The Year I Plan to Embrace Minimalism


Today is my 29th birthday. Usually, I’d write a list of 29 random facts about myself to share with you. I’d also considered writing a 30 Before 30 list. It’s the last year of my 20s – I should do something fun/impulsive/[insert more synonyms for spontaneous], right? Maybe I should finally go to Europe; live/work from France for a month; or do the same from Hawaii for three. Omg, I’ll probably settle down, get married, buy a place and have kids in my 30s. Ahhh! Must take advantage of freedom and do all the things NOW!

Those are more or less the thoughts that have been rolling around in my head the last few weeks. What is it about getting closer to a new decade that makes us want to flee from reality? If I had the vacation time, I probably would’ve booked a one-way ticket out of here last week. Instead, one conversation + two days of being holed up in my bedroom + two blog posts led to an aha! moment I’d never expected.

(Warning: This post is longer than usual.)

One Conversation

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about impulse purchases we’d made in the past, when she admitted one she’d recently made. Her reasoning for it: that she saves 20% of her income each month, so she’s allowed to spend the rest of her money on whatever she wants. I don’t necessarily disagree with this. If all your expenses are covered, you have no debt and you’re meeting your savings goals, you should absolutely enjoy some of your hard-earned dollars! But without blinking, this reply came out of my mouth instead:

“But could you save MORE? Do you NEED 80% of your income or could you live on less?”

As soon as I asked the question, I realized I’d been telling myself the same excuse for the last year – that I was meeting most of my goals, so it was ok for me to spend the rest of my money on whatever I wanted. However, if you remember, I set some lofty savings goals that I’ve continually had to shave down. Why? Well, I’ve let lifestyle inflation get the best of me. As soon as I made my final debt repayment, I started spending more and excused it. And when I got a raise last year, my budget (and allowances) only went up.

It’s taken a full year for me to finally allocate 20% of my monthly budget for long-term savings. And while I’ve appreciated everyone’s comments about how I’m doing the best I can, the fact is: I could definitely live on less and save more. (Remember: There was a time I allocated 55% of my budget for debt repayment.)

Two Days in Solitary Confinement (Joking, Not Joking)

Last week, we experienced some unusually hot weather in Greater Vancouver. Despite the fact that I live on one of the highest floors in my building and only get the morning sun, my apartment was hot hot hot – except for my bedroom. So, for two days, I basically lived in bed with a tall, oscillating fan next to me.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I didn’t see a single person in those two days, or if the heat just got to me, but I found that I was annoyed at everything in my apartment. Why can’t I find the can opener? Because it’s surrounded by a bunch of random stuff I never use or even think to look at. Where is my stash of new razor blades? Stuck under a year’s supply of shower gel and lotion. Why do I have 5 black tank tops? Because I’ve never tossed my “fat” clothes. And so on (with more curse words).

The more annoyed I felt, the more I wanted to grab anything I didn’t like and throw it in the garbage can. My place is always clean and organized, so it doesn’t look like I have a lot of “stuff”, but there are probably bags and bags worth of things I could get rid of. It’s so easy to spend $5 here and $10 there, and tuck things into closets and cupboards because you “might need it one day”. But nothing I’ve purchased recently has brought me true, genuine happiness. I’m still consuming for the sake of consuming.

I hate to admit this but, even after moving so many times, I still have 4 or 5 unpacked boxes in my closets full of stuff I don’t want to deal with; it’s just clutter. After my little freak out last week, I think it’s time to open them up, as well as all my drawers and closets, and sort everything into keep/toss/donate piles.

Two Blog Posts

Personal finance experts say that, in order to pay down your debt, you need to spend less money or earn more. In my own debt repayment journey, I always focused on spending less money. Since becoming debt-free, however, I’ve started to spend more. Then I began to earn more, and started to spend more yet again.

Last week, I told you that I’d finally made the decision to cut back on my spending, but I still wasn’t sure where to start. Even though I’d had those two little epiphanies, my aha! moment didn’t happen until after I read this post on J$’s blog. Somehow, despite the fact that I’d read and bookmarked the post it was inspired by, it took him pulling one sentence to make me see why I had to get serious about cutting back:

“Every permanent drop in your spending has a double effect: it increases the amount of money you have left over to save each month, and it permanently decreases the amount you’ll need every month for the rest of your life.”

Wow! What did I ask my friend during that one conversation? How much of your income do you NEED to live on? I’m not talking about the variable expenses that come up – just the fixed costs you have to take care of each month, such as rent, health care, food and transportation. I can tell you that my answer is a lot less than what I’m currently spending. The more I cut back, the more I’ll be able to save now and the less I’ll need in the future (e.g. when I want to travel or retire).

My Aha! Moment

After having those two epiphanies and then reading J$’s post, I felt irked. It wasn’t his fault. He just forced me to face up to something I’ve been trying to excuse for months: I’m making more money than I ever have and yet my savings goals are going nowhere, because I’ve been wasting money on things that don’t align with my life goals.

I’ve let raises become larger allowances and allowed freelance income to be used to pay for things on my wish list… and yet I don’t feel at all content in my current financial situation, or with where I’m at in life right now. This is totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, what I’ve allowed to happen is entirely my fault. The only good thing about that is it means I have the control to change my habits and turn the situation around.

How I Plan to Embrace Minimalism

According to The Minimalists, “minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important, so you can find happiness, fulfillment and freedom.” The answer to the question of how I plan to embrace this has two parts:

  1. My monthly budgets need a total revamp. I’m still brainstorming how to do this, and will wait until August to share what I come up with, but I can tell you it’s going to revolve around determining the smallest amount of money I can comfortably live off of and saving the rest. Instead of saying “I want to save 20% of my income,” I want to be able to say “I need 60% (as an example) of my income to live off of and I save the rest”. My budget will still fluctuate from month-to-month, as travel and other events come up, but I want to get my basic living expenses down and save the rest.
  2. I’m going on a yearlong shopping ban and I want to organize my place and get rid of everything I don’t use/need. Note that this is not a consumer fast. I’m not going to start making my own deodorant or laundry detergent (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s not my priority). I’m simply banning myself from shopping for anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be replaced and/or won’t help me/save me money in some way. (I’ll save details on the shopping ban for a post of its own, but I think it’s going to be a really good challenge for me!)

