How my life changed after I purged 50% of my stuff

got rid of 50% of my belongings

When I made the conscious effort to purge most of my stuff, something shifted for me.

minimize your stuff

While I didn’t start my formal journey to owning less until last year, I think the idea had been percolating in my mind for a while before that.  I’ve been a collector of things – clothes, books, kitchen gadgets and junk drawer content, for a long time.  Some of that was out of necessity (maybe 10%?), but the rest was acquired to solve a problem. A problem I would later realize, couldn’t be solved with stuff.

Growing up, my family had the essentials, but there was always a knowing that there was never quite enough.  We weren’t poor, but there were some years after my parents split up and we moved to Ireland, that we lived solely off the generosity of family members.  This was my first sense of poverty and that feeling has etched itself into my identity from a very early age.

As an adult, that sense of lack has been the problem I’ve looked to solve with my spending habits.  That feeling of not having enough or, more accurately, not being enough, has driven me to accumulate more clothes than I could possibly wear and more stuff than I could possibly need.  It’s a perpetual need to fill a hole, so vast that all the stuff in the world couldn’t possibly make a dent in it.

How I got past my need to consume.

The funny thing is, the only thing that has helped me get over this feeling of lack and inadequacy, was to start giving my things away.  More more stuff I got rid of, the more there was still to unload.  And with every donation box I filled up, I had this growing sense of “enoughness” that continued to come over me.  Enough jeans, enough shoes, enough coats, enough books, plates, knick-knacks and office supplies.  I had more than enough of everything, but it never even occurred to me until it was focused on getting rid of it.

Isn’t that crazy?

How getting rid of stuff has changed me

Today I could honestly live with very little.  A few pairs of yoga pants, my laptop, phone and family and I’d be a happy girl, pretty much anywhere.    That sense of simplicity has completely changed my life, how I spend my time, my energy and my vision for the future.

  • I no longer feel that I need to work a full-time corporate job.  My creative work covers my basic needs, and those needs are surprisingly few.
  • I no longer feel I need to keep a professional wardrobe.  I live in leggings, except for the few nights a week that I go out with friends or the hubs.
  • I no longer have a desire for purses, jewelry, shoes,  and housewares. I have all that I need and my home was complete a long time ago.  I know that if I ever needed to update something in my house or closet, I have the funds to do so, so when and if the need arises, the search for the perfect piece will start, but shopping is no longer a pastime for me.  I’d rather be writing, hiking or hanging with my peeps.
As I write this, I realize the same is probably true of money.  As you awaken to a sense of “enoughness”, you realize how little you actually need to be happy.  I’m not suggesting that I’m ever going to live in discomfort or deprive myself of the things I do want.  I still love to travel, get my hair done and yep, I still love me some botox, too.  But the difference is that I realize that although these investments can bring surface level comforts (which is great), my true sense of fullness comes from within.

How to stop a compulsive shopping habit by decluttering

Hands down, the best way to stop a compulsive shopping habit is to purge some of what you already have.

This can be a powerful way to wake yourself up to the clutter you’ve already accumulated, provide clarity on what it is you really need, and dampen that constant desire for more.

The process can feel daunting, so I’m outlining what I think is the easiest, least complicated way to get this done so that you can feel accomplished, organized and inspired to take on more action toward the life you really want.

Step 1 – Define your parameter and goal

compulsive shopping

Are you just cleaning out a closet, a whole room, or an entire floor of your house? Stick to a specific space and set a clear goal for what you want the area to look like when you’re done. An example of a clear goal is “I want everything in my closet to be visible at a glance and organized by function and color. I want to reduce my overall closet volume by half.” An example of a useless goal is “I just want to clean things up a bit”. That goal will deliver exactly what you aimed for – nothing.

Step 2 – Create three areas for your soon-to-be-piles

You’re going to designate 3 separate piles by creating a sign for each area. Get a sharpie and 3 boxes or just sheets of paper to lay on the floor. On each, write the following and then drop them on the floor. These are your guideposts:

  • Keep it
  • Sell it
  • Donate or toss it

Now, before I set you loose on your project, I want you to think about your life for a second. If your project is a kitchen, bathroom or garage, think about how you spend your time in that space. How much do you use what’s already in the space, what you love using, what is it you never use and what you’re likely to use in the future? This is not the time to consider your Martha Stewart dreams of becoming a pastry chef or starting an organic herb garden. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s likely because it’s not a priority and that’s important intel.

If you’re about to do a closet purge, think about your next year and what you have planned. Will you be spending the majority of time at work? At home? Also consider where you will NOT be spending a lot of time (ie galas, weddings, and bat-mitzvahs). Be clear about what your wardrobe needs are before you start or else you’ll hand onto everything and I really want you to be ruthless (and honest with yourself).

Step 3 – Pull everything out and sort them into the 3 piles.

Once again, be ruthless. Avoid thinking  “I may need this someday”  because someday is a very rare occasion and it most likely won’t happen. The more you purge, the lighter you will feel, so let it all go.

