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Save hundreds by being willing to spend $20

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When you pack for a trip, you pack “just in case” items, right? Things that in a certain situation would be priceless. Think “umbrella” or “underpants”.

But then you think of all the possible situations you might encounter, and you’ll find your “just in case” items quickly outnumber (and outweigh) your “essentials” list.

(This applies equally to packing for travel, and just living in your house/apartment.)

I want to convince you to switch your thinking from “I might need this thing” to “Statistically, I will not need this thing, but I will need a thing, so I’ve planned accordingly.”

There’s a final, unexpected benefit to this thinking, too. I’ll expand on that at the end.

You cannot anticipate what you’ll need, just that you will need something #

The problem is, of 20 items you’ll need some day, you have no idea when that will be, and you’re stuck caring for them, and storing them, and moving them, until that day.

Here’s how to sidestep the problem:

Give yourself permission to get rid of anything that you’re on the fence about, if it can be replaced for $20 or less.

You might choose to leave behind twenty items, and save yourself tons of time and frustration by getting rid of it, and then at the end, replace one or two items.

Now, what items should you apply this rule to? Well, obviously start with just that $20 price limit, and then apply it to anywhere you see an excess of items. It seems the top offenders here are:

  • Closets with clothing acquired for free or cheap (get rid of that shirt you got from that 5k you ran a few years back, and that thing you bought because it was on sale.)

  • Kitchen utensils. It’s hard rummaging around for that thing you use almost every day, when it’s buried in with things you’ve not used for six months. Get rid of the stuff you don’t use. Tape a $20 to your fridge, if you’d like, to symbolize your new line of thinking. 

  • Tool chests/buckets/storage areas/garages/basements. We put things here that we don’t need, and we know we don’t need, we just think we might want them later. 

I can provide two examples:

  • Kristi and I are traveling, and went to see an orchestra. We’ve been living out of small backpacks for two months, and had no formal attire. The orchestra was formal-ish, but Kristi didn’t have any dresses. So she went to a thrift store and bought a dress that she liked for about €4.

  • It was cold and wet in Austria, and Kristi did not have an umbrella or waterproof later. So she bought a water-resistant layer at a department store for €15. She could have packed more clothing at the beginning of the trip , but packed light, and acquired what she needed as she went. It was only after eight weeks on the road that this particular layer became critical.

Now, it may seem obvious that if you need something, and you’re in a city, you can probably buy it. But by PLANNING for this, you can adjust your trip packing ahead of time.

For example, in a trip, it’s possible that you’ll need to be able to swim, go to a formal event, exercise/work out, endure rain/snow, spill something on yourself, be comfortable in hot weather, and much more.

Right now, the minimum list of items to pack to cover those contingencies would be:

  • Swimsuit

  • Formal clothing

  • shorts/socks/shoes/shirt appropriate for exercise

  • rain clothing/insulated layers

  • replacement clothing for whatever you could spill a drink/food on

  • shorts/t-shirt

You would have to pack all of this clothing in addition to whatever you planned to pack and wear normally.

So, say to yourself “I’ll pack for none of these activities, but will give myself permission to spend $20 to equip myself for any of these situations.”

Now you’ve saved yourself TONS of space in your bag (maybe you won’t even need to check a bag on your trip. This saves you more time and money, and you’re more mobile just walking around.)


Now, remember that “final, unexpected benefit” I mentioned earlier?

The benefit of this kind of thinking is it forces you to rely a bit more on yourself, and a bit less on stuff. You have to be prepared to think a bit outside the box, and think dispassionately about your things. You’ll start thinking not just “I own these things” but also “Am I content being owned by these things?”

I was listening to a podcast by Tim Ferriss, who quoted Seneca to this effect:

A person’s degree of self-ownership is inversely related to their dependence on things around them for security and provision.

I’ll close with a little… aspirational dreaming? food for thought?

Much of the decisions we’re encouraged to make by the world around us is rooted in fear. Fear of loss, fear of impoverishment, fear of other people, fear of financial ruin, fear of someone not liking us, fear of the wrong person having power, fear of doing something and it not working out perfectly, fear of embarrassment, fear of criticism, fear of missing out, fear of being unlikable, fear of being uncool, etc.

Obviously, we don’t want to be fearful. It’s stressful, expensive, and greatly reduces your quality of life. So, treat your relationship with your stuff as a means of facing fear, and stepping a little beyond your comfort zone.

Additional Reading: #