The overall goal for this year – the last one of my 20s – is to focus on enjoying what I have (with special focus on the people in my life and my surroundings), only buying what I absolutely need and letting go of everything I can do without. I’ve let myself believe that I need to live a big city lifestyle, with as many takeout coffees, restaurant meals and new things as I want – and yet I still don’t feel content. Can I afford to keep going at the rate I am? Maybe. But will I accomplish any of my financial, travel or other life goals by doing so? No, I will not – at least not in the timeframe I’d like.

So, instead of doing something fun/impulsive/spontaneous before I turn 30, I’m actually going to try and live the most frugal year of my life. Who knows – maybe I’ll save so much that I can afford to go to Europe for my 30th birthday. A girl can dream… but let’s see what I can actually accomplish!

Do you consider yourself a minimalist? Can you share any wisdom as I start this journey? And can you recommend any blogs I should read? Thanks in advance!

Flickr: hansel5569

  • I am so far from a minimalist, but I would love to be one… which is a bit of problem when I’m living with a semi-hoarder (seriously, the emotional attachment he has to certain items is insane). I try to de-clutter every once and a while and I get one bag of junk/clutter out of the house and then I stop for the time being. And that would be great, but we’re busting at the seams from a downsize in space that we never got under control. I think I need to give this another effort.

    Also, I like flipping the statement about saving/living. Sure we’re all told to automate our savings so we don’t see the money, and I do agree with that to get the habit started, but then it lets us reach a point where we can do the “bare minimum” (20% is awesome) and splurge a lot. I think I probably am doing the same with my debt repayment.

    • Jordann and I Skyped today and discussed the same thing: how setting a goal to save X amount is great to build the habit, but after we reach some of our goals it may actually limit our mindset of what we can accomplish. I drew up a rough draft of what August’s budget might look like and can say savings is already closer to the 30% mark.

  • Great work Cait! It is truly liberating. by reducing and eliminating those purchases on items that we really don’t need and rarely use can amount to substantial dollars and boost savings. Good luck on your journey this year and your Europe travel plans! We really enjoy your posts keep up the great work!

  • I think it’s a great idea! I like to call myself a minimalist but honestly since moving to the three-bedroom house, I haven’t had to exercise that muscle. We have so much space that we can bring things into our home without having to go through the trouble of “finding a home” for it. That’s a slippery slope.

    Also, I understand how you are feeling about savings goals. I’ve been putting some of my excess cash back into my budget for spending and it’s resulting in me feeling like I’m “going nowhere” with my savings goals. I have a plan to remedy that, but I haven’t blogged about it yet.

    Good luck in your year of ultimate frugality. :)

    • Thanks for the Skype date today! I bookmarked a couple sites/posts after we hung up and am really looking forward to reading through them. Good luck putting more of your money back into savings!

  • This is a very inspiring post! Sounds like you would enjoy “Your Money Or Your Life” if you haven’t read it already. Figuring out what is “enough” for you is the first step towards financial independence!

    • I *think* I have this book at home – waiting to be read! If I didn’t have so many books, I would probably know for sure :)

    • Thanks for the suggestion! It looks like my local library has a couple copies, so I’ll bookmark that and check it out later.

  • I love minimalism and am trying to move in that direction but my husband is a hoarder, so it’s a slower than I would like process. I’m definitely off the spending bug though. I don’t buy anything or bring anything into the house. It’s pretty easy once you get started, kind of like fixing a dripping tap. Cold turkey pretty much worked for me.

    Happy 29th Birthday, Cait!

    • I don’t know that cold turkey will work for me, but it’s inspiring to hear it did for you, Debs! Thanks!

  • Great post! I actually just started reading a book called “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” which has some good insights so far.. especially around the flimsy line of what is defined as a need vs. a want. I feel like I don’t connect with the writer completely because she isn’t as close to my age (in her 50s), her writing style was hard to follow for me sometimes, and this was performed more of as an experiment than a saving strategy. I’d definitely recommend you to check it out if you haven’t heard of it yet and maybe it will help you as you are setting some guidelines for your own shopping ban. Also I’m looking forward to reading more about your personal experience with the one year shopping ban as I’m sure you’ll also have some great stories to share. Best of luck!

    • Ooo, looks like my local library has a copy! Thanks for the suggestion, Danielle, and I hope I’m able to share some good stories/insights throughout the next year.

  • This is one of my favourite posts because the points you make align with my way of thinking. I am so glad you’ve had this A HA! moment and hopefully the changes you make will be permanent. Honestly we are richer than we think and if we only took the time to seriously analyze what and how much money we spend on wants we would be better off. I am going to start getting serious about my goals too (they are very similar to yours) starting with getting rid of one non-essential thing everything single day until I no longer can. I am excited for the results. First to go, empty lip balm container. Why am I even still holding on to it?!

  • Great post! Keep us updated on your Minimalist Year – I’d love to try something like this, and I think it’s a great way to spend the last year of your 20’s – focusing on what matters to you!

  • Bravo! Best post yet!
    Something that helped me a lot when I was evaluating my life and possessions in a similar way was this quote: “Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.”

    Cheers to your journey and happy birthday!

    • Yes, that one’s already stuck in the back of my mind, ready for my first sort/purge. Thanks, Niki!

  • Happy Birthday Cait! This sounds like a great plan for your 29th year.
    I think we’d all be happier with less stuff. One thing I’ve found that’s helped me above and beyond a good closet purge or an office clean out is to have an area or box set aside to collect things you can get rid of. It may not be worth it to make the trip to donate/sell it at this moment, but once its in the box, it is on its way out. I’ve done this for the last 3 years and it’s amazing how many things land in there. It is also a constant reminder to declutter my home.
    Best of luck on your adventure! I look forward to hearing about it!

    • That’s a really interesting idea, Kate! How often do you empty the box/get rid of everything?

  • Nice! I don’t mind your long posts at all, as they are really fun! I think it’s great that you’re making such a drastic change towards minimalism! Good luck!

