Simplify Your Life with a Stuff Replacement Fund

One thing that prevents me from getting rid of more clutter in my life is the worry that someday, for some reason, I'll want it again. Maybe I don't use the rice cooker now, but what if I need it in the future? It's thinking like this that keeps me from achieving the simple life I long for.

After writing about the idea of having recently, I decided to re-read Your Money or Your Life, one of the best books about personal finance, frugality, and conquering consumerism. In it, authors Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin share an answer to this problem:

[One] individual realized that he had many possessions that he wasn't using and no longer wanted, but had been hanging on to because he “just might need them someday.” His creative solution was to sell these belongings and set aside the proceeds to be used to replace any of them he might find himself in need of in the future. Meanwhile, his money was earning interest, his life became simpler, and someone who might really need these items was getting use out of them.

This is a fantastic idea. Rather than keep the stuff you aren't using, you sell it to somebody who will use it, and then stash the proceeds for future use. It's sort of like “Stuff insurance”.

Last September, Kris and I purged hundreds of books from our shelves. We loaded them into her car and spent a Saturday morning driving around Portland from used bookstore to used bookstore. We sold nearly all of the books, picking up $358 for a couple hours work.

Last year, the money went to retiring my debt, but if I were to do something similar today, I could use the cash to start a new subaccount at ING Direct, a sort of Stuff Replacement Fund. As I sold my comic books, my compact discs, my DVDs, and so on, I could take the proceeds and place them all in the same account, a safeguard against the things I might really need.

Of course, there's little chance I'll need any of this Stuff ever again. I have two friends who have been ruthlessly purging clutter for the past couple years, and they say they never long for the things they get rid of. After a few years in this Stuff Replacement Fund, I could simply fold all the money into my normal savings and go on with life.

(Another solution shared by reader Megan P. last August is to purge clutter with a de-accumulation bag.)

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Mother Necessity
Mother Necessity
11 years ago

Several years ago we moved from a house to a 2 bedroom apartment, and then had 2 kids. Living in a small space is the best incentive I’ve found (besides the process of moving) for purging, which I try to do on a regular basis or we will get smothered in stuff! I have NEVER realized later (even though I swore I would) that I needed something we got rid of. I try to keep this in mind when I de-clutter now.

TONI
TONI
11 years ago

MY HUSBAND AND I RECENTLY HAVE BEEN PURGING LATELY. HE IS A RETIRE SHERIFF AND I WORK PART TIME HAIR AND NAILS STILL. WE ARE SELLING OUR HOME TO GO RVING FULL TIME. YOU CANNOT STORE A WHOLE LOT ON A RV, SO, WE HAVE NOT BOUGHT ANYTHING THAT WE DONT NEED FOR MORE THAN A DAY OR TWO. WE ALSO DONT IMPULSE BUY ANYMORE BECAUSE THERE IS NOT A NEED FOR DUST COLLECTORS. I DONT THINK THE AVERAGE PERSON REALIZES HOW MUCH OF A PACK RAT WE ALL ARE AND WITH HOW LITTLE YOU CAN DO WITHOUT. FOR THE… Read more »

Dividend Growth Investor
Dividend Growth Investor
11 years ago

This looks like a good idea. I have accumulated so much stuff thinking I might need it someday. The good thing for me is that I tend to move every year or so from one place to another so I tend to throw away the unneccesary stuff out of necessity- i simply don’t have enough space to move it.

William Mize
William Mize
11 years ago

I’ll be getting a new laptop via Wachovia’s new “Way2Save” automatic savings account. For each swipe of my debit card, or Bill Pay transaction, Wachovia automatically transfers $1 to my Way2Save savings account.
I don’t miss the money, can’t really rig the system because it’s attached to my debit card, and I calculate I’ll have enough for a new laptop by Christmas.
Coincidence?
I think not 🙂

Ryan McLean
Ryan McLean
11 years ago

This is an awesome post because I am doing EXACTLY this. I am selling my old ipod and some other things to buy a new ipod. I am also getting married soon and me and my fiance are going to sell anything we have of value and put it in a ‘new furniture’ fund.
This is a great post and I write about loads of great ideas on my blog too and I would love for some of your readers to check it out.
Need a guest post anytime soon?

