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Breaking the Impulse Shopping Twitch to Embrace Minimalism with Anthony Ongaro

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
39 min read
Breaking the Impulse Shopping Twitch to Embrace Minimalism with Anthony Ongaro

Anthony Ongaro had a habit. Every time he had a bad day, every time life wasn’t amazing, he opened up his online shopping site, and one-click purchased something. Anything. It didn’t matter. He didn’t need it, it didn’t matter what it was, but the act of purchasing made him feel better.

Until he noticed that he was missing family events because he couldn’t afford the tickets, yet almost every day there was a box on his doorstep. He implemented a complete shopping ban—and discovered that at first, it was similar to cutting out sugar. He was grumpy and in a very bad mood.

But after the initial shock, he found that he didn’t miss the stuff. In fact, he was inspired to clear the clutter and remove the distractions from his life, so that he could live his best life.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your “stuff”? This episode can give you the direction you need to start change.

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast, show number 48, where we interview Anthony Ongaro from Break The Twitch.

‘Because that is what the twitch is. It is a temporary unproductive solution to discomfort. That discomfort might be the desire of wanting something, feeling a lack of self confidence in that moment, feeling insecure, whatever it may be, it is some form of discomfort and the twitch temporarily solves it because it gives you that dopamine burst. It feels good again, but you are stepping away from the things you actually want, the things you would actually that will make you feel better over the long term and fill that space.’

It is time for a new American dream, one that does not involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you are looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have or discover new paths for wealth creation, you are in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more. This is the BiggerPockets Money Podcast.

Scott: How is going everybody? I am Scott Trench. I am here with my co-host, Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I am doing fantastic. I am really excited about today’s show. It is a little different than our normal show. We do not talk to somebody who is on the path to financial independence, but we do talk to Anthony who embodies the spirit of minimalism and getting rid of things that distract you and keep you from your true purpose, your true life, your true job. He has got a bit of an interesting story with his money situation in that he used to, what is it, placate himself? Placate is not the right word. What word am I rooting for?

Scott: I think it is more of an addiction to shopping.

Mindy: Yes, online shopping. It was so easy to shop online. He had the one click purchase setup on Amazon and would just buy whenever he felt like it when he saw a new thing or needed a new dopamine hit or whatever. I keep saying dopamine, I am not sure if that is the right internal drug.

Scott: I think that is a fair way to talk about it. It is like, hey, this is the reward mechanism that he would set up for himself and it was very difficult for them to break that cycle.

Mindy: Yes. Once he did break that cycle, he embraced this concept of minimalism, which is something that I want to do but have not yet done. This show was really helpful for me. Some of his answers, especially in the Famous Four were so spot on and just really, I really connected with that and I really cannot wait to. Like it is the morning right now and I want to go home and start putting some of these things into practice, but I have to work.

Scott: No, I think that the great thing about this is, one, there is a real emotional story behind why he needed to make all these changes to improve his life. It just needed to happen for his personal life and situation to change but then there is so many practical benefits that he realized, not just like saving money from Amazon, but not spending that $12,000 through Amazon shopping. But the act of de-cluttering, and how that enabled him to turn his home into an asset, how it enabled him to go and travel around the country. I mean these are all just incredible benefits of the practice of minimalism in a different spin on it. Not the goal of like a hermit spin that I think some extreme minimalists follow but a more day to day tangible freeing aspects that you can get with an introductory approach.

Mindy: I think you hit that right on the head with explaining the concept behind it. You hear all these people say, ‘Oh, just get rid of all your stuff.’ But what he said is more helpful to me personally. Get rid of the distractions. It is distracting to come home and see all of this stuff on the island in the kitchen. You get rid of it and then more stuff kind of brings itself into the space. Get rid of the stuff in general, get rid of the distractions and you can live the life that you want to live. And that was he really put it into words in a way that I have not heard anybody else put it into words.

Scott: Yes, I thought it was fantastic. The concept of minimalism for some is very spiritual. I guess you could sort of say I am a minimalist. I am not spiritual about it, I am practical about it. Having lots of items distracts me from whatever I am trying to work on, right? Having lots of stuff prevents me from being able to move and continue house hacking regularly and building a position of financial freedom. In a position where I am in control of my life, not somebody else. That is the power of this practice in practical terms, in terms of your ability to produce results.

Mindy: Yes. I think I have heard it all as like the spiritualism aspect of it. I am not spiritual about it either, but being practical, I think that was what was very helpful to me. We should not rehash the whole episode that we should let Anthony come in and tell his story. But before we do, let us hear a word from today’s sponsor.

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Mindy: I have a tip for cyber Monday, visit biggerpockets.com/store to get up to 75% off all BiggerPockets books. This might be our best sell yet. If you have been on the fence about getting a book, I hope these prices will help push you over the. Okay, huge thanks to today’s sponsor. We are going to bring in Anthony now and let him tell his story. Okay, Anthony from Break The Twitch. Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. How is it going today?