  • Get rid of clothes you don’t fit into anymore. Don’t hold onto things that don’t serve you as you are right now.
  • Get rid of gadgets you never use. Unused items cause undue stress to the body and mind. With every purge, your stress levels are going to drop.
  • Old photo albums stored in an attic or basement are of use to no one. Make a plan to scan the photos and put them in a place where they can be shared and loved by everyone in your life. Physical photos don’t hold your past. You do.

Step 4 – Move Everything To It’s Respective New Place

Put away your “keep pile” mindfully

Once you have everything situated in their respective piles pull out your phone and take a few pictures of everything you’ve just pulled out of your space. I’ll explain what to do with it later.

Now start with your “keep” pile. Put each item back in its place one-by-one. As you do, ask yourself, “am I really going to use this and do I really love it?” If it’s a hell yes, back it goes. If it’s a maybe not, reconsider selling or donating. Remember, less stuff = less stress.

Address your “sell pile” immediately

Next up, look at your donation/sell pile. You might think you’ll have great luck selling some of your items, but I’m going to prepare you for a stark reality. Very few people will want to pay you for your stuff. Most people won’t want it. Yep, even the good stuff. I literally couldn’t give away a Breville Juicer that I only used a few times. None of my friends wanted it.

But give it a try! I recommend the following sources for selling stuff:

The key thing is to not temporarily store things away until you have time to sell them because they will be forgotten. If you want to sell them, take pictures of them right away and store them somewhere that they can’t be forgotten about again (like, near the front door). Give yourself a week to sell everything. If it’s not gone within 7 days, donate or toss.

NOTE: This is a powerful exercise in understanding that idea that once you own something, it’s your problem. Very often it’s not until we want to not own something anymore that we realize how little value it actually has. This is the critical lesson to learn as it will begin to influence how you spend your money going forward.

Take your “donate pile” out to the car

Take your donation pile right to the car or call your local charitable organization that does pickups and schedule a time to have them come pick your items up. Again, make sure they get out of the house asap as you want to feel the benefits of this project as immediately as possible.

Be careful with your “toss pile”

Now for your “toss” pile – this is straightforward although be mindful of what you’re putting in the garbage. Things like paint cans, electronics, and batteries all need to go to special waste facilities. Google your local drop off places and remember – this may be a pain in the ass, but it’s SO WORTH IT.

Step 5 – Take a Moment to Appreciate Your Newly Cleared Space

Now that your space is cleared, take a moment to see how it feels. Yes, you’re most likely exhausted and in need of a glass of wine and a comfy chair, but also consider how your space feels now. Does it give you energy? Are you more excited about what remains in the space?

I hope so! This is just the beginning of your journey, so connecting to the feeling of openness and peace that comes from clearing space is really important. It’s also a good idea to reflect on the stuff that you just invested the last 3 or 4 hours on. Not only did you trade time for money to buy all that stuff, now you spent more time (and time is money) to manage it and you still have more work to do to sell and donate. That’s hours of your life for all those items.

I bet some of them were totally worth it and some were a total waste of time and money. Take a moment to consider what stands out in each category.

This isn’t an exercise in rubbing your nose in potential mistakes. I don’t want you to feel bad about your purchases and things. I want you to feel aware of them. That way you can make more aware choices in the future. Choices that are better aligned with your goals, aspirations and direction in life.

This is what we call the “hard work of getting real with ourselves and our lives”. What you did was a massive step forward. Now go celebrate your efforts with a little self-care, whatever that means to you, as long as it’s not shopping, of course 🙂

Emotion Vs Logic: How we really buy cars (and please weigh in on my car choices)

how to decide what car to buy


car purchase

My car lease is up in exactly 18 days and I have no idea what I’m going to do.

First off, yes, I leased a brand new car, which is something I’d probably never do again.  I also bought a highly inefficient, gas-guzzling SUV, which is a little out of character for me.

Go ahead and judge, I deserve it.

Ironically, given how much I’ve expanded my awareness about my financial choices over these last few years, I’m now so focused making the right choice that I’m paralyzed with fear about making the wrong one.

So in typical OCD form, I’ve analyzed the shit out of my car buying process and I’m sharing it with you so you can spare yourself the obsessive energy expenditure when you’re ready to buy your next car.

First off, do I actually need a car?

I live in the birthplace of Lyft and Uber.  I work from home 75% of the time and have access to my husband’s car whenever I need it (provided he’s not using it), so why buy a second car at all? After much thought, I decided that this would be an awesome financial choice until it becomes a bad marital consequence.  As a fiercely independent person living deep in the burbs, having to check if I can use my husband’s car every time I leave the house would get old very quickly.  Having my own car is symbolic of having my own life.  No amount of Uber rides will combat that.

Emotion vs logic: How to think about your next car purchase (and please weigh in on my top 4 picks). Click To Tweet

Should I buy new or used?

The Case for Buying a New Car (it’s weak)

Since last year, I’ve been squirreling away “car money” in anticipation of this day.  I have enough saved to buy pretty much any car I want (non-luxury) in cash, but do I really want to put 30 – 40K into something that’s going to sit in my driveway 80% of the time?  The answer to that is a hard no.  The only way I’d consider leasing or buying new again is if made sense to do so through my LLC with pre-taxed dollars.  But given that I work primarily from home, it’s not clear that this is the right choice for me.

