur flour?

Using the ideas from this blog, you can be intentional about what ends up in your kitchen and what stays in your wallet. Try reusable silicone sheets and cupcake liners instead of parchment paper and disposable muffin cups that are single-use. Share certain types of equipment with other cooking/baking enthusiasts that you might not use regularly. You can also purchase ingredients in bulk and split your supplies with someone to keep a more reasonable amount. I have found that bulk bins in particular allow you to cut down on additional packaging, waste, and lets you grab exactly what you need.

Spices or unique ingredients are examples of what you can buy in bulk. I use recipes for inspiration and shopping guides, not hard scripts that have to be followed to the teaspoon. If you follow the recipe exactly, you may purchase a spice or food that you end up only using once. If you really need an unusual ingredient, you can go to your local co-op and buy the exact amount that you need from the bulk bins. In addition, you can bring your own containers, which cuts down on waste and may even get you a discount. If you time it right, some co-ops also have a designated “bulk day” where you can take advantage of 10% off bulk items.

 

CAN I BE MINIMALIST ABOUT NON-MATERIAL THINGS?

Minimalism can indeed also pertain to non-material items. Certain activities or relationships that initially brought you happiness may have started feeling like an obligation. You can think of minimalism in a way that removes unnecessary events in your life that cost money and time and do not give you the reward you hoped for. For many, the saying “time is money” is true; by paring down on activities and relationships that aren’t fulfilling, you are giving yourself more time, savings, and the ability to find other ways to bring fulfillment to your life.

How might you apply minimalism to your life? Even if you don’t join me in doing all of these, whatever approach you take away from this post can help you cut down on possessions, waste, and spending.

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About Stephanie Loscalzo

Stephanie Loscalzo is the Learning and Development Specialist at VSECU, where she welcomes new employees and focuses on developing employees’ communication and interpersonal skills. Outside of work, you can find Stephanie running, riding her bike, or paddling her stand-up paddle board or kayak.
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