Women in white dress holds up beach towel near beach as it waves in the wind.

13 Purchase Mistakes New Minimalists Make

My journey to minimalism started nearly five years ago when I left America to live in Cambodia with the United States Peace Corps. Since then, I have made my fair share of minimalist shopping mistakes over the years. None stand out more to me now than these top 13 common purchase mistakes many new minimalists make.

What have I done to improve my purchasing habits as a minimalist? Get the minimalist tips and tricks below!

13 Things I Stopped Buying As A Minimalist

Plus Pro Tips for Shopping Like A Minimalist!

The best kept secrets to living like a minimalist starts with increasing and improving your awareness of shopping habits such as…

bulk toilet paper on the counter

1. Buying in Bulk.

Sure, this may save you money if you live with a family of 12. But it could also cost you, and the planet, more than it saves.

Because I live a very nomadic lifestyle, I often don’t stay in the same place for more than a year or two at a time. And if you’re like me (or you intend to move in the near future), can you affirmatively say that you will finish a full size bottle of dish soap before your big move? 

Probably not.

Or go through an entire 24-pack of toilet paper when you live alone? It’s doubtful. Not to mention that buying in bulk can be wasteful with extra packaging and unused bottles being thrown out for whatever reason.

Pro Tip #1

It may seem a bit silly, buy consider buying travel size bottles instead. You may think you may create more waste, but you not realize how little you actually need.

And a little can go a long way, especially if you live alone.

You could also switch brands to a line that offers smaller size bottles to reduce waste if you have to toss it when you move. For things like lotion or body wash, I prefer to buy in travel size bottles so I can be confident that, even if I don’t finish the bottle before I move, I can maybe have a chance of bringing it with me because it’s small and lightweight.

Pro Tip #2

I look for flexible “bottles”, or squeeze style products that reduce in size as you use the produce, this helps maximize space when moving or traveling.

Pro Tip #3

 I stopped purchasing hand soap over a year ago. Body soap is still soap. It doesn’t have to be anti-bacterial to do the trick. So I actually use my bodywash as hand soap. One less product to buy, plus it smells great!

2. Not Considering Quality Over Quantity.

This has made the biggest impact on my life as a minimalist in terms of the shoes and jackets I purchase.

If they aren’t real leather, I almost never buy them because I know fake material will not make it through one season. This leads you to declutter more often and typically requires you to spend more money in the long run to replace the poorer quality items.

Pro Tip

One item I almost never buy anymore is jewelry, unless I can be certain it is high-quality metal.

No more cheap rings that turn my fingers green and then turn copper only a few days later. Purchasing quality jewelry is definitely an investment, but it’s worth every penny.

jewerly and rings

3. Shopping New Instead of Thrifting.

So, I know what you are thinking, “Didn’t she just tell me to focus on quality, and now she’s telling me to go thrift store shopping?”

Yes I am. 

The reason for this is you can find incredibly good quality items at thrift stores if you take the time to look.

Items that you typically spend a lot of money on, coats, shoes, belts, sweaters – you can actually find durable high-quality items that have been upcycled and cost a fraction of the original price. SCORE!

I’ve definitely found some gems in my day. I once found my original Armani denim jacket, which was hiding on a display model, that I snatched for a whopping $0.25!

Pro Tip #1

Notice I mentioned durable and high-quality. You obviously don’t want to shop for just anything. Keep your eye out for genuine products with wear and tear, but are still holding up well. This is a good sign that they are comfortable and quality-made.

Pro Tip #2

Another plus of shopping at thrift stores is, not only will it save you a pretty penny, but if you ever grow old of the item, spill coffee on it, or lose it along the way, you didn’t take out a loan to buy it. It makes for another wave of decluttering in the future super easy when you know you didn't spend much on it anyways.

Pro Tip #3

BUT because everything is SO cheap, it’s easy to walk out with a load of, well, JUNK. Don’t get sucked into this too much and be sure to keep your eye on the prize. The plus side is if you do happen to buy too much, you can always donate it back.

Pro Tip #4

My rule of thumb when thrifting is "one in and one out". If I decide to buy 10 shirts, then I also need to get rid of at least ten shirts I already have, otherwise I know I overbought.

4. Purchasing Enough Food to Feed A Large Army.

As a single person who has lived alone most of her adult life, I have made this mistake once or twice. A lot of it will only end up on the back shelf and we often forget about it and then it goes bad. 

Don’t let this be you!

Even during this current quarantine situation, the food and stores are not going anywhere (despite what some people may think). Be tasteful about what groceries you buy (did you see the pun there *chuckles to self*). Only buy what you know you can eat; you can always return again for more.

Pro Tip

I love to buy dairy-free products, especially milk and yogurt, because I know that after I open it, I have a couple weeks to consume it (as opposed to just a few days).

Making confident shopping decisions such as these will lead to less spending and less stocking piling.

5. Pots, Pans, and Appliances For Every Occasion.

I understand the need to impress here, and being well-equipped with just the right appliance or pot for your dish is understandable, but it isn’t going to impress anyone nearly as much as what’s in it.