Anthony: It is going great, thanks for having me.

Mindy: Oh, thanks for coming on. Before we get started with where your money journey begins, I want to talk about this Break the Twitch name. Where does that come from?

Anthony: Break the twitch was something that evolved out of inexperience that I had. Many experiences, over and over and over. Basically I had a little Amazon thing where I was buying a lot of small little purchases on Amazon. I was not really thinking about it, $10, $20 maybe here and there and it was not a big deal and kept clicking that one click purchase button and eventually when I one day tabulated the total spending on Amazon that I had done over the previous four years, I realized that those little clicks were adding up to be a huge impact and there was a big reason why I was not able to do a lot of the things that I actually talks about wanting to do traveling or spending more time with family, going to weddings, different things like that. That there were a few that I could not make and it really became that I realized that it was more of a physical twitch of my finger than an actual intentional choice, like an action.

It was almost like an addiction of that movement and that is where the idea of the twitch came into play. It expanded into that feeling we get when we need to check our phone or flipping through social media, pull down to refresh that motion, and so that is where Break the Twitch was born. It is the idea of choosing intention over the twitch..

Mindy: I love that, ‘Choosing intention over the twitch. I was out to dinner last night with my family and my daughter and I went to the bathroom. She said, ‘Mom, did you see that table over there? Every kid is on their phones. They are not even talking to the parents.’ I am like, ‘And you keep asking me for a phone? Why do you think I keep saying ‘no?’ Because I already have that twitch and I purposely have to put it down and it is like a conscious thing. I have to intentionally not check my phone because you do not want to be bored and it is not really boring to talk to your family. When there is a lull in conversation, startup another conversation.

Scott: Right? The Art of Conversation is being challenged and it is also that this stuff is designed to be this way. It is not something we are all bad at. It is that these products, these things have been designed to become addictive and that is exactly what happens. It is not a lack in the human sense, it is that we are being given a thing that is addictive and now fortunately there is not really a regulating body of what types of manipulative practices can be used to gather that addiction to get it going. We have to do it ourselves and that is a lot about what I write about. How to utilize these things that are in a lot of ways necessary in our modern lives. Amazon is really convenient in a lot of ways. It is really great but we have to find a balance and make sure that we are using it in a way that actually helps us instead of hurts us and puts us further away from our values.

Scott: Can you tell us a little bit about the application of what you are talking about in terms of helping people save money and get started on their financial journeys?

Anthony: Absolutely. The context for Break The Twitch for my own personal journey through this stuff is spending with intention. I mean everyone is going to have different goals, everyone is going to have different financial goals. Whether it is early retirement, financial independence, or if it is simply being able to pay for a kid’s college, whatever it may be, that simply comes down to aligning action with your values. Break The Twitch is all about aligning action with value and in this case the action is spending. There is the element of taking your spending, making sure that the small things that repeat over time are actually aligning with the big goals that are far in the future. That is where this comes into play.

Scott: What is an application of this that you kind of like… What is the moment where you kind of discovered this? It sounds like this was a behavior you are noticing over time, when did you kind of have that Aha moment and make a big change and begin redirecting how you were doing things?

Anthony: Yes, it was with a particular event that I just did not seem to be able to go to the financially like the plane ticket, the hotel, all the stuff, right? It was an important thing that I wanted to be able to go to and I was working. My wife and I were earning good money in an affordable city. Like it should have been easy, it should have been fine. Then you notice we have a package on our front porch just about every other day, just about several times a week, it is constant. Then you start looking in and for me the big moment was pulling four years. You can go into your Amazon history and put on a spreadsheet and we charted it out. My wife was a financial analyst or six years and so we like charted it out and the curve was amazing where 90% of over 350 purchases in four years and 90% of them were like under $40.

There were very few things of significance of like a nice laptop for editing video or whatever. Like there is a computer at one end, but most of it was just little impulsive. Yes, it is not that much, do not worry about it. Seeing that total made me realized that it was not just those things in the list, but it was the lack of the things that I actually cared about. It was the lack of the things in that list that I did not see. It was the things that I did not see that made me realize what was going wrong.

Scott: Did you check out other parts of your budget as well or was this just kind of obviously the place where the biggest chunk of controllable spending was leaving?

Anthony: It was an obvious place that you mentioned.

Scott: Okay.

Anthony: Yes, it was the obvious place that needed attention because the thing was we were earning a pretty good living like you said so it was not like we were going into debt, right. I was paying off my credit card every month like it is fine but each month it was just kind of like that much, this much, however much. It just felt, okay, fine we are passing by, right? It is okay. Looking at that, realizing that that was pulling away from so many of the other goals we had was what did it. Yes, that was really the place of attention, I guess.

Scott: What were the items you are purchasing? You have kind of described them as less than $40, but what were they?

