The First Step Towards Minimalism: Purging the Daily Purchase

The “Daily Purchase” is a cornerstone of consumerist psychology. It is so ingrained in modern American life that very few people even realize they have a “Daily Purchase”. It’s that one thing that you buy nearly every day but rarely ever need. Most purchases are less than $5, meaning they could be classified as an impulse buy were it not for the repetitive occurrence. Common examples include a cup of coffee, candy bar, a bag of chips, and soda. It should be no surprise that these items are frequently found in vending machines, an industry built around the Daily Purchase.

Analyzing the Daily Purchase we see that they are frequently unhealthy, and expensive compared to their actual amount (cup of coffee from a coffee shop vs homemade). Then why do so many people have this ritual ingrained into their lives? It’s that word, “ritual” it’s a daily process that makes us feel as though we have control in our lives and can establish a pattern. The consumer is using their buying power to create a routine. It’s a coping mechanism for the dreary post-modern life.

Like most coping mechanisms, this one is unhealthy. The first point is the cost. Assuming the average person spends $2 on their Daily Purchase each day, they end up spending $60 a month. $60 is quite a bit of cash to be throwing away. Wouldn’t you rather devote that $60 to saving for the future? Or maybe a special night out? The point is, when living a cash-strapped, minimum wage life there are far better uses for $60.

So how do you break the cycle?

It’s simple; sit down and realize you don’t need whatever your Daily Purchase is. You will go through withdrawal, as this is a psychological addiction, but with time you will no longer feel the desire to compulsively purchase that soda or candy bar. You’ll be healthier, save money, and not feel as tied to the system of consumption. The last one is the key part, you’re taking your first step towards minimalism at a psychological level. You’ve committed yourself to analyzing your life and possessions for a brief period of time and said “I don’t need this”, then acted upon it.

Congratulations, you’ve taken your first step into a better world.

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The Five Stages of Minimalist Acquirement

This simple process can help remove the consumerist withdrawal symptom known as “impulse buying”. By the time you have processed through the steps you will have hopefully learned a bit about the object you wanted, and decided if you truly needed it. Please note that the phrase “purchase” does not only mean to buy with money. Barter is a very effective method and preferred by the author.

1. Do without. Minimalism is focused on dealing with as few objects as possible. The key concept is that you will replace objects with experiences. Bored at home? If you’ve got a TV you’ll most likely turn it on and vegetate. But without that object, you may quickly find yourself out and about, exploring your local area and talking to real people. When you look back to your past do you remember TV shows or trips more vividly? So stage one, ask yourself if you really need what you are buying.

2. Do it Yourself (DIY). Minimalism also includes the wonderful world of DIY projects. These projects are great, no matter what you’re making because not only do you end up with the object you want, but you also end up with a learned skill and the experience of creating the object. It’s also a self-esteem boost. You took basic materials and made something out of them. You can customize and create whatever you like, ending up with something truly unique. DIY’s greatest investment is time. It’s going to take quite a bit longer to hand sew a new backpack then it is to go pick one up from the store. But by removing the objects in Stage 1, you’ll find you will have more free time for experimentation. Stage two, ask yourself if you have the ability to make what you need.

3. Used. Buy used, as frequently as possible. It’s recycling without the resource demands of turning objects back into their raw state. Used is generally cheaper than new. There is also much more information out about used objects than new ones, allowing you to decide if it’s what you really want. As a backpacker most of my purchased equipment was made pre-1980.  These items have withstood the test of time, while costing me very little. Of course, it’s not just cost for buying used. Each used object bought keeps that item from piling up in the landfill just a little bit longer. Stage three’s question is: can you buy used?

4. Local. Buying local helps decentralized groups and their businesses. Local farmers are the best example. Buying their produce is helping them continue to run their independent farm, while you reduce the environmental footprint of the food you consume.  Buying local also creates a relationship between the producer and the consumer. This is because the producer needs to create quality goods to keep you as a consumer. Do you think a mega-corporation like Walmart cares if you get sick from their vegetables? But I guarantee the local farmer will strive to create the best because they need you to keep buying their food.  While buying local may have a higher monetary cost, the real cost (labor exploitation, legal damage, transport fees, chemical saturation, etc…) is far less. Stage four, ask yourself if can you buy local.

5. Quality. Stage five is the final stage, but can apply to the previous three. When you have to buy something, buy quality. Frugality is the science of spending less and saving more. Any frugal genius will tell you the trick is to know the difference between cheap and inexpensive. A stainless steel bowl may cost you $15, while a plastic one may run closer to one solitary dollar. But once we look past the base cost it becomes obvious that for a daily use bowl the stainless steel one is a much better investment. The reasoning being the stainless steel one will last far longer than the plastic one, it is less toxic than the plastic one and can be used to cook food, unlike the plastic one. You’re spending a bit more now to save money later. It’s a concept that is all to frequently ignored. This however, does not mean buy the $80 titanium bowl because it is of higher quality. We’re not going for the absolute best item, just the most frugal. We’re buying the item that will last a long time with care and is sufficiently varied in use. We end with stage five’s question, what is the most frugal item I can purchase?

 

Ultimately the goal of this process is to have the majority of your purchases be in the #1 and #2 stages. Going without and making yourself are the two most fulfilling aspects of minimalist theory.