Many of us grow up with the idea that more is more — that the accumulation of clothes, electronics, cars and other material items signify wealth and happiness. However, recent research by the Journal of Positive Psychology has shown that people benefit more from experiences than material possessions. In fact, in one study, those who chose an experience over tangible goods were happier and felt that the money was well-spent.
Fortunately, I realized at the early age of 22 that amassing stuff wasn’t going to fulfill me. At that time, I was living in a beautiful studio apartment in the city, surrounded by modern furniture. I had every material object I could desire, and I wasn’t even close to being happy.
Click to read more about how one woman travels the world without going broke.
Where I Am Now
Since then, my life has changed radically. The entirety of my belongings now fit into a carry-on suitcase and backpack, and I have traveled to over 50 countries. Here are some of the ways that switching to a minimalist mindset helped me to save money and travel the world.
Saving Money on Clothes
A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Americans spent over $1,800 on apparel on average in 2016. Clothing is a major expense and an area you can easily make a difference in your budget. Saving money on clothes does not mean only buying fast fashion, which isn’t usually made fair trade and can contribute to waste issues.
In fact, buying quality-made clothes can actually save you money — they last longer. The trick is to stick to basic styles and colors, avoiding trends that will be considered unfashionable by next season. By choosing garments in block colors, you also have a bigger selection of matching outfits and don’t need to buy as many.
Even the Stars Are Fans
A collection of key timeless pieces can be referred to as a “capsule wardrobe” with sometimes with as few as 33 items. Successful personalities such as Mark Zuckerberg, Victoria Beckham and, ironically enough, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld are all fans.
Having Less to Pack and Store
By opting out of accumulating consumer items, not only will you save money but also have less to organize when you are planning to travel. My minimalist lifestyle means that I don’t have to find a house or pet sitter, pay for car parking, put my gear into storage, water the plants or drag a giant suitcase through the cobbled streets of Italy.
Letting It All Go
After taking my first big trip, I remember how much it changed my perception of possessions. I ended up giving away huge bags of barely used clothes and gadgets to friends and charities. Since then I only retain things that have a purpose.
Two Questions I Ask Myself Now
If I’m thinking of buying something now, I ask myself two questions: “What does it do?” and “How will it improve my life?”
When you are traveling, it becomes abundantly clear how you can live with very little and be blissfully happy.
Without a mountain of stuff to hold you back, you’re open to the opportunity to hit the road with nothing but a backpack and the money you’ve saved by cutting out unnecessary purchases in your life.
By changing to a minimalist lifestyle, I’ve had far more satisfying experiences than I would have with an apartment full of new furniture. Next month I will travel to my 60th country and have no intention of going back to my old way of life.
Click to read more about why one world-traveler downsized apartments.
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