  • I have a post on “stuff” coming on Wed! This after I spend all weekend de-cluttering even more, even though I just had a yard sale a couple weeks ago. It’s amazing that you can keep finding even more “stuff” when you keep looking. Every time I do I feel freer. The ONLY thing for me that I want to do different when it comes to saving more versus not saving more, is I don’t want to skimp on experiences. So while I’ll give a lot more thought to buying things, I don’t want to miss out on life, just to save a tiny bit more. Great post Cait, and Happy Birthday!

    • Nope, and I’m with you there – but I’m done excusing coffee/brunch/dinner dates as “experiences”. Rather than sit around, my friends and I should be going for walks/hikes (which are free and better for us). I want to save for BIG experiences, like more travel.

  • Hi Cait and Happy Birthday!

    I wasn’t much of a minimalist (and still am not to any great extreme – all things in moderation) but after I retired I did set about to start de-cluttering the entire house (since I now had the time to do so). You’d be amazed at what I discarded – lending truth to the old saying that “nature abhors a vacuum”! :-)

    You write:
    ” There was a time I allocated 50% of my budget for debt repayment”

    One thing that I’ve found about saving effectively and increasingly is that it can’t happen properly over the long term unless you set up specific goals for what exactly you are saving your money for. When I was younger I did that more and more – saving for my next car replacement, saving for an emergency fund, saving to have planned annual vacations, saving towards a first house, savings for our kids’ future education, saving for retirement, saving for investing, etc etc. In other words, I set up a 2nd budget – a savings budget – and tracked it pretty closely on a regularly basis. Being the hyper organized sod that I am, that savings strategy worked best for me, rather than just setting money aside each month and watching it randomly grow on paper.

    One other thing that I’ve read, related to savings, and found to be true, was whenever I received regular raises I would try to maintain my existing spending budget, within reason taking into account inflation, and limit any increase in discretionary spending, thereby banking much of the raise (after taxes).

    And finally Cait, you may live on one of the highest floors in your building but heat rises ya know! :-)

    Hope your birthday wishes today all come true!

    • Great tips Rob, I especially love the idea of a savings budget! I’m going to implement this strategy. I’m not the best saver and am trying to get better at it. Do you think this strategy might work or is it best to just have a savings account (which is what I am currently doing) and saving money in there?

      • Well mznatural, everyone is different and so whatever strategy that you choose to follow should be something that you are comfortable with and willing to continue for the long haul until something better comes along. In other words, don’t just adopt the current “flavor of the week”. When I was much younger (and much poorer than these days – lol), I obviously had to limit the number of my savings goals. As well, since it was still early in my financial self education skills, I basically kept things simple with a savings account, CDs, etc. Of course back in those days interest rates were much higher than they are today. What with inflation and the low interest rates of today, savings accounts don’t earn very much but are still pretty safe. So if one can minimalize and thereby generate extra $$$, manage a steady moderate savings plan, find investments to make your savings dollars work hard and earn even more $$$, then it’s a start. As the saying goes, the start of a long (financial) journey starts with one step at a time. It all depends on your risk tolerance and your search to learn things as you go. A financial advisor, one who sells only advice (and NOT his own financial products) is another thing to consider. Spending an hour with a good highly recommended such resource might prove to be money well spent. Just a suggestion since I don’t claim to have all the answers! :-)

        Good luck.

    • I knew the minute I got my raise that I should be saving more, which is why I originally added it to the savings category of my budget. Unfortunately, it quickly moved its way to other categories. I don’t expect I’ll be in the 50% range ever again, but I know I can do better than 0-20%.

      And thanks for the birthday wishes!

  • Happy Birthday, pretty girl! I loved this post, and I didn’t even find it long… hmm!

    It sounds like a great plan! I wouldn’t say I’m a minimalist per se, but I am definitely organized and I know where everything is, even if I may have 3 of that thing!

    Over the past 6 months or so, I’ve been decluttering and getting rid of un-used things/clothes and buying less/shopping less in general. It does feel good!

    My boyfriend could be called a minimalist… his house is EMPTY! He doesn’t even have much furniture, and when I came along he didn’t even have many (what I consider) essential kitchen things. lol

    Our medium-term plans include selling my house next year, and I have told him that I will NOT clutter up his house. I will be taking a good, hard look at everything before I move it. I will be taking the bare minimum. Just the thought excites me! He is excited for his house to feel more “home-like” once I bring SOME of my things and “feminine touches” as he calls them :-)

    Thanks for a very inspiring post and I wish you the best of luck!!


    • Aww, I can’t wait to hear more about your move next year, Dayle! It’s exciting to hear you guys have mapped all of that out already. And you’re right to be excited about only moving the bare minimum – it’ll make the physical move easier, as well as the process of combining your things.

      Thanks for all your birthday wishes today!

  • I think this is a great goal for your last year of being in your twenties! Ry and I are obsessed with the Tiny House movement, so we’ve been purging our belongings and trying to figure out where we want to live next. As you know, I’ve been re-evaluating my business and personal goals, so I’m right there with you. Hope you have a fabulous birthday and can’t wait to see you soon! <3

    • Ooo, do I see a micro loft in your future? Or maybe a 400 square foot cottage? I can’t wait to see you soon too!

  • Happy Birthday Cait!

    I feel so similar about so much in this post, I’ve only been debt-free for a few months but I definitely felt that BUY BUY BUY surge, which hit the wall during my move a few weeks ago where I was left going “HOW do I have so much stuff?” I’m currently embarking on a July no-buy for things like beauty products, clothes, accessories, etc and I’m trying to work my way through all this ‘stuff’ to see what I truly need and what is just extra.

    • Good luck with your no spend month + the sift through your current belongings! I went through all my clothes/shoes/purses tonight and can’t wait to share how many items I tossed/donated.

      • I wish I’d kept track, to at least be able to quantify how much we donated (most was in good enough condition to donate) but when we were moving i just wanted as much stuff removed from the house as possible! I DEFINITELY tossed out at least 6 shopping bags of clothes/belts/scarves/purses and multiple shoes. We put TONS of books on the lawn and a local scavenger grabbed almost all of them!