Anthony: Yes, it was just like cables, accessories, like different gadgets. Big thing was like workout equipment or different things. Like I did not go crazy on workout outfits but just like different little things like that. There is this idea that hit me called the false first step and this is probably the number one thing that I was doing, these false first steps where I would want to do something, a lot of books for example, and I love books and I still advocate buying books, but just buying books that you are going to read and only buying as many as you are going to read at a time. I would buy a book, look at it, put it on the shelf. This idea of the false first step was we try to buy the person we want to become instead of doing the work.

We buy the Yoga mat before we attend a yoga gym or even pull up a YouTube video to even check it out and we just ended up with having one more thing in our house and little less money in our bank account and nothing else. That was like the primary example of these things that I was just wanting, I was chasing, I was not getting anywhere because you would buy it and you move on to the next thing because the feeling goes away as soon as that thing leaves.

Mindy: Okay. I think this is really important to talk about this little like hit of dopamine or whatever it is that you get when you buy something. ‘I just bought something, I am excited. When you are chasing that, especially if you are in like a job that you hate or a life that is not really super exciting, sometimes life is really boring and that is actually a really good life is when it is kind of boring and not that much stuff is exciting and happening because that means that not that much bad stuff is happening either. But you get bored so you are like, ‘Oh, okay. This looks like a cool new cable or accessory or gadget or workout stuff.

I love that quote, ‘We buy the person we are trying to become.’ I totally not guilty of that every single day of my life. Maybe not every day, but really really a lot. You said earlier, you are earning a good living, you are not going into debt, you are paying off your credit card every month so you must be doing it right. Well, you are not really doing it wrong. You are just not really saving for anything. You are not living intentionally is another comment that you said. Let us look a little bit at your financial situation. You said you were earning a good living, like what sort of money were you making and what sort of purchases where you? Like were you spending everything, were you saving anything?

Anthony: Yes, I mean, when my wife and I were both working full time, we were earning a very comfortable living. Over six figures in terms of just our annual income and we are living in a very affordable city. I mean Minneapolis is increasingly less affordable now but we own a home. We are both saving, we are contributing to our retirement plans, getting matches from our employers, like doing the things, right? It came a lot more down to the discretionary income, which is a funny word too, right? The discretionary or the extra income which almost makes it like it should be spent but breaking the towards the removal of that spinning started with a shopping ban essentially. It is just like any other repetitive behavior where you have to step away from it completely. Some people are moderators in terms of being able to just do something and they will have candy in the house, but they will just eat a piece of it and then walk away, right?

Mindy: Not me.

Anthony: Right, me neither. We do not keep that stuff in the house. We did the same equivalent thing with spending where I turned off Amazon, I did a complete Amazon ban for 90 days and wanted to really address like what were the feelings that were coming up when I wanted to spend money. Like you said, life is comfortable. We were, I guess boring was a way to put it, but reliable, right? It was consistent and reliable and there are all these human feelings around wanting to be more, wanting to have some levels of excitement in different places, areas and so those are the things that we need to address in a way that is actually helpful. That is what it started as for me. Amazon is a problem, it is too convenient, it is too easy. It is just one click, you get the dopamine when you click it, and then you get the dopamine again when it arrives.

When you start ordering a lot of stuff on Amazon, it is like even better because you do not even know what it is that arrives. You just get a box and it is like Christmas every day and it is exciting and you are like cool and that is an easy to repeat behavior. Completely getting rid of it for 90 days really allowed me to step back and go, okay, this is clearly a habit, like a bad habit. Hence, I need to cleanse myself of doing this thing. You said I broke the twitch. Then I would say that this is a consistent and constant breaking of the twitch. It is like always, there will be new and different things introduced in our lives in terms of tech, spending, marketing different ways that we are with our worlds that we are going to need to moderate and figure out how we want to interact with it instead of just allowing it to interact with us.

Scott: How much did you spend in 90 days preceding this ban and how much did you spend and what was the difference there? How much did you save?

Anthony: I actually do not know the exact number of how much it was in that 90 day period but I can tell you that it was shocking to see my credit card bill at the end of each of those months. It was like $300, like those groceries I guess, and all the sudden it became abundantly clear that that was the biggest impact instead of $800 or $900 and having a couple hundred bucks left. It was the inverse, right? That was the biggest impact that I saw. That is probably about the difference of what it would have been months once a month, yes.

Mindy: How hard was it to walk away? Like day one of your day 90 Amazon ban, was that like were you Jonesing for it? Were you like an addict like that? Because it can be addicting to…

Anthony: It is be addicting, yes.

Mindy: Yes. What was it like and how hard was it to walk away that first week? Does it get easier?

Anthony: Super hard and yes it does get easier. It is just like sugar for me. Like removing sugar from my diet is like you get grumpy and it is terrible for the first couple of days. After a week or two, the craving start to go away, you feel better and it is just like pretty easy from that point until you go to the holiday party and then everyone else is eating and you have it there and you are like uh, but within your controlled environment, it gets easier. Same thing with Amazon, with the twitch, when you are used to feeling a level of discomfort because that is what the switch is. It is a temporary unproductive solution to discomfort. That discomfort might be the desire of wanting something, feeling a lack of self confidence in that moment, feeling insecure, whatever it may be, it is some form of discomfort and the twitch temporarily solves it because it gives you that dopamine burst, it feels good.

