Category Archives: Money

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.”

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.


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.

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


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

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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?


Last night, I stayed up until past midnight, meditating. I wanted to be fully aware and mindful when the clock struck twelve because today, is my birthday.

I don’t know what it is about birthdays, but lately I’ve can’t help but feel melancholic whenever I think about them. Not that I’m old, far from it, but every year it is a reminder of the things I haven’t done and how time is ticking on.

There’s so much I want to accomplish, and when I count them, I realise that I probably don’t have enough years of my life to do them all. But I’m reminded by an extract from one of my a work by Lucius Seneca – ‘On the Shortness of Life’:

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested”.

I find writings like this quite lifting, and one of my favorites of all time is an essay written by Edmund N. Carpenter, age 17, in June 1938. He was a graduate of Harvard who would go on to win the Bronze Star for his service in World War II and to a civilian career as an attorney. He died on Dec. 19, 2008 at age 87 and is survived by six children and 15 grandchildren. It’s pretty long, if you don’t have time to read it, I definitely recommend clipping it for later and then skipping to the bottom. But I think he pretty much sums up what I want my entire life to be about.


It may seem very strange to the reader that one of my tender age should already be thinking about that inevitable end to which even the paths of glory lead. However, this essay is not really concerned with death, but rather with life, my future life. I have set down here the things which I, at this age, believe essential to happiness and complete enjoyment of life. Some of them will doubtless seem very odd to the reader; others will perhaps be completely in accord with his own wishes. At any rate, they compose a synopsis of the things which I sincerely desire to have done before I leave this world and pass on to the life hereafter or to oblivion.

Before I die I want to know that I have done something truly great, that I have accomplished some glorious achievement the credit for which belongs solely to me. I do not aspire to become as famous as a Napoleon and conquer many nations; but I do want, almost above all else, to feel that I have been an addition to this world of ours. I should like the world, or at least my native land, to be proud of me and to sit up and take notice when my name is pronounced and say, “There is a man who has done a great thing.” I do not want to have passed through life as just another speck of humanity, just another cog in a tremendous machine. I want to be something greater, far greater than that. My desire is not so much for immortality as for distinction while I am alive. When I leave this world, I want to know that my life has not been in vain, but that I have, in the course of my existence, done something of which I am rightfully very proud.

Before I die I want to know that during my life I have brought great happiness to others. Friendship, we all agree, is one of the best things in the world, and I want to have many friends. But I could never die fully contented unless I knew that those with whom I had been intimate had gained real happiness from their friendship with me. Moreover, I feel there is a really sincere pleasure to be found in pleasing others, a kind of pleasure that can not be gained from anything else. We all want much happiness in our lives, and giving it to others is one of the surest ways to achieve it for ourselves.

Before I die I want to have visited a large portion of the globe and to have actually lived with several foreign races in their own environment. By traveling in countries other than my own I hope to broaden and improve my outlook on life so that I can get a deeper, and more complete satisfaction from living. By mixing the weighty philosophy of China with the hard practicalism of America, I hope to make my life fuller. By blending the rigid discipline of Germany with the great liberty in our own nation I hope to more completely enjoy my years on this earth. These are but two examples of the many things which I expect to achieve by traveling and thus have a greater appreciation of life.

Before I die there is another great desire I must fulfill, and that is to have felt a truly great love. At my young age I know that love, other than some filial affection, is probably far beyond my ken. Yet, young as I may be, I believe I have had enough inkling of the subject to know that he who has not loved has not really lived. Nor will I feel my life is complete until I have actually experienced that burning flame and know that I am at last in love, truly in love. I want to feel that my whole heart and soul are set on one girl whom I wish to be a perfect angel in my eyes. I want to feel a love that will far surpass any other emotion that I have ever felt. I know that when I am at last really in love then I will start living a different, better life, filled with new pleasures that I never knew existed.

Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow. This, perhaps, of all my wishes will seem the strangest to the reader. Yet, is it unusual that I should wish to have had a complete life? I want to have lived fully, and certainly sorrow is a part of life. It is my belief that, as in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow. It molds us and teaches us that there is a far deeper significance to life than might be supposed if one passed through this world forever happy and carefree. Moreover, once the pangs of sorrow have slackened, for I do not believe it to be a permanent emotion, its dregs often leave us a better knowledge of this world of ours and a better understanding of humanity. Yes, strange as it may seem, I really want to feel a great sorrow.

With this last wish I complete the synopsis of the things I want to do before I die. Irrational as they may seem to the reader, nevertheless they comprise a sincere summary of what I truthfully now believe to be the things most essential to a fully satisfactory and happy life. As I stand here on the threshold of my future, these are the things which to me seem the most valuable. Perhaps in fifty years I will think that they are extremely silly. Perhaps I will wonder, for instance, why I did not include a wish for continued happiness. Yet, right now, I do not desire my life to be a bed of roses. I want it to be something much more than that. I want it to be a truly great adventure, never dull, always exciting and engrossing; not sickly sweet, yet not unhappy. And I believe it will be all I wish if I do these things before I die.

