The Cheap Minimalist

Being a minimalist should save you money, but being a cheap minimalist is guaranteed to save you money.

A year ago, I had enough things. It felt like the stuff I own could last me a lifetime, I am tired of shopping, and I want to live with less. But now I find the need to slowly buying again. Things, whatever quality it may be, get worn and torn, or you get bored over it. The notion of paying for a prized item that could last forever is a fallacy.  The $xxxx bag I bought is now out of trend and style. We like new things, it’s exciting.

I tend to justify the cost of expensive items over cost per wear. Like Levi’s jeans is so worth it over a year because it cost less than $1/wear. But I forget to consider, how much less it would be over some no-brand jeans or thrift from goodwill. That would be less than $0.2/wear.

The rich buy luxury last while the poor and middle class buys luxury first. – Robert Kiyosaki. Duh, a statement from someone famous. They can say anything, don’t they?

I didn’t quite appreciate this wisdom until I met someone with at least $1.7mil in investment and he wears an RM37 watch ($1 = RM4). Most of us would have upgraded to something that speaks “A thousand worth” before we reach a million. Looking at the $1,000 bag I thrift, I am guilty of buying luxury first despite having no wealth.

By cheap, I am not referring to being extremely frugal but things that we are overpaying for the same quality because we want to feel like we are worth it. The richer you get, the more you realized that these things don’t define you, and don’t make you a better person. The merits of paying 10x for Superdry T-shirt versus a $10 shirt is actually none unless you are already rich (actually still none if you ask Mr. Warren).

One of the core ideas of minimalist is focused on quality over quantity. Buying quality things in life is good, but not all quality price tags are justifiable. The minerals you get from a banana, and an organic crunch bar is probably the same. But, the cumulative effects of consistently choosing the cheapest option for a low-income earner is enormous. The purse at RM240 ($1= RM4) versus RM9 translates to 15x purchasing power. An RM8 drink versus RM1 hot tea, 7x lower retirement cost. A Typo notebook versus RM5 notebook, 5x of savings.

Would I buy a wallet from a $1 store or Yubiso? My old answer as a salaried executive would be Hell, no! Now, that RM9 purse is in my next to buy list (when, if my purse was torn. It’s a 7 years old Bruan that is still holding). I am not approving their designs or material, I like real leather actually. I’ve just come to terms that purchasing a brand, apart from the lie that we tell ourselves “I deserve this” is no different from the cheap, equally beautiful alternative. It is easy but dangerous to be caught up in the trap of lifestyle inflation in the form of a brand-stamp. From what I read, Madam Birkin has lost her sense of humanity.

The idea of value-driven offerings is not always what it seems to be. Marketing strategy has contaminated the word, and many times it means nothing more than you need to work longer to afford the same life.

How about the time that you pay 5x more for face powder and find that the quality is superb compare to the drug store brand you been using? In this case, I think, it depends if you can afford it sustainability and if using that really makes you happy. After all, all our wants spending should contribute to our happiness & fun.

If I have convinced you to change your shopping habits, you have to ask what are your values. Let’s say you value your current living standard, then it may make sense to continue paying for what you value on. Is your goal to buy something more significant or save so you can stop working? What are the things that you actually won’t tell the difference when you opt for the cheaper option? Even if you do this just for 30% of the things you buy in a year, you are looking at the possibility of 2x savings.

There will be some contrarian when you choose to be cheap, some people may judge that you are poor. I reckon that one should learn to overcome that stigma, then you are a genuinely humble person (and wealthy at the same time). Remember that you aren’t supposed to buy something to please someone that you don’t know. How sad is your life if impressing people is your life mission.

Being a minimalist should save you money, but being a cheap minimalist is guaranteed to save you money.

If you are pursuing financial independence, opt for the best or the cheapest. And the cheapest is usually best when you can’t afford the best. What do you think?

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