Amber Jones
Amber Jones
11 years ago

We recently moved as well and “got rid” of a bunch of stuff by selling, and what didn’t sell, we put by the side of the road and by the time we moved, it was all gone! And we “purged” a lot!! However, we still have a lot! A lot of books, and knickknacks, and CLOTHES… all stuff we don’t NEED! I guess I should go back through the house with a box, and start putting stuff in the box that can go. That could possibly work out to be a monthly or semi-monthly routine.

Dave
Dave
11 years ago

All this presupposes replacement is easily available.

Having grown up in Rust Belt, I am comfortable having a garage full of stuff I might only use a few times per year, or might need in the future. Especially tools. Sometimes, when you have no cash, having some extra stuff around is pretty helpful. At least, that’s the way it was when I was growing up.

I wish I hadn’t sold my truck.

Little Miss Moneybags
Little Miss Moneybags
11 years ago

I do this too, and on an even grander scale.

Eventually some of my things will need to be replaced, and I won’t be able to sell the previous version to cover the cost (think a six-year old laptop). So when I buy a computer, I might start a “computer replacement fund” and put $5 a week in it. After six years, not including interest, I’ve got $1500, plenty to buy a new computer by the time the old one’s about to die.

Tom
Tom
11 years ago

Right now I’m renting a townhouse. I’m in school and know I’ll be moving in a year. I have a washer and dryer but the townhouse I’m renting also has a washer and dryer. I think (but don’t know) I’ll need the washer and dryer in my new place in a year. I feel like the washer and dryer and some other stuff are clutter up my townhouse right now. The washer and dryer are three years old and in great condition. Do I… 1. Sell the washer and dryer and buy new ones when/if I need them in a… Read more »

KC
KC
11 years ago

I’m getting ready to move to a different state and I’m trying to get my home ready to sell which means a lot of purging! It’s amazing what we accumulate in only 8 years. I’m giving a lot to Goodwill which means a nice tax deduction. I’ve also sold quite a few things and made some extra coin on the side. But this money will not be used to re-aquire new things! I’ve learned my lesson!

db
db
11 years ago

@Tom: I’d sell them and replace them later. Who knows what will change between now and then? You definately don’t want to spend money on storage options. @Dave @ Accidental FIRE: If you have tools you think you legitimately could need, nothing wrong with keeping them. Just be honest with yourself. My dad has a bunch of rifle reloading equipment that he really should dispose of, since he’s 72 and hasn’t had a desire to hunt since 1982. He also has a ton of tools for working on the car — those are legitimate to keep because he still tinkers… Read more »

db
db
11 years ago

Re decluttering: A topic near and dear to my heart. I am really making progress on a multi-year decluttering project. So much so that I don’t have piles of stuff in corners anymore, and my closets have clean floors even when I’m “tidying up” for company. No more stuffing things in and shutting the door on mess. My apartment comes with a nice sized storage closet on the patio, and even it is amazingly free of clutter. All that’s in there are boxes for moving, my Christmas decorations, a box of houseplant stuff, a toolbox, and two of my dining… Read more »

Rose Fox
Rose Fox
11 years ago

My big stuff addiction is books. Getting rid of books is hard, because I’m so sure I’ll want to read them really soon (and sometimes I even do read them really soon, or a while later). I work in publishing, so I get new books and review copies for free, and then I spend a bundle on used, rare, and out of print books. I have several thousand books, on shelves and in piles. My husband, also a reader, recently looked at the stacks of nonfiction books waiting to be shelved in my room. (The fiction library is in the… Read more »

kick_push
kick_push
11 years ago

i got a few books and dvd’s that i want to get rid of as well.. i might have to do this soon

faithsalutes
faithsalutes
11 years ago

TOM: A washer and dryer are cheap and easy to replace, believe it or not. I would sell them. My husband and I have been able to purchase and sell them so easily over the years. I have noticed the more I de-clutter surfaces in my home or clean out closets and other storage spaces the more I am opt to not purchase more “stuff”. I am truly sick of running down to the goodwill with bags of donations and I am sick of cleaning…I rather spend my time doing other things than cleaning up “stuff”, storing “stuff”, or maintaining… Read more »

Dave
Dave
11 years ago

Oh, JD, this is such superficial decluttering that you always write about. What you need to be concerned w/ is *inner* decluttering. That is primary, and the icing on the cake is it will also transform the clutter of your outer life. As within, so without. Most peoples minds are constantly filled up with the clutter of thoughts, and that is why their external lives are so cluttered as well. So I suggest you start learning everything you can about inner-decluttering, as this will miraculously transform your whole life. Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of India, said that we measure… Read more »

Suzie
Suzie
11 years ago

I have stuff purges every so often, but give away my stuff rather than sell it. I think if I had to go through the hassle of selling it it’d never get out of the house!