As for death itself, I do not believe that it will be such a disagreeable thing providing my life has been successful. I have always considered life and death as two cups of wine. Of the first cup, containing the wine of life, we can learn a little from literature and from those who have drunk it, but only a little. In order to get the full flavor we must drink deeply of it for ourselves. I believe that after I have quaffed the cup containing the wine of life, emptied it to its last dregs, then I will not fear to turn to that other cup, the one whose contents can be designated only by X, an unknown, and a thing about which we can gain no knowledge at all until we drink for ourselves. Will it be sweet, or sour, or tasteless? Who can tell? Surely none of us like to think of death as the end of everything. Yet is it? That is a question that for all of us will one day be answered when we, having witnessed the drama of life, come to the final curtain. Probably we will all regret to leave this world, yet I believe that after I have drained the first cup, and have possibly grown a bit weary of its flavor, I will then turn not unwillingly to the second cup and to the new and thrilling experience of exploring the unknown.


If I didn’t write down my thoughts, I think my head would explode. I’m so lucky to have readers like you to share my ideas with. Minimal Student has helped me grow into the kind of person I want to be. Not that I’m there yet, wherever there may be, but like at said at the beginning of MS, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the adventure. I would be so happy if you can find even just a few of the future posts to come on MS inspiring, helpful, motivating, useful, poignant or memorable.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Since it’s my birthday, I would be elated if you could share Minimal Student by hitting the share button or emailing a link to a friend. Thank you.

A Student’s Guide to a Minimalist Diet in 5 Steps

what is a minimalist’s diet?

True to the minimalist mind-set, a MD (Minimalist Diet) is about reducing food down to what is essential. Although I refer to it as a diet here, in this case I mean diet in the case of ‘a way of eating’ or a long-term lifestyle, not a fad diet that claims you can lose several pounds in 30 days.

When it comes to diets, the important thing is to find a balance and to keep trying new things until you find what is best for you. Our bodies are all different in a thousand subtle ways; we all react to food a little differently. I am not a nutritionist, so please don’t take this as medical advice. I have also taken into account my current lifestyle, I am a student, with very little money to spend, so some of the steps have come out of necessity rather than choice.

For me, an ideal model for a MD is the traditional Japanese diet. Japanese cuisine is well known for the little cooking that is applied to the food. A lot of food is eaten raw or lightly vinegared, such as Sashimi, or otherwise just steamed or boiled. As for flavouring, the Japanese tend to season lightly, or use simple dipping sauces such as soy sauce. This doesn’t mean the food is bland and tasteless, it simply means that food is eaten the way it is, as close as possible to how it occurs in nature.

My take on a good MD is cutting down on too many foods that are processed and cooked for long periods of time. A lot of people cut out meat as well, and although a vegetarian or even vegan diet is definitely very ‘minimal’, you don’t have to abandon meat if you don’t want to.

what are the benefits?

Some of the advantages of a Minimalist Diet are that:

You spend less money. You’re on a student budget, which, unless you’re very lucky, isn’t much. Processed food tend to cost more because the manufacturer needs to make a profit over all of the ingredients and chemicals they used to make it. Buying carrots and chopping them up yourself makes a much cheaper side dish than oven chips which the food company had to grow, chop, flavour, process, package, market, distribute and store whilst making money to stay in business.

It is healthier. Most food companies, and restaurants, don’t care about your health. They care about money. So, they make their food products tasty and convenient because that is what will encourage you to buy them again. But at what cost? The tastiest foods are packed full of sugars and fats. And the most ‘convenient’ foods are sprayed full of chemicals so that they can be stored longer and cooked in less time. Cutting out processed foods means you’ll be filling your body with natural foods, so there are fewer ‘sugar rushes’ or ‘oily breakouts’, which leaves you in a much happier mood and better able to focus and concentrate.

Moreover, I was in the supermarket one day and I noticed that a burger costs £1, whereas a bag of salad was about £1.50. The question occurred to me: What is in that burger that makes it cost less than a bag of leaves to make? A bag of leaves!?

