Category Archives: Money

A Minimalist Guide to Money and Investing — Part I

by Jessica Dang
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One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from readers is how I earn and manage money, and how I was able to create a passive income so that I could quit my job.

In the past, I’ve been reluctant to share too many specifics, as it is a huge subject and I’m not a financial adviser. Furthermore, everybody’s situation is different, depending on their job, earnings, age, risk appetite, city/country and economic environment. With so many variables, there’s no way I could speak for everyone, so the best I can do is talk about my investment journey.

In these posts, I’m not going to tell you how exactly to invest (entire books have been written on this subject) or recommend one particular course of action over another. I’m not telling you what you should, or shouldn’t do. Rather, I want to share my own views on money and work, how my views on wealth have changed over the years, and how I approach investing, earning and spending now.

When I talk about ‘wealth’ in these posts, although I am discussing material and monetary wealth (something that is not often discussed by minimalists as a good thing!) I am well aware that money is not the measure of one’s worth. Please see my Minimalist Meditations on money and wealth for my views on this.

I’m going to share how I went from a full time corporate employee working 50+ hour weeks to earning the same amount of money but only working between 1-6 hours per week on a passive income, all from a minimalist’s perspective. By ‘minimalist’, I don’t mean that this post will be a simplified, dumbed-down article about investing basics. It will be about how I have applied various minimalist philosophies to my approach to investing, for example, how I’ve been able to educate myself in various types of investing so that I’m able to select the type that works for me (in this case, getting fair returns by doing as little as possible so that I have time for things that are more important).

I’m not saying that it is every minimalist’s aim to quit their job, lie on a beach, and do nothing at all. Nor am I saying that having or not having money defines minimalism in any way. You can be a minimalist in a hut, or a minimalist in a mansion. Minimalism means something different for everyone, and for me, minimalism has always meant freedom. Freedom to choose what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, where I wanted to go, and who I wanted to spend my time with. It means directing my limited resources of money, time and energy away from what people think of me (the size of my house, car, wardrobe etc.) towards things that actually matter to me, like giving to those in need, and spending time reading, creating, travelling, and with my friends and family.

Everything I’ve always wanted to say about money (almost!)

I’m going to be very frank about the subject of money here, because I think there are some hard truths in this subject. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially people who don’t want to admit that they are unhappy or doing anything wrong. I’ve heard a lot of excuses in my time. The worst approach I’ve heard people have is complaining how everything is stacked against them, how they’re ‘just not lucky’, or resenting people who have been successful in this way, but doing nothing about it.

I also don’t expect everyone to agree with everything that I say, which is fine too. I’m always willing to hear other people’s opinions and learn something new, but if you don’t have anything helpful or constructive to say except for poo-pooing on somebody’s else ideas, you can save your precious time and stop reading now.

If you’ve read this far and want to carry on, good for you. There is a lot I want to say, and because it is quite a complicated subject, I will break it down into multiple posts in linear steps, although life rarely works in a straight line. For the sake of easier understanding I’ll start with the basics.

This post:

  • 1—Motivation and Environment
  • 2—Mindset and Education

Future posts:

  • 3—Accumulating Capital and Allocation
  • 4—Investing and Income
  • 5—Your New Life
  • 6—The Past (Reflecting) and the Future (Giving)

I’m going to try to fit in everything I’ve always wanted to say about money in these posts. The reason why I say ‘almost’ is that I’m sure there’ll be things I’ve forgotten and will want to add later, or edits, clarifications, and answers to readers’ comments in the future so the above post ideas are subject to change.

Before we start, I strongly recommend reading a previous post I updated recently 5 Ways to Get Rich for Free about some basic yet important ideas about money.

1—Motivation and Environment

Most people don’t just stumble upon investing. We’re not taught it at school, and it’s not a natural instinct or something that is instilled in us as children—that money can be made other than the route of school -> university -> job -> promotion(s) -> retirement = success.

There’s usually a trigger that sets people on the path of investing—usually a person, or an event. For me, my trigger was realising (over a period of a few years) that I never wanted to work in an office again. There were times when I enjoyed myself, but after a while, I felt conflict with my inner self, the person who I wanted to be. Working long hours in a meaningless corporate job felt like it went against my philosophy of minimalism, not because I owned a couple more things, but because I felt I had much less freedom. I was cash-rich, but time-poor. Even if I changed jobs, I would be subjecting myself to the same things I hated (long hours, pointless meetings, office politics etc), just with a different job title. So I quit the world of work to get my life back.

I want to stress that I don’t recommend this approach to everyone, especially if you’ve got people dependent on you. At the time, my life overheads (ie. what I was spending on a day-to-day basis) was very low, which meant at the time of quitting I had enough savings to pay essential bills and food for about 18 months. I had a vague idea that I was going to use some of those savings to do something on my own, although what it was exactly, I hadn’t figured out yet. For most people, I recommend getting any side businesses or secondary income streams off the ground first, before quitting your main income source.

For me though, I knew that I could always get another job if things didn’t work out, and I could always fall back on a couple of online work-from-home jobs I used to have. So my basic needs were taken care of, but I needed to quit to have the time and energy to pursue all the other things that I had neglected while I was working. As well as start my vague business idea, I wanted to have the energy to get fit, to read, to write more, to travel, and to continue my language studies, among a lot of other things.

Your motivation for investing is important because it shapes what you decide to do, how you go about it, and how long it takes you to achieve whatever goals you have. You need to have the internal drive for it, otherwise you’ll get bored, or lazy, or both.

You are also affected by your environment. External factors such as your local economy, your job situation, and the kind of people you surround yourself with all affect what and how you do things, and the results you’ll obtain.

In my case, I didn’t want to work in an office. I hated the early mornings and long work hours, so I decided I would find a line of work that generated passive income. This means I wasn’t going to start an Etsy (not that I have the talent for it) or any other labour intensive business. I didn’t want to swap one full time job for another, and I didn’t want a job that was paid by the hour/day because that would mean I was trading my precious time for money.

I wanted to find a way of earning money that allowed me to put in an initial amount of work, but then after that income would continue to roll in, rather like someone writing a book within a few months and getting royalties for it forever. After a lot of research, I found that I lived in a city where there were huge business opportunities in property. The market was growing, with lots of young people wanting to live here, and prices to buy and rent were steadily rising. Investing in property fit my requirements—if I was able to buy a place (it is slightly capital intensive to buy an apartment but I will tell you how I did that in a future post) the rental income would continue indefinitely.

