Today, for the first time in months, I purchased something for myself. A real, actual, tangible, physical thing.
It’s a Blu-ray copy of your name, a Japanese movie I watched over the weekend that was so heartbreakingly beautiful I could do nothing after watching it except stare at the ceiling in the dark and wonder why it took me two decades to get interested in anime. It broke box office records in Japan last year and was awarded Best Animated Feature of the Year at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Critics Awards.
Most new copies of the movie are exuberantly priced (since they’re, you know, imported from Japan), but I found an affordable used copy on eBay that came in the original packaging and, according to the seller, had only been watched twice. After some internal back and forth (“you don’t even OWN a Blu-ray player, Amanda!” “That’s only because I don’t own any Blu-rays!”), I ordered it online. It comes in the mail next week.
I’m going to sound like an old, doily-knitting grandma when I say this, but waiting for this movie to come in the mail has been one of the highlights of my week.
This is the first time in recent memory I’ve purchased something for myself that wasn’t cough syrup or Band-Aids or toilet paper. The vast majority of my everyday purchases are either groceries or gasoline for my car. Anything else I buy is usually travel-related (aka stuffing my face with a six-piece McNugget meal during an airport layover), or a gift for someone else. And most of my earnings go into either my retirement or savings accounts, or toward paying off my car loan.
Long story short, I fund my priorities—financial independence, travel, relationships with friends and family—and those aren’t things I can buy in a department store. So I don’t do a lot of shopping.
In fact, I’d say I’ve bought fewer than five physical, for-fun items for myself in 2017. This new movie is item #1. I also got a t-shirt from a concert I attended over the summer. And before that…I honestly can’t remember.
This year, I haven’t purchased any new clothes or shoes—I already have more than I need. I haven’t bought books, decorative items, kitchen appliances or technological gadgets. No video games or picture frames or deceptively-expensive-but-delightfully-fragrant candles from Bath & Body Works.
That’s not to say I haven’t brought anything into my home. For one reason or another, I’ve ended up with plenty of items in my possession this year: there’s a yoga mat I got from my boyfriend on my birthday; a couple pieces of clothing I picked up during a clothing swap with a friend; a book that was lent to me and stored on my bookshelf.
But for all of these items that come in to my space, several more go out, so there’s always a little more breathing room today than there was yesterday. And I still get to enjoy new-to-me stuff in the meantime.
This isn’t a post where I’m bragging about how little I’ve purchased this year, or how much I’ve given away. But if there’s anything I’ve learned during my little minimalism journey, it’s that the less you own, the more you appreciate what you have. And the less you buy, the more you look forward to and enjoy the purchases you make.
The moral of this story is that you can buy things for yourself and still identify as a minimalist. The Earth will not stop its rotation because you put something in your virtual shopping cart. You will not initiate the rapture by making a less-than-essential purchase.
But if you are going to buy something new, I recommend you ask yourself a couple questions before you hit the checkout line:
How long have I wanted this item? Pro tip: If you didn’t know this thing existed ten minutes ago, you absolutely 1,000% should not buy it.
Will this item add to my clutter situation, or do I have a place for it in my home? If you’re standing in the middle of a burning building, you reach for water, not more kindling. If you’re struggling with clutter, do yourself a favor and stop buying stuff. At least for a little while. Whatever it is you think you need, it can wait.
Do I have the cash necessary to purchase this item? This is important. Just because you have room for something in your home doesn’t mean you have room for it in your budget. Spend wisely. And remember the opportunity cost of every purchase.
How will this item bring value to my life? This is the kicker, and it requires you to be honest with yourself about what you value and why. Do you want that fancy sports car because it’s necessary for you to drive 130 mph every day to work? Or do you want it because it makes you look successful and important in the eyes of your colleagues?
As for me, I’ll stop by the mailbox every day after work next week, waiting for the day my movie is waiting there for me like the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. And once I have it, I’ll enjoy watching it again, and then I’ll enjoy watching it with my sister, and then I’ll lend it to my friends so they can enjoy watching it, too.
In my opinion, that’s $38.96 well spent.