Stop Buying, Start “Temporarily Owning”

I try not to buy shit anymore. Oh sure, I still gotta buy things like toothpaste and socks. But for the most part, I don’t buy. I “temporarily own”.

Not only has this made it easier for me to travel and start new hobbies, but it’s also saved me a TON of money.

Huh? “WTF is this”, you ask?

Well, basically, when most people buy something, they see it as THEIRS. They own it. It belongs to them for life. And the money they dropped for it is – *poof* – gone forever.

My perspective is just a slight shift in thinking, but it makes a huge difference:

I see everything I buy as something that I’m just borrowing. It’s not MINE. I won’t have it for life or start associating it with who I am. It’s just mine temporarily. And the money I spent on it, is also, only temporarily gone.

And while I have it, I’ll use the hell out of it. I’ll squeeze every single drop of usefulness out of it that I can.

But the moment it stops being useful, or I outgrow it, or it stops helping me live a happier, more fulfilling life…I’ll flip it on Craigslist to someone who’ll get more out of it than I will.

Like I said, it seems like an insignificant difference. But this mindset towards buying has benefitted my life in a bunch of unexpected, really awesome ways:

Save Money (Or Even Make Some)

Alright, now here’s where the biggest love of my life comes into play: Craigslist.

With this “temporarily owning” mentality and the principle of “buy low, sell high” in mind, here’s how I get 90% of the things I own:

1) If you want something, buy it used on Craigslist for LOW.

2) Use it. And when you don’t need it anymore or if you want to upgrade…

3) Sell it on Craigslist for SLIGHTLY HIGHER.

Bam. Not only did you get full use of your item and NOT lose any money, but you even made a few bucks! You basically just got paid to use that item. Baller.

And if you have to sell it for lower, don’t sweat it. Think of the money lost as a really, really low rental cost. Totally worth it.

This also makes upgrading to new items hella easy and cheap. Just think of it as “trading up”. Do you want a newer phone? Sick of your slow computer?

Use Craigslist to sell that shit HIGH and buy the next version LOW.

I’ve been doing this with EVERY big ticket item in my life
for the past few years and have saved some serious cash. I’m talking laptops, video cameras, even iPhones. Let me give you some examples:

[unordered_list style=”bullet”]

  • Sold a 2004 Macbook Pro with broken fan for $800
  • Bought a like-new, 2010 Unibody Macbook Pro for $1200
  • Total Cost for a Way Better Laptop: $400 (Fixing the fan alone would’ve cost $300. So for just $100 more, I got a way faster and newer computer)**

  • Sold a Canon XHA1 video camera + Accessories for $2000
  • Bought a brand new Canon 60D (too new for a good used price) + Lens + Audio Recorder + Accessories for $2176
  • Total Cost for a Way Better Camera: $176. Badass.

**If you ever need to repair your shit, check Craigslist first and see if it’d be cheaper to just trade up instead. You’d be surprised by how many people will buy broken stuff. I assume they’ve got awesome repair skills. Or just really suck at buying stuff.

Keep in mind though, this really only works with Craigslist (not scammy, seedy eBay). See, with eBay’s bidding system, the price always averages out to its true market value. Not so with Craigslist. That’s why, if you’re patient enough, you can find stuff for way cheaper. Or sell your stuff for higher.

And since you can also see the item up close, try before you buy, talk to the owner, and pick it up immediately…it’s pretty much the ONLY option for selling and buying used stuff (seriously, f*ck eBay).

Perfect for Travelers

When you travel, if you need something, you don’t have to worry about bringing it with you (sorry, that bicycle’s not gonna work as carry on). Just get there and “temporarily own” instead.

Every time I live in a new city, I get what I need on Craigslist (or the foreign equivalent), use it while I’m there, and then sell it off before I leave.

I just did this in New York with a MIDI keyboard to make music with and I actually made friends with the rapper who sold it to me [LINK]. And when I left, I ended up selling it for $10 more!

Obviously this makes more sense for longer stays, but it’s an option that every traveler should know they’ve got.

Make It Way Easier to Start a New Hobby

When you’re interested in starting a new hobby, the greatest barrier that always gets in the way is GETTING THE GEAR (whether you’re getting into photography or DJing).

You could spend forever trying to find the perfect starting gear. “Oh I want those deluxe features in case I need them someday….but not in that color…and it needs to be cheap, but not too cheap…”

A lot of people never get shit started cause they get stuck in this phase. They put off actually doing anything. Don’t be one of those people.