Lily
Lily
11 years ago

Kinda OT – I like to purge books now and then, but the bookshop gives me .40 € each… 😐 Are you paid more for yours?

RetiredAt47
RetiredAt47
11 years ago

I am an Absolutely Ruthless Purger, lol! It is such a liberating experience, once you get into it.

One other tip that works well for me – I now have a “One In, One Out” rule for most items in my house. It not only keeps clutter at bay, but slows my purchasing. For instance, if I see a book I want to buy, I think, “OK, which book will I get rid of in its place?”.

Jonathan
Jonathan
11 years ago

This is a great idea! While I will be on a year-long purge in hopes of putting any money towards my wedding next summer, from one comic book fan to another, do you have any recommendations on where to sell of individual issues that are just taking up space?

These aren’t entire runs on any series, maybe an issue or three picked up out of curiosity. I’ve found that these don’t sell as well on eBay and I’m thinking about listing some on Amazon…but we’re talking about a LOT of random comics.

whosbuying
whosbuying
11 years ago

maybe a good article for your blog would be a round up what kind of selling options are out there are. maybe talk to people/do a little research into stuff that isn’t all that obvious. selling stuff through Craig’s List often seems as random as standing in the middle of a mall shouting HAY WANNA BUY THIS? yard sales aren’t necessarily popular in many neighborhoods, we’ve all heard nightmare stories about ebay, and placing ads in printed papers is basically Craig’s List with added expense. amazon storefronts are a possibility but they seem kind of pricey. assuming you’ve already sold… Read more »

Caitlin
Caitlin
11 years ago

I love this idea. It makes so much sense!

Andrea
Andrea
11 years ago

I agree with whosbuying- sometimes it seems hard to figure out how to sell some things. I have an entire set of expensive(to buy) unused china(inherited) and some old(50’s) toys but not in perfect condition( I probably have a buyer for the trains).

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

Andrea and whosbuying — I’ve been thinking about doing a post on the best way to sell your stuff. I’ll try to fast-track it…

Jill
Jill
11 years ago

Brilliant idea!

lac
lac
11 years ago

Yes please JD! I recently did the yard sale thing, took the CDs, DVDs, books and video games to a used place, but I’ve still got a lot of stuff that’s “too good to throw away”.

FranticWoman
FranticWoman
11 years ago

I like JD’s idea a whole lot. It is a compromise that is liveable – since I have trouble getting rid of useful stuff I don’t use – I could live with this. Re selling books – I just recently came across: http://www.cash4books.net. You enter the ISBN and if they are buying they tell you how much they will give for it – AND they send a postage paid slip to you and you mail. You still have to buy the jiffy bags I suppose, but a good deal if you have a lot of books – and you get… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

Those of you wanting tips on what to *do* with your stuff, check out Trent’s latest post at The Simple Dollar: Ten ways to declutter and put cash in your pocket. It doesn’t really go into specifics, but it might give you some ideas. I’ll work on a post with some of my suggestions.

leigh
leigh
11 years ago

we still have mechanic’s tools that are very useful, and an extra car that is currently being used because the usual car is broken again. these things repeatedly prove they are worth keeping. an extra set of tires for one car, too.

other than that, i think we’re at the leanest we’ve ever been. we had to sell things to pay bills, so putting the money away wasn’t an option. but we (particularly my husband, who’s attached to “stuff”) haven’t even had time to miss it.

mythago
mythago
11 years ago

Dave – if you regularly use things, even a few times a year, they’re not clutter. I prefer to get rid of excess crap by donating it, since I don’t often have spare actual cash to give to charity. But this strikes me as a FANTASTIC way to handle a packrat spouse whose reaction to throwing out mouse-gnawed bits of old string is “but what if we need it someday?!” Showing them that there is actual money to replace it someday, should it ever be needed, neatly takes care of that argument. And then you can go onto the real… Read more »

Nicky
Nicky
11 years ago

@Andrea: if your china is expensive or a well known brand there are websites that will buy them off you to sell on to people trying to replace that one cracked plate from their collection. I don’t have any sites to hand but if you do a google on your china brand you should find them. Also, ebay can work quite well for that.