Again, but you are stepping away from the things you actually want, the things you would actually that will make you feel better over the long term and fill that space. It just kind of keeps us coasting along social media check, it just keeps us coasting, keeps us coasting. It is skipping along instead of actually kind of taking off, right, and being able to grow. Yes, it was hard. I remember it is like your immediate reaction to solve a feeling, even though if it is not a conscious feeling, your immediate reaction is to like just open Amazon. Like go on or an instant feeling of what, right? Where do I get it? Amazon. It is just a twitch thing. Like it goes straight from gut to finger of just wanting to get that thing and then going on. It does get easier, I highly recommend creating this thing. I call intentional friction. You have to give yourself a fighting chance to make this easier on you by increasing the friction between your wants and the ability to fulfill it.

You can do that using an app or a browser extension on your browser that will just block particular sites completely. At least you have to go under the settings and disable that thing and then sign back into Amazon. That is what I call intentional friction because in marketing it is easier to reduce the amount of work it takes for someone to do the thing you want them to do than it is to increase their desire to do it. The goal has been to reduce friction in the purchasing process, in the social media checking process so that it just becomes a seamless part of daily life. We have to make it difficult again and so that is how we can really, at least that first week or two, if you have to reintroduce some friction.

Mindy: Yes, that is interesting. Oh, sorry Scott, go ahead.

Scott: Oh, I was just going to say, over time as you stop this habit, cold turkey after that 90 days, how did you see the financial benefits kind of come through over time? How did that kind of impact your ability to create wealth?

Anthony: Yes, the major difference that I saw was, one, being able to increase my 401k contributions at work immediately. That was huge. The other one was, well, I got into travel hacking so that was kind of part of it too. But I found myself able to go. I traveled every single month for the next two years so I flew somewhere and still spent less money than I had been on these little things. I was able to visit friends that I had not seen in years. I was able to go visit them and see the people that I cared about and do these things that really mattered to me in fulfilled me in in a major way just by making this shift and the difference also in just doing the match on my 401k and then literally doubling it so that it is like three times as much, right? As opposed to just two times as much as I was putting in was a huge impact and I saw that over the course of two years as well.

Mindy: Wow.

Anthony: It was amazing and it was a great market at the time too. It was pretty impactful but those are just some of the immediate things. I mean it was literally like flipping a switch, making this choice, drawing a line in the sand stepping past it saying like okay we are not in to do that.

Mindy: I hear this so many times from so many guests on the show, is be intentional with your money, be Intentional with your spending, track your spending and see where your money is going and all of that. After you decided, well it seems like you tracked your Amazon spending. Do you track your overall spending or was just cutting out the Amazon so much of a huge impact that you did not need to really track the rest of it?

Anthony: Yes, this is not a super helpful answer because that is the answer like, yes, it was pretty much just Amazon because that is where I would always go to just get the thing that I felt like I wanted, right? I worked for a bike company so I was very into bikes. At one point I had five bikes and I know a lot of people with a lot more bikes than that. Some people that are cyclists, the hardcore cyclists, are going to laugh because that is maybe not that many but I am down to one bike now. It is just like the parts, the accessories. Like, oh, we can upgrade the wheels or we can do this brake lever instead and it just keeps going forever.

There will never be not something to upgrade or buy or improve. Really, it was that. It really did help though to take a larger picture overall like using now that we are running a business and doing this kind of stuff full time. It is like using FreshBooks or using our business software to attract business expenses and income outcome, making sure that things are lining up. We are still in, we are in three or four of blogging now and running a YouTube channel and doing all this stuff. We are still in the growth phase of the business of what we are doing now but I will say that the changes we made through minimalism, through reducing our spending are what made this possible now.

That was another one of the realized major changes that we made it possible for us to pursue our dreams of my wife and I working together, of building something of doing work we are really passionate about. That was another major benefit of this too. It is not just like, well we saved a little more money, we reduced our expenses substantially and that sort of led to a continuous or this is less now. Like how else can we shape our lives in a way that gives us more freedom to do this.

Mindy: Let us talk a little bit about minimalism. I actually struggled with this personally. I am more on the maximalism spectrum right now and I do not want to be. But it is hard for me at least to give things up especially like things that I have already paid for. I am a frugal person so I paid money for this. I am not using it, but I could do something with it, maybe. But in the discussion we had before this, you talked about how it is so freeing in your head to have all this space cleared up and this kind of a comment about minimalism in general. Let us talk about minimalism, how has that helped you on your journey?