Say, “Screw it, let’s do it” by temporarily owning instead.

Since it’s just temporary, no need to spend the next 4 months searching for the perfect thing. Just get some beginners shit on Craigslist and you’re set!

No more excuses, just go.

Then when you’re ready to move up (or move on to something else), just flip that stuff on Craigslist and get whatever suits your new skill level. And by then you’ll also have a better idea of what “deluxe” features you’ll actually need anyway.

This makes it so much easier to just TRY new things in life. You don’t have to worry, “Am I serious enough about this to make an investment?”

Dude, no investment necessary! Just temporarily own that shit and give it a shot. If you’re not feeling it, just flip it on Craigslist. Treat life like it’s a Costco free food sample!

With the mentality of “temporarily owning”, you can stop worrying about BUYING and focus on what’s really important: DOING.

Give the Finger to Materialism

“Temporarily owning” also helps you battle America’s #1 mental disease: materialism.

Seriously, it’s such a big problem, we never even think about how obsessed with stuff we are. It’s weird when you actually think about it:

[unordered_list style=”bullet”]

  • As a nation, we define ourselves and others by our purchases. We see stuff as an extension of who we are. That we ARE what we BUY.

  • We think buying all this crap will help fill an empty void in our lives. And when it doesn’t, we’re convinced that we just need to buy more, more, more.

  • We believe that those who have more things, have happier lives (hint: NOT TRUE)

  • We attach ourselves so much to our purchases, that if we lose them, we’ll start bawling like we just lost a loved one.

  • And having shit is so important to people that they’ll put themselves into debt, cutting themselves off from opportunities like traveling and EXPERIENCING LIFE, just so they can have the shiniest car or biggest flatscreen.

I think Tyler Durden says it best: “The things you own, end up owning you.”

I mean, c’mon people, is this not @#*%ing BATSHIT INSANE?

When you start “temporarily owning”, it becomes much easier to see the light.

Since you’re just borrowing things and not OWNING them, you never start associating that stuff with you are in the first place. You healthily detach yourself from the things you buy.

They’re not an extension of who you are. They’re not a part of you. They don’t make you complete.

They’re just TOOLS that we USE to help us live more awesome lives. That’s it.

And as soon as they stop being useful to us, it’s time to pass it on.

Remember this: “You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f*cking khakis.” – Tyler Durden


A Great Intro to Minimalism

Once “temporarily owning” changes your relationship with materialism, you might be tempted to take it even further…

Minimalism is basically the practice of getting rid of everything that you don’t really need or use. Simplifying your life. Constantly striving to own LESS rather then MORE.

It’s essentially the anti-materialism.

Now, why in the hell would you want to do that? Well how about:

To cut down on this endless cycle of want, want, want.

To fully appreciate what you DO have.

To consume less (TV, blogs, Youtube) and to create more (art, friendships, babies).

To not be mentally burdened and physically imprisoned by tons of unimportant crap.

To live a more location-free, travel friendly lifestyle.

To change your focus from HAVING more to EXPERIENCING more.

Look, it’s pretty simple. You’ve got one life. And it’s a short one.

So you can choose to spend your limited time and energy on the things that really matter (spending time with loved ones, having new experiences, living life), or the things that don’t (stuff).

The choice is really damn obvious for me.

And in the end, that’s what all this “temporarily owning” stuff comes down to.

It’s a mindset that I was forced to adopt at first. Since I love to travel and try new hobbies but I’m not filthy rich, I had to start “temporarily owning” out of necessity.

But after growing into this mindset over the past few years, I never want to give it up now. If anything, I want it to keep growing.

I never want the things I own to own me.

And the only thing that I truly, fully want to own is my life. The rest? Eh, I’ll eventually flip that shit on Craigslist.


I took this picture with the video camera I traded up for, the laptop I traded up for, and a bike I just got off of Craigslist. See? I’m not playing around when it comes to this shit!

I’m back in sunny Santa Monica now and truly digging the vibe out here. I’m definitely in more of a productive, healthy mode right now and this is the perfect place for that. No seriously, everyone in my building is either a yoga teacher or crossfit trainer. That’s Santa Monica for ya.