SingleGuyMoney
SingleGuyMoney
11 years ago

That’s a good idea for a seperate account to save up for stuff. I am big into electronics so I need to setup an account to save for that.

Jayadeep Purushothaman
Jayadeep Purushothaman
11 years ago

I started removing clutter (physically and mentally) recently – http://snurl.com/3qmoy. So I have been thinking of doing the same with my books, which I keep on view in my living room thinking that I may need it. Also my wife has a lot of magazines that was gifted to her which she refuses to get rid of. Nice post and timely one for me.

ExtraCrispy
ExtraCrispy
11 years ago

I think this is a fantastic idea and a good way to look at letting go of the unessentials in life. However, what about the things we collect that have little monetary value, but have associated memories or are irreplaceable. I am sure most of us have stuff like that – e.g. I have book collections of specific authors I like (like Stephen King, Asimov) most of which I purchased used at very low prices. I have had to move twice in the last 3 years and these books are still in cartons, so I’m tempted to simply donate to… Read more »

PB-
PB-
11 years ago

I live by “Love, Don’t Love” meaning I surround myself with the things I really love. Things that give me a “meh” feeling get redistributed to friends, through freecycle.org or Craigslist, or if I have that “meh” feeling but have a sentimental feeling about something I reserve the right to keep it. Keeping a lot of “stuff” is tantamount to hoarding, to my way of thinking. If I’m not using it, I very well may be depriving someone else from the joy or relief of having it. It really is a freeing experience to have your burden lifted by separating… Read more »

Kim
Kim
11 years ago

Brilliant! We did this years ago and may be my #1 favorite personal finance tip. (Another favorite is only buying a new article of clothing if you donate an old one. Really cuts down on closet clutter, forces you do an inventory before you shop, and ask “do I really need another black skirt?”). An additional advantage to the appliance fund is that when it comes time to replace a pricy machine (i.e. our 18+ year-old television for an HD), we can flash cash and get a deep discount. Or …. walk away. It’s positively liberating to be in control… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
11 years ago

I’m seeing a lot of comments about having to de-clutter every month or two. Once you get rid of the junk, shouldn’t you also try to keep yourself from acquiring more junk? I’ve been somewhat of a minimalist for a while now (I became one because I used to be poor, not as an idealist, but it works very well now too, especially for keeping money in my pocket) and, like most things that require maintenance, the first step is prevention. I can’t say I’m perfect at it – I love books and love keeping them around – but I… Read more »

Shirley
Shirley
11 years ago

I confess I rolled my eyes when I read the beginning of this post because it just seeemed like another way to put off decluttering stuff that is weighing you down, because how many people are going to actually create a replacement fund? So I was happy to see you conclude at the end, J.D., that you’d probably just end up rolling your replacement fund into other savings because you’d decide you wouldn’t need those things after all. I really liked “Your Money or Your Life,” but I had forgotten about that concept. The reality is that most people won’t… Read more »

Frugal Vet Tech
Frugal Vet Tech
11 years ago

Interesting concept. I kind of like it. Though usually when we get rid of our books we end up getting something like $4 for a big stack of them… I often just haul stuff off to Goodwill, just to be done with it, so I don’t know if this would be practical for me, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless.

Shaine Mata
Shaine Mata
11 years ago

I used to purchase Summer toys like life jackets, tubes, tents, backpacks, and the like. We’d use the stuff for a trip or two, and then I’d eBay the stuff. Yes, I paid full retail price and received less than that. I figured my cost was a “rental fee”. Selling is a bigger pain these days, so I stopped doing it. But there are always yard sales.

Sam
Sam
11 years ago

You might find this video about four people who are possessed with their possessions interesting:
http://www.vimeo.com/603058

Jan Jan
Jan Jan
10 years ago

FranticWoman has a great idea for de cluttering and putting extra cash in your pocket.
There is another site http://sellit2us.com that buys not only books but CDs, DVDs Video games and Software. You might make more on eBay but this would be a lot less hassle.

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