Minimalist shopping is where you seek to purchase the bare minimum amount of items necessary to meet your needs — either by only acquiring essential items or by seeking out the most versatile and long-lasting versions of everyday items.
Don’t mistake minimalist shopping for deprivation (although minimalism can certainly be a position of relative privilege). It’s simply a way to be more mindful of your consumption and save money in the long run.
Alternatively, conventional shopping habits illicit impulse buying and getting caught up in the thrill of a good deal. Or you’re buying things chasing a fantasy vision of yourself only to feel like you’re falling short.
There’s nothing wrong with buying reactively. Occasionally. But if you do it all the time, it can lead to a cluttered home and an empty wallet.
According to BMO Harris Bank, 42% of consumers say they’re worsening their financial situation through impulse purchases and increasing their debt.
If this sounds familiar, you could benefit from shopping like a minimalist.
This post covers 15 minimalist shopping tips that will help you curb your temptations and shift the way you think about buying stuff.
And even if you’re already pretty intentional, this post will remind you how far you’ve come. Let’s begin with the first and most crucial action — slow purchasing.
1. Slow down your purchasing decisions
Minimalist shopping is all about slowing down your purchasing decisions.
Studies show that over 87% of US shoppers make impulse buys. That’s why it’s crucial to list the things you need, whether it’s on your phone, a notebook or a shared list on your fridge.
As you add items to your wishlist, contemplate why you want them and what you’ll do with them.
- How often will it be used?
- What’s the expected lifespan?
- Are there options to repair it?
If it’s something you “might use”, remove it from your list. This is your sacred record of things that will genuinely add value to your situation.
By thinking about your purchases in advance, you can avoid making impulse buys you’ll regret later.
You don’t need to purchase everything methodically and slowly. For example, if you urgently need new car tires, you’re not going to want to wait a month to buy them.
But for big-ticket or non-essential items or things that you don’t need immediately, it’s best to take your time and decide when you’re not feeling rushed or emotional.
So next time you’re tempted to make a spur-of-the-moment purchase, slow down so you can rationalise your decision.
2. Unsubscribe from catalogues, coupons, text messages and emails
Retailers are increasingly using personalisation to target consumers with special offers and coupons, and as a result, minimalist shopping has become more critical than ever.
I remember receiving a coupon code on my birthday from one of my favourite clothing basics brands. I was tempted to browse the website, but then I remembered I didn’t need anything and unsubscribed from their email list. It’s incredible how effective these subscriptions are.
By unsubscribing from catalogues, coupons, text messages, and emails, you’re refusing to be drawn in by sales and promotions. You’re creating more space in your life by decluttering your inbox and unsubscribing from things that you don’t need.
3. Do a no-spend challenge
A no-spend challenge is a great way to save money and declutter your life. For a set period, typically a month or more, you commit to only spending money on essential items.
This means no coffee out, no new clothes, and no nights out on the town. It can be a difficult challenge, but it’s also gratifying. You’ll save money and also get a chance to reassess your relationship with stuff.
By only buying what you need, you’ll see how much of your shopping is driven by impulse or trends. You may even find that you don’t miss some of the things you used to spend money on.
Read more: 5 Interesting Minimalism Challenges That Might Change Your Life
4. Delete shopping apps off your phone
Retail mobile commerce sales hit $359.32 billion in 2021, an increase of 15.2% over 2020. By 2025, retail m-commerce sales should more than double to reach $728.28 billion and account for 44.2% of retail eCommerce sales in the US (source).
These figures reflect the growing importance of mobile commerce, and it’s no surprise that many retailers are investing heavily in developing shopping apps. That’s why it’s more important than ever to be mindful of how you use apps like eBay, Zara, ASOS etc.
If you find yourself frequently browsing and making impulse purchases, it’s time to delete the app from your phone.
By removing the temptation to browse and buy items at any time of day or night, you can help to break the cycle of over-consumption and reduce your carbon footprint.
5. Rent, borrow, repair or create things you need
There are many reasons you should rent, borrow or create things instead of buying them. For starters, it can be more cost-effective.
For example, if you need a dress for a one-off event, there’s no sense in spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on something you’ll never wear again. You could rent it or borrow items from friends to create a one-of-a-kind outfit.
