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Money tip from a minimalist: stop buying things that require you to buy more things.

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Rae Lambert is a minimalist and the creator of Small Space, Big Taste—a blog about living large in small spaces that explores a new way to spend, eat, and live.

Minimalism sure is trending these days—Instagram is full of bare rooms with white walls and a shelf with one thing on it. But even if tidying up hasn’t sparked joy, you can incorporate lessons from minimalism to take control of your spending. Beyond just buying less, you should buy smarter—and one concrete way to do that is avoid complementary goods.

Complementary goods are when you need a minimum of two items at one time to fulfill a desire (i.e. needle and thread).

Most of us are aware of the big obvious purchase that requires other purchases: the car. If you buy your own wheels you must pay for a whole slew of extra stuff including gas, tolls, insurance, and maintenance. But there are many other complementary goods in our life that with a little adjustment, we can absolutely live without and save money in the process.

Read on for a list of non-obvious things that require you to buy more things:


If you have an extra room in your home, you must buy furniture for it.

Instead, consider a wall bed to convert your bedroom into a home office and AirBnB for hosting guests instead of paying for that extra bedroom each month. (P.S. I have a whole calculator on how to avoid fixed expenses by outsourcing the jobs of a bigger apartment [here]).

If you have carpets and rugs, you must buy a vacuum.

Instead, buy some soft slippers and train yourself to walk quietly for the sake of your neighbors downstairs.

If you have a kitchen aid mixer, you’ll probably buy attachments (or maybe you won’t and it will just sit there taking up counter space).

Instead, opt for hand tools—a bit more effort but it will taste better knowing how much love you put into it.

If you have a record player, you must buy records.

Instead, stream music through high-quality speakers that can be paired with any Bluetooth device.


If you buy something battery powered you must also buy batteries.

Instead, paying a bit extra for rechargeable tech is not only better for the environment, but it will also save you money (and hassle) in the future.

Workplace in my office with coffee

If you have a printer you must buy paper and toner.

Instead, use the printer at your work or head to FedEx.

If you buy an iPad you must also buy a data plan (I totally fell for this one)

I don’t have an alternative here since I really do love my iPad which I use it for sheet music, reading books, and following recipes. But needing to buy the $25 monthly data plan somehow surprised me at the checkout counter.


If you buy statement handbags or jewelry you’ll end up buying others since they don’t match with everything.

Instead, go neutral. I own two high-quality handbags: black for winter, nude for summer. Same goes for jewelry: I have diamond studs for every day plus a pair of black, white, and red statement earrings which add glam to any outfit.

If you buy black and brown shoes, you’re likely to buy more belts/clothes to match.

This is just my personal style, but I’ve always worn black clothes with black shoes and blue clothes with brown shoes. When I phased out my brown leather shoes (and belts!), I was achieved a smaller, but more versatile wardrobe.

If you have nail polish, you must also have remover. You’ll also probably buy multiple colors, plus base and top coat. You might even buy a UV light for faster drying or for shellac.

I know this one is small but this one can creep up on you! Instead, go natural. I still enjoy the occasional mani/pedi, but I opt for no polish with a light buff which makes my nails shiny as if I were wearing a clear top coat. Extra benefits: my nails are healthier and I save a lot of time on upkeep.

As you can see, none of these purchases are “essential” and they usually lead to more purchases. The best way to avoid the pitfalls of complementary goods is to ask yourself: If I buy this, will I be tempted to buy something else to go with it? If the answer is yes, try going 2 weeks without it, then check in to see if you still feel like parting with your hard earned money. You might find yourself saving money and becoming a minimalist in the process.

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