Anthony: Yes. As you can see, even if you are watching the video version of this right now, I have stuff behind me. I have a bunch of film making equipment, a microphone, and different things behind me that I use. I do not have a blank white wall with ambient light surrounding me. I think there is often this picture of minimalism, of what it needs to be and often that comes from magazines like Kinfolk magazine and things that show these amazing brick lofts with huge windows and somehow a perfectly balanced cup of tea on a white bedspread that is not falling over and someone with effortlessly tussled hair.

This image of what it needs to be or should be, to me, is very wrong. It is a version of what minimalism can look like in terms of an anesthetic. But at the core of it, for us, for my wife Amy and I, we focus on a minimalism that means removing distractions and owning the things that allow us to do more of what matters and that is a very broad thing. But to me, removing distractions means clearing off the desk so that the computer is front and center. If you are a writer, you write. You do not have a bunch of other stuff in the way they prevent you from doing it. If the things in your life are not preventing you from doing what matters to you, it is probably not a big deal. But it is when you have an Amazon habit like I had, the consumption of bringing things in the house, bringing things into the house, then it was like constantly organizing stuff. Why is there stuff everywhere?

Our storage is full, our closets are full, it was the process of de-cluttering, removing thousands of things over two to three years from our home that allowed us to house hack while we traveled because we literally emptied out half of our 1300 square foot house after doing this and I still have a lot of stuff, but we still only live in half of our house.

In that, again it goes back to the whole thing of aligning our space, our assets with what we actually want. We were able to go house sit and help my in-laws for the winter. We live in Minnesota, their houses in Phoenix. It is an ideal timing to do that and we were able to do that and because of this situation we have created because of this space, both literally and figuratively, that we created in our lives with minimalism. I do not want it to be ever a thing that people feel bad about. I have so much stuff or like I do not want to let go of stuff, there is inherent value in the things that you bought. Sometimes you can return those things to cash. If you sell some of them, you can sort of re-energize those items by giving them to another person who will bring it back to life and appreciate it and love it more than you need it. A lot of ways to approach this stuff.

Scott: I think this is awesome. The concept of describing minimalism as a practice that involves removing distractions, not as living like a hermit, with that in the items or anything like that. I mean that is actually what really resonates with me a lot because that is kind of how I have lived my life the last several years. I just do not accumulate a lot of possessions. Not because necessarily it is an expense, but it is a distraction. It is just like I got to put them somewhere. With these five nice items goes to sixth. Or a fancy watch, you got to have a fancy shirt too. It is like this whole practice of maintenance and distracting you from your goals and what you want in life as accumulation of items, I guess, around your house. I feel like that is a really good way to put it and a different spin on this topic that I have thought about before.

Anthony: Good, that is how I feel about it as well. I obviously went in one very different direction for a long time and that is how I am viewing it now and for the last several years and how it is become this part of my daily practice. Basically, it is like a daily practice because you talk about you never break the twitch, you just practice intentionality. It is just like building a muscle or doing anything else. You get better at it but you are still working out every day, you are still doing it.

Mindy: I am going to pull a Brandon Turner, Brandon is the host of the BiggerPockets Real Estate Investing podcast and he always uses the show to ask questions that he wants answers to. Do you have any suggestions for someone like me who would like to have less stuff but I am having a hard time parting with things? I think one of my biggest problems is, well, I paid for that. I spent money on that, I cannot just throw it away. I do not just throw it away, I give it to the goodwill or whatever, but it is still leaving my house without being used fully or whatever. How do you start down this path without feeling overwhelmed?

Anthony: That is a legitimate feeling. First of all, I want to say that that is a totally normal and perfectly healthy thing to feel. Let us start there. But second, there are a couple ways that I think mentally you can approach this where I know a lot of this stuff is mindset based. It feels like a lot of the stuff comes down to action, but what leads action is mindset. It is one believing that it is possible to get to a certain place or believing that it is possible to do so. That is, for me, the foundation of a lot of this stuff. There are a couple of ways to approach that. One is the idea of giving something new in life. I briefly mentioned it earlier and it is a perspective of if something is in your space, taking up space that could otherwise be used or otherwise be left blank for all intents and purposes, you can essentially bring that thing back to life.

If you are not using it, it is collecting dust. That thing is sitting in like potential energy. It is just sort of existing there, are not doing anything. You can bring that to life. You can turn it back into kinetic energy when you might sell it, you might get some money back from it depending on what it is. If it is old, old tech, it is probably not going to be much, but you can also give that thing to someone else who will appreciate and use it and it literally turns that potential energy back into kinetic energy. It is kind of like a woo woo but I believe that people that get a new thing love and appreciate it more, it adds more value to their life than it does our own if it is just sitting and it is taking up space. That is one mental approach.

