Words I never thought would come from my mouth: Firm tofu is one of the greatest things in life.
Remember my first go at making thick-cut tofu chips? I guesstimated they would last two serves but I am just finishing off the last of it as I type and it’s roughly 5 days later! They have joyfully stuck around for longer than expected because I didn’t use them for a proper meal but rather threw them into last minute lunches all week and they are so perfect for it. They beef up (haha, the irony!) salads and taste so good cold which means I can literally throw them in my food jar with whatever I find in my fridge and be good to go for the day!
Most people’s wish lists consist of the latest tech gadget or maybe a grand holiday escape but you’re about to be introduced to my second unconventional wish list item which I ticked off this year (find out what my first wish list item was here) – an insulated food jar! Yeah, I know that’s a weird thing to put on a wish list but wait until you hear what else is on there. I keep my list on my phone under my reminders and currently it lists 3 specific beauty products, a bible, protein powder, a few Muji items and a stay at an AirBnb I’ve been eyeing off for years. Being on a tight budget and wanting to keep my possessions minimal means I avoid impulse buying like the plague and I’ve developed my little ‘wish list strategy’ which has helped save money, be more intentional and stop purchasing things I don’t need (as well as the feelings of regret that always follow). Basically how to develop the traits of a minimalist lifestyle! I thought I would share it in case anyone is hoping to achieve the same things.
It’s important to remember that it takes time to build new habits and develop new patterns of thoughts, so make sure you take it easy if you’re going to try this out. The benchmark I always use to measure how far I’ve come in lifestyle changes is the day I got married which was just over 3 years ago. It was a significant change in my life since it was also my first move out of home and I can often think back to certain behaviours and compare the differences before and after that milestone. For example, I know that before marriage I didn’t know what minimalism was and I wouldn’t have considered myself a minimalist at all. I wasn’t a huge spender, mostly because I was saving up for the wedding, but rewind another 3 years and I would call myself a compulsive shopper. I studied for over 6 years either full or part time and had several casual jobs which were 100% disposable income since I was living at home and my saving habits were non-existent! I would buy things for the sake of it and I made an art form of accumulating stuff.
Being the first time my husband and I had lived out of our family homes, we put most of the homewares and appliances on our wedding gift registry and bought the bigger items with the wishing well funds our guests had generously gifted us. I remember my mother in law passing on a comment from another family member that we didn’t have enough items on our gift registry but we were pretty intentional about only putting things we thought we really needed (for example a kettle and toaster) and staying away from ‘nice to have’ items (for example a food processor or a punch set, unless of course you are a daily punch drinker). It is my in-law’s tradition for the extended family to purchase pieces from the same fine dinner set [think Royal Doulton or Vera Wang fancy-pants stuff] as the wedding gift to the married couple, but I told them I didn’t want a fine dinner set because I didn’t want something I wouldn’t use day to day and would feel obligated to keep forever in a cupboard somewhere collecting dust. In hindsight I could have exercised more tact in my execution but I stand by my reasoning 100%! (Perhaps I was more minimalist at the time than I realised…) Anyway, I think the point of the paragraph was that it takes time to create change and for me it has taken over 5 years to develop this ‘wish list’ approach to purchasing things.
The first thing I do when I go shopping is not go shopping. I’m not trying to be a smart-arse but this is hands-down the best bit of advice I can offer you! 5 years ago my then-boyfriend and I would go to shops when we were bored on the weekend. Today, I would rather be anywhere else! Shopping is the most nonsensical (non)hobby modern society has developed. I mean think about it, buying things from a shop is not a hobby! I spend as little time as possible in a shopping centre and I’m better off for it. On the occasion I do find myself in one, I am always overwhelmed by the number of people casually, aimlessly and unintentionally wasting their precious hours on earth looking at and spending money on items they will likely throw away or regret buying in a week. If you shop online, same deal – stop it! Go outside, read a book or find a real hobby. This first step is probably the most important because the less time you spend shopping the less you feel inclined to ‘keep up the with jones’’ (first with fashion, tech and homewares and later with bigger ‘life’ things – houses, careers and children!) and it frees up the head space to think about what you really want to do with your life.