        We could’ve tried selling it, but we were overwhelmed and just wanted stuff out of the house. We put some furniture up for HUGE discounts, practically giving them away, and still met resistance from buyers and just gave up.

  • First of all: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    Second: I love the idea of living a more minimal lifestyle. I’ve struggled with it but I’ve also found that living in a small apartment has given me little choice. Still, doing a “stuff” purge is really empowering. I’ve downsized twice in the last year: One because I couldn’t handle the mounting clutter and then again when my partner moved in.

    I don’t know if I could bring myself to go on a complete shopping ban but I’m going to be rooting for you every step of the way, girl!

    • Thanks, hun! :)

      And it won’t be a “complete” shopping ban, per se – I’m still working on the rules! Will hopefully be ready to post it Wednesday, or next Monday at the latest.

  • Happy Birthday Cait,
    I love this idea and have found this blog useful for help if you want to do shopping ban help (and a community of people committed to this) as well as great tips of how to live frugally. It may have a bit too much DIY for you, but it’s definitely worth taking a look at if you already haven’t and maybe trying a few DIY things to cut back on some of those expenses.

    I personally love jumping into a new decade because as uncomfortable or exciting as it is, it really can be a time of reflection and re-alignment. In the end it’s always for the best!

  • Happy birthday, Cait!

    I can relate to your quest for minimalism. Last year when my dad sold our family home, I was floored by how much stuff/junk we got rid of. I was ruthless in cleaning out clutter and try to apply that to my own life in my tiny little condo in the sky.

    Personally, I am good about not spending money on “stuff” (e.g., clothes, knick knacks, etc.) but I struggle with keeping my spending in line on stuff like drinks and eating out. That’s what really gets me. I’m making a conscious effort in July to keep tabs on that spending and cut what I don’t need.

    Good luck with your move to minimalism and savings coals!

    • Those are two of my biggest vices as well, but swap “drinks” for ALL THE COFFEE. Good luck trying to be more conscious about your spending on both this month. When you think of planning a drink/food date, maybe ask yourself: could my friend/partner and I do something equally fun that’s free instead?

  • Happy Birthday Cait!

    Once again I’m so inspired by you. Since getting a job again I’ve been in debt repayment mode and saving mode but also spend mode!

    After not spending money I’ve been on a spending streak. Mostly new clothes and shoes to replace stuff that’s worn out. Trying to not spend a lot in the next few weeks as I have a trip planned and want to have money while I’m in the Okanagan. Thankfully the trip itself is relatively expense free. I just have to contribute a little for gas as we’re staying with relatives. It’s nice because food expenses are going to be non existent as well.

    My motto is right now if something new comes in something old must go. No hanging on to clothes that don’t fit and shoes that hurt my feet. It’s time for a declutter to happen.

    Good luck this year.

    • That’s a good motto to live by! Thanks, Nadia! And enjoy your trip to the Okanagan.

  • Happy Birthday Cait!

    When I decided to tackle my debt a few years ago I also attacked my belongings. All of the stuff around me just reminded me of how much money I wasted on things I didn’t need. I could feel the weight of my overflowing closets and bookcases holding me back, keeping me in debt. I actually got rid of 1/3 – 1/2 of my belongings and I haven’t looked back.

    When I was spending recklessly I collected a lot of things: books, movies, shoes, purses, housewares, dust-collectors (ornaments of any type which have no actual use), ect. Now I hand off any books I don’t think I will read again and I rarely buy them anymore. Netflix has replaced my need to buy movies. I don’t listen to a lot of new music but when I do I usually purchase from iTunes. I have a basic assortment of shoes and only buy once there are falling apart. I avoid buying housewares unless it will directly make my life better/easier (plus my mom still gives me way too many kitchen gadgets). I still have a few more purses than I need but I don’t collect them anymore. I actively encourage family and friends to purchase gifts I can use for birthday and Christmas instead of things that take up space.

    The one area where I always seem to be adding is my wardrobe. But people are often surprised how little clothing I own considering how much I love to shop for clothes. Well, before I was working retail I had limited my clothes shopping to something I absolutely loved or something that needed to be replaced. I still purge my closet quite frequently. Also since I gave up working retail I have greatly reduced the amount of clothing I buy because everything is 50% more expensive. I also see those few items hanging in the closet that I only wore a couple times so I’m much more picky over what I buy now.

    I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist. I still own way too much stuff for one person. But I actively limit what comes in to my house now and I probably purge a couple times a year.

    I am interested to see where this journey will take you.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences with this stuff, Trista! I did a big purge back in January 2012, and small ones throughout all my moves, but I still feel like I have a ton of crap lying around the house – and I do. Last night, I tackled clothes/shoes/purses and can’t wait to share how that went (next week). In regards to the one area you’re always adding items, mine is books (both hard-copy and electronic). It’s sick to think about how many I own and have never even read…

  • Wow! A year long shopping ban? You should definitely keep a log of that and what you learn from not shopping for a year. That sounds like a hit book in the making. I think you’re going to love being a minimalist.

    • Haha, there are already a few books out there about that, but I’ll definitely share my experiences here!

  • Wow.. this is awesome! What a great way to spend age 29 (as I’m turning 29 in November, I’m feeling a little inspired now).

    Thankfully being a student again has pushed me down to minimalism and no-spending but as I’ve been packing up my apartment to move again, I couldn’t believe how much extra freakin’ stuff I’d accumulated even in 1 short year. Why am I always buying so much crap?

    Since I heard what minimalism was a few years ago I’ve been pretty good with conscious spending, but I feel like stuff just sneaks in there… Can’t wait to read about your journey and tactics going forward so maybe I can get steady on the minimalism bandwagon for the good of my home!

    • Honestly, I always thought I was a fairly conscious spender, but I did my first purge last night and feel sick about how much was hiding in my closet. Where did it all come from!? Ahhhh.

  • So proud of you and I’m looking to do the same. The wedding has totally gotten away from us. We’re spending more than we planned and our debt payoff has been stationary since the beginning of the year. After our big day, I can’t wait to hunker down and get real money moves made.