Now, a very practical approach and a very action oriented approach to this is that you basically play a game called the minimalist game, which is something that was created by a, the minimalists, the guys that documentary about this stuff and they are doing a lot of stuff around this, but the minimalist game, really simple. First day of the month, you find one thing in your house to get rid of. Second day of the month, two things. Third day of the month, three things or day four, so on and so forth. By the time you get to the end of the month, it is like a 30 day month, right? You have to find 30 things. You played as long as possible, usually you might challenge a friend to do this with you so that you both just challenge each other to see how far you can go. But there is something really magical about this game that I do not think has really talked about enough in why it works so well. That is because getting rid of stuff is, again going back, it is a muscle.

It is a decision muscle and what I found when I played this game for the first time, which is how we got started actually, was that day one is easy. It is like alright, here is a like a little SD card converter. I have four of them, so I do not need this one. Boom, recycle it, that is a small decision. It does not take much effort because sure I have four of them. If you are into film making, you know that these things are important to have multiple copies of it in case one does not work on set or something. Yes, I have four, I really only need three, get rid of one. That is easy, but what happens over the course of the week or two that you are doing this is that you build your confidence. Like it is so woowoo but I swear I am really into the practical stuff, but this is so true that you build your confidence in your ability to make that decision about what you want in your life and what you do not want in your life.

The more confident you are in that decision, the easier it is as you then get rid of 14 things, 15 things, it is just quick. Just got to make that decision, just go. You do not have the opportunity to really dwell on something you know longer than you need to. Your muscle gets stronger and in a lot of ways this affects your life massively overall because all of a sudden you are every day making this choice over and over and over about what you want and what you do not. You have to check, does this align with what I want in my life? No. Does this help me create things? Does this help me make videos? Does it helped me bring in additional income into my life? Spend more time with my family? No, get it out of here. That is how it works, it is amazing.

Scott: Yes. I have a… The way I have done it is I just simply moved every year or two. I am like alright there is a huge box of stuff, I got to figure out where to put this in the new place. Like alright, this is all trash, boom, done. If it has got sentiment, there is like over the time you collect items that have sentimental value that you attached to them and I think, for me at least, they just sit in a box at the back corner of the closet and that is fine. I cannot really throw away some of these items and I feel like everyone is going to go through their life and accumulate more of those types of things. Cards, a nice watch, just kind of stuff, like whatever it is, the gifts that were given to you at various points in life but all the other stuff is junk.

Yes, it cost me hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands of dollars to accumulate over a two year period with the fact of the matter is I do not use it and now I got to pay or inconvenience myself or like otherwise just have to deal with increasing mound of stuff like t-shirts. I get a new t-shirt probably every month from some event or other. I have two choices, I can either throw out a bunch of t shirts or I can buy a whole new dresser to put my slowly accumulating t-shirt pile. It is easy choice, just throw them out or I move them. For now, my t-shirts are starting to get very swollen. Maybe I will go home and do exactly what you just said though and go through this process because it has been a couple of years since I last moved and went through that exercise for me.

Mindy: I am going to throw my husband under the bus and say that every time you go to Finn Con he picks up like 100 more t-shirts. He has got this weird Ikea Dresser where there is like a couple of drawers or regular size and then one of them is super jumbo and that is his t-shirt drawer, but he even has to go into his t-shirt drawer in the summer and take out all of the black t-shirts that are too hot to wear and put in all the white ones from the storage in the garage. Maybe it is not just me, honey. That is a good point. But yes, I have stuff that I do not want to get rid of but I am not using it either and it is just, I think it is the money that is really hard to reconcile why I spent money on this so I cannot just throw it away but it takes up a lot of mental space.

Scott: Not only that, you spend money on to acquire the items and you have to spend more money to get rid of the items. Like I got a bed that is just sitting in my garage and I am like, ‘Oh, somebody will want this bed.’ No one is ever going want the bed? I got to pay $50 to $100 or whatever to have some guy on Craigslist to pick up the thing and just take it away and do whatever third way and so.

Anthony: There is a way to think about those things that is helpful too, another mindset thing. I am sure you are familiar with The Sunk Cost Fallacy, right? The idea of sunk cost. This is I actually heard from Seth Godin who was not talking about minimalism at all, but I heard him at a conference and I have been a huge fan of his work and I heard him at a conference answer a question from a guest that really blew my mind. He said, ‘Everything in your life is a gift from your past self. It is up to you today to choose whether you would like to accept it,’ and so all the work you have done on a project, all the things you have spent money on in your life, the situations you have created, you can walk away from because today you have not done any work or spend any money or done anything to get it.

It was all pass you. You need to think about today you and future you and what is going to best serve that you. That is kind of this space that we need to be in when we are thinking about this stuff because you spent money on it but that money is already gone unless you sell it or something. It is not going to come back. So it does not change the situation that you still have it or not. That is the biggest kind of catalyst to this stuff is like is it serving you now? It is just a gift. Like if I gave that to you today, would you reluctantly take it and go, well, I am going to use it, but thank you, right?

Scott: Another perspective on it is like for Mindy, I have been at your house, right? I think that some of the things that you have accumulated may prevent you from, for example, repeating your experience where you cannot go travel and rent out your house on Airbnb very easily.