Read more: A Minimalist Vegan Wedding
Similarly, if you have a piece of tech that needs repairs, it may be cheaper to take it to the Apple Genius Bar than buy a new one.
Another advantage of minimalist shopping is that it can be more sustainable. For instance, if you make your clothes, you can choose environmentally friendly materials that will last longer than cheaply made fast fashion items. Or even better, you can repurpose your used materials.
Renting, borrowing or creating things can also be more fun and creative. A sense of satisfaction comes with being resourceful without compromising your overall experience.
6. Delete your saved credit card details off all your devices and accounts
Shopping online is now easier than ever before, thanks to the ability to save your payment information. This means that you don’t have to re-enter your credit card details every time you want to make a purchase, which is why 64% of U.S. cardholders save their information online.
However, this convenience can also be a double-edged sword, as it can reduce your friction in buying what you want.
Deleting your payment information from Amazon, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other online services can assist you in keeping your purchases under control. By making it more challenging to make impulse purchases, you can minimise your discretionary spending.
7. Plan for bargains in advance
As a minimalist, one of your goals is to reduce clutter and only own items that you truly need and use. This means that you need to be careful when shopping, as it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of a sale which leads to unnecessary purchases.
However, there are ways to take advantage of sales without succumbing to excessive shopping. For instance, you can list items you slowly want to purchase throughout the year (back to the first tip) and then wait for the end-of-season clearance or other sales periods to buy them. You’ll get the items you want at a discounted price without filling your home with unnecessary clutter.
You can also sign up for newsletters from your favourite stores to take advantage of coupons and discounts, but be sure to unsubscribe after you’ve made your purchase to avoid being bombarded with constant marketing messages (second tip).
By being informed and strategic about your shopping, you can get great deals on items without overspending.
8. Shop your home first
Anyone who has ever stepped foot in a store knows the excitement that comes with finding the perfect item. But that feeling can quickly turn to disappointment when you realise you already have that same item at home.
While it may seem like a harmless mistake, buying duplicates is a sign that you’re shopping too much.
A more effective way to manage your shopping habits is to “shop your home” first. Before heading to the store, take inventory of what you already have and see if there’s anything you can reuse or repurpose.
This approach is particularly beneficial if you have multiple children, as you can pass items down from one to the other (with their sign off, of course).
So next time you’re tempted to buy something new, remember you might find what you’re looking for without leaving your house.
9. Deactive all of your “Buy Now, Pay Later” accounts
You have alternative options to credit cards in the form of “Buy Now, Pay Later” services. Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, and PayPal Credit are a few examples of this sort of service.
According to a poll, 60% of respondents have used a Buy Now, Pay Later service. Around half (46%) are now making payments or instalments through one of those platforms (source).
It’s in your best interest to pay out these services and deactivate them to remove your temptation to overshop. Same for interest-free credit cards, which entice you to swipe more than you can afford.
When you carry debt, it’s like having a second job that you don’t get paid for! It’s a waste of your money and time better spent elsewhere.
Read more: A Minimalists Guide To Debt-Free Living
10. Embrace the joy of missing out on exclusive items
We all want what we can’t have. It’s a simple fact of human nature. And brands know this. They use our natural desire for rare items to their advantage, creating artificial scarcity and driving up demand (and prices).
Just look at sneaker culture. Customers of Nike and Adidas will go to extreme lengths to get in the queue to buy a “new drop” in an exclusive colourway.
And in 2021, Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey went viral on TikTok thanks to its “limited availability”. As a result, the lipstick became one of the most sought-after products of the year.
But here’s the thing: as a minimalist, you can use this same principle. Instead of succumbing to the fear of missing out, you can embrace the joy of missing out.
Being above the hype of an exclusive release is the ultimate sign of self-control.
So next time you see a product that’s sold out everywhere, don’t panic. Just remember that it’s not worth your time or money. You’re better off without it.
11. Review your spending habits over the past 12 months
You might think you’re mindful about your purchases, but your bank statement tells a different story. It’s important to review your transactions regularly and identify any patterns.
There are a couple of approaches that you can take:
- You can print or export your bank statement and note all the non-essential things you’ve bought.
- You can use a budget app that automatically links up with your bank and categorises your transactions.
Whichever method you use, try to get an accurate picture of your average monthly spending. With this data, you can be more mindful about your shopping and make better decisions about future purchases.