    • You’re not the first bride to say to me recently that wedding planning – especially in the final few months – has taken over their spending. So don’t beat yourself up! But I know you’ll feel better once that cash is back in your control, so you can tackle your next goals. xo

  • Bravo! When we really buckled down with our budget last year, I found that I was the happiest I’d been in a long time. No more shopping for stuff I “want” instead of need lead to fewer “wants” and more focus on the awesome — priceless — parts of my life that are already present.

    I am publishing a post on this very topic on Wednesday, so there must be something in the air ;)

  • Cait, I totally admire you. I wish I had an opportunity to be more like you. What I mean is that I’ve been with my husband since we were kids, we’ve literally grown up together and for that i am fortunate. Not that I would change anything about us, I have come to be the person I am, with him and having a spouse sometimes means adapting and giving into things. It would be incredibly easy for me to live like this but with him, not so much. Not that we’re frivolous by any stretch of the imagination but he’s usually the one convincing me to grab dinner out or to spend that $20, again not a bad things but what you’ve pointed out is so true…. I feel like my point isn’t coming across…anyway…

    Why not sell all the crap you feel you don’t need and save that money for ”extras”? The treats you may want but not want to screw your budget for?

    Good luck :)

    • Your point came across! It’s not easy to change things about your life/yourself when you’re in a committed relationship, because then it takes two to make it fully happen. Right? Because that makes total sense to me. My last boyfriend was a totttttal hoarder, and a crazy online shopper who was always looking for the best deal and brought home so much crap we didn’t need. I think he owned something like 100 t-shirts, 30+ pairs of jeans and 50+ video games (on top of all kinds of random odds and ends, those are just what stood out). It was awful. He also loved dining out and wanted to buy everything at the grocery store… and I let it happen, because I didn’t want to fight about it.

      Is there a conversation you two could have about those extra expenses? Or maybe give each other a weekly or monthly budget? My girlfriend and her husband get $20/week to spend on any takeout coffee/food they want. Maybe something like that could work for you guys? (Not trying to butt in, it just reminded me of their situation!)

      Also, I LOVE that idea and am absolutely going to adopt it! I can already identify a few things I’ll probably need to shop for this year, so having to sell something to get the cash for it sounds like a great solution. Thanks!

  • I admire your aspirations to live a more minimalist lifestyle and I have been fantasizing about getting rid of and/or selling a bunch of things lately too. I don’t feel like I have an overabundance of unnecessary things, but there may things I’ve held on to “just in case” I need them later. A lot of arts and craft supplies, for example. Once we renovate our basement to rent on Airbnb, there won’t be as much space, so I’ve got to cut back.

    • Those three words – just in case – are the worst. I’ll likely be able to toss 30% of my belongings, simply because they once had those words attached to them.

  • i am NOT a minimalist….I would like to be a minimalist FINANCIALLY…but i also will find excuses to buy my kids things THEY want…which defeats that purpose of showing my kids how to budget and live within your means… for you future….so I need to change MY mindset… (at least it isnt on credit anymore so I guess that is a start???) THEN help change theirs…GOOD post Cait…I applaud your thought processes..and i hope you attain your goals that you are setting out to do..I DO regularly purge my closet..and have the girls do theirs…once a year…but you got me thinking about in other areas as well…with regards to the “hording” of products…for whatever hygiene needs…or food stores etc…i mean if i want to give stuff to the shelter or a donation…i SHOULD just budget that in and then give it right then and there..instead of shelving it…GREAT POST THANKS

    • That’s a good idea, Kelly – to budget what you want to give to shelters. I like that!

  • Happy Birthday!

    I find that because I’ve moved so much over the past few years – between Toronto, London in England, and Vancouver – I have very few possessions. My clothes can fit in two suitcases and then there are a couple pairs of shoes, my DSLR, a few books and my electronics – my laptop, audio recorder and cellphone. After my most recent move back to Toronto, I’m acquiring some more things like furniture and kitchen stuff as I hope this move is more permanent. But, I love not being tied down by too much stuff and really loving what I do own.

    • I want to get to that point. I pared down my clothes and shoes last night, and would be willing to bet they’d all fit in two suitcases now! But I had so much “stuff” in my closet that blew my mind. I want it all out, so I can stop thinking about it.

  • Happy Birthday Cait! May this be your happiest year yet!

    LOVE this post for so many reasons! Also love the idea of keeping a list of what you buy (and maybe a Temptation List of what you wanted to buy but didn’t?)

    Also a fan of the long post – even tho it’s time consuming on your end, great food for thought and motivation on our end :-)

    • The lists are a great idea, Kath! Thanks for the suggestion! And thanks for the birthday wishes.

  • Happy Birthday Cait, I would like to consider myself as a minimalist, but I am far away from it. Like the saying goes the more you make the more you spend. I do invest more than I did before but the one thing I can’t control or have flexible option is my travel ticket. Someday I will try to work toward being a minimalist. I started tracking my net worth so hopefully it will help me be more accountable.

  • Yep. I am a minimalist, and the only advice I have is to start decluttering. You’ll find the 80/20 rule applies to everything in your home, too, and when you eliminate 80% of the “can opener drawer” contents, you’ll find room to breathe. I’m struggling with this as we seem to be accumulating too much stuff in the run up to the wedding. Sigh. At least so far, we’ve been able to do a 1:1 replacement when gifts come in.

    • Those freaking can opener drawer items, Kathleen – they have to go! I hadn’t really thought about using to 80/20 rule at home, but I can definitely see how that would work. Thanks for putting that tip in my ear!

  • I used to be a great minimalist – and it was at the time in my life when my experiences were more important to me than things. Now that I have a more demanding schedule and find it harder to find time for experiences, I’ve shifted a bit to more things and feel the same discontent with my savings rate that you mentioned. I don’t have much advice to give but I can say that I’m in your corner rooting for you all the way (and hoping to learn from you as well)!


    • Thanks, hun! And I actually hadn’t thought about it that way – that we might buy things to keep at home when we have less time to go out and do things. I hope others read your comment!