Once I had an area in mind (property investing), I could start building a foundation of knowledge…

2—Mindset and Education

With investing, if you just dive in, you’re probably going to get hurt. And it will be painful. I wasn’t stupid, so before I did anything, I spent months learning everything I could about about the practical aspects of investing, from how inflation works, what ETFs are, how to make a start-up, to the psychology of investing. I read a lot of books and information online about property, all of the monetary and legislative aspects involved, and researched the market in the city that I lived in. I lived and breathed investing, absorbing everything I could, and learned a huge amount. I’m still learning every day.

One of the most important things I learned from the book ‘Secrets of a Millionaire Mind’ by T. Harv Eker is about people’s ‘money blueprint’. Your blueprint is how you think about money, largely influenced by how you grew up. For example, if your parents have always told you that “money is the root of all evil”, or that “rich people are greedy”, you might still believe it today, and the thought subconsciously holds you back from earning too much because you don’t want to be seen as evil or greedy. Resentment towards the rich is what causes people to stay poor. (Here, I use ‘poor’ not as a derogatory term, but as a practical word to describe people who live paycheck to paycheck, but don’t want to be. I’m not making any sort of moral judgement for or against people who are ‘poor’, or ‘rich’ for that matter, but when talking about money in this context, it’s important to honestly say that there are definitely people who are poor (in monetary terms) but wish they could be more financially free.)

This resentment causes people to not do anything about their work/money situation. They go wherever the flow is taking them in their jobs, and they don’t do anything about their spending habits. They let other people influence them on what they want to buy, and their saving/investing habits may be poor or non-existent. They might even be fearful of any other type of work, such as starting their own business because it’s ‘too risky’ and they would prefer the security of a job. There isn’t anything wrong with living like this by the way, I’m all for enjoying life the way it suits you. If you love your job, good for you (honestly!). However, if you don’t enjoy working, then the constant spending on expensive things means working more than you have to, which means you’re spending half of your life unhappy, as was my case.

Also, people who are not financially literate may think that the only way to earn money is by working a ‘normal’ job, which is simply not true. We live in an amazing world now where there is so much money to be made, and you don’t have to have a lot to start with. People with closed mindsets think that any other way of earning money apart from working is ‘risky’ or at least, so complicated that they could never understand it, so they don’t try. Confusingly, some of these people who are so scared of risk would happily buy lottery tickets. The worst I’ve heard are people who think that investing is in some way ‘cheating’, and that one doesn’t contribute to the economy if they don’t ‘work’ for 9 hours a day. To that, I would say that there are a lot of people who have more to contribute to the world than paper-pushing.

On the other hand, people can have a mindset that money is abundant, and is there for anyone to earn if they have the openness to identify the opportunities, the creativity and tenacity to pursue them, and perseverance when things get difficult. I admit this isn’t the most natural mindset, it’s usually learned out of necessity. My immigrant parents who didn’t go to school didn’t have a choice but to earn money with their own bare hands, literally. They missed out on learning how to read but at least they were never conditioned to follow societal conventions about work. They hustled and worked hard, and did everything themselves until they got to the comfortable lifestyle they have now. I was lucky enough to go to school and college, but it took me years to learn this lesson.

Lest you think I come from a place of privilege, I would like to share that apart from the hustling mindset, I wasn’t given anything above and beyond what most kids my age got (in fact, I would argue with my background I had a lot less) but I have always worked extremely hard. Because of our family’s poorer financial situation while I was growing up, I was always looking out for ways to make money. I started my own eBay wholesale business when I was 15, and have always managed to support myself so that I didn’t have to rely on my parents’ small amount of money. During college, while other students were partying or spending their loans on holidays, I had two jobs and never allowed myself to get into debt.

I am not saying that all you have to do is change your mindset, and you’ll automatically become rich. I know it’s not that easy. You can’t just dream about it and be a bit brave and you’ll be a millionaire. People who truly live in poverty face huge obstacles that aren’t just up to them to ‘think’ their way out of.

But for the majority of people, it’s essential that they have the right mindset because first they have to believe that it is possible for them to be rich, at least then, they can try to do it.

As with anything, it’s it would be almost impossible to accomplish if they didn’t think it was doable from the beginning. 

The good news is that your mindset is not set. You can learn to change, for better or for worse. Being rich or poor isn’t a dichotomy, it’s a spectrum that you can move along at different times in your life. Poor people don’t have to stay poor, and rich people don’t necessarily stay rich. People can become rich by work, inheritance, or winning the lottery, or lose it by spending above their means, getting into huge debts, or gambling it away.

Whatever your mindset is right now, without the appropriate one, you’ll never be financially free. That’s fine for some people, but that’s not how I want to live my life. I want to be free so that I can choose what I want to do with my time. Your mindset is your choice. You can choose to be rich. 

The other points I want to briefly make are:

  • There are a lot of things about money that we are told that are simply opinion, not fact.
  • If more people stopped to question their assumptions about work and money, they would be much better off.
  • Environment plays a role, but I believe that you decide whether or not you will be rich.
  • Investing means ‘using money to make money’, and you don’t need a lot to begin with. In fact, you can start with $10, so there are hardly any excuses.
  • People overestimate the risks, and underestimate the potential benefits.
  • Money doesn’t make you good or bad, it magnifies who you are—if you are already greedy, you’ll be greedier with more money. If you’re already generous, more money would make you more generous.
  • Having money isn’t the aim, having freedom is.

So I adjusted my mindset and went about educating myself about the world of investing. I learned about the different options available, and the risk/reward profiles and advantages and disadvantages of each method. See below for some resources. Knowing the basics, I was able to draw up simple calculations and work out whether or not my business would be profitable. From my research, I identified that there was money to be made, now it was just a matter of going after it…

This post will continue next time with:

  • 3—Accumulating Capital and Allocation: how I got the money to get started, and how I decided what to do with it.
  • 4—Investing and Income: how I actually went about investing my money, and how I get an income.

In the meantime, please let me know what you think of this topic. You can comment below, or contact me on Twitter or Facebook.

Resources 

They don’t teach you about money at school. I wish they did, a lot of people would be much happier, and would have much healthier attitudes towards money. I’m not a millionaire (yet) but I would have certainly become ‘richer’ earlier and more quickly if I started earlier. Instead of just complaining about it, I went about changing my views, and therefore my life. Here are some of the best books I read that helped me get there:

Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind: Think Rich to Get Rich

As I mentioned above, this book taught me that making money was all in your mindset. It’s hard to believe, but how we think about money can hold us back from making it, or push us to find ways to make it even though the odds seem slim. It also talks about how different mindsets aren’t necessarily right or wrong, but work in different ways, and in some cases even complement each other, as in the case of couples/partners. I recommend this book to people who think that becoming a millionaire is impossible without winning the lottery.