Mindy: That is true.

Scott: You kind of approach it from that perspective of like, hey, this stuff that I have accumulated over the years is actually preventing me from financial opportunity, from travel opportunity, for all these other things like you are able to go and rent out your house because you went through the exercise of decluttering and removing all of the items that you just did not use or did not want or had accumulated over the years. That is a huge… That is an easy way to tie financial results to the practice of decluttering and minimalism, you know, but that is an idea that I think is going to be very difficult for a lot of people to grasp. Hey, I got to get rid of $5000 or  $10000 of a lifetime accumulated items that are each one at the time was an important purchase but is no longer relevant to my life. Like that is a difficult exercise, but it has real results.

Anthony: There is another thing that is important with this. It is that when you let go of something, you tangibly experienced loss. You know what you are losing, you are losing that thing. What you are creating is empty space that is an infinite void of possibility, right? That is another reason why it is hard. I spent $500 on this thing. I am losing the $500 that I spent and I am losing this thing, but what I am creating is intangible you. You do not know, but that is sort of the beauty of it. It is open to possibility and that is what happens. It is all of a sudden when you create that space, you start seeing the opportunities for that space to be used effectively.

Our house became an asset instead of just being a place that we live. The things in our life became this gear like I rented out now and I rented other filmmakers in the twin cities here and things like that. As soon as you start thinking about the things in your life as assets instead of belongings, it transforms how you use this stuff, how you experience it and the space you make becomes infinite possibility for change and for growth instead of this stagnant just thing. You know what you are losing but you never going to know what you gain until you actually do and then that is what is exciting.

Scott: Yes, I mean the middle class trap in this country is you get a job, it is reasonably high paying, right? You buy the house, which sucks all your cash flow. You fill it up with stuff which continues to suck your cash flow out, and then you buy the nice car and then you have basically less than a few months of liquidity outside of your 401k. You are spending basically paycheck to paycheck, right? When you go through this exercise of saying, hmm, I am going to completely, I am not renouncing. I am not… Like minimalism has a ring to it that some people I think may not, it makes less approachable, right? But what you are saying is, no, get rid of all the stuff you are not using. Turn your space into asset and then embrace the freedom that comes with that, right?

When you do that, you just do not have these possessions to look after. It gives you access to your house as an asset, as you have used it. Your space, you are renting out your space as a video recording room. You are renting out your space when you go out of town and house sit for your in laws. You are able to access all of that and go and travel and do a lot of things that other people cannot do because they have tied themselves into their trap. If they bought the house, the car, that failed to accumulate liquidity and to that passive cash flow outside of that and therefore have no options. They cannot do these things. Alright, any other topics that we should cover before we move on to our famous four?

Anthony: I think we have probably hit on a lot of the things. There is a lot more, but I do not want to go down the rabbit hole here.

Mindy: No, this is good. We will have to have you back to go down a little bit more of a rabbit hole.

Anthony: Yes, I would love to.

Mindy: Okay. Now, it is time for the Famous Four questions. These are the same five questions that we ask all of our guests or four questions that a demand, command, that we ask at the end… We demand of you at the end. Number one, what is your favorite finance book?

Anthony: Your Money Or Your Life was a big one. Just the tracking of it. If I get a second, I would say Tim Ferris’s book, The Four Hour Work Week, which I consider a finance book even though it is not. It is kind of a lifestyle hacking book but Your Money or Your Life, even though a lot of the concepts of only invest in bonds are bad, he book conceptually of tracking and the lining spending with value was a huge impact.

Mindy: Well, this is your show, you can have two. You can do Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week. Okay.

Scott: I love both those books and I will revisit the four hour work week in particular once a year basically because their concepts are so applicable. Like people have a lot of grief with, hey, this specific approach that he took is not repeatable for me. Maybe not, but the concept of working more efficiently, working more intelligently and using passive income to fund the lifestyle that you are going for and monetize that, put that into a spreadsheet and figure it out. I mean they are just so applicable across so many different aspects of what we are trying to do here. What was your biggest money mistake?

Anthony: I think we may have covered that already.

Scott: Yes, fair enough.

Anthony: Yes. I think the biggest one was spending $12000 in four years on Amazon. I think that was my biggest money mistake. There have not really been to many other ones other than that and that was one that was drawn out over a long period of time. It is not like, oops, I made a mistake. It is like, wow I made a lot of mistakes over this period of time.

Scott: Did you buy any Amazon stock while you doing that?

Anthony: I did actually.

Scott: You are not upset that you did that?

Anthony: Most of it at this point actually.

Mindy: What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Anthony: Oh, that is great. Take some time to write about what you actually want. Just journal, write or think about it. Make a video of yourself talking about the things that you actually want in life and look at the small things you are doing on a day to day basis, just acknowledged them. Do not feel ashamed about them, but look to see just like Vicki Robin, see that those small things are lining up with what you want and that is where it starts. That is where you can start making changes. When you know that certain things are not aligning, you can work to change them. You can work to redirect your life. Start small, go from there.

