Beware The Expense Of Embracing A Minimalist Lifestyle

Beware The Expense Of Embracing A Minimalist Lifestyle
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It’s odd to think minimalism can be expensive. After all, expenses usually equal stuff, and minimalism is about having less stuff. But in the pursuit of minimalism, we often spend more than we expect.

Photo by kaboompics.

Minimalism and frugality seem to go hand in hand. In theory, minimalism is supposed to be about consuming less and being content with what you have. But it can easily turn into an expense, just like any other interest.

I’m a minimalist in that I don’t like a lot of clutter and I prefer to only own things that I regularly use. But I’m also a consumer, and contrary to popular assumption, the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Here’s how it works in practice: I decide I have too much clutter in my closet, so I get rid of my entire wardrobe to buy a new, minimalist wardrobe. Less is more, but instead of just getting rid of stuff, I spend a whole lot of money to buy new, simple stuff. I’ve done it with tech, too. I want a new product that promises to do everything, so I’ll unnecessarily upgrade my phone or tablet, spending hundreds in the process.

This isn’t to say buying new stuff is bad, but it’s something you want to keep in mind if you’re trying to embrace a minimalist lifestyle for the sake of frugality. Over at MoneyNing, writer Emily Guy Birken expands on this practical drawback with her own example:

I gleefully got rid of dozens of dry pens, leadless mechanical pencils, and various markers and Sharpies that I had never used, including one silver paint pen that I couldn’t remember buying. Of course, not even a week later, my husband asked me if we happened to have a silver paint pen… I was able to show off my gorgeous, organised, and minimalist desk drawer, but we had to go out and purchase a new paint pen.
This is the classic struggle between frugality and minimalism. Any usable item that you get rid of in order to meet your minimalist goals could end up costing you later on if you have to rebuy it.

The Art of Manliness explains the mindset behind this:

The great irony of minimalism is that while it purports to free you from a focus on stuff, it still makes stuff the focus of your life! The materialist concentrates on how to accumulate things, while the minimalist concentrates on how to get rid of those things…ultimately they’re both centering their thoughts on stuff.

The bottom line: We often use minimalism as a reason to consume more when it’s supposed to be about consuming less. This isn’t to say it’s not something worth pursuing, but like anything else, it helps to be aware there’s a potential cost. Check out MoneyNing’s full post for more on this idea.

Have You Considered the True Cost of Minimalism? [MoneyNing]


  • This should have been titled “Signs you’re doing minimalism wrong.”

    Who asked you to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe?

  • I agree, this article is pretty much what most minimalists explain not to do.
    Don’t go out and buy new stuff if you already have that stuff. But when you “need” new stuff instead of “wanting” it, buy stuff that is a combination of what you consider minimalist and functional and will last a long time. Or consider not buying it at all.

  • This nails it! As in anything we do, we can lose focus and end up overdoing it. I hate having so much stuff, but I also get frustrated when I get rid of something I actually needed.

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