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! 

This book taught me the basics of liabilities vs. assets. If you don’t know what these mean, you need to start with this book. A lot of things that people are taught about money, like how home ownership is the most important thing in the world has ruined them financially. At the very least, people would have been much better off if they could distinguish between buying things that put money in their pocket, or cost them their long term future. That’s the difference between people who stay poor or become rich. That’s not to say that you can never buy your own home or a nice car if you wanted to, but people do this when they can only just about afford it, and therefore they don’t or can’t invest, which if they did, a few years later they could buy their house ten times over.

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

If you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best. It might sound cliché, but if Warren Buffet is the most successful investor in the world, wouldn’t you like to know how did he did it? This is the most detailed biography of his life published, it’s a very long read and perhaps you don’t learn a lot as much about how to invest as much as you learn about what investing really means. Warren Buffet delivered newspapers as a boy, and had to borrow money to get his business started, but he never doubted he could be rich. Then he made billions.

Blogs: I recommend checking out Afford Anything and Financial Samurai (I read every post).

More resources to come in future posts, enjoy!

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Minimal Student has graduated! You can subscribe to weekly updates on the new blog Minimalist Meditations via RSS, email, Twitter or Facebook.

Minimal Student is graduating

by Jessica Dang
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I started this blog seven years ago at the beginning of my minimalist journey.

It was 2009. I discovered a lifestyle movement that talked about the joy of having less. I learned about how being obsessed with buying and owning material possessions is a recipe for an unhappy life, and it resonated with me. I began to write about it.

At first, I was mainly concerned with stuff and how to get rid of it. I wrote about decluttering and one bag living. It suited my nomadic lifestyle at the time when I was living, working, and exploring several different cities and countries.

Eventually I returned to the UK. I was approaching my mid-20’s, and everyone around me was settling down. I moved into my own apartment with the single suitcase I had been living out of.

I got a corporate job and it was everything I ever wanted—or at least, I thought I wanted. I was paid well and got promoted, but the environment was so tough I began to change as a person. I struggled to find balance. I started buying more things to make up for the creeping unhappiness I felt doing a job which I realised, deep down, was ultimately meaningless. It took a long time, but in the end I found the courage to quit. I ended up starting my own business which gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. I took back control of my own life.

At every stage of my life, my perspective on things shifted. The more I experienced, the more convinced I was that many of the conventional ideas we’re supposed to follow—such as working in a soul sucking job in order to pay your bills and buy stuff until you’re either 65 or dead—didn’t really stand up to scrutiny.

In turn, the direction of Minimal Student has followed me on my quest, moving on from ‘how to declutter’ articles to ones about the tougher questions—what is important in life? What does success really mean? How can I be happy?

I still have more I want to share with the world that isn’t just limited to young people or students. By trying to keep things relevant to the blog name, some of the articles I’ve written have been held back from being able to reach a wider audience. As my readers have grown, the blog has to as well. The Minimal Student community is made of readers of all ages, and from all walks of life. I want to reach out to them too.

So I have decided to start afresh. Don’t worry, Minimal Student isn’t finished. I will always be a student of life and will continue to study what it means to live. However, I will be doing so under a new blog, Minimalist Meditations (www.minimalistmeditations.com) which I am working on expanding the ideas for my book that I’m hoping to finish and publish this year.

To make the transition easier, Minimal Student with continue to exist for a little while, before all of the links will redirect to the new blog URL. All of Minimal Student’s social media will also be renamed.

The good news is that I will be writing a lot more often, and you can keep up with new posts I write and publish by subscribing via RSS or email, or following me on Twitter or Facebook.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers, and in no way have I reached ‘the end’, but I can reflect on what I’ve learned in the past several years and what I, no doubt, will learn in the future. Feel free to join me at Minimalist Meditations on this path towards finding a life of happiness.

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Searching in 2015

by Jessica Dang
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searching

For me, 2015 was about finding happiness.

At the beginning, I thought I could find through my job—I’d started a new one mid-2014, and was excited by the idea of having a regular income. I thought it would mean I could afford to do whatever I wanted. I was wrong.

I worked 50+ hours a week, pouring over business deals, doing everything I could to make sure they went through. It was so stressful, I even thought about them at night, and I couldn’t sleep properly. After continuous disappointments, I felt I couldn’t trust anything anyone said, and I lost faith in people. Where I was successful, I was paid very well, but that didn’t matter because losing all those hours to work, and feeling exhausted after each day meant that I couldn’t do any of the things I wanted to do. I had more money than I had time to spend. I was cash-rich, but time-poor.

About halfway through this year, I was ready to quit. Instead, I was offered a promotion. I thought about it, and decided to accept. Despite the disappointments, I was actually good at my job. I got a pay rise. I had more responsibility. But I should have known it wouldn’t be enough. It wasn’t more money I was after. It was having my own time that I cravedthe freedom to choose how I spend my days.

Three months later, I resolved to quit again. No backing out this time. No amount of money was going to keep my from being happy. I handed in my resignation letter, and cleared out my desk. I didn’t even work off the full notice period. I was free. A weight lifted off me. I cried. The next day, I slept like a baby.

When I look back at how I spent my time this year, I like to think of it as as journey. As much as I was grinding away at that job, worrying about each little problem or email message, considering the bigger picture I accomplished very little. In fact, it felt more like I wasted the better part of a year of my life. But I don’t regret it. Why? Because I needed to learn a lesson.

what I found in 2015

I needed to learn that money isn’t the most important thing. It’s not even the second, or third, or fourth, of fifth…there are so many things that are more precious. Like having free time, meaningful relationships, good health, or the ability to just damn relax. Eighteen months doesn’t sound like a long time to stick to a job you hate, but when you’re constantly dealing with disappointments, and wishing that time would just hurry up, it’s long enough to learn lessons that will last a lifetime.

I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they told me swapping my freedom for cash isn’t worth it. Of course it is, everyone does it! But when you’re not living life to the fullest, what’s the point? Money bought me a comfortable life, but I didn’t have time to enjoy it. By itself, money didn’t give me the things I really wanted. It as only after being deprived of time and freedom that I really appreciated how much they meant to me.

