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  • Writer's pictureGary Grewal

5 Things you Can and Should Buy without being Materialistic

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No, this isn't a permission slip to go to the mall (if people still do that?) and throw your budget out the window while you prance around with 7 glossy bags after maxing out your credit card. In fact, this isn't about shopping as a hobby or in general! I know, the picture is misleading, as it's a picture of a mall, in pricey Palo Alto of all places.

To give you a bit of backstory, I was visiting friends there this summer, and during a morning run around the Stanford Campus, I came across this upscale shopping center and thought I would return there late that day for dinner.

Full disclosure, I'm a shareholder of Simon Property Group (SPG) so I was excited to see a property I was a "part owner of". It's like how people justify patronizing Starbucks every day and paying $6 for a sugar bomb. But, I don't necessarily shop at these places. SPG just seems to have their act together, because their shopping centers are usually always clean and have a nice mix of retailers and eateries I like to go to. And we all gotta eat.

Today's post is more so around the topic of what you CAN buy and feel good about it. With all of our talk on Minimalism and Conscious Consumerism, it can sometimes feel like a finger-wagging guilt trip every time you buy something that's not an "essential".

Sometimes, buying certain things can not only help you spend less down the road, but they can also help you stay healthier, feel better about yourself, save time, and bring sustainable joy to your life.

1) Running Shoes

Say what you will about hating PE back in childhood because you had to run laps around the track. Surely it brings back memories of slugging along under the punishing sun, with no shade to hide under, while the teacher blew her whistle and yelled at you to pick up the pace.

Well, now that you are an adult and independently can recognize the benefits of walking/jogging/running, you can look back and thank that hard-charging PE teacher. Think about the thousands of people who sign up and pay good money to run alongside others for races like marathons and relays. They can't be too crazy right?

Running is one of those things you can do anytime, anywhere, for as long or as short as you want. What could be a more convenient way to get some exercise and strengthen your mental health?

Think about all the recommendations from therapists and life coaches. Spending time in nature, walking, or going to a park. Running shoes can get you there and keep your body moving healthily. Another way to look at it, is your feet support your entire body all day. If you abuse them and wear them down, you might have painful foot conditions down the road and be unable to do the things you once loved. What kind of a life is that?

We all know how much good health is a key component of FIRE, so invest in some kicks that make you want to walk that loop around the duck pond and take in the sights and sounds.

2) Stand Up Desk

If you are lucky enough to work from home, you should celebrate this good fortune by investing in a good-quality standing desk. To be honest, even if you work in an office, consider yourself lucky. You're not having to dig trenches or lay bricks in triple-digit heat!

It might be easier to ask for a stand-up desk at the office, maybe as a concession for coming back in, however, you can still get it working from home. In fact, after work from home became more mainstream, many employers began offering allowances to help employees set up their home offices.

If yours has not, research which companies have done so in your industry, and bring it up with your supervisor. Having that data might convince them to reimburse you for a standup desk, as an incentive for retention.

And if you're self-employed, you might be able to deduct that cost. Nevertheless, a stand-up desk is a worthwhile expense, because anyone knows that spending all day hunched over your computer screen is not doing your neck, back, and posture any favors. Not to mention that sitting is apparently the new smoking. You want to reduce the chances of shelling out thousands of dollars for a chiropractor because you kept using your dining room as a makeshift office.

3) An E-Bike

No, I'm not a bandwagon fan, I'm a true cyclist first. But I know telling most of you to trade in your cars for traditional bikes is just going to be fruitless, so hear me out on this compromise. The vast majority of the time when I hear why people don't use public transit or bike when they are just going a few miles away, it has something to do with sweating, safety, and being too tired.

Well, an e-bike is a solid solution. Why? You can turn on the assist when going up an incline on the way to the post office, and then you can turn it off when you want to get some blood pumping before settling in front of your stand-up desk later (see what I did there). You can make it as traditional as you want, or leverage the motor as much as you want, it's up to you. If it helps you become a one-car household, or even reduce your driving while increasing mental/physical health, even better!

4) Laptop

Many people can't do their job without one, but let's just assume you are lucky enough to be employed in a position where you don't have your eyes glued to a screen all day. So, let's say you are a landscape mason. Surely, when you are looking for new jobs because your boss is giving you a hard time, or you want to strike it out on your own, you might want to go beyond scrolling through ads on your phone.

For the rest of us, doing personal things on a work computer is frowned upon, let alone risky if someone intercepts messages and such. Further, to become financially independent almost requires a laptop. How else are you going to thoroughly evaluate and rebalance investments, and research deals on cars, travel and stucco refinishing?

Or how about reading mesmerizing and groundbreaking blogs like this one? (I gotta say our mobile site is pretty awesome) You don't want to stare into a small screen and get frustrated when you're typing into a form to send to your broker only to get frustrated when the battery dies.

Make sure you look for a laptop with long battery life, that's lightweight so you can carry it around easily, and that has the programs/performance that let you do the things important to you. For example, the needs of a gamer are not the same as the needs of a freelance writer, so you don't need to overbuy for the same thing.

5) Slow Cooker

Ok fine, make fun of me because I used this while nomading so I can have hot meals on the ready. I had to have oatmeal and turkey chili ready when Doris and the elderly gang came over for bingo! Jokes aside, a slow cooker, or instant pot type device, can be a huge time and money saver.

For a slow cooker, the reason I opted for that was that it is much cheaper, I know how to cook, and I didn't have time constraints. I had it with me when living in different states when I didn't have a kitchen.

You throw together a bunch of ingredients like quinoa, onions, vegetables, spices, protein, and some vegetable broth, and in a few hours, you have a perfectly fresh meal at the right temperature ready to eat! Not to mention your space will smell increasingly appetizing, so don't put together a strawberry dump cake when you're trying to focus on your workout that evening.

Instant Pot and similar versions are excellent tools to help you save time when you get home at 7:45, starving, and still need to shower. It can make many different items in a fraction of the time, and with a lot fewer dishes.

Ordering these things is the easy part, you have to actually use them regularly to get your money's worth. It's just like buying that coffee machine. If you buy it but. it collects dust on your counter while you make your way to Starbucks, you're missing the point!


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