The Case for Buying a Used Car

According to the experts, buying a 2 to a 3-year-old car with low mileage is the best value.  My options are:

  • Honda Fit
  • Fiat 500e (electric)
  • Chevy Volt (hybrid)
  • Mini Cooper (not practical, but super cute)

Ideally, my choice will be:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Cheap to own/drive
  • Cute/Stylish (yes, this is important)

I think all three of these priorities are met with my choices above except for the Mini Cooper which is neither environmentally friendly nor cheap, but again, it’s damn cute.

mini cooper how to buy a car

From a pure cost perspective, the Honda Fit wins hands down, but from a style perspective, it’s the least appealing. I know the Mustacians love it, but to me, it just screams “MEH”.

The Fiat 500e is also very affordable and a good environmental choice since it’s a fully electric car, but with an 87-mile range, it would be a huge source of road anxiety that I’m not sure I’m up for.  But it’s also really darn cute.

The Volt is a good, solid, economical and environmental choice, but I don’t really connect with the car.  It’s not “me”.

buying a volt

What?  Am I actually going to buy a car based on my connection with it?

Ah, yeah, and research says that you do this, too.  Brands exude a personality that we either connect with or repel against based on who we are.  We also buy into the narrative of a brand.  So, the option to buy a fully electric car speaks to my internal narrative about being environmentally conscious.  But then, if I really wanted to express that idea, I wouldn’t own a car at all.  I’d bike or walk everywhere.

On the other hand, if I opt for the Cooper Mini, I’m expressing the fun, stylish side, that could also be considered a minimalist car, right? Mini… minimalist… <-get it?

What’s Your Point, Caren?

My point is that I’m trying my best to make a significant purchase based on my newly acquired values around spending less, saving more and funding only those things that really make me happy. But no matter how badly I want to make a decision based on logic, apparently my emotions still need to buy into the choice as well.  Otherwise, I know I’m going to live to regret whatever decision I make.

Why do I know this?  I bought my wedding dress based on logic.  It was nice, but I really wanted a strapless dress and the one I bought was a halter style.  I bought it because it was under $500 and didn’t need a single alteration.  To this day, I wish I had used more emotion in that decision and just bought the dress I really wanted.  I’m trying really hard not to repeat history with my car purchase.

So what’s the verdict?  What car am I going to buy?

Not sure yet.  I’m going shopping on Saturday and plan to make a purchase in the next two weeks.  I’ll let you know whether logic or emotion wins outin the end.  I hope and suspect it will be a healthy dose of both, but I guess we’ll see!

What do you think about the choices I’ve made?  If you’ve had any experience with any of the brands I’ve mentioned, please feel free to weigh in!  I know nothing about cars.

Our Path to Financial Independence (and our Life Plans Once We Get There)

FIRE spouse planning

The other day I came across a blog post by She Picks Up Pennies, inspired by Our Next Life and Think Save Retire about their respective paths to financial independence and what they plan to do when they get there.  The conversation started 3 years ago, so as per usual, I’m inappropriately late to the party. But, since that’s never stopped me before, today I’m sharing what I plan to do with my life, once we’ve reached financial independence and retire from work we “have” to do.

 path to financial independence

I’m going to be a full-time writer (and blogger)

Seriously, all I want to do is spend my time writing from the heart about my passions—> financial independence, minimalism, fitness, and yoga.  Being financially independent will mean that I can focus on that pursuit as much as I want, and in the purest way possible (ie, never a thought to how my writing can generate income).  It’s not that I wouldn’t be really happy to generate income from my writing (I would!), just not if it means compromising my creativity or my message.

I will travel more.

Slow travel, I think it’s called.  Maybe rent a cottage in Muskoka, Ontario for the summer, a home in Palm Springs for the winter or an RV adventure across the US.  The key ingredient to that plan is having my husband and dogs with me.  If I have my little fam jam, I’m pretty much good to go anywhere (as long as it’s not cold).

slow travel with dogs

I will foster more rescue dogs

This might hamper the slow travel idea, but what I’d really love to do is always have one extra furry butt in the house, en route to their forever home.  As you might know, rescue dogs, particularly the senior ones, hold a very VERY big place in my heart.  Right now we don’t have the best set up for a 3rd pooch, but retirement would probably mean a new living arrangement with more space and yard for everyone.

We’ll probably leave the SF Bay Area

You are probably aware that next to NYC, Silicon Valley is the most expensive place to live in the US.  Starter home (read: teardowns) start in the million dollar range and scale up quickly if you’re looking for something that’s actually livable. Personally, I could leave the Valley sooner than retirement, but my husband just isn’t having it.

I’m still going to workout everyday

I’m not someone who loves to workout, but I am someone who loves having had worked out.  I don’t see that changing, and I don’t even see myself working out more than I do now.  I may be more adventurous with my workouts (or I could just be fooling myself).  A list of international marathons sounds interesting (in theory) or maybe another fitness competition?

