TikTok heard it first—I went back to school! Last week one of my assignments was about budgeting and I learned some solid tips. But, there was one I came across and found myself asking, what is the “minus one” rule?

The Minus One Rule is the practice of putting one item back before checking out, as a way to minimize spending and curb unnecessary purchases or costs. This budgeting rule also helps with understanding or evaluating what is necessary for your life and helps to build stronger spending and savings habits without using drastic measures.

Photo: Tusik Only

What Is The “Minus One” Budgeting Rule &
How Does It Apply To Sustainable Living?

The minus one rule and sustainability go hand-in-hand. They share common goals which are to spend less money and buy fewer things. Here are two ways to practice the minus one rule.

Practice Intentional Shopping

While shopping online or in person ask yourself the set of questions below and answer them honestly, to help you be conscious about what you’re shopping for. Pausing to ask yourself how you’ll use something, where you’ll wear or take something, and more, will help to break the lure and idea of the shiny new thing.

If you’re looking for environmental places to shop, check out my Ethical Business Guide and the shop tab where I’ve curated a selection of my favorite beauty, home, and lifestyle options.

Cart Auditing

Let’s say you’ve asked the questions and added everything you need to your car/basket. Challenge yourself each time you’re making a purchase to put one thing back.

For example: when you’re in line for checkout, see if there is at least one thing you can put back.

Do a quick eye scan of the items you have and then let one thing find its way back to the shelf. This may be incredibly difficult at first or on some days, but it’s a good challenge and habit to get into—making tough decisions about spending habits, purchasing items, and the lifecycle of what you buy.

Questions to ask yourself while following the minus one rule:

  • Do I need it?
  • Can I purchase this second-hand?
  • Do I know someone I could borrow this item from?
  • How long will I use this for?
  • Is this a single-use item or can I use this multiple times?
  • How many hours would I need to work to pay this off and is it worth that?
  • Where will it go at home?
  • How often will I realistically reach for this?
  • What do I already have at home that is similar?

When you’re in line for checkout, see if there is at least one thing you can put back as a way to practice the minus-one rule and sustainable living.

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