My spiritual journey has been reflected in my writing. Despite being short on time, I made a special effort to publish at least one post a month in 2015. Many of the posts focused on Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life, which I had taken a deep interest in during the cold winter nights this year after a long day at work. His essay confirmed for me that I was wasting my one and only life, and it hardened my resolve to quit.

Later on the year, I moved onto the subject of happinessobtained through noticing the miracles that surround us every day and being more grateful for the little things. After all, minimalism isn’t about paring down your wardrobe just for the sake of it. It’s ultimately about finding happiness within yourself, not from anywhere else. After this year, I believe in it more than ever.

Posts of 2015

January: Zen in a lotus flower

February: On the Shortness of Life – Part I – Finiteness

March: On the Shortness of Life – Part II – Protecting time and living in the present

April: On the Shortness of Life – Part III – Desire and life goals

May: On the Shortness of Life – Part IV – Learning

June: On the Shortness of Life – Part V – Death

July: Live life like water

August: Why Showing Up Is Not Enough

September: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Spirit – A Minimalist’s Guide

October: Everyday miracles

November: Why Minimalists Live Happy Lives

Bonus: My article on popular personal development blog Early to Rise  Do you have a job, a career, or a calling? Written from my research and experience into finding fulfilling work. More to come next year.

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How I’m living a millionaire’s lifestyle and how you can too

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The breeze is running through your hair. It smells so sweet and fresh. The sound of the sea waves parting under the boat is regular and calming. The sun is setting over the mountains and the sky is tinged in a deep pink and orange. You take a deep breath and there is just one thought running through your mind “Ah, this is the life“.

That was my weekend. (Photo credit: me☺).

A few weeks before that I was watching the sunset from the top of a mountain in Shikoku, Japan, and who knows where I’ll be at the same time next weekend – an ancient town, a modern city, talking to locals, eating ramen or a thousand other things that the world has to offer.

But I’m no millionaire. In fact, I’m far from it. I don’t have a regular job and I don’t own a stick of furniture to my name. I’m living off a few tutoring gigs, a small scholarship and the generosity of the Japanese people.

So how can I afford to do all of these amazing things?

The answer is simple. It can be summarized as:

You don’t want to be a millionaire.

Sound ludicrous? “Of course I want to be a millionaire! What kinda crazy person doesn’t?!” It’s a bold statement, but hear me out.

I’ll repeat it because it’s very very important that you know this. Deep down, you don’t want to be a millionaire.

That’s because you want what you can do with a million bucks, not the cash itself.

There is a crucial difference. I’m going to be bold and just assume that if you’re reading this then you care more about experiences vs. stuff – you care more about living life, not working it, and you would rather do/go/see wonderful and amazing places or things with/to/for other people,  instead of owning material objects.

If you don’t, and you care more about accumulating expensive things you don’t need, stop reading now, pop over to minimalism 101 and if you’re still here then you can read on.

One day, (when I’m a millionaire) I’ll…

People literally spend their time, money, health, relationships, effort and lives burning themselves out trying to make a million dollars or something close to it, without realizing that the goal isn’t an arbitrary amount of cash.

It’s not much of a generalization to say that there are too many people stressing themselves out trying to do too much, just so that they can earn enough money to buy lot’s of stuff… but even worse than that, they doing it to save up for ‘one day’.

I’m all for saving up and being prepared for the future, but this meaning of ‘one day’ isn’t good enough for me. It implies that I slave over a job I don’t like right now, just so that I don’t have to do it later. It implies that I have to wait about sixty five precious years be able to do the kind of stuff I had really wanted to do all along.

These people don’t realize they want a lot of money precisely for the reason so that they can quit there jobs, fly to a beach and relax in the sunshine.

What they’re really saying to themselves is “If I had a million bucks, I would….” and so they work all there lives to get that million and they forget that they could just do whatever comes at the end of that sentence for a fraction of the cost. Common answers are:

  • quit my (soul-sucking) job
  • take lessons in… [insert dream hobby/skill]
  • sip cocktails on a beach
  • go on a cruise/mountain climbing etc.
  • go to x city (London, Tokyo etc.)
  • go backpacking

or even:

  • have everything I ever wanted

For me? Done. Done. Done.

Okay, so this plan won’t work if you’re goal is to roll around in a million one dollar bills, but for most reasonable or more importantly extraordinary goals, a couple thousand is more than enough. And this is not to say that everyone hates their job, just there are many people putting it first whilst forgetting what it is they’re working for in the first place.

Finally, I’m not saying we shouldn’t save up for when we’re too old to be able to work – just that we don’t know if we’ll even make it that far, so we should be prepared if we do, but live life whilst we know we have the chance.

Minimal Student’s guide to conquering the world

Making the realization that you don’t want the money, you want what you can do with it is the first step, next you just have to take the initiative. Let’s compare the costs of a few of the costs that we pay for just practically staying still:

  • a car, plus tax, insurance, gas for a year = from $2000+
  • rent of an apartment/shared house in a medium-big city = av $350 x 12 months
  • two seasons of av. Christmas presents expenditure =$500+
  • an smart-phone contract =$299 + av. $30 x 12 month contract (normally 24)
  • bi-monthly shopping trips expenditure per year = $120 x 6
  • gym membership = $20 x 12

Total cost per year = approx $8000+

(of course prices are approximate and vary from country to country and based on currency)

versus: skipping having a car/phone/gym contract, keeping only a small apartment (or storing stuff at parent’s house), and being forgiven for not buying a few presents – the cost to fly from America to London, then around Europe (Paris, Berlin, Rome etc.) for about 10 days:

  • approximate flight total* = $2000
  • hostel/hotel = av. $20-30 per night x 10 (free if staying with friends)
  • food = av. $15-25 per day x 10
  • other/travel/misc costs = $10-$25

Total cost of around  = approx $2500

*Not calculated but flights between European cities can be dirt cheap if booked last minute since airlines will take almost anything you can give them for left-over seats just before take-off, which can be as low as $25!

And that was calculated for an extensive (albeit quick) tour of Europe all the way from another continent!

I know this isn’t exactly a scientific analysis but you get the idea. Travel is much cheaper than most people expect and definitely cheaper than people are afraid of. If people just got rid of even one or two of the things from the above list, they would be putting themselves in the position to have a memory-creating adventure of a lifetime.

People who are paralyzed by ‘money troubles’ are using it as an excuse. If your dream is to travel around the world, you can do that for less than the cost of a year’s rent in a medium-big city.