  • Happy Birthday Cait :) If the bottom quintile of earners can live off minimum wage, then I think most people can easily live on less than 80% of their income since medium wages are quite a bit higher than $10.25/hr. I’ve never tried a minimalist lifestyle before but it appears to be quite popular in the PF community. It makes budgeting easier to track and simplifies life in general :) Good luck. I would just keep in mind that things can feel worse before they start to feel better.

  • Happy Birthday, Cait! My birthday is the 27th, and I also turn 29. I have to reflect a bit as I go into the next year, too.

    I started getting into minimalism when I first started working on my finances. I found it extremely liberating and money-saving. I moved from San Francisco to Boston in 3 medium-sized boxes and 2 suitcases. And one of the boxes was entirely filled with a foam mattress topper. That was literally all I owned; it’s not like I had a bunch of stuff stashed at my parents’ house or something.

    Some people can probably have as few possessions as I had and feel completely freed by it. It was definitely the case that I learned what I could live without, and it changed my perspective. However, I actually took it to the point of being self-negating, and trying to shrink down and hide. Part of the reason I liked having so little stuff was so that I could escape situations and pick up and move at a moment’s notice, just in case, because I was scared of EVERYTHING.

    Putting down roots and being slightly less minimalist the last year has been healing for me. Painting my apartment walls, buying decorations at the thrift store, buying a desk — I could no longer pack my shit and be gone in 20 minutes, but for me, that is important right now. To feel safe and settled.

    I wish you the best of luck with your journey! I am excited to hear how it goes. I am not sure where it will lead you, but I am sure you will learn a lot. :)

    • Deena, thank you so much for sharing your journey with minimalism. I can see how one reason to want to own next to nothing would be so a person could flee from any situation. I’m happy to hear you’re finding some comfort in putting roots down. xo

  • Happy happy birthday, Cait!!! I love this post. Everything about it. I just did a clean out a few weeks ago and it was AMAZING how much stuff I piled up to donate. That being said, it felt oh so relieving to get it out of my space. Will probably do another round in the coming month.

    Excited to read how it goes for you!!

  • Happy Birthday Cait! :)

    I must say, reading your introductory thoughts vs. the final conclusions was very mature and forward-thinking, instead of the typical “oh no I’m getting old! I gotta party the whole last year of my 20’s!” reaction most folks think of.

    Kudos for that, you inspire the rest of us in your age range to think long-term! :)

  • Absolutely love this, Cait!

    As a student, I’ve been living as a minimalist out of necessity rather than by choice. Out of this, I realized that I’d rather be living this kind of lifestyle than spending and buying all the time. Simple living has become part of my core values, and hope to continue living this way, regardless of my income increasing.

    This sentence in your post resonated with me: “Nothing I’ve purchased recently has brought me true, genuine happiness. I’m still consuming for the sake of consuming.”

    I think that this is exactly what’s key in simple living. It’s about choosing to be and being happy with what one owns. We should be more aware of the messages we’re bombarded with, and before buying something, consider why we’re buying it.

    Another thing that I think relates to simple living is self-awareness, and understanding what motivates oneself. Some buy for necessity, and some buy for prestige.

    Here are some of my favourite blogs that relate to minimalism: (no new posts, but great archive)

    Three great primers on minimalism and simple living.

    • Thank you for all of this, Christina! I already had 2 of those 3 links bookmarked, but will read through the archives of the other.

      It’s inspiring to hear someone say this is part of their core values. I look forward to more comments from you on future posts.

  • Happy Birthday!

    I don’t consider myself a minimalist and I don’t consider myself a spender, I think I fall somewhere between the 2. [I mean I cursed this week when I realized I had to replace a bra cause it fell apart when I went to put it on!]

    I am working hard to spend less money on things I do not need and spend more money on experiences or ask for more practical gifts. We really need a backsplash in the kitchen, so that was my bday present this year.

    This year is a milestone bday for my husband so we have been saving $ for our dream trip to Italy. It will be so worth it to have that experience.

    One of the problems I have as a workaholic is that I often don’t take time for fun, so I am looking for inexpensive ways to do fun things (like buying the cheapest seats known to man for the RedBlacks home opener). While saving is a priority (especially as a self employed person), I need to keep fun one too!

    I can’t wait to follow your journey. I am sure it will be inspiring.

    • Sounds like you put a lot more focus on saving for experiences vs. “things”, Kristen. You may be more of a minimalist than you think. :)

  • Happy Birthday!

    Here are two blogs that I find practical and inspiring (in very different ways) as I work towards simplifying my spending and my life.

  • Every potential purchase is goes through an opportunity-cost analysis, and 90% of the time I would just rather have the money to save and invest.

    For example, I want the new iPhone 6 in the 5.5 inch version when it comes out in September. I calculate that it will easily cost $1000 to buy straight up. I have an iPhone 4. It still works. Would I rather have a new phone or a $1000? Even if I used the iPhone 6 for 4 years like the iPhone 4, it will still work out to $250 a year to have the pleasure of owning an outdated phone.

    • It’s funny you mention the new iPhone, because I’ve been fantasizing about getting one too. Unfortunately, this new shopping ban will put an end to that. But it’ll still be something that tempts me – even with a $1,000 price tag.

  • Happy birthday Cait! I love reading your blog, and feel like I am in a similar place as you are. We live in a townhouse and have recently had to replace our roof, so we were saddled with a large roof levy, payable over 12 months. Although we had saved up some money beforehand towards the roof, it turned out we were paying just over $500 a month to make the payment. We ended up paying it off early, just last month. Since we have paid it off I feel like a weight has been lifted and therefore our spending has gone up. We still have some other debt to pay off, so this article is a great reminder to stay the course and look at ways to cut expenses.

    In regards to minimalism, I consider myself a minimalist in training. We had a complex wide garage sale a couple of months and it made me realize how much stuff we had in the garage that was just gathering dust. We got rid of a lot of it and it was a great feeling. I have done quite a bit of purging since then. I am someone that would rather remember certain experiences in life then remember the expensive material possessions that I formed my life around.

    I hope you have a great birthday!

    • I’m glad the post served as a reminder to stay on course, Nicole! Thanks for sharing your experiences with purging items, as well as for the birthday wishes. :)

  • Yeah girl!! LOVE THIS!!! So glad you’re on fire and ready to rock this stuff – feels good doesn’t it?? The a-ha moments come far and few between, but man it’s great when they hit.