Mindy: That is awesome.

Scott: What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Anthony: I am terrible at telling jokes. Yes, I knew this one was going to be hard. I really should have prepared a joke but I usually go off the cuff, which is a terrible thing and I usually just make fun of myself in these situations. That is probably the best answer that I have for that.

Mindy: Scott, what is your favorite joke of the minute?

Scott: Favorite joke of the minute. I feel like I have told all of my jokes at this point. We are like, what? Like 50 jokes in now.

Mindy: I really wish you would have told all of your jokes. I know you have it. You know who is really good at jokes? My daughter Claire is amazing at jokes. She keeps coming up with them. Well, I need here to write it down for me because I do not remember them.

Anthony: That is why I am bad at telling jokes because I can never. I will one and it will be hilarious

and I will never be able to pull it up in the moment and recall it when I need to. I usually just make fun of myself like I said.

Scott: Alright, here is one that was sent in by a listener. A clown held the door open for me when I walked into the office this morning. It was such a nice gesture.

Mindy: I did not get that.

Scott: Alright. Episode 48 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

Mindy: No, we have to ask where can people find out more about?

Scott: Where can people find out? This is a command here, tell us where people can find out more about you?

Anthony: Everything I do is at breakthetwitch.com and you can find me @breakthetwitch on just about the major social media networks, YouTube, etcetera. Podcast is called Break The Twitch. Really, if you just Google Break The Twitch, you will find just about everything.

Mindy: Awesome. Okay, Anthony from Break The Twitch, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate this. This is going to change my life once I get this actually implemented but I liked the tip to just write about it. What I actually want is not the life that I am living right now. I mean, the life that I am living right now is amazing and wonderful and do not get me wrong, but some of those things are not what I am actually wanting to do. I do not need 47 t-shirts in my husband’s drawer.

Anthony: Right.

Mindy: I do not have any on my own.

Anthony: Carl.

Mindy: Yes, Carl. That is not what I want my life to look. My daughter’s room is a disgusting pigsty, she is not going to notice that I took away some of the crayons because she has 9000 crayons. She is not going to notice that some of them are gone, some of the copies or whatever. Just starting small, do something I have to do. I really, really, really, really enjoyed our conversation today.

Anthony: Thank you for having me. It was a true pleasure. You ask great questions. Thank you.

Mindy: Thank you. Okay, so we will talk to you again soon.

Anthony: Cool.

Scott: Alright, that was Anthony from Break The Twitch. Mindy, what did you think?

Mindy: Oh my goodness. Like I said before, just the practicality of his comments and the suggestions. I love the one at the very end where he talks about writing down what you actually want. That is going to be hugely helpful for me in about six hours when I go home and I can write down exactly what I want and the life that I want to lead. This was personally very eye opening, this episode.

Scott: No, I think it is great. I think it touches on a lot of the patterns we have heard from other stories, right? Hey, here is a situation that is holding them back from financial life, personal goals, right? Let us track it and put it on a spreadsheet and see where the money is going. Then let us make a change and then here is the benefits that pile up over the ensuing years, not just financially but other aspects of your life as well.

I think that that is very powerful. Like we mentioned earlier, minimalism, whatever you want to call it, applied intelligently and thoughtfully to your life can have a big impact in allowing you to save more money and free you up to opportunities and points you towards the things that you actually want out of life. Whether that is travel, whether that is early retirement, whether that is the ability to go start a business a few years from now on your own terms. All those things are practical, real results that come from the practice of minimalism to some degree or other.

Mindy: Yes, yes. I cannot add to that at all, Scott, so I am not going to. I am going to say from episode 48 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast. This is Mindy Jensen and Scott Trench, and as suggested by Mark on Twitter, bye for now.

Scott: She refined that joke by the way.

Mindy: For the joke, ‘Scott Trench, I have a funny joke for you. Mindy, you will like this too. Why does the duck have feathers? So they can hide his butt crack.

Scott: Oh Man.

Mindy: I said, okay. I smiled. Okay. Really for sure. Bye for now.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Where the “break the twitch” name came from
  • The idea of choosing intention over the twitch
  • The importance of spending with intention
  • How he discovered his behavior
  • The kinds of items he purchased
  • His financial situation
  • How he broke his twitch for spending money
  • The story of banning Amazon for 90 days
  • The amount of money he saved after banning Amazon for 90 days
  • How hard it was to walk away from day 1 to day 90 of his Amazon ban
  • A discussion on minimalism
  • How the concept of minimalism helped him in his journey
  • Anthony’s suggestion for those who would like to have less stuff but are having a difficult time parting with things
  • The idea of sunk cost
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “We try to buy the person we want to become instead of doing the work.” (Tweet This!)
  • “What leads to action is mindset.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Everything in your life is a gift from your past self. It is up to you today to choose whether you would like to accept it.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Anthony

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.