I grew up in a family of consumers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, whether what you’re consuming is fancy food, entertainment, magazines, makeup bottles, technology, clothes or collecting a large pile of igneous rocks.
However, I feel as though our society has gotten out of control in regards to just buying things. Being consumers. Spending money just to spend it, or spending money without registering what we’re doing. I wrote an article for The Collegian about saving a year’s worth of tuition by spending money less frivolously, but this time I want to talk about living a minimalist lifestyle. Make no mistake, I don’t mean living like Henry David Thoreau; I just mean that you can save both money and peace of mind by cutting down on your spending and getting rid of things you don’t need. You might even make some cash while you’re at it.
1. Own only the things you need. I’m not a minimalist in that I live in a tent in the woods. I go to college; I own a phone and a laptop; I have clothes and a car (although I want to get rid of the car when I’m out of college and don’t need it because they’re such a money sink). The difference I’m pushing for is to only own things I actually use. I listen to music on my phone and laptop now. What do I need CDs for? I wash my clothes once a week, so I need one week’s worth of clothes, not a month’s. Sell some of this stuff, make some money, and gain some peace of mind. Studies have shown that cleaning things and having a less cluttered lifestyle can be a relaxing, cathartic experience that even improves your health. Considering how stressful working a job and going to college at the same time can be, I think that’s a valuable asset.
2. Buy things less. Go to the grocery store, make lunch before coming to campus, make coffee at home if you need it, shop only when you genuinely need things. Contrary to what businesses want you to think, you are not a consumer or a product; you are a human being. You can enjoy life without spending money constantly; our ancestors did it with no trouble, and so can you.
3. Relax. The more you buy, the more you have to work. If you buy things less, you can work less and spend more time on things you care about: hobbies, working out (I recommend doing this without a pricey gym membership) or spending time with your family. It may have been engrained in you at some time in your life that you must work hard to be successful, that working hard to make (and spend) lots of money is the ultimate goal in life. Breaking news: it’s not. If you don’t want to spend 60 hours a week working for low wages, you don’t have to.
Make no mistake, I’m not a master at this lifestyle yet. But I’ve already found that the more things I get rid of, the happier I am. Try it out; the results may surprise you.
Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter by @danriceman.