If you look in the right places, plane fares are only a couple hundred at most to fly from one part of the world to the opposite side, but most people pay that in gas and insurance for their cars (in one year). Go on, I dare you right now to google flight prices from wherever you are right now to wherever in the world you want to go. Boat cruises and over-night buses are even cheaper.

As for accommodation, I’ve stayed in places ranging from semi-luxury hotels, to bed and breakfasts to an overnight Karaoke bar (in fact, in the latter was probably the most fun I’ve ever had). The trick is to save money by staying in ‘nice’ places in a cheaper city and then very cheap places in expensive cities. If you’re worried about ‘having a good night’s stay’, in my experience I’ve found that this trick balances it out because if you pay more in not-so-posh places you’ll get something adequate instead of gross and if you pay cheap in popular cities you’ll get something adequate, not overpriced.

It’s not about how much you make, but the life that you make with the money you have

If your excuse is that you ‘don’t have enough time’ well, that should be a good indication that should cut down a few commitments. Re-prioritize, say ‘no’ to a few hours of work or other extra responsibilities and put yourself first, at least for a few weeks. If your time is in that much demand that you can hardly break away, well, that’s more proof that you deserve a break.

And if you’re not really interested in travelling, there’s plenty of other options too. Go out and do something nice for yourself or with your friends or do something different, and memorable.

If helping people in need is what you want to do, you don’t have to be a millionaire for that either. You can change lives with just a few dollars or even just giving away some of your time. Figure out what you want and get creative!

I’m sorry if you were looking for a ‘get rich quick’ how-to post, but this isn’t an invitation to spend like a millionaire, it’s an invitation to live like one – which ultimately means to do all of the things you’ve only dreamed of doing. Of course, you might not get to stay in five star hotels or rent a penthouse suite, but you have to be open to compromises which are always better in the end than making excuses not to go at all.

So basically, this is what you will need:

  • guts  – it takes bravery to admit that you don’t really need a million bucks, or a massive flat-screen TV with cable subscription, or a fancy sports car, or massive house.Let other people do all the earning and waiting until they’re grey and old, waiting for life to happen to them, while you start enjoying your life right now.
  • a plan – it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just spend 20 minutes doing a quick Google search of costs/prices of the things you want to do. Is it as bad as you thought it would be? If not, keep working on your plan, cut a few bits here and there, but even if it costs a lot, it’s worth not abandoning the idea if you can save enough to do it within 2-3 years, almost anything is better than waiting 40 years!
  • to reduce your current life overhead costs.

What you don’t need:

  • ‘one day’ disease
  • to be wasting money on dream-unrelated stuff
  • a million bucks

Get a piece of paper and write down the answers to these questions now:

  1. What would you do if you had a million dollars?
  2. Is there a way I can do it for less?

If the answer to question 2 is ‘Yes!’ or even a ‘maybe!’ then you’ve got a chance.

What’s stopping you? You only live once, go out and live your millionaire lifestyle now!

What is will your millionaire lifestyle be like? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter

 

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Christmas Challenge Week 1 Review – Minimal Money

Wow, so we’ve come to is the end of the first week of Minimal Student’s Christmas Challenge. I chose money as the theme of this week, because I thought it would be appropriate considering it’s something a lot of people are thinking about during this time of year.

I’ve received a lot of emails and comments on people’s thoughts on each prompt, thank you! 140 characters is so little, if there’s one skill I’ve honed this week it’s the ability to cut down what I want to say to an absolute minimum. So, for today’s review post, I’ll do the same and stick to brief notes on each. If you’ve missed the prompts, you can read them below and follow new ones on Twitter.

Dec 1 : Does your wallet contain more than just money? Empty out old receipts and cards you don’t use at least 2x a month and feel the difference.

I see so many people lug impressively huge wallets and purses around with them. They carry stuff with them everyday that they only use once or twice a month, or maybe even never! This not only includes old receipts and way too much change, but tons of membership cards, bits of paper, gum and so on. I used to be a ‘just in case I need it’ person too, but since I’ve given my purse (and the rest of my bag) the minimalist treatment, I literally only carry a bit of cash and my ID, and I can’t think of a time one of those ‘just in case’ moments actually happened.

Dec 2 : Make your lunch today, or bring your own water/tea instead of buying a coffee… then drop the money into a charity box, how do you feel?

If you spend about $5 everyday on your lunch, imagine how much you would save if you made your own. Normally, I could buy ingredients such as pasta, salads, bread and fillings that would last me a week for about $15. Not to mention how much money I’d save just by cutting out buying coffee at school/work and just bringing my own. There are charity boxes at almost any till in Japan, and it always makes me feel  a little better to drop a few coins into them every now and again. It may not be much, but it’s the least I could do.

Dec 3 : Leave your cards at home and pay for everything with cash today. Do you feel different when you actually touch the money?

One of the many culture shocks that I experienced when I moved from England to Japan was the Japanese’s tendency to pay for everything in cash. In England, people would use cards to pay for even the smallest things. In Japan, the most common method of payment by far is cash, even for things that cost over hundreds of dollars. Because of the (amazingly) low crime rate,  it’s not uncommon for people to carry upwards of $300 in cash with them all the time. For me, it was interesting to see how I felt a bit more resistance parting with cash that I physically touched because I could see it disappear from my purse.

Dec 4 : Today is the weekend. Can you still have fun and not spend a penny?

This weekend, I spent some much needed time with my host family. We talked about our different cultures and I learned a lot of things about Japanese language and life. I played with the kids, taught some English and learned how to make some more delicious Japanese dishes. I exercised, I read, I studied. I had the best time, and I didn’t spend a penny.

Dec 5 : Look around you. What kind of things can’t you buy with money? How much do they mean to you?

Generally, I can replace any of the material stuff I own. But, there are only one of the each of the people I care about. I made this prompt because I was thinking how much better Christmas is when I’m surrounded by the things that are most valuable to me – I don’t mean toys, food, or any kind of shopping mall gift – but the things money can’t buy.

Thank you to everyone who have participated so far. Feel free to leave your comments below, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the challenge!

Minimalist Christmas Countdown Challenge

Christmas is approaching fast. November is coming to an end and people have already started shopping for presents, things to decorate their houses with and even for food.

I get a lot of questions asking me my opinion about Christmas. Of course, I enjoy it as much as the next person, and I have some very fond memories of this time of year. We would have big family gatherings – where it would be loud with chatter and laughter and everyone would have a great time.