I’ll never stop learning

I’m not suggesting I’d go back to formal education (2 degrees I don’t really use are enough), but I’d never stop learning about things that interest me.  This is probably the main reason why I’d never get bored in retirement.  I’m so curious about certain topics -> spirituality, health and fitness, creativity, online business, gardening, cooking, meditation, yoga, personal development, decision-making… the list goes on.  I’d never stop learning, connecting with like-minded people and expanding my worldview.  Curiosity is embedded in my DNA and I’m so grateful for it.

So, What Exactly is my Plan to Retire Early?

I would love to tell you that we have our entire retirement strategy mapped out in a sexy excel sheet, but that would be far from the truth.  Right now, we’re fortunate enough to live off my husband’s salary alone, which means we can bank his annual bonus and everything I make consulting.  Our strategy is very simple – low-cost index funds (mostly VTSAX, but we have a few others including a target date fund, some REITs, and a few other index funds).  We have almost nothing in bonds.  We also have 100% equity in my husband’s side business which throws off a healthy six-figure annual profit, my blogs (which make $0 money right now) and some shares in a privately owned tech company.

Our nest egg isn’t enough to retire on yet (or at least, the way we’d like to).  To put our current position in perspective, we could retire like kings in a 3rd world country tomorrow, but if we decided to stay in Silicon Valley, we could be penniless within 15 to 20 years if we both quit working right now.  So while we’re in a good position financially, we lack the benefit of geographic sustainability.

But I would consider us quasi/almost retired at this point

I would say that because even though we’re both still working, we’re at the point where we can be selective about the work we do.  I don’t make that statement lightly as it’s only been a short time since we’ve had that luxury.  We both grew up in modest families with single, working mothers and while neither of us had much to start with, we’ve both been extremely fortunate to have had amazing work opportunities since then.   My husband doesn’t have any plans to leave his full-time career, but last year, I made the leap from full-time employment to less than full-time consulting and I’m really enjoying it.  I love the variety of work projects, the control over my time and schedule and honestly, I love not having to show up at an office from 9-5 every day.  That alone has made this transition worthwhile and I have 0 urge to stop doing what I’m doing for the time being.

So when will we retire for good?

As I’ve said before on this blog, I’ll probably never fully retire until the day my fingers stop translating the thoughts in my head.  Until then, I’ll continue to pursue my passions and write about them here and here.  I’ll also continue to consult in my professional field (strategic communications and change management) for as long as I can.  But I want to reach FI as soon as possible so that I can enjoy the freedom of absolute choice.   Because that to me is success…

What would I tell anyone else looking to retire early?

  • Live beneath your means.  While we both have decent salaries and can afford to live in an expensive area, we’re also mindful of spending and acquiring.  My financial wisdom continues to grow and evolve, but what I know for sure is that no matter how much you make, if your spending habits are beyond your means, you’ll never have the choice to retire,  early or not.
  • Find work you can at least like to do.  I took this as a platitude for a long time, but only now I see the true benefits of finding interesting work.  And remember, if you hate your job now, don’t assume it’s the work. It could be that you’re not cut out for sitting in an office building 40 hours a week (like me) or that your boss is just an a-hole and you would be happier elsewhere.  Either way, make the effort to find work you don’t hate.  It will make your life way more enjoyable and less sucky.
  • Find a partner that shares your values.  It took me a while to get my husband on board with the pursuit of FIRE, mostly because (I believe) it brought up feelings of deprivation for him that triggers experiences from his past.  But when I finally got him to “see the light of FIRE”, he was hooked and it changed the way we looked at everything.
So there you have it!  Now over to you – what would your post-retirement life look like?  What would you spend your time doing and what would get you motivated to get out of bed every day?

JetFuel – Finally, a blogging course I can get behind

blogging course


I have been blogging for about 10 years now, so I’m kind of a relic in this industry, but even still, I love learning new skills and taking courses because I always take something away from the experience.

But to be honest, as with a lot of the online programs I’ve invested time and money into, many of them are, well… not very good. If you’re a blogger, you know that a lot of the online tactical stuff is pretty easy to figure out with a quick Google search, so when you realize the $300 program you just bought is something Alexa could have answered free of charge, it’s really discouraging.

However, there’s a lot to blogging that’s nuanced and strategic and not as obvious as you might expect. For example, have you considered…

  • What voice do you write from? (i.e. are you an expert, a sherpa or a journalist?)
  • Where your audience is in their transformation journey?
  • What you’re actually doing to help your audience go from point A to point B?

If you’re not thinking about these things, you should be. Unless of course, your only objective is to share what you ate for lunch. No judgment if that’s your jam, but if you’re looking to make money from your blog, you better be clear what your value is to your reader, and what you’re doing to solve their specific problems.

If that seems a little daunting (<-um, yes) then I highly recommend you take a look at JetFuel, a blogging course that’s designed to help you get clarity on what you’re doing, gain some traction and ultimately grow your blog.

best blogging course under $100

Why Jetfuel it’s different

What I loved about this course is that it really walks you through the big picture strategy behind your blog. Why you’re writing, who you’re trying to help, and how you’re helping them. This is a critical step so many bloggers miss and they end up with content that doesn’t resonate with anyone. I admit, I have struggled with this problem for years.

