Minimalists Save The Planet

by Kim on February 13, 2011 · 11 comments

Part 4 in a 4-part series on how to save money and make your dreams come true.

We have come to the end of my 4-part series about saving money.  Yay!  I bet you’re happy you won’t have to hear me ramble on about savings accounts and selling my plasma for extra money.  Okay, I didn’t actually do that, but it’s always an option. 

In part 1 of this series I wrote about saving money to fund your dreams.  In part 2 I wrote about saving money at home.  Last week, part 3, I wrote about saving money on bills.  And today, finally, I write about saving money by using less stuff. 

I have to warn you, consumption is one of my favorite topics.  What I mean is, I’m really passionate about the role that “stuff” plays in our lives and how, if we aren’t careful, we stop owning our stuff and our stuff starts owning us.  The best job I ever had was as a Waste Reduction Coordinator.  Yep, you read that right, Waste Reduction Coordinator.  I got paid to talk to people about reducing waste, which meant talking to them about over-consumption, because the easiest way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place

The obviously correlation here between owning stuff and saving money is that stuff costs money!  It costs money to buy stuff, power stuff, maintain stuff, and even to throw stuff away.  And I won’t get in to it here but there is a huge environmental impact associated with buying stuff.  People freak out about whether something can be recycled or thrown away but here’s a little industry secret: it barely matters.  Almost all of the environmental impact of that thing you’re worried about throwing away already happened when the materials that made it were mined, manufactured, and then shipped to the store so that you could easily purchase it.  I’m not saying that recycling isn’t important, it is!  But what’s more important is making sure you don’t buy any more stuff than you have to.

So, what can I say about using less stuff to save money?  It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?  But for those who aren’t natural minimalists, here are three tips for getting rid of your excess stuff and ultimately saving money.

Step 1: Declutter

The first step towards having and using less stuff is decluttering.  Tackle one room at a time and systematically sort through all the stuff you have.  Do you use the stuff or does it sit there taking up space?  Did you forget you even owned it?  If you don’t use (or rarely use) the stuff then get rid of it!  Make one pile of items you can sell on craigslist or eBay and one pile to give away to friends or to a thrift store.  Any money that you make from selling your unused stuff can go towards funding your dream. 

Step 2: Don’t shop

Now that you’ve decluttered your space and own only what you use, the next step is to stop shopping.  Okay, you can shop occasionally but only if you buy what you need. The key is learning to determine what you really need versus what you want.  Many people think they need that new pair of shoes or need that strawberry slicer.  The truth is, those people probably already have 40 pairs of shoes in their walk-in closet and a fancy set of kitchen knives that can slice those strawberries just fine.  Determining what you really need is actually kind of a hard thing to do at first.  To begin the practice, ask yourself every single time you want to purchase something if you really need it to survive and thrive.  Do you need the bananas?  Yes.  Do you need the faux-zebra print mini wallet with nickle plated change purse and extra photo pockets?  No.

Step 3: One thing in the door, one thing out

An easy way to determine if you really need something is to follow the ‘one thing in the door, one thing out the door’ rule.  It is, basically, as it sounds.  If your socks have holes and are unwearable, throw them away and buy new ones.  If your running shoes are making your knees hurt, replace them.  It’s okay to use something until the end of its life and then replace it.  It’s not okay to continue to add to your collection of things when you already have perfectly good things that serve the same purpose.

Websites to Inspire

There are quite a few blogs and websites out there that address this problem that we have of owning too much and still thinking we need more.  Here are a two sites that I recommend.

The 100 Thing Challenge

Far Beyond the Stars

Both sites speak to the issue addressed in one of my favorite quotes: “Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.”  – Doris Mortman

The Bottom Line

There is a bottom line in all of this.  It’s that each and every day we make choices about how we spend our money.  We can either choose to watch cable television, buy another pair of jeans and drop $50 bucks at dinner or we can choose to read a book from the library, wear the clothes we already own, and cook a meal at home.  We’re lucky to have a choice.  Saving money is also a choice.  Even tight budgets can be squeezed tighter.  Sometimes it feels as though saving $5 a week doesn’t matter, but I’m telling you it does matter.  Every small thing adds up.  Saving towards your dream not only puts you on the path towards achieving it but it also teaches you about sacrifice, discipline and patience (oh lord, does it teach you patience).

Remember, you sold hours of your life for that money.  Use it for something that matters.  Use it to fund your dream.   



{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca February 15, 2011 at 2:23 am

More great advice – and so simple and practical!


Kim February 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Thanks Rebecca. It’s very simple and practical and yet sometimes hard to put into practice!!


Sara March 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Good advice. Though I wish you hadn’t mentioned the shoe part (yes, in Oregon, I really do need 3 pairs of waterproof keen boots!!)


Kim March 4, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Sara, you mean two pairs wouldn’t do the job? 😉


Carmel May 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I went through a career change last year (and ended up going back to office work, mostly because it paid more for less time, but I digress…). Between the change, being underemployed, unemployed, and paying for a wedding, we were constantly strapped for cash. But, despite all that, we still managed to pay our bills and have a great wedding. Admittedly my credit card did get some use, but overall, it wasn’t bad. The amazing thing is that now I have a good paying job, insurance, and savings again…yet until I had a little reality check, we were barely making ends meet. It really is a choice. The more money you make does not necessarily mean the more money you save. You have to make the choice.

This has been very helpful. I just went and ordered a bunch of water saving devices from Portlandonline, too!


Kim May 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm

You are so right Carmel! I know people that make more money than us and have no savings at all and they think they’re just getting by… yet they drive new cars, spend a lot of money getting their hair colored and going buying the latest gadgets and furnishing their homes. It’s all about priorities. Saving has to be the priority and everything else comes second.


Liz February 12, 2014 at 12:52 pm

“Remember, you sold hours of your life for that money. Use it for something that matters. Use it to fund your dream.”

This literally made me stop everything I was doing and sit bolt upright. I’ve been dreaming of leaving everything behind and travelling indefinitely with my (now) husband for almost as long as you’ve had your dream, and nothing has made it seem more urgent than those three sentences. How many hours of my LIFE, my one life, have I literally sold to get more money that’s just gone down the drain towards one useless thing or another, when it could’ve been going into a savings account to fund the dream of a lifetime?

I’ve been reading your blog for the last couple days and I want you to know that you and your husband are now a huge inspiration to me. I just have to get my own husband on board with my crazy dream… 😉


Kim February 14, 2014 at 7:20 am

Hey, I’d forgotten I’d written that. It’s true, isn’t it? I’m so glad you found the blog, Liz. I had to get my own husband on board with my crazy dream… and now he’s the biggest proponent!


Liz February 19, 2014 at 11:30 am

Well my husband’s on board (now that I’ve asked him!) but I think he feels really daunted by the thought of how much money we need to save, so he’s not very excited yet. But at least he didn’t just look at me like I had grown a third head and say I was crazy!


Kim February 20, 2014 at 6:17 am

That is a step in the right direction!!! It took us three years to save the money so I understand how it can feel a million miles a way.


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