What do I do when I see something I reallllllllly want to buy? I don’t buy it. Revolutionary right?! Here’s where you can start your wish list! Instead of buying the item straight away, put it on your wish list straight away. Nine times out of ten you’ll forget about it when you get home and you can simply delete it from your list. Other times, you might think about it for awhile. A few days could pass and if you’re still thinking about it, it might be time to sit down and really think about it. How long will I use this item? Do I need it immediately? Where am I going to store it? If it’s clothing, what will I wear it with? Where will I wear it? If I don’t buy this item, could I save up for something better? A good habit is to think of things in terms of your time. How many hours did I have to work to pay for this? How many hours could I not work if I don’t buy this? If you’re big on ethical business like I am, ask the question – who is my money going to if I purchase this product? I hold a mean grudge against negative corporations so this is a big one for me!
I don’t literally sit down and think about all those things for hours. The thoughts simply cross my mind every now and then and before I know it a few weeks have passed, sometimes even months. That alone eliminates the ‘urgency’ card because you clearly didn’t need the item urgently if you’ve managed without it until now! If I am still thinking about how nice it would be to have ‘x’ I start doing some research. If the word ‘research’ turns you off, call it something else. Browse online for similar items and gauge the price point or variety that is available.
A good example is my food jar purchase. I’ve known for around 6 months that I wanted a food jar to bring lunch to work without having to heat it up and without fear of contracting salmonella because there isn’t a fridge available (which I think is illegal for a workplace by the way). I had seen them in shops before but wanted to make sure I got a reputable one that was good-looking and I was pretty sure I could get one on sale (because almost everything goes on sale at some point!). I had a quick look online and saw that Catch of the Day or other online homeware stores offered discounts daily but the postage was a killer. Also that they may not be telling the truth with the RRP (recommended retail price) so for example they could splash a big ’SAVE 30%’ sign on a jar with a RRP59.99 which takes the sale price to 41.99 and then add a postage fee of $10 for a total of 51.99. In actual fact the RRP is only 49.99 and you could have bought it for full price from a shop with more peace of mind and less $ if it was on sale. I’m also slightly jaded by online shopping since the last few things I’ve purchased have left me high and dry, the most recent one being three 32gb Sandisk USB sticks I purchased from an eBay store to use as backups. They came in perfect packaging and I made sure to purchase what I thought was a reputable brand only to find all 3 came up with ‘error’ signs when inserted into my laptop! Coming from an eBay store in China, I honestly didn’t bother trying to get my money back though the more I think it, I really should. Grr.
Back to the food jar quest. By researching online I found out that the different sizes were measured in millilitres and I had no idea what 400ml looked like in jar form so I kept an eye out for them over a few weeks and got to feel the differences between brands and materials. On the road trip home from Byron my husband and I stopped in Albury for lunch and ducked into a locally owned camping store and voila – I found a 470ml (perfect lunch size) Thermos (reputable brand with a good warranty) jar that came with a foldable spoon (extremely handy because I have a knack for not packing cutlery) in a slick textured metal design (good looking) at 30% off (on sale!) from a local small business. I have used it at least every second day since being back and it has helped with the vego journey too by encouraging me to pack leftovers!
Over time, most of the things on my wish list disappear because I have taken the time to think through how much value they would really add to my life and the truth for most materials possessions is that they add very little. The more you are mindful in this way, the easier it gets and the more you realise there are very few things we actually need in life! For the items that stay on the list long enough and are ‘assessed’ as being value-adding, I usually request it as a gift for a special occasion (think birthday or Christmas and yes, I would be completely satisfied receiving something as random as a food jar for my birthday!) which saves me even more money and receiving unwanted items during those times!
This could either sound incredibly ‘poor’ to you or somewhat clever and I like to think it’s a good mix of both! I have a very low disposable income which naturally limits what I can spend on non-essential items (a term open to interpretation in itself) but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by using my ‘wish list strategy’. If you couldn’t already tell I’m a big fan of The Minimalists (‘living meaningful lives with less’) and I contribute their podcast binge as a big part of my journey toward mindfulness, intentionality and ultimately a fulfilling life.