How Jetfuel helped me

I have so much more clarity on who I’m writing for, but more importantly, who I am as a writer! For example, I have two blogs: this one, and another one that’s fitness related.  Given my growing list of credentials in the fitness space, I now confidently and consistently write from an expert’s voice on that blog. Now my readers come to my website and they know what to expect – tips, how-to’s, tutorials and recommendations.  But this website is completely different. I’m still wrapping my head around the world of location-independence, side-hustles, smart saving/spending, and minimalism. My voice is completely different on this site, and I speak as someone just sharing what they’re learning on their own journey. I would never have had that perspective and ability to be consistent if I hadn’t taken this course.

And why do you need to know who you are as a writer? So that your readers can come to know, like and trust you and that builds engagement, longevity, and growth.

The other big thing this course helped answer for me is the question about how personal to be. I’ve found that over the last 10 years, blogging has become less personal and more instructional and commercial. While that can be helpful, it’s missing the personal element. Blogs are stories. They’re as unique as the writer and no two blogs should be the same, even if they’re covering the same exact niche. Blogging is human and I love how Jillian advocates the combination of being insanely useful, yet bringing your unique self to your writing to attract your true fans. Clearly, she knows what she’s talking about, because one of the things that makes this experience stand out, is her personality (which is awesome) and her insanely useful content.

What you will learn in this course

  • Your avatar (audience), the transformation you’re offering and the roadmap to your reader’s success.
  • You’re going to learn how to be appropriately unique and vulnerable
  • You’ll work through some tactical stuff like building an editorial calendar, setting up an automated email process and crafting a good About page (something that is SO hard to do).
  • You will also learn how to test and scale ideas for monetization and growth, which is really key to gaining traction and sticking with your blog for the long term.

What you won’t learn in this course

If you’re looking to learn about social media strategies, specific steps to monetization or how to start an affiliate program, keep looking! You won’t find that here. You will, however, learn how to approach someone about doing guest posting in a way that doesn’t make you look like a jerk (<-key to making bloggy friends!).

Who this course is perfect for

I won’t say it’s perfect for everyone because no course is, but both new and seasoned bloggers can gain a lot from the program if you think you’re missing the groundwork about who you are as a writer and the value you bring to your readers and their transformation journey. If you have never even considered that your readers are looking for a transformation, then you REALLY need this course. For once you have that foundational piece in place, it makes your writing SO MUCH EASIER. So if you struggle with this, then it’s a great investment.

However, if you’re a new or seasoned blogger who has taken the time to think through these elements already, then you probably won’t gain as much from this program. But I suspect most of us could use this kind of coaching, even if it’s been a while and you need to look at your mission and vision again.

Is it a long and boring and is there lots of work involved?

No, the videos are short, you can speed them up to get through them faster if you want, and there’s a handout with most of the modules, but they aren’t overwhelming. I watched the videos and took notes in Evernote so I would have them to refer back to, but the handouts are well designed and easy to use as well if you like something to print out.

Is it expensive?

Nope, it’s only $97 which is much cheaper than a lot of programs I have come across and even paid for in the past. Better yet, you can get a 20% discount with the code “Happy” if you buy the program with my link in the next two weeks (from the time of this posting). But even without the extra $20 off, it’s a really good investment in yourself, your business and your readers.

Extra bonus – Jillian asks some pretty thought-provoking questions that actually forced me to think about the moments in my life that shaped me as a person. I wasn’t expecting that, and I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be so deep, but I got more than just blog clarity from this course. It also gave me a better understanding of myself and why I am the way I am. Who knew it would be cheap therapy as well 🙂

3 simple rules to fix a mindless shopping habit.

mindless shopping clothes

The other day I was in the city to meet a friend for dinner. I was early, so I popped into Athleta to kill some time before our reservation. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I’m mildly obsessed with yoga pants. They are my uniform, an absolute pleasure to wear, and one of the few things I never seem to have “enough” of.

So naturally, I came across a cute pair of gray leggings with white horizontal strips and my heart was aflutter. Lucky for me, they didn’t have my size, so I made a mental note and headed off to meet my friend.

The next day, I’m on Athleta’s website checking out these babies. Aren’t they beautiful?

athleta yoga pants

They’re pricey, but that’s not what prevents me from buying them. As my finger was ready to hit that buy button, I asked myself – what are these for, Caren? Are they really going to make me happier than I already am?

The short answer would typically be “hell, yes”, because I know I’d wear them on walks, to do yoga, meeting friends or curling up with hubby + dogs on the couch to watch a movie. I’d wear them for all the best moments of my day.

But I already have 18 pairs of leggings to do that in. I had to draw the line.

As much as I love leggings, buying more of them won’t bring me appreciably more pleasure and the thought of filling my drawer with one. more. thing. after all the painstaking effort that went into purging over 50% of my wardrobe left me with the right answer:

Leave them be.

I don’t need them.

I have enough leggings (<- did I actually just write that?)

So here are my first two takeaways:

how to stop mindless shopping

Rule #1 – Stay out of stores when you’re not shopping for something specific.

Never browse. You will always find stuff you love, but don’t need. Avoid temptation by avoiding knowing what’s out there.