As I grew older, I began to realize that there are aspects Christmas that are not so good (post coming soon). So, I’ve decided to counterbalance it this year with a Minimalist Christmas Countdown Challenge.

the challenge

Starting Dec 1 until Christmas day, I will be posting short daily prompts on my Twitter feed on how to de-clutter various aspects of your daily life – productivity, money, food, clothes, health etc.

Every week, I will publish a few of the prompts on the blog with some reader’s comments I’ve received and add some of my own.

You don’t have to do a challenge everyday, but if you do, leave a comment on the blog to let everyone know how you did, or any problems that you might have encountered. You can also tell me anything you’ve learned or found interesting, and even suggest a prompt if you would like!

Or, you can @minimalstudent me with links to your blog posts about a prompt and I promise to do my best to read all of them.

UPDATE: I’ve decided to schedule the challenge into 4 weeks, with each week focussing on a different category of minimalism.

  • Week 1: 1st ~ 5th Dec – Minimal Money Week
  • Week 2: 6th ~ 12th Dec – Digital/Info Purge Week
  • Week 3: 13th ~ 19th Dec – Minimal Health/Lifestyle Week
  • Week 4: 20th~ 25th Dec – New Year Cleanse Week

So if you’ve been meaning to get going on applying minimalism to your life for a little while, or you want to take it to the next level, sign up in the comments now!

minimalism 101

I’m very happy to announce that this week, I was featured in the UK The Times newspaper magazine.

It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my short lifetime, and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that there are people who will listen to someone like me has to say.

So, with honor, I would like to say, welcome The Times readers!

This post is for you, but also for my current readers as well as my friends and family who I have kept this blog a secret from for so long. It’s a complete definition of what in the world ‘minimalism’ is, I predict that only a small percentage of people will actually read this post from beginning to end, but I can guarantee that you will be a different person by the end of it if you do.

If you’ve never heard of minimalism before, I should warn you that I’m going to make some pretty bold statements, but if there is anything this blog has shown me, is that there are also many people apart from myself who absolutely believe them to be true.

what is minimalism all about?

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Socrates

Minimalism is all about having enough. It’s about having only what you need, no more, and especially no less.

‘What you need’ can refer especially to your possessions, but can also include your commitments, relationships, work and lifestyle.

All our lives we’re told that we want to have more money so that we can achieve ‘our dreams’ of owning a big house with a pool in the back, a fancy sports car and expensive shoes so we can gain the label of ‘success’. We’re told to know the latest gossip, watch the latest shows, know what everyone is doing on facebook, and jump from relationship to relationship otherwise we’re labelled ‘loners’. We’re told that we should always be ‘busy’, because if we’re not busy we’re being lazy. We’re told all of these criteria and more about how we ‘should’ live our lives and what we should have so that we can be ‘happy’.

But that’s not the whole story. In real life, there are people that have and do all of these things, and yet they’re no happier than the people who don’t. And there are people who have none of these things and are very happy with their lives. Clearly this means that it can’t be the above things that make people happy.

But despite this, there are people who wake up in the morning only to look forward to an hour of sitting in their car in bad traffic, then sitting at their desk doing a job that makes them bored or tired, then going home exhausted and sitting in front of the TV, then spending their weekends spending the money they earned to buy things that ‘make them happy’ when all they’re really doing is perpetuating the cycle.

If you ask these people what they look forward to the most the answer is usually something like their next vacation abroad, or they’re saving up to buy something big and special, or they’re waiting for their retirement… all of which are things that only occur occasionally, whilst the rest of the 90% of their lives are spent… just waiting.

a new way of thinking

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.
-Vernon Howard

What’s the secret to happiness? This topic has been researched extensively, but I know many people have already found the answer.

It’s minimalism.

Do you think I’m making a pretty bold statement here? It’s up to you, but here are my reasons.

Essentially, minimalism is about breaking out of the mould of always wanting more. It’s about finding happiness in what we have already, instead of chasing something that is always out of reach. Once one gains something they’ve wanted for a long time, they only find temporary happiness.

Think about all of the times you’ve gotten what you wanted, do you still want them now? Of course not, because you got it. But my guess is that you want something else right now. So you have moved on from that thing you orignially wanted so badly. Don’t worry, everyone does it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but minimalism helps you break out of exactly this vicious cycle.

Why do people want things, like the latest gadget, car or in-season clothes? Most of the time it’s to boost their ego, or to show off how much money they have, or to fit in or to confirm that they are doing well in life. These people aren’t bad or selfish, in fact, I used to be exactly like that because we hadn’t been taught any other way. But now I have, and I’ve stopped worrying about what others think of me and started making some real friends who love me for who I am, not what I have.

realism or idealism?

Well that’s all well and good, but I have to pay the rent and my credit card bills“. I get this remark a lot, because people are focussing on the the wrong issue. They think minimalism is about being practically homeless – with few possessions, looking ugly and hoarding all of their money, but that’s not it at all. I have always said that minimalism is different for everyone, and it cannot be measured in set rules like that. Sometimes, it’s impractical for people to give up their jobs, especially if there are people who rely on them. If you have kids and you’re wondering what this has all got to do with you, I would suggest checking out Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker (somebody who I’ve looked up to for a long time and had supported my blog in it’s early stages), who manages very well with being a minimalist and a parent.

But there is always something you can do. If you downsize from a huge house, you can probably afford to live in a better location. If you just get rid of the clothes you know you’ll never wear, then maybe it won’t be so hard to open and close your wardrobe. If you spend less time watching trashy TV shows you’ll forget about in a week, or films you’ve seen before, then you can spend more time with friends and family or developing a skill or doing a hobby. If you spend more time cycling than driving, you can spend less time worrying about traffic, your health and the environment.

You don’t have to give up everything, it’s about reducing to what you really need. You can still dress fashionably without wasting money on brands, watch TV that is actually worth watching and drive a car when you need to. Just do what feels right for you. If you know me, or any other minimalists, you’ll just see a regular person. We’re not that different on the outside, just the inside.

Some people think that minimalism is against human nature. They think that if humans stop wanting more, things will stop progressing. If people have no ambition and drive, then ideas and innovations cease. People will stop working hard and just stick to their lowly jobs. This is not true. You can be happy with everything you have, and still improve yourself and society. The difference is this: as long as you are happy right now and not basing your happiness on obtaining the next thing or stage, then you’re practising minimalism, because you’re already happy. From then on, you’re working because you love what you do, not so that you can obtain happiness – because that kind of thinking never works, you will always be hanging on for ‘the next thing/stage’ , and when you get there, there will be another thing and then another thing… We should have more faith in human nature than thinking it is to be greedy.

