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Shopping Tips From a Minimalist: How to Buy Less But Better

If you want to buy less but better, these minimalist shopping tips are for you. Learn how to be intentional with your purchases, and your wallet will thank you.

As a minimalist, some people expect me to say that “I hate stuff”, but honestly, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I LOVE stuff—good quality stuff that adds value to my life. 

But there is something I hate, and that’s when the stuff I buy turns into clutter. 

It’s a horrible feeling to waste money on things you don’t wear, use or love. And yes, you can always declutter later, but isn’t it better to buy less in the first place? 

I think so, and if you agree, here are some tips that will help you stop shopping for regrettable purchases. Instead, why not shop like a minimalist and choose less but better.

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How to Buy Less But Better

Know what you don’t like

One of the easiest ways to buy less but better is to get really clear about what you don’t like. 

For example, I don’t like long dresses or skirts. I want to like them (and I did wear them when I was pregnant) but in everyday life, they are never my first choice. When I’m staring into my closet, trying to decide what to wear in the morning, I will always choose a shorter dress over a longer one. 

Once I realised this, I completely stopped browsing for long dresses while shopping. I might admire them from a distance, but they no longer tempt me because it just doesn’t make sense. 

It would be like shopping for kids clothes when you don’t have kids. It’s cute, but there’s no point. I just completely cut that category of shopping out of my mind, which means I buy less.

Keep a running shopping list

This might not seem very minimalist, but I always keep a running shopping list in my diary. Whenever I feel the urge to click “add to cart”, I write it down instead. 

And then? I wait. 

I wait as long as possible (weeks, months or even years), and I do this to test my desires. I’d estimate that at least 90% of the time, I come back to my list and realise that I don’t want most of it. 

It was just a whim, and it’s somewhat satisfying to look at the list and see just how much would have become clutter if I hadn’t written it down first. 

And the stuff that I do want? Writing it down gives me time to plan. I wait until I have space in my budget, space in my home, and I shop the sales too. All this means that when I do eventually purchase something, I truly love and enjoy it—guilt-free.

Avoid buying multiples—unless you put them to the test first

When I find something I need and like, I buy multiples. It’s simpler to buy one t-shirt that I love in several colours than it is to shop around for multiple tops. It just makes life easier; I know what works, and I stick with it.

But there’s an important catch. 

I know it’s tempting (especially when there are sales) but try to avoid buying too much of anything until you’ve put it to the test. Wear or use your stuff first, make sure it’s really as great as it seems in the shops, and then you can stock up on what you need.

If you’re buying multiples to take advantage of a discount, just use one at the start. Leave the tags or packaging on the rest, so you can return them if the first doesn’t live up to expectations.

Research your purchases

Before a big (or even moderate) purchase, I almost always do research. I want to know about durability, practicality, fit, etc., so I read reviews, contact the vendor, or ask questions on forums. 

Social media is actually very good for this—there are groups for almost everything these days. For example, there is a shoe brand that I love, and I found a buy-sell group on Facebook. 

People are always asking questions about comfort, maintenance, fit, resale value, and more, making it a wealth of first-hand information. As a bonus, it’s also a great way to find high-quality goods secondhand (less but better, right!).

Ask why before you buy*

One of my greatest skills is I’m good at convincing myself to do things. It worked out well for me when I was thinking of starting a blog or moving to a new country. 

But when I’m shopping? Yeah … less so. I’ve talked myself into “loving” or “needing” so many ridiculous things. Honestly, it’s embarrassing—but at least, I’ve learned a few things. 

Sometimes I shop because I need something; a new vacuum because the old one broke or an office chair because my back needs support. This type of purchase makes sense, and I rarely regret it. 

But sometimes I shop because I want to be someone. I want to be the kind of woman who wears Chanel lipstick or I want to be the type of mom who has a Pinterest worthy playroom, full of handcrafted wooden toys. 

These purchases almost always leave me unfulfilled. Why? Because buying something new will never change who I am, so if that’s what I’m hoping, then I’m destined to be disappointed. 

So in the words of Francine Jay, “Minimalism is asking why before you buy.” If you want to stop buying stuff you don’t need, ask yourself: What kind of need are you really looking to satisfy? And are you sure it’s something you can find in the shops? 

(*The above Francine Jay quote is the inspiration for the title of this section.)

Minimalism is asking why before you buy - Francine Jay

Shop at set times of year

Before fast fashion and the constant onslaught of new styles, designers would release collections four times a year: winter, spring, summer and autumn. 

I can only imagine that, for the average woman, her shopping habits would also mirror the seasons. Shopping wasn’t a 24/7 activity. Instead, it was done at specific times a year; it was planned, well thought out, and intentional. 

Or maybe it wasn’t—but regardless, this is the type of shopping I aspire to. It’s no longer a form of mindless entertainment. Instead, it’s a seasonal activity and in between shops, I practice making do with what I have.

As with all things, take this with a grain of salt. If you have a genuine need for something, then don’t punish yourself in order to adhere to a random schedule. But look at your overall habits, and be honest with yourself about what needs to change.

More Minimalist Shopping Tips

Let me end by saying that I’m not perfect. Sometimes I buy things on impulse for no other reason than I want to—and that’s OK. 

But as a former shopaholic (who used to shop five days a week or more), I know that’s it’s a slippery slope. Sometimes we have to break old patterns first, so we can learn to shop again in healthy and empowering ways.

If you need help, here are a few more tips from a shopaholic turned minimalist:

Do you have any tips for buying less, but better? Let us know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Shopping Tips From a Minimalist: How to Buy Less But Better”

  1. Consider your color preference in clothing when determining when to shop. My beset looks and best comfort level are pastels. That frequently means sping is the best time for me to wardrobe shop.

  2. Great tips! I have found that my best tip is to leave the store without the thing I want to buy and see if I remember it later. Usually I forget and it’s painless. If I don’t I examine when I will use it, what it will replace, why I want it, and if I want to use the money for something else.


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