Rule #2 – Before you buy anything online or in a store, pause and ask yourself:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Will it add to my long-term happiness (we know it will in the short-term)?
  • Do I have at least 5 other things to wear with it and 5 places I can wear it to?
  • After everything I’ve done to reduce clutter and spending, does this purchase still feel like a smart decision?

If you can say yes to all of the above, buy the thing. This isn’t about deprivation, it’s about conscious, smart spending and funding the areas of your life that bring you happiness. If it’s a no, put said thing down and move on. Pat yourself on the back while you’re at it because that was a badass choice you just made.

How to avoid mindless online shopping

Have you become addicted to Instastories yet? I have. I love watching clips of people’s day. It’s fun and I often get inspired by the food and fitness videos I see. However, the proliferation of “swipe up to buy” has become so obnoxiously overused, I’ve had to stop following a bunch of people I otherwise love watching!

I am going to point a finger at fashion bloggers for being the worst offenders of this bad behavior. I am all for bloggers making money from their work, and I have no issues with affiliate marketing, but why does every damn thing need to be linked? I don’t care where you bought your non-slip socks, diaper bag and the sweater that comes in 19 colors.

Please stop!

Anyway, perhaps you don’t fall for the constant temptations, but I do. And every time I find myself on a website with a cute pair of something that’s not only on sale but offers free shipping, I have to walk myself through those questions above and it gets harder and harder as the day goes on.

Plus, we know from research that if we’re tired, sad or in a post-wine state, we’re way more likely to make reactive, unnecessary purchases. I don’t know about you, but when I’m headed to Instagram, it’s typically when I’m in one or all of those three states.

Rule #3 – Until fashion and lifestyle bloggers can learn to behave themselves, step away from InstaStories indefinitely.

What about you? Are you with me on the swipe up madness? Do you need to be more conscious about your shopping?

don't follow fashion bloggers

Do you know how much time your stuff costs?

time and money cost of stuff

Have you ever considered how many hours a week (or month) you have to work to cover your rent or car payment?  Any idea how many cubicle hours you had to put into acquiring the last purse you bought or the shoes you’re wearing?

Here’s some easy math (because that’s the only math I can do).  Let’s say you make 100K per year.  That’s $8,333 per month, $2083 per week, and approximately $52 per hour based on a 40 hour work week (less if you include unpaid overtime and commute time).
stuff costs time

So if you’re making $50 an hour and your car payment is $400 a month, your car is costing you one full day of work per month, not to mention gas, maintenance and insurance (so let’s say, 2 full days).  That might sound reasonable for your car, but what about the purse you bought?  Or the shoes, the massage and the cute, dry-clean only sweater from J Crew?  Was that worth the 2 or 3 days of work?

It might be.

I’m not suggesting you should feel bad about your purchases, I just want you to feel something about them before you make them.  To me, a pair of Lululemon leggings is well worth an hour of work based on my rate, because I wear them constantly, they make me happy, and I’m always dressed appropriately for a hike or a workout.  Some women focus on wearing outfits that transition from day to night, I focus on outfits that transition from work to yoga mat.

It’s all a matter of priorities.

But when I look at this equation, I’m less inclined to order wine with dinner (2 glasses can easily equate to half an hour of work) or a new pair of jeans (<— because #torturetowear)

jeans are prison for your legs

The point is to think about your purchases in the context of how much of your life you need to invest in the process of acquiring them, and then in some cases, the cost to maintain it once you’ve bought it.  It’s an interesting exercise to consider the next time you’re cruising the Banana Republic website for (yet another) pair of ill-fitting dress pants (does anyone else think BR’s pants have gone downhill in the past few years?).

I love thinking about purchasing in the context of time.  It’s a handy framework that forces me to evaluate how important each thing I bring into my life actually is.  That way, I can clearly define whether or not something is a “hell yes”, a “hell no” or maybe a “hell, not right now at the current per hour rate I’m making”.

Consider this another handy tool in your “live your best life” toolbox, particularly if you’re feeling short on time or money to do the things you truly want to do in life.
Now over to you.  Have you ever given thought to the time invested in the things you’ve bought?  This became painfully clear to me when I started giving a bunch of stuff away.  I realized how hard it was to sell my things and in some cases, even give them away.  I had a $120 juicer that I literally couldn’t give away to my friends.  That was just over an hour of work invested into the purchase price, and nobody wanted it?  That was an eye-opener, for sure!

Smart Spending Strategies for Makeup + Hair Care Products

tips for saving on hair and makeup products

As an aspiring minimalist, my make up drawer is a total #fail, but truth be told, I don’t care.  When it comes to fitness and beauty products, I’m a-okay on thoughtfully spending money on looking and feeling my best, because that has a positive impact on my life in a lot of ways.

I’ll get into fitness-related savings in another post, but today, I want to share some ideas on saving on your cosmetics.  These are my general guidelines around buying beauty products.  If you have other ideas to add to this, I’d love to hear about it!

Tips for saving a bundle on hair and beauty products (my personal weakness). Click To Tweet

Drugstore brands provide better value than high-end brands.

Personally, I think makeup looks best when it’s appropriately matched to your skin tone and applied well, regardless of how expensive it is.  As someone who has been a long-standing fan of Mac lipsticks (which are $23 a tube), I can appreciate higher quality at a higher price, but keep in mind this simple fact….

