My Goal To Keep My Downsized Life

Today’s post is by our regular Wednesday contributor, Catherine Alford!

For the past few years, I’ve been living in a tiny apartment on a tiny island with a tiny closet and not much personal space to speak of.

It was a lot to adjust to at first, but slowly over time, I’ve grown accustomed to my downsized life. I rarely acquire anything new, unless it’s food at the grocery store, and I’ve had to think hard about new things I want to bring inside.

Two years of living like this has totally changed me. I’m not really tempted by e-mails from my favorite stores anymore, and I’ll only buy something if I really, really want it.

The only thing is that being a minimalist is easy when you’re on an island far away from the developed and fast paced world of the U.S.

I know when I move home in just a few weeks, I’ll experience a bit of reverse culture shock, and I’ll have to really rein in the spending.

Here’s how I’m going to do it:

1. Only Shop When I Need Something

Before I moved to Grenada, I used to go shopping just for fun. It’s a great way to pass the time, if you can afford it, but it’s one of the things that contributed to my credit card debt (which I have since paid off.) So, I’m only going to shop when I need something, and I’m going to try to avoid the really serious temptations, like Target.

I know myself, and there’s no way I can go into Target and buy just one thing, so I just need to stay away – far away – until I absolutely have to go for something.

2. Continue to Online Shop

I’ve had to ship things to my parents for the past few years for them to ship to us, things like the soap that we use and the specific type of makeup that works for my sensitive skin. I’m going to keep this up because I know if I go into the store to look for my make-up, I will come out with a new lipgloss or two and who knows what else (just because of the sheer excitement of having a store like that to go to.)

So, by buying what we need online just like we have for the past two years, I can stick to purchasing the one item I need. There’s no reason to get anything extra.

3. Forget the Joneses

I have some pretty fabulous friends with amazing taste. Not that my friends in Grenada don’t have great taste, but we’ve all been living on an island where no one cares about the car your drive or the tags on your clothes.

The US is different, and when I interact with people or notice their belongings, I’m going to have to remind myself of how peaceful it was on my little island where materialism wasn’t on anyone’s radar. I know I’m going to want things, especially because I’ve gone so long without nice malls and access to so many high-end products. Yet, I’m even more committed to my savings goals, so I have to resist.

Ultimately, moving back to the U.S. will be a process just like anything else. I will have to figure out how to fit back in to American culture after living somewhere completely different for a very long time. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of excitement moving back to the plentiful U.S.A., but there’s also going to be some challenges when it comes to spending and my budget that don’t exist in my life right now. I’m ready for it, but I’m sure it’ll be an interesting adjustment!

Do you currently have a downsized life? Or, do you want one?

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About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog,


  1. Keeping up with the Joneses is indeed a bad idea. Just by focusing on our REAL needs and making sure we don’t buy stuff when we don’t need it, can surely keep us closed to our frugality ideals. I don’t plan on us not living a fulfilling life, but overspending is always wrong 😀

  2. I would imagine the consumerism lifestyle here would be the most difficult obstacle to overcome for you, Cat, once you get back home. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Kudos to you for committing to keep your back turned on the Joneses.

  3. Its very hard to control my wife when she is in shopping mall. She has decided to go for shopping when she needs something. It really works.

  4. I like to think we have a “right-sized” life. We certainly don’t feel like we’re lacking anything, but we aren’t in a super-sized mansion and our cars’ average age is 9 years. But our house is cute and well maintained, our cars are definitely not “beaters”, but we’re able to keep expenses in check by just doing things ourselves.

    I hear you on Target – if you can live somewhere where it’s not on your beaten path, that’s best. But if that fails, use my Target rule. “Never enter Target without a list.”

  5. I downsized 16 years ao, but I always lived a low profile lifestyle.

  6. I admit that we have drifted just a bit from this lifestyle, after we finished paying off debt.. For a long time there, we were in the “only shop when absolutely necessary” mode, but it wore us down eventually. These days, we do try to keep up with hobbies and do some shopping as a result. If money got tight, I would have no issues going back 🙂

  7. I’d definitely like to downsize a little bit when it comes to “stuff”. I hate clutter and I wish bf would be more willing to part with some of his computer things (I swear he’ll never use them-he swears he will-so we’re kind of deadlocked).

  8. Talk about culture shock when you come back. Aren’t the people overseas much happier than Americans?

  9. I love shopping online, not only does it keep me from impulse purchasing, but amazon always has better deals than my local kmart.

  10. It really is a vicious cycle. I have been working on purging belongings for almost a year and still have boxes of things I need to get rid of. I was in a similar situation of moving from a large home to a small apartment and was at a loss with what to do with all of my things. I’ve enjoyed the money making opportunities that down-sizing has brought on though 🙂

  11. I don’t know that I’m much of a minimalist, but I do own small, inexpensive things. A small car. A small home. It pays off, my combined bills are 10% of my take home pay, but you have less.

  12. Only shopping when you need something has come in the most handy for me. I used to buy in bulk and then find that I will never use as much as I bought. And I also didn’t want to go through the trouble of seeing what I had and didn’t before I went shopping, so I would end up buying products that I already had!

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