    Keep pouring your energy into it – it’s going to be a great year! :)

  • Long but good!

    I’ve definitely felt frustrated this year – I’m earning more but we haven’t gotten ahead (in fact fallen behind) because of T’s months of unemployment. Slow and steady is now the name of the game to make up for it and it’s PAINFUL.

    After spending most of last year living out of a backpack I look around me and see things we never touch – old CDs, old books. My problem is letting stuff into the house in the first place and I try not to do that because then I won’t let them go.

    • Yea, I can only imagine the frustrations you guys must be feeling… but that still proves your head is in the right place (even if it feels painful). As more money comes in, it’ll go to the right places. xx

  • I think this is an awesome idea Cait! It’s a total counterpoint to the idea of going out with a bang. Instead of cramming a bunch of things into a year in preparation for the end of a decade, you’re getting your shit in gear to prepare for the beginning of a decade. I like it :)

    Do I consider myself a minimalist? Not by a long shot. I like the idea, but at this point in time it’s not practical for me. That’s not to say that streamlining my stuff hasn’t been a complete boon. Getting rid of the stuff I don’t wear/that’s worn out/doesn’t fit, dealing with the random piles of paper, and just saying no to myself has been incredible freeing. It takes work, that’s for sure, but it’s worth it.

    Happy birthday again! :)

  • Happy Birthday! I may be six weeks older than you, but I am in a very similar place with trying to embrace more minimalism! I downsized from a townhouse to an apartment a few years ago, but still have too much stuff, and now is the time to do something about it!

    The one thing I will say is at least with me, experiences are not something I will cheap out and go minimalist on, I want to spend less money on buying stuff so I can spend more money on travelling and awesome experiences!

    P.S. I’m going to Europe for my 30th next May, it will be my fourth time, you 100% should do it, such an amazing place!

  • Happy Birthday!! I also turned 29 this year and had some of the same thoughts as yourself, but also elected to not go on a huge spending spree to Europe :) I’ve been thinking the same thing lately they I could save more and that my spending has been a bit out of control due to a raise and paying down my debt. I’m going to start saving more and cut back on spending, I don’t think I would go the minimalism route completely but I can claw back my spending and increase my savings for sure!! Good luck and I look forward to reading all about it :)

  • I’ve done a year-long shopping ban, too. It wasn’t easy (especially for someone with a fashion diploma), but it sure does help to change those shopping habits. By the end of the year, I didn’t even want to go shopping, and still to this day, although it’s now been..4 years since the challenge, I really think about my purchases before buying them. I also return things alot from purchases I’ve made without thinking, and then feel so guilty about the money I spent and the fact that I don’t really need it, that I take it back.

    Good luck with your challenge!

    • Sounds like it was a life-changing year for you! Thanks for sharing your experiences, Tanya!

  • Happy belated birthday! And I loved this post. I wish you much luck and happiness on this journey you’re embarking on.

    I unlurked because I wanted to pass along a blog I like to read when I’m feeling overwhelmed by my physical stuff…usually sends me to do some purging!

  • I am glad to hear you are reading MMM regularly, whenever I find my spending starting to inflate I read a few of his posts and feel my badassity/frugality increasing :) I love how funny and sarcastic he is!
    I have noticed that it is easy for people to be frugal in certain areas of their lives and not in others, and that this differs from person to person. It seems like you have started to take note of the areas you always justify your spedning (books, coffee etc.) so as long as find the free/cheap alternative (library- you can take out e-books, and coffee at home) you should start to see the changes moving into all areas of your spending.
    I know you recently posted about your car and how you have been driving it less, perhaps getting a bike and looking into Zipcar or Car2Go and getting rid of your car may be next?
    Vancouver is not a cheap city but there has been a recent trend towards frugality. Check out this recent article about a local couple and their blog Incoming Assets.
    I am looking forward to the Vancouver meet up, it is pretty geeky how excited I am for it!

    • Nah, the car’s not going anywhere. I’m happy to pay for the freedom it brings me. However, where I live may change again one day, so I’m not in a city where car insurance is so expensive – that’s what eats up more than half of my car budget.

      The article was interesting. Of course, their housing costs *are* completely unrealistic for the average Vancouverite. I make more than their combined income, so co-op housing would never be an option for me. I’d also be curious to see what they purchase at the grocery store. There was another article about a guy in Toronto who was going to become mortgage-free at 31 and he only spent something like $100 on groceries every month, but guess what he ate? Kraft dinner, spaghetti and bananas. Not exactly healthy.

      Looking forward to wherever our discussions go on the 24th! :D

      • I live in a co-op as well that has no minimum or maximum income so it is possible! My rent is ridiculously cheap and I live in Gastown, it’s kind of like finding the golden ticket because you have to be in the right place at the right time I think. I actually do have 3-4 friends who also live in Vancouver co-ops.

        I believe that couple posted a month worth of their grocery receipts on their blog after someone said they must have been lying. They are vegan though, so that brings down the food budget for sure. For just 1 person I spend $250 month on groceries but I dont think its worth it to compromise on nutrition, or cheese ;)

  • Happy Birthday Cait! Hope you have a wonderful day :)

    Good luck with your minimalist and savings goals. The way you were able to have fierce determinism when dealing with your debt, I know you can do the same about saving.

    Good luck and all the best! :)

  • I am behind you 150%! I came to this conclusion some time ago, after I had paid off debt and I really enjoy my life now with less (but things that I really enjoy) than what I had before! I am still a work in progress when it comes to minimalism but man I have come a long way. Happy belated birthday Cait and welcome to a new and I think fabulous chapter in your life :)

    • I forgot to add, I regularly read by Courtney Carver and by Joshua Becker who are both minimalists.

    • Thank you so much, Kassandra! And I have both of those bookmarked already, so we’re good to go. :)

  • It feels as if every day I struggle with the idea of embracing minimalism. On one hand, I know how frustrating it us to sort through all of my useless STUFF and regret a huge chunk of my purchases. On the other hand, the human/selfish part of my loves to consume! I know I’ll embrace minimalism one day, but I always find excuses to always postpone whenever that day should be. I’m really looking forward to reading about your journey with minimalism!