A $23 lipstick has to look and perform 100% better than an $11.50 lipstick to justify the 100% increase in price.  
Now, while I like Mac lipstick, I don’t think it performs 120% better than my Revlon color stay that was only $7.99.    That said, you might think a certain foundation, lip plumper or eyeshadow is 150% better than every other brand on the market and if that’s the case, stick with it!  This is about understanding the value of what you’re investing in and appreciating how it benefits you. It’s not about getting the cheapest brand available.
Money saving makeup tips

Overall, you’re going to get a better bang for your buck in a drugstore and as cosmetics only continue to improve,  I’m inclined to always start there before going to pricier brands.

Bonus Tip: Got a high-end brand you love but it’s super pricey?  Check out this “dupe” list to see if you can get a less expensive alternative!

Cosmetic Subscription Boxes Aren’t Worth the Investment.  

Personally, I have only tried the FitFabFun box and Ipsy, but I can unequivocally say that unless you have a very high level of control over the products you get shipped, it’s probably not worth the money.  For even though you get a high volume of product in many cases, generally 50% or less of it will be items you will actually wear.  I have a drawer full of cosmetic samples that I probably won’t wear because the color is meant for someone with a very different skin tone than me.  In the case of FitFabFun, I continued to get things like weird scarves and beach blankets that I would never use and would end up in a donation pile.  $49 is a great price for a box full of beauty and lifestyle products, but only if it’s stuff you can actually put to use.  If it’s not, it’s just more clutter.

I recommend staying away from these subscriptions.  They just add to the clutter in your bathroom and the products are very hit or miss.  You would be better off taking the funds you would invest in the annual subscription and applying it to products that are perfect for you.

If you find something you love buy it in bulk.

One thing I don’t skimp on when it comes to beauty products is my shampoo.  I have some hair extensions in my hair (more on that in a moment) and I have to be really careful about using sulfate-free products or they won’t last.   Personally, I swear by Living Proof because it keeps your hair cleaner, longer so I can go 4 to 5 days without washing (with the help of a little dry shampoo as well).  Living Proof isn’t cheap, but because I only wash my hair 2 to 3 times a week, it’s still a good value, particularly when I buy it in bulk from Amazon.

Buy Hair Extensions on eBay.

I wear a few extensions in my hair for fullness as my hair is super fine.  If you’ve ever explored extensions, you know how crazy expensive they are!!  $130 a bundle (which is just a few strands) is not unusual and I find that they only last 3 to 6 months before they start looking pretty gnarly.  But then I discovered that you can buy them on eBay for less than half the price, AND free shipping!  I was a little apprehensive about the quality, but I bought two bundles for $60 and they look and feel amazing.  I’ll never pay full price for extensions again.

Bonus Tip: eBay is also a great place to find cosmetic brushes, eyeshadow palettes, and other makeup products that don’t expire.

Get your Retin-A online, from Mexico. 

If you want to save on Retin-A, I have heard from a number of people, that you can buy it in Mexico at a fraction of the cost.  I’m not going to link to anything here because I haven’t done it myself, so I don’t want to suggest anything I’m not personally familiar with, but I plan to and will report back when I do.  Meanwhile, the folks I know who have done this are trustworthy, so I have no qualms about giving it a try.  PS, you don’t need a prescription for it down there.

Got any strategies for saving on health and beauty products?  Please share them below!


A Minimalist Valentines Day: How to Celebrate Your Love Without Buying Crap <3

Minimal Valentines day

Here’s an interesting tidbit…the original Valentine’s Day tradition (which was actually the 15th of Feb) was inspired by the Romans who would get drunk and naked, kill a goat and/or dog and then throttle their love interest with the dead carcase before mating with them for the duration of the 3-day holiday (the love interest, not the carcas).

Warms your heart, right?

Minimal Valentines

But somewhere between the brutality of the dark ages and the last 20 years, the ritual turned from animal cruelty and sexual assault to trinket shopping and sugar-pushing. Now we feel kinda forced to demonstrate our affection for fear of being judged for not loving your partner enough. This year, the retail sector is expecting an $18.6 billion profit from the fake holiday, so they’re doing a great job of keeping that social pressure going.

Question – if your significant other didn’t recognize the holiday with some sort of tangible gift, card or event, would you consider that a reflection of their (less than stellar) love towards you?

For if you do, even just a little bit, then for at least this one day, the retail industry has more control over how you perceive your most intimate relationship than you do.

Just something to consider.

How to avoid buying crap nobody wants for Valentines Day this year. #minimalistloving Click To Tweet

Now clearly there are the romantic types that just want to enjoy indulging their partners, and I get that. Just like Christmas or Thanksgiving, it can be a fun ritual to celebrate (unless you’re single, in which case it can be miserable). But this year, I challenge you to think beyond giving flowers that have been jacked up 4x their regular price or going to a restaurant with an annoying prefix menu and think about how you can enjoy the modern-day meaning of the occasion without adding to that $18.6 million retail frenzy.

