Lessons over a year of buying nothing except the essentials

Finally, the year 2016 draws to a close and it also means the end of my one year shopping ban which started in Jan 2016. I planned to experiment on spending nothing on personal stuff except the essentials and see if i could resist the temptation to buy stuff unnecessarily. Through this experiment, i found out that i could actually survive very well without buying all these stuff over a period of one year.

Below are the thoughts and lessons i learnt during this period of time (grouped according to the more important aspects of our lives):

Financial

For those who complain you cannot save any money, you should try this shopping ban experiment and your savings will definitely receive a huge boost. We managed to pay for our minimalist home‘s renovation plus furnishings with cash and still managed to reach our saving goals for the year. I would recommend everyone to read about financial guru Dave Ramsey’s online articles or videos on how to take control of your money rather than the other way round.

I was able to create my own thought process flow of purchasing stuff and apply it in my daily purchasing decisions. I also try to purchase stuff that is practical and has dual or even triple usages. By avoiding this mindless consumption mantra, you become clearer of what you really need and actually found out that you do not need a lot of stuff in your life.

I started budgeting and recording all my expenses using a simple expenses recording app since 2015 (as I’m targeting to semi retire with Kate before we reach 40 years old). I could really see the huge drop in personal expenses once I stop buying unnecessary stuff and diverting all those savings to some of Ally’s new expenses like childcare and music appreciation classes (which could be quite substantial nowadays!) But these are money well spent as Ally learnt a lot of things and enjoys them thoroughly.

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Lifestyle and health

It taught me that i could lead an interesting lifestyle even without buying any stuff. We would go for picnics at parks to watch free performances and cycling rather than dining at expensive restaurants or watching movies. We brought along our home cooked food which is inexpensive and healthier. As a result, i also learnt a few simple and healthy dishes from Kate. I think that everyone should learn how to cook as it is a basic human survival skill. Unfortunately, this is not true nowadays as there are food deliveries and fast food chains readily available almost everywhere in Singapore thus further reducing the desire to cook at home .

I started to follow a healthy exercise regime without any gym membership, personal trainer or even equipments. I want to be a living proof that we do not need all these in order to have a really fit and healthy body. I did a combination of static exercises everyday, weekend yoga at home and 3 runs per week routine.

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Sustainble living

I started to learn more about living healthily in a sustainable way which is heavily influence by John Robbins, the guy who walked away from his dad’s business empire Baskin Robbin in order to live a life that is true to his personal value.

That led me to discover this amazing product Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps which are USDA 100% Certified Organic. With 150 years of soap making experience, Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps are made only from pure, natural plant based ingredients without any chemicals that will harm your skin. They actually have 18 usages but currently I’m only trying out 5 of them which are the shower foam, shampoo, hand wash, facial wash and shaving cream. I feel really refresh and clean using this product. And more importantly, its inexpensive (I compare it with our normal daily toiletries and workout that the cost is lower) and they only use natural ingredients.

I also started to think about incorporating the habit of creating less waste in our daily lives as I’m quite shock by the amount of waste we are creating from buying crap that we don’t really need. You should watch this environmental activist Rob Greenfield’s video on how much trash is created in one month. For 30 days, Rob Greenfield is wearing every single piece of trash that he creates while living just like the average American which creates 4.5 pounds of trash per day.

I also came across this young lady Lauren Singer from New York who started her own company which produces Organic Vegan cleaning products. You should see her Tedx talk on a zero waste life and the amount of trash that she has produced over the past three years that can all fit inside a 16 oz. mason jar. That led me to seriously consider about the 3Rs namely Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and practicing these in our daily lives. Guess this will take some time but being aware of what all these wastes are creating makes me feel even more responsible towards a sustainable world for future generations.

Lastly, i was really inspired by the Leonardo Dicaprio’s documentary “Before the flood” which talks about climate change and what could be done today to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet. I guess by maintaining a minimalist lifestyle, we might be able to curb our desire to own more stuff thus reducing environmental damages.

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Contentment

Started to be contented with what i already have and appreciate nature like the trees and birds you see in the park. I began talking to our local / foreign workers who are in charge of the management of our estate and appreciate the diversity of plants which were planted by all these workers within our estate. Constant gratification and contentment became part of my life and as a result I feel happier nowadays. I’m also really grateful to my wife Kate for accompanying me on this journey and hope that we could further spread the word of  “Living with less”.

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