Every human being is born to be happy. That is our life purpose. From those born poor or rich. Even the bad villains we see in movies are just trying to find happiness in their own way.

We deserve more than to be constantly waiting for happiness.

happiness

Live simply so that others may simply live.
HH Dalai Lama

A post that has been consistently popular since I published it is ‘Why minimalism brings happiness‘. People are looking for an answer.

But what is happiness exactly? How do we know if we are ‘happy’?

What happiness means is different for everyone, and in my opinion there isn’t one complete definition, but for me, happiness means that

I am feeling how I want to feel, I am doing everything I want to do, and I am at peace.

How do I want to feel? I want to feel good about contributing as little as I can to the waste and pollution of the Earth. I want to feel good that I have enough time and money to give away to people who need it more than me. And finally, I want to feel that I’ve made a positive impact, no matter how small, on the people around me and thus a difference in the world. No matter what, I’m determined to leave this world in a better state than how I entered it, that is what happiness means to me.

why I became minimalist

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Confucius

So let’s keep it simple. Apart from being happy, I became a minimalist for three reasons. For my:

1. Health. Minimalism keeps me healthy. Just check out my previous posts on a minimalist diet, my minimalist kitchen, minimalist exercise, cycling, runningand so on.

2. Study. I am a student, who is in love with her major. Through minimalism, I’ve been able to be where I want to be. If you want to find where I am, check out ‘the big reveal – my year abroad‘.

3. Dreams. Finally, I became minimalist so that I can eliminate distractions from my life. Without things that don’t matter cluttering up my life, I can focus my time, efforts and money on my dream of being able to travel the world because I am a firm believer of experiences over possessions.

I am happier now than I have ever been. And I predict in the future that I will be even happier than I am now. Hopefully, my happiness will never stop because I find myself wanting something I can’t have, or because I put my life on hold to get something I want. Of course there will be ups and downs, but what can I say, I’m an optimist.

An optimist is a person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
Mark Twain

make a difference

When I started this blog, I did it anonymously because I thought it was so that I could chat about minimalism with people who felt the same. But in the Times article, my identity has been revealed to everyone, including my family and friends who had very little idea about what I was up to. Why did I agree to reveal myself in the article? Believe me, it wasn’t for fame or recognition or anything like that, I don’t care about that stuff.

This blog is my way of expressing the message of minimalism. It isn’t a cult, or a religion to follow, and I never preach or push about it in real life. Minimal Student blog is my way of spreading the word and to making the small change in the world that I have always wanted. I just want others to be happy, and if this is the way they’ll find it, that makes me even happier.

where to go from here

I’ve linked to a few of my past posts above but they are by no means all of them. If you want to read more, check out my most popular posts or read a little about me. You can also check out a few series I’m currently working on Simple Philosophies, 5 Life Lessons and Minimalist Meditations.

I have already mentioned some of these blogs above, but just in case you didn’t check them out, I want to thank the following people who have inspired me:

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. Thank you for reading and thank you for your helpful comments and encouraging emails. If you find any of the posts helpful to you in some way, please help me keep Minimal Student going by making even just a tiny teeny donation.

If you can’t see the donate button, please click here!

Have you changed even just a little since the beginning of this post? I look forward to hearing from you.

How to create memories that will make you smile for a long long while

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Part of being minimalist is being frugal. But not frugal in the way that you don’t spend money on anything. On the contrary, a lot of minimalist spend a lot of money. Some love minimalist design, and would splash out on modern minimalist furniture. But there’s also a different kind of minimalist, one that likes to splash out… on experiences.

experiences vs. stuff

When you buy a lot of stuff, you are hoping that all of these things will make your life better. Some of them might, like a new laptop to replace your old failing one, or even a whole pile of books. But buying too much of certain things like clothes and gadgets etc. can blind you to the fact that there’s no way that they’re making you truly happy. Sure, you’ll be smiling for a while about it, but it will only last a few days, or until the thing is lost or broken. What you’re really doing is ‘hopping’ from one source of happiness to the next, which creates the illusion that you’re happy.

If you think back to your fondest memories, what are they? I’m sure it’s not all about having the presents you got for Christmas or your birthday, but rather the memory of being surrounded by lot’s of people who cared enough to give you one, and all the fun you had playing with them… it’s the experience that counts.

Memories are a powerful thing. We all want to create happy memories for ourselves, which will keep us smiling for decades. How do we do it? By spending our time, effort and money on creating them through great experiences.

how to create memories

1. Throw a party. If you have a friend’s birthday coming up, or even if you don’t, why not throw a party? It can be big with lot’s of people and balloons or just a small one with a few select friends. Either way, bring a camera, dress up, (drink?) and smile. With lot’s of people gathered around, fun things are bound to happen. Make it a night you’ll remember for years to come!

2. Go for a day out. Wherever you live, there’s bound to be something interesting to do. You just have to look for it. Luckily, we have Google Maps 😉 Why not grab your best friend and go to the zoo/aquarium, skydiving/bungee jumping, to the the local museum, out for a fancy dinner, to the beach… the list goes on. If you manage to do something that you’ve never done before, you would have achieved something amazing that day.

3. Give an experience. Instead of the usual gift of bath soaps, CD’s, or gift vouchers, try giving somebody an experience. Take them out or pay for something they can do. If it’s a little more expensive, ask around for friends to chip in. If they have a lot of fun, they’ll be much more grateful for your present than if you gave them a regular one.

4. Take a holiday. You can go on ‘holiday’ anywhere, even just a few miles from your house. But if you go to a different country, try to go to a place that has more to offer than just the sun. Sunbathing is highly overrated and a complete waste if you ask me. If I wanted to lounge about, I could have done it in my garden. Instead, go to places where you can only do stuff only in that country. Like tasting the local cuisine, chatting to the local people or hiking/climbing towards breathtaking views.

5. Travel. Finally, I believe that some of the best experiences in life come from travelling. I don’t just mean taking a holiday for a few weeks, I mean travelling. There aren’t many experiences that are more fulfilling than seeing the world. One of my blogging heroes Chris Guillebeau knows it all too well, and his goal is to visit every country in the world. Starting this summer, I will be travelling abroad for a whole year (a post about this is coming soon). I will be studying, working and seeing a world a lot different than mine. Doing something drastic like this can completely change your whole outlook on life. Yes, I will be spending money, but somehow I know it will be much more satisfying than buying that ‘xyz’ I saw in the store the other day.

EDIT: Just as I finished writing this post, I noticed an interesting article in my feed, check out the links for solid research evidence.