Here are a few ideas to inspire a special day of love without buying useless stuff…

  • My favorite – order takeout sushi and have a picnic on the living room floor. Got a fireplace? Even better. Got dogs? Watch they don’t steal your sashimi when you’re not looking.
  • Write your partner a letter or an email. Tell them exactly why you love and appreciate them. No one gets sick of hearing that stuff.
  • Do something for them that demonstrates care – cook a meal, make them coffee in bed, bake heart-shaped cookies.
  • Snuggle on the couch and watch your favorite shows with some chardonnay and a few homemade healthy truffles.
  • Give your SO a massage or do the bubble bath thing with candles.
  • Partake in adult activities, even if it’s a school night ?

Probably the most important tip I can give you is to make your expressions of love and appreciation a daily ritual rather than waiting for an arbitrary day of the year with a dark and bizarre history to celebrate your relationship.

Love to all of you!

Marriage & Money: How to Set Your Spouse on FIRE

married saving budget

Once again, I’m not talking about pyromania here, but rather the concept of F.I.R.E. (financial independence to retire early). These are my ideas on how to influence your spouse to buy into the idea of taking control of your life and finances.

So maybe you’ve just read Mr. Money Mustache front to back, consumed every personal finance book and blog known to man and you’re now researching tiny houses and how to farm your own chickens. You’ve been officially indoctrinated into the FIRE movement and you’re totally sold on the idea of controlling your spending with the intention of building wealth that will sustain you for the rest of your life.

Don’t have any idea what I”m talking about? Go back and learn how to set yourself on FIRE first.

I know what that initial passion is like. When the idea sinks in, it can feel like your whole worldview has changed. No longer are you willing to spend money unconsciously because you now realize that with every dollar you waste, you take a few steps away from your goal of absolute peace and freedom.

It can be a real mindblower (and I speak from experience).

But what happens when your spouse isn’t buying it?

FIRE financial independence retire early

It happens! Let’s face it, the idea of frugality, minimalism or deprivation of any kind can feel like a threat to most people.

Hey honey, let’s commit to saving 70% of our income so we can live on less than $50K per year and then retire early and keep doing the same!

Not a good sell.

A better approach would be to ask your spouse if they could see a path to early retirement, would they be willing to make some lifestyle changes to achieve it? They’re probably going to say “heck ya!”, and then you can have a real conversation about just how much either of you is willing to sacrifice to make it happen.

Here’s the thing. You can’t sell people on the idea of deprivation. It needs to come from a place of being more intentional with spending and having a clear vision of the future, which might look different for each of you. Appreciate that no one wants to be told what they can and cannot do with their hard earned money. Ultimately, we all want control and choice, so approaching this with a fully baked plan might make your spouse feel like they’re not part of the decision.

Before you Pitch the Idea of FIRE, Build Some Awareness

Most people don’t have a clue about early retirement because we never hear about it. It’s not something the Jone’s are doing, so why would we even know it’s possible? I recommend that you start to warm your spouse up to the idea by sharing inspirational stories of other people who (with a similar life circumstance to your own) have done it.  The more your spouse can see themselves in the stories of other people who have done it, the likelier they are to believe it’s possible.

FIRE spouse planning

When You’re Ready to Pitch the Idea, Give them the Simple Math

I have found this basic principle to be the best way to conceptualize an early retirement: save 25x your annual spending and/or have enough saved that you can live off 4% of the returns of your investments. So if you have a million dollars saved, that’s a $40K annual salary for the rest of your life.

Help them see that FIRE is possible

Depending on where your finances are when you’re having this conversation, it may seem completely out of reach to have a million or more dollars saved for retirement. But no matter where you are, you can start right now to save more of what you earn, and earn more that you can save. It’s absolutely a mindset shift and the interesting thing is that once you start building momentum toward your goal, the journey can start getting pretty freaking exciting.

Some Cautionary Advice

I think the thing that will hang up most people is that idea of deprivation. As a couple, you have to find a happy medium where your cost of living is low enough that you’re saving without feeling overburdened or uncomfortable with the choices you’re making. Your cost-of-living has to be sustainable for the long term, not just until you’ve reached your FIRE figure (the number at which you feel comfortable calling yourself financially independent).

What to do if they don’t buy it?

If your spouse says a big hell no to your hopes and dreams, fear not. There are always compromises you can make. You can try planning for a mini-retirement, separate your finances so that you can work toward FIRE on your own (this route feels sad to me), or you can aspire to be Retired(ish) instead. This is the path my husband and I have chosen for ourselves and we’re both 100% onboard with it because it affords us a better lifestyle while still allowing us to do the work we’re passionate about.

But most important in all of this is that regardless of how your spouse reacts initially, over time they may come around. The key is to walk the talk in your own life. If you want to show others that they can be happy living with less, then start role modeling that behavior. Commit to starting down the FIRE path by shopping less, owning less, clearing clutter, saving more and pushing back on obligations that don’t serve you. As you simplify your own life, you’re going to be happier and your spouse will eventually see the attraction to it.

Good luck and remember this …. People are watching what you do, even when you don’t think they are. Use your life to inspire others by making intentional choices that improve your life circumstance. I guarantee you will eventually bring others along for the ride with you and what an awesome message to impart on the people you love.