It’s better for the environment. Eating foods that don’t come with copious amounts of packaging saves from adding to landfill. Plus, eating fresh food means it probably spent less time travelling, which saves enormous amounts of oil and carbon dioxide emissions. If you cut down on meat, you will be ‘saving food’, since raising livestock costs more plant material than the energy and nutrition you would get from eating the plants themselves. There is already a global food shortage problem, and although realistically you won’t make much of a difference by yourself, at least you would know you are doing you best not to make it worse.

how to get started

Here are a few steps you can take towards a Minimalist Diet:

1. Make your own. Takeaways are extremely expensive compared to the cost of making a meal for yourself. You don’t have to make a profit over the effort you put into making your own dinner. Of course, there is a need for one every now and again, but if you make meals in bulk then all you have to do is heat up a portion for the next night. One of the biggest money-saving things you can do is making your own sandwiches for lunch. A quick price comparison shows how much you can save, the average cost of a sandwich is £2.00, if you buy 4-5 a week that comes to almost £10. But a supermarket loaf of bread is only about £0.60 and even adding the cost of most fillings like tomatoes, cheese, salads and butter that will last you more than one loaf still makes bringing your own much cheaper.

2. Cut out junk. If you know you eat a lot of chips, biscuits, crisps, cakes, pastries and drink a lot of fizzy drinks, you don’t have get rid of it all straight away, otherwise the chances are you won’t last very long and you’ll be tempted to switch back. Instead, you can just cut down little by little, and substitute foods at the same time (see below) to make up for it. This step can be difficult, and I know it is easier said than done but it is one of the quickest to implement and the results can be very rewarding.

3. Substitute. Replace the junk you left out with healthier snacks. If you can cut out fries as a side part of you main dish, replace it with vegetables. Perhaps replace your morning cup of coffee with green tea instead.  Try stirring honey into your tea instead of sugar. If you really feel like something sweet, try a handful of grapes, they’re packed full of the fruit sugar fructose. Instead of taking a bag of crisps for lunch, switch it for an apple. Get creative!

4. Think simple. If you’re not very good at cooking, or can’t afford to buy much (I mean, we are students), why not just make something simple? Buy simple ingredients. When cooking, instead of going for complicated recipes, why not try methods like steaming and boiling? These procedures are fairly easy and usually don’t take very long either. One of my favourite tricks is steaming practically any vegetable, or even fish in a sieve over boiling water with a lid on top, what is more simple/frugal/MacGyver than that?

5. Eat less. Now, I’m not suggesting you go anorexic here. But if you are overweight, it may be worth calculating a rough estimate of how much you eat in terms of calories and seeing if you’re over your Recommended Daily Allowance. If there’s one thing that remains consistent between all diets, even those dreaded fad diets, it is that in order to lose weight, you should replace junky carbohydrate heavy foods with simple, protein rich foods. Consuming minimally can help you slim down, reduce landfill, save money and improve your overall well-being.

Please remember that all of these tips are just suggestions. There isn’t an ‘Official Minimalist Diet’ rulebook that states you should not eat meat, or that you must eat less than you do now and so on. These steps are a result of combining some of the things I have learnt as a result of having an interest in health, nutrition and of course minimalism. I do realise that some of these points apply to a healthier diet in general, but I guess that is what a MD really breaks down to. This is an approach to food that I have found to work for me, I hope it will help others but of course anyone can change it around as they like.

What does a ‘Minimalist Diet’ mean to you? Do you have any ideas about how to be more minimal when it comes to food?

5 Ways to Just Spend Less

_coin_stack_poundsFor Halloween, a friend of mine spent £30 (about $50) on a costume for one night. I wondered how can you spend so much money for something that has no lasting value? I could literally think of a hundred better ways to spend even half that amount.

It made me step back and look at my own spending habits. And now I make sure I go through a few steps before making a purchase.

1. Think before buying. Really consider if you need the new thing and do you have to have it now? A good method is to wait about 30 days before parting with your money. A lot of the time I realise that I’m better off keeping my money. Also, think of the sacrifice. What am I giving up to buy this item? What else can I do with the money?

2. Do research. Is the item worth it? Is it a good solution to your problems? Check out review sites if you can and shop around for the cheapest place. Especially if you’re buying books.

3. Consider the long term. How long will it last? Will you be able to get rid of it easily/sell it on? Or is it destined to live in the corner of your room until the end of the year? What will you do with it when it is no longer useful to you? Finding solutions to these questions can help stop new stuff building clutter.

4. Want less. The best way to spend less is just to simply want less. Don’t fall for the consumerist mentality that the more things you own and the more things you do the better you are.  The most famous brand isn’t always the best. Try to cut out the expensive activities that you can do without, like more than two or three nights out a week.

5. Find it free. If you are spending a lot of money on activities such as going out, maybe try doing things that don’t cost as much, or better yet, free. Go to the park, make a cup of tea at home or do some studying with friends. If it’s a thing you want, this may not be applicable to everything but maybe you could borrow it, or even make it. Be creative in finding ways to not spend money. Soon you’ll be actively seeking ways to save money, now that’s much more challenging.

Do you have any tips on how to spend less?