    • I’m already going through things and thinking to myself, “I never used/wore that. What a waste.” But I also know that holding onto these things isn’t healthy. And it’s still ok to consume, when you’re a minimalist – I think it’s just about finding the balance of only purchasing things that actually better your life in some way.

  • Hi Cait! I’ve regularly read your blog for years, but never left a comment because I generally think its sorta creepy (makes me feel like such a vouyer!). This post truly struck a cord with me. I’m amid some major debt repayment (and will be for years), but always feel like I’m going no where financially. I think reading this post, coupled with a move later this month, will truly kick off my own spending fast. Thanks for the inspiration! I look forward to more articles related to this topic!

    • Hey Jenn! Say hi more. I love comments/discussions. :)

      Good luck with your upcoming move! I know how tough those can be. Are you all packed up yet? If not, while you’re doing that, try to take a mental inventory of what you already own enough of; that can help shape some of the rules around your own spending fast.

  • What a great goal! I’m constantly working on it and when I’m tempted to go out to eat or hire someone to do something for me, I always go back to this quote from JL Fisker:

    “If you want to change your life, don’t be tempted to outsource your life or your operations. You’ll never know which kind of connections or synergies you’re missing and you’ll only make yourself more dependent on your suppliers.”

    I guess in my own way, I define minimalism as not only living simply but also relying on my own skills and knowledge to manage my daily living. It’s somewhat challenging to not think about hiring someone, say to figure out what to do to improve our garden/yard. But I just keep doing little things that improve it over time. You might have also come across this blog before but I’m posting it nonetheless:

    • I do have that link! It’s sad there are no new posts but I’ll have to go through the archives. Thanks.

  • This is a bit late, but Happy Birthday!

    I think you’ll love reducing your items. When I was 26/27 I started becoming increasingly minimalistic, and it felt so good. My goal was a garbage bag of stuff out a week. I was able to donate 4 pairs of “cheap” jeans ($25-$45) that didn’t fit me well with one pair of nicer jeans ($90ish) that made me feel great. Less physical stuff, more happiness, at about the same net cost. I also loved having set “clean walls” where no furniture or stuff would go. I had stop when I found out I was going to have a baby, and then a whirlwind of life changes. Now at 22+8, I’m looking forward to a permanent home where I can start reducing again.

    Great inspirational post! And a great photo find on flickr! Good luck and I hope you make it to Europe sooner than you expect :)

    • Thanks, Leigh! Sounds like you’ve had some great success with this in the past. I hope I make it to Europe too, hehe.

  • Excellent post. I completely relate to what you say about lifestyle inflation and spending more once a goal has been reached. I recently paid off my student loan debt and have already been brainstorming what “fun” I can have with the extra money, when in reality I need to save more and invest in my IRA.

    I also love the idea of minimalism, and it’s so nice to see others exploring the same lifestyle. Consumerism aside, it seems to free up more time, too. Anyway, good luck this year! I’ll be (hopefully) doing the same thing!!

    • It’s so easy to get sucked into lifestyle inflation, eh? I added my last raise into my budget, but told myself it would be allocated to savings. Was it? Nope. Instead, I made a lot of excuses to spend it.

      Thanks for the luck – and right back at you! :)

  • Very timely for me too! I just got back from two weeks of travel and as I get back into daily routine, it strikes me how superfluous a lot of stuff and actions are. I am looking at all the things we don’t use but aren’t comfortable getting rid of (clothes that seem useful, books I’ve read), and don’t see any extra happiness being provided as a result of hanging on to this stuff. I want to be excited for the future and strong enough to let go of these things.

  • Cait, what a fantastic blog post. I’m going to forward it to all the people who come to see me but feel there is no way they could do this. I understand that everyone’s circumstance is different, but just to get these thoughts out there is a fantastic way to get people thinking. Well done!

  • So glad I found your blog! I am in the same boat as you as I am turning 30 next year (happy birthday to us!) and have just recently started to purge/de clutter my clothes and STUFF and put more focus on paying down the last remaining $20K in student loan debt…. So I have just recently started trying to become more minimalistic and be mindful of what I am spending my money on…just in time for new year resolutions I guess! I wish us both the best of luck :)

  • I loved this post! I just had my 29th birthday (February 27th) and I remembered this post from July! I read your blog daily :)

    Anyway, I started a new job, and decided I would start trying to save as much as possible. Right now 55% of each paycheque goes into savings, leaving the other 45% for necessities and wants. I’m hoping I can get the savings percentage up to 65% in a couple months. I figure, even if it doesn’t last, for the time it does last, that’s a lot of savings to be proud of!!

    Thanks for posting about your experiences Cait! I love reading your blog!!

  • Great post! And so awesome that you have discovered this while you are single…and before 30! Your future will be so much LESS STRESSFUL knowing this stuff and applying it now :D.

  • Hi Cait!
    You couldn’t have taken the words out of my mouth any better!
    I’m 29, just married and have become totally absorbed in a dream ‘big city’ lifestyle and have just he your exact aha moment after a combination of being cooped up in bed for 3 days (unfortunately sick but it was a blessing) and conversations with a few people who.
    How interesting!

    Best of luck with your venture! I’m onto project333, have a hallway currently full of stuff ready to go to a trash and treasure market in a few weeks, and have a saving plan underway. Happy saving to us!

  • I just turned 30 on the weekend and have been embracing minimalism alot more over the last year as well.

    My husband isn’t 100% on board yet but he’s getting better. Apart from new undies (which I needed) I haven’t bought any clothes for myself in over 6 months and I’m trying to question every other purchase I make. In particular how useful the item would be and whether I already have anything that could do the same job.

    I have been decluttering the house for the last year or 2 and feel that we’re slowly getting to a more comfortable and manageable position.

    Due to living with multiple chronic illnesses for the last 2 years+, which have limited my capacity to the point I only work about 8 hours a week, I’ve been focusing on creating a simple, sustainable and meaningful life for myself and my husband.

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