Want to Buy Something You Can't Afford? Let Me Show You How.

image via

I've long had a rule in my home: one thing in, one thing out.  

This is pretty much the first commandment for all folks looking to keep space simplified and organized.  For example, in order to keep myself on track in my closet, I have a set number of hangers (the same number I had when I owned 105 Things).  So if I happen to come home from my favorite used-clothing store with a new sweater I'm forced to part with something else before I hang that sweater up.

This has worked wonders for both Cam and I: keeping our closet clean, making our combined "getting dressed" time about 2 minutes, and making it a breeze to pack for trips.  

I also have another rule: I will never go into consumer debt again.  Ever ever ever.

Anyone who has ever been in debt knows it is a shitty place to be.  You are treading water while weight (debt, anxiety, bills) keeps piling up, the threat of going under terrifyingly close by.  Once I finally became debt free in 2011 I swore up and down that no matter the circumstances, I would not let myself create a credit card bill I could not pay off.

So even though the first few years of a new business tend to be quite lean, I've had to find a way to keep my non-essentials well within my income.  And as I've spent more years inside of a minimalist home, I've found my consumer wants to be greatly tempered.

But I am human and there are still a few things I really, really want... Which is why I've become a master as selling the things I don't.

I've started calling this my Vitamix Principle (because I'm obsessed with getting one but man are those babies are pricey).  Basically it means this: if there is something that I want and cannot afford, I sell things I own and don't love until I've raised enough money to buy the new item.

This way I never dip into savings or go overboard on a credit card AND I have a built-in system for getting rid of things I don't need.

Let's use my Vitamix as an example of how this all works.  

  1. In general, when you resell an item you should plan on getting approximately 25% of what you paid for it.  Of course this varies greatly across items (an iPhone with the box and accessories will sell for 50% of retail while a sweater from a discount retailer like Old Navy will sell for 5-10% of original price) but serves as a good rule of thumb.
  2. This means that you need to sell 4 items of the same retail value as the item you want to purchase.  
  3. Once you've selected the items to sell, you need to choose the best method for resale: ebay, craigslist, consignment, or a mobile app.  Your sales method is largely determined by the item itself; heavy items don't ship well so craigslist might be best, name brand clothing sells like hotcakes on ebay, furniture is easily consigned.
  4. Keep record of the items you've sold and for how much.  Once you've reached your goal amount, you can:
  5. Go buy you new item!


The best part of this process?  It's a lot of work. 

And that's great because so much of our consumption is done so mindlessly, effortlessly.  Want to know how much thought I give to a book before I press the 1-Click Purchase button?  Almost none.

Want to know how much thought I give to buying a $400 blender?  A blog post and a 6 hours of re-selling items worth.  And having been in debt before, I think that's a good thing.

Try it out yourself!

Next time you see a sweater or bag or appliance you really want make a note of it's price.  Then go home and find 4 things of about the same sticker price that you don't need and sell them.