12. Avoid the trap of free shipping thresholds
Imagine this. You need precisely two new plain t-shirts. Nothing more. It costs $50. But if you spend over $60, you qualify for free shipping. So you grab a couple of pairs of socks that you didn’t need to get free shipping.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is.
Reports show that 24% of consumers would spend more money to qualify for free shipping. It makes sense. Why would you want to pay shipping fees?
Well, every time you give in to temptation and buy something you don’t need, you’re adding more clutter and confusion to your life. And that’s the opposite of what minimalism is all about.
If you intend to buy things in bulk, then yes, free shipping is a great perk. But if you’re trying to be more mindful about your purchases, it’s best to avoid the trap entirely.
13. Declutter your home
Most people have way too much stuff. Clothes that don’t fit, books we’ve already read, outdated gadgets. It can be tempting to hang onto things “just in case.” But all that stuff ends up taking over our homes and our lives. It’s time to declutter.
Decluttering is getting rid of all the things we don’t need. It can be overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly liberating. And it’s one of the most effective ways to gain control over shopping habits.
Read more: How To Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed: 9 Doable Actions
When you declutter, you shine a light on everything you own and don’t need. This naturally makes you more intentional about what you bring into your environment.
You start to think about whether you need something or if you’re buying it because it’s on sale or exclusive.
So if you’re looking to gain control of your shopping habits, decluttering is a great place to start. Not only will you end up with a cleaner, more organised home – you’ll also find yourself spending less money on things.
14. Reset your expectations of yourself
We can get caught up trying to chase a fantasy of who we want to be. We tell ourselves, “When I buy this then….I’ll be happy when….I’ll finally be the person I want to be when…”.
However, in these visions, we lose sight of the incredible person we are right now. Thus, it’s essential to remember David Ramsey’s quote:
Being a minimalist is about seeing beauty and gratitude in the present. Instead of constantly chasing after material possessions, focus on enjoying the here and now. By doing this, you can save both money and time.
More importantly, you can appreciate what you have rather than fixate on what you lack. Minimalism helps you do just that.
15. Avoid browsing until you master your shopping desires
One of the best ways to keep your shopping at bay is to reduce the time you spend leisurely browsing for things.
This doesn’t mean that you should never set foot in a store again, but you can be more mindful. For instance, If you spend hours at the mall with your friends, try doing something else instead. Pick up a new hobby or explore your city.
Ultimately, the goal is to be able to walk into your favourite shops, enjoy browsing the items, and happily come out empty handed. But it takes practice to get to that point.
Minimalist shopping: final thoughts
I hope you enjoyed this article on minimalist shopping. Remember, the goal is not to become a hermit who never leaves their house. Or to never order an item online again. Instead, it’s about being more mindful of your purchases so it doesn’t take over your life.
When you do that, you’ll find that you have more money to save, less clutter in your life, improved self-discipline, and more time to focus on the things that matter most to you.
What are your thoughts on minimalist shopping? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
Such a good article, it was informative whilst still giving encouragement instead of making the consumer feel guilty for struggling with minimalist shopping. Loved it!
Glad you found this article helpful 🙂
Awesome! Really looking forward to implementing these tips into my daily life.
Such a good article! I am learning, a little each day, how to de-clutter, and to buy with conscience. I’m so happy that I removed a way too big desk from my bedroom and am using one much smaller. The room looks bigger, and I feel lighter, believe it or not.
Keep these articles coming!
Thanks Mary 🙂 It’s amazing how making little tweaks can completely change the feel of a space.
Thanks for the well written article. Having traveled around the sun many times, I am comfortable with minimalism in some areas. For example, I have one serated paring knife that is used to cut vegetables like, fruit, bread, basically everything. It was not expensive and does the job.
Now that I’m living and working in a country far from family and with a different language where most clothes are fast fashion or boutique, I made a purchase of well made basics (tops, sweaters and dresses) that will machine wash easily and take me from workouts, to work and out to fancy places (should someone successfully pull me out of my aspiring hermit weekends!) Completely not minimalist, yet will free me up from clothes shopping for the next two or more years.
I believe everyone has to discover what will work for them.
Yup, I couldn’t agree more, Rhea. We’ve all got to find a threshold that feels right. Thank you, as always, for sharing.