“If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right” is the name of a study being published in The Journal of Consumer Psychology according to this New York Times article which talks about how spending money on experiences can give you more lasting happiness than spending it on stuff. It also features another one of my blogger heroines Tammy Strobel from Rowdykittens.com.

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3 reasons to reduce your life overhead

For some it’s a simple question.

Do you know how much your life costs?

I’m not asking how much your life is worth, of course the answer to that is that it’s priceless. But how much does it cost?

For businesses, this is a very important question. As individuals, we may not have the responsibility of looking after shareholders, but nevertheless there is no reason why we shouldn’t keep a watchful eye on our life overheads.

If something should happen, say you lost your job or other income, would you be able to reduce, adapt and survive? Or would you go under? As a general rule, the biggest difference between those businesses that made it through the recession and those that didn’t was the ability to change, reorganize and cut down on spending to the most minimum amounts. Many of them came out of the other side much less wasteful of resources and ran at their most efficient in years.

What would happen if you reduced your cost of living ? You’ll gain:

1. Freedom

The Problem: Being trapped in a job you hate. As a teen I could only land menial jobs, which made me feel like a tiny cog in a giant corporate machine. I was trading each hour of my life away for cash. I felt like I had a price on my head, and it wasn’t very high. So I quit. I felt I had learnt a lot, and gained some valuable life experience but in the end, working like that wasn’t for me. And since being at university, the fact that I don’t have a job has freed me up to concentrate on my studies. However, there are some that don’t have such luxuries (excluding those who don’t have a choice). Although they hate their job, they can’t quit or even cut back on hours because they wouldn’t have enough money to pay for petrol in their car or to feed their buying habits.

The Solution: To survive, I found alternative routes of income and I reduced my life overheads. I’ll save it for a future post about how I make money (I can assure you it’s perfectly legal!). But, basically I changed my life when I became a minimalist. I ride a bike instead of driving or taking the bus, I found ways to hang out with my friends for practically free, and I learned to live happily with what I already have instead of buying new stuff.

2. Peace of mind.

The Problem: Either we don’t even realise what we’re spending until it’s too late or we constantly worry about going into overdrafts and repaying debts. Being completely unaware of the problem is a recipe for disaster but on the other hand constantly worrying about it isn’t going to solve anything by itself.

The Solution: Reduce. Simplify. Change. There are people that can’t imagine life without a car, shopping for new clothes every weekend or going out clubbing three times a week. If you spend a lot, you need to earn a lot to sustain your lifestyle. If you simply cut down on you wants, you don’t have to give up as much of your valuable free time working for money, or your well-being becoming stressed about it. Don’t overfeed the ‘want’ monster and sooner or later it’ll stop being greedy.

3. Happiness

The Problem: We’re pressured to spend our whole lives trying to accumulate money. Our society has trained us to be constantly attached to money that we don’t even realise we are. We always carry money around, we spend it everyday (even if you don’t buy anything today, you’re still paying for rent/bills) and most of the time we’re working or studying for a ‘secure future’ which basically means we expect to earn more money in the future. Money money money.

The Solution: Just let go. Let go of your need to collect money. Be content with what you have now. Everyone knows that money doesn’t equal happiness, but they just need to believe it. Stop worrying and thinking about the future all the time. The future isn’t here yet, but the present is. I’m not advocating throwing everything you’ve worked for out the window, just that every once in a while, remember that you are already rich.

My Minimalist Wardrobe

After receiving quite a few comments and emails over the past few months asking me about my minimalistic habits I’ve decided to start a new series called ‘My Minimalist…’ which details particular minimalist aspects of my life, such as what does my room look like? What do I like to eat? What’s in my wardrobe? Of course I love you guys so much I’m more than happy to share what’s lurking in my cupboard. (As far as I know, there aren’t any skeletons!)

Let’s begin with my wardrobe. The key to building a minimalist wardrobe is versatility. Almost everything I own can be worn either everyday, or mixed and matched on different occasions to make dozens of combinations of outfits. That way, I reduce the amount of clothes I actually own. Overall, I own about fifty pieces of clothing, including everyday outfits, ‘going out’ outfits, sports gear, shoes, socks, underwear, accessories, coats, scarves and pj’s. It sounds like a lot, but most of it is counting the little things, like a pair of socks here and there. A quick snapshot of my cupboard shows that about this number can comfortably fit into a small-normal sized wardrobe:

 

I’ve seen wardrobes that are practically spilling with clothes. Actually, in some, you can even see corners of clothes hang out forlornly over the shelf edge, constantly being squashed because it’s stopping the door from fulling closing.

As for shoes, I’m lucky enough to live in a country with fairly mild weather, so I can get away with wearing fairly light shoes that don’t need replacing that often if I take care of them. I love wearing my brown boots, but they’re impractical for cycling so I usually go for the casual plimpsole/trainer. I own a pair of plain black heels that go with literally any outfit and have served me well for almost two years now for going out at night (both pictured above).

All of my socks and underwear are plain and mostly black. All of my clothes are easy to wash or can be hand-washed, and tumble dried and don’t need ironing. They also dry very quickly, which is good because it means I can ‘turn over’ clothes efficiently, ie. I don’t have to wait for long for clothes to dry on a rack before being able to wear them again. I can usually wash something in the sink and hang it up overnight and wear it in the morning.

Over Easter, I lived a month out of a single suitcase because I only took a few pieces of clothing but I styled them by mixing and matching. For example, here is one dark grey top dressed in three different ways:

 

Here is another top I love, as you can see, not everything has to be just one plain colour if you dress it up! Here it is pictured with the above jeans and black skirt and a  pair of shorts. These three outfits are perfect for casualwear, eveningwear and summerwear!

The number of combinations you can do rises exponentially even if you only add a few more items and match them well. I actually took a few more pictures with more or less the same tops and bottoms but you get the idea! I don’t want to bore you with a fashion lecture 🙂

So you see, it’s all about choosing the right things before you buy. Here a quick summary for future reference:

  • Check the label to see if it can be handwashed and/or tumbled dried etc. depending on how much time you can spend cleaning. Obviously never buy anything that needs dry cleaning (including dresses – there’s so many nice alternatives out there that don’t cost half the retail price just to clean!)
  • Think about the rest of your wardrobe and how many pieces you can match it with. Try not to buy anything that has ‘occasion restrictions’ such as ‘really-hot-days-only’ or ‘posh-occasion-only’.
  • And finally, if you buy this new piece of clothing, what can you throw out/donate in it’s place?