Category Archives: Money

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.

Related Posts

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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?

Birthday

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.

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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.

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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 Get Rich for Free

by Jessica Dang
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A lot of people hate talking about money. One of the most annoying things I hear is that “there are more important things in life than money”, and while I agree to some extent, it should be more like, “there are more important things in life once I have enough money”, because the kind of people who say the former tend to be those who can’t sleep at night worrying about the bills, dread Monday mornings, are working 40+ hour weeks, can’t afford to do the things they really want to do, or don’t have enough time to spend with their friends and family.

Accumulating money for the sake of it isn’t the point. Money is a tool, like a boarding pass, it is your ticket to where and who you want to be. With it, you can get away from the long office hours with the boss you hate, the debt collectors or the mortgage hanging over your head and towards a life of freedom and fulfillment.

It’s not difficult either. There is a very simple formula. The money you have is the difference between what you earn and what you spend. That’s it. So logically, there are three main ways to get rich:

1. Spend less. Want fewer things, and you’ll end up spending less. Care less about what other people think and stop trying to keep up with the neighbours and you’ll end up spending less. Have some discipline and care more about your future self and you’ll end up spending less. You don’t need to live a monk-like existence, but everyone has something they can cut. It’s a matter of thinking before you spend and prioritising what’s really important to you over what only seems important to you right now.

2. Save more. First, and most importantly, make sure you have a rainy day fund that will pay for all of your essential expenses for at least 3-6 months in the event that you lose your job, or can’t work temporarily. Unfortunately, too many people live pay check to pay check, unprepared for things like illness, or a downturn in the economy, or any number of things that are outside of their control. You should also prioritise paying off the most expensive debt(s) that you may have, starting with the ones that charge the most interest, leaving the least expensive debt until last. You might consider not paying very low interest debt off yet if a potential investment yields more than the interest charged, but more on that below.

3. Earn more. Another way to get more money is to simply earn more. Ask for a raise, take on another job, or start something on the side. Don’t fall for lifestyle inflation, which is when you spend more because you’re earning more. Although the occasional treat is fine, too much normally results in very little net difference in savings. That’s how you get people on £60k salaries relying on each paycheck to cover their inflated bills.

Now, once you’ve saved your emergency fund and have accumulated a little extra, what do you do with it? Money isn’t made for collecting, you need to put it to work…

4. Switch your earned income to passive income. Most people think that the only way to make money is to earn it by doing some sort of office or labour job. This is simply not true. There are plenty of people who continue to make money even after they stopped work. Like the singer who earns royalties for a song she made years ago, the writer whose book continues to sell, or the business owner who leaves the day-to-day running to a manager. These kind of people put in an initial amount of work that took some time, effort, skills, and knowledge, but were rewarded with a passive income long after they stopped working. They had the freedom and income to do what they liked, move onto other projects, or to do nothing at all. You can switch your earned income (the money you make by working) to passive income (the money you make by not working) over time, by investing (see below), or starting a side business or income generating hobby. Eventually, you might be able to reduce or stop working, but even if you don’t get rid of your earned income source, at least your passive income can provide an extra layer or security, or luxury, that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.

5. Invest. Apart from inheriting or winning the lottery, investing is the only way to earn money outside of conventional work. All investing can be boiled down to a return percentage with a certain amount of risk. From low risk/low yielding bonds to high risk/high returning startups, there are thousands of way to invest, and it would be outside of the scope of this blog to explain and review individual methods. However, I have found property to be a good investment (in my city/country) in various forms including buy-to-let and crowdfunding. An important thing to remember is that inflation is eating away at your savings at a rate of between 2-6% per year or more, depending on which country you live in, so if you do nothing, you are essentially losing money. Make your money work for you, in the form of immediate/short term returns, or long term capital growth. Which you choose, or how you balance these is up to your own financial situation and goals.

There is a lot more I have to say, which I will detail in a future post. I am not a financial expert, and you should always consider any financial advice carefully. However, some things are common sense, and yet there are so many people stuck in debt, living on their paychecks, or in jobs they hate because they wouldn’t be able to pay the bills if they left. Worst of all, they complain yet do nothing about it, or they resent people who do have money. As a child of immigrant parents, I was not given anything more than most kids my age. I had exactly the same opportunities that were there for anyone who could identify them to take, and I worked extremely hard for them. I’m very grateful for the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated, and I’m proud of how I was able to steer my finances to where they are now.

Finally, the more I earn, the more I’m able to give, which is one of the only reasons why I would want to earn above my means. I’m not interested in fast cars or fancy shoes, if I have more than I need, I would give it to the people who need it most, so that they could have some of the opportunities I was so lucky to have.

Resources

Image result for secrets millionaire mindEver wonder how people become millionaires and how lottery winners manage to lose it all? If there’s one book that helped me see things with a better perspective, it must be Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker which talks about our money mindsets. You can learn all you want about investing, but unless you have a rich mindset, you’re unlikely going to be able to succeed, and even if you do, you might not keep it for long. Having the right ‘money blueprint’ is the first and most important step to becoming truly rich.

You should also check out my Meditations about money from my other blog Minimalist Meditations (links below), as well as one of my favourite personal finance blogs Financial Samurai. I will have more posts in the future about

 

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5 Ways To Save Money Buying Books

Reading is one of the best things you can do for your mind. It expands your horizons and takes you to places you can never go. Unfortunately, books can cost a lot of money, especially university textbooks, but here are some ways you can save money.

1. Check the library. If you are only going to read it once, or use it for referencing, then the best thing to do would be to borrow it. Universities usually have an extensive collection of textbooks, especially expensive or rare ones.  If you want to buy to make notes, ask yourself “Will I ever look through these notes again? Are they going to help me improve in anyway?“. If not, then it might just be worth borrowing and then taking a few notes in a separate ‘reading notebook’ instead of the actual book.

2. Check the reviews. If you decide that you need your own copy to keep or make notes in etc. check out the reviews on Amazon, other book review sites first or maybe even ask your lecturer. It might not turn out to be what you want and could end up being a waste of money. You might even find you can eliminate some books on your reading list this way.

3. Shop around. There are so many places that you can buy books there is bound to be a difference in pricing. In general, buying online is cheaper because websites don’t have to pay as much overhead costs, however, you may be able to find things even cheaper in charity shops. Also, some universities do a trade-in scheme for higher years to sell books to lower years at a reduced price. It might be worth it to save a few bucks here and there.

4. Consider re-selling. After you’ve made use of the book, you should consider reselling it if you don’t plan to use it again. This way, you can make some of the money back that you paid for it and somebody else can obtain the book for a fairly low price. This is good for the environment and is good for decluttering your room.

5. Share. Lending books to friends and sharing books around can save all of you a ton of money. Remember to take care of borrowed books. The mutual benefits can be amazing, I can’t tell you how many books I’ve discovered because a course mate, friend or family member recommended it, and because of their kindness, I never had to spend a penny.

What are your tips for saving money on books?