As long as the pot is practical for the dish you’re trying to make, it will suffice. Trust me.

Pro Tip

Two of my Minimalist Mantras are all about versatility as well as practicality. I once lived an entire year with only two pans, a small frying pan and a deep wok; and my only appliances were a gas stove, a rice cooker, and a blender.

The wok was the best kitchen purchase I made because I could literally cook EVERYTHING in it! It may mean that we actually get a little creative in the kitchen, but that’s a positive in my book.

6. Buying Complicated Outfits.

It wasn’t until about my second year into minimalist life did I finally figure this one out. If the outfit is so complicated that it requires a specific belt with a specific undershirt and a specific bra, then it’s not worth the space in your wardrobe. 

Again, versatility is everything. You shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to put an outfit together.

Pro Tip

If an outfit is not comfortable, it is going to be too complicated.

You’ll be trying to figure out how you can make it work, and honestly, you probably never will and will end up giving up. If it wasn’t comfortable when you tried it on, it won’t magically become comfortable after bringing it home. Don’t waste anymore time or money on it.

7. Impulse Buying.

I remember this one time I just couldn’t help it. I saw this purse that I just HAD to buy, even though I had a perfectly good purse already and I really didn’t need another one. I bought it anyways. I did this for many things I saw that were complete steals money-wise, but I didn’t really need them.

Controlling this impulse is probably the most challenging out of all of them, because it requires significant self-awareness and behavior change. 

But over time, this will come naturally, and you will simply no longer want as much stuff AND you won’t feel the need to buy the next cute sale item you see.

leather purse open on table

8. Decorations.

Everything in moderation could not be a more appropriate Mantra for this point. In my eyes, most decorations I see are just junk anyways, they don’t have much value. Consider Christmas decorations, for example. They are used for maybe one month out of the year and for the other 11 months, they sit in storage. 

Don’t even get me going on my feelings about lawn gnomes (aren’t sure what lawn gnomes are, here is a picture).

Pro Tip

My favorite decorations are the ones that have sentimental value or pieces I bought while traveling. If you purchase any decorations at all, plants, candles, and picture frames are my go-to decorations for any room.

9. Magazine Subscriptions.

Since many of these subscriptions are available online, there really aren’t many excuses anymore to continue purchasing hard copies of magazines, or newspapers for that matter.

I used to have a subscription to Foreign Policy magazine because it was offered to me for free, but I think I maybe read one article out of each magazine – and they came every month!

 Over time, I ended up stacking each one on top of the other, thinking that I would get to them eventually. In the end, I just recycled all of them because I didn’t have the time and wasn’t all that interested to begin with. This brings me to another point…

magazines hoarded around house

10. Accepting Free Stuff.

Okay, so this isn’t really something you buy, per say, but it does manage to find it’s way into your house and clutter up the place with unnecessary and mostly items that serve no real purpose. 

Goody bags really are just that, goods. Goods you never wanted in the first place, most of them find their way into the junk drawer after about a day or two anyways.

11. Single-Use Products.

Not only are they wasteful and bad for the environment, but they also take up a lot of space and are quite costly. But we are all guilty of this at some point.

Pro Tip #1

I used to buy make-up remover wipes, q-tips, and Clorox wipes. Now, instead of make-up remover wipes, I dab some cooking oil (I love coconut oil, it’s good for so much more than cooking!) onto a cotton pad and voila!

Pro Tip #2

Several months ago, I stopped buying q-tips altogether and decided instead to just clean my ears well while showering. So far, the result has been good!

12. Specialized Cleaning Products for Each Part of Your Home.

Marketing tactics make us believe we require a different cleaning product for each and everything we are cleaning. 

This is simply not true.

Indeed, we may need different cleaners for different surfaces, but there’s no need to purchase disinfectant for your countertops, cleaner for your toilet, and shower solutions to make your shower sparkling white. Speaking from experience, ONE multi-purpose cleaner will do for each of these.

Pro Tip

There really isn’t much science behind a cleaner that claims it is antibacterial and disinfects over just cleaning thoroughly. When all is said and done, keep the cleaning products to a minimum.

13. Costumes or Themed Anything.

I know I know, many of us LOVE to dress up for costume parties. So this may be difficult.

But let me ask you this, did you ever use any of those props or perfect accessories you purchased to complete that amazing Halloween costume in the last year since you bought them? 

I didn’t think so.

This is also true for other themed accessories and kitchenware. Just as I stopped buying decorations, I stopped feeling the need to purchase items that were themed to fit a perfect occasion or holiday. Most of this stuff gets used once a year and then it’s never used again, and usually forgotten about at the back of your closet.

Just the other evening, I helped my sister declutter her wardrobe. We were able to get rid of 7 bags of stuff. Several items she forgot she even owned, one of them was a large knitted sweater she bought for a vintage party. She spent $30 on this single item, used it once, and is now getting rid of it.

spider man sitting reading newspaper on top of building

So many items didn't make the list.

But these are the ones that stand out to me most, and I hope that they will bring awareness to your shopping and spending, and also save you some money along the way!

Got a minimalist secret you’d love to share, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

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