I’ve been hella busy ever since I arrived, getting swamped with a ton of film work. But I’ve still made time for the most epic game of King’s Cup ever played (let’s just say my life was saved at the LAST millisecond), HARD Summer music fest (Boys Noize killed it!), and…oh yeah…GOT MY MOTORCYCLE LICENSE!

Yessir, your truly is now able to legally ride a frickin two-wheeler! Don’t worry though, I like my life so I’m ALL about the safety. I’ll be puttin’ around in parking lots and suburb streets for a little while to come…

Oh, and yes, I got my motorcycle off Craigslist. C’mon, what’d you expect?

  • Lobotine

    I love your post here, it goes along the lines of what I’ve done with craigslist this past year,

    keep up the good work!

    read about my xbox-PS3 swaps earlier this year

    • Haha nice, that’s what I’m talking about!  You’re trading up like a pro. I could probably take some lessons from you lol.

      • Dude my friend also linked me to this article, which sounds a lot like what you were doing lol:  Looks like you can make a living with this shit if you wanted to!

  • Brilliant stuff. I’m new to Craigslist, but I sold my iPhone 3GS on there a month ago for almost as much as I paid for it two years ago. Definitely the way to go.

    • Thanks man! Yeah, people don’t realize how much you can sell the iPhones for used. Since without a contract, the phone retails around $500, I even have friend’s who traded up their old iPhone for the iPhone 4…and made $100! Crazy

  • I love the part about using it to gather gear when starting a new hobby. I’ve been considering experimenting with podcasting lately, but it sounds terrible with my cheap USB-mic setup. Guess I can’t let that be an excuse anymore can I!

    • Lol nope, get some shit on Craigslist and get STARTED!

      For real though, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Shure SM58 mic.  It’s cheap ($100 retail) and supposed to be a great vocal mic for everything from music to podcasting.  

      I’m actually thinking about getting one myself.  Well, what do we have here…only $60 used on Craigslist?  :)

      • Thanks for the tip! I checked my local craigslist and found a few too. I’ve also heard great things about the SM58 via Cliff Ravenscraft ( so I’m sure it’s great.

        • Awesome.  By the way, I’d definitely be interested in your podcast project.  Let me know if you need any help or if I can hear some rough drafts before you launch.  Keep me in the loop man!

  • Wow, we went from how to buy/sell on Craigslist to giving the finger to materialism! Love it! This is a great post and I like your concept of temporarily owning. I HATE how our country needs more stuff. And constantly. It makes me even more angry when I travel and see how the rest of the world lives and then come back home and its STUFF everywhere. Stuff we don’t need. I am not saying we can’t enjoy our stuff, but please, let’s do it in moderation. That’s why temporarily owning is great! I want to delve a little into photography-basically start taking better pics than I take now. Never even thought of looking on CL for a camera that is cheaper, and that I can use while I am trying it out. Thanks for passing that along. Also, if craigslist doesn’t work out for your item, or you need something else, Freecycle is another great option. Everything is totally…….free. Check it out! Now to be fair, you’re not going to be finding high end electronics usually, but there is TONS of stuff to be found on it!

    • I’ve heard tons of great things about Freecycle, I’ll definitely look into it.  That’s so awesome that you’re getting into photography, I’m starting to really get into it now too.

      Might I suggest if you’re looking for a pocketable camera, to give the Canon S95 a look?  And if you’re looking for a bigger DSLR (might be a little more expensive then you’d like) but the Canon 60D is what I use to take all the pics on this site.  AND it shows amazing video.  Let me know what you end up getting!

  • That’s brilliant! I never thought of Craigslist for doing this stuff.

    What about buying a computer? Do you inspect it before you hand over the cash? Just wanted to know about trusting people.

    Also is there bargaining involved or if you’re selling or buying at the listed price it’s pretty much set in stone?

    • Hey Benny, are you a Craigslist newbie?  This is so exciting haha.  Yeah, when you’re buying things like computers, you DEFINITELY want to try it out beforehand.  I’ll usually meet people at a coffee shop (just in case they’re sketchy) and give the computer a full test run.

      I’ll ask the owner all about its history and a ton of other questions and really try to gauge how shady he is.  If I get a sketchy vibe from someone, I won’t buy the item.  But luckily, almost every time, I’ve always bought from really awesome and nice people.

      And yes, you can haggle a little bit (unless the person lists “firm price”) but I don’t rely on this too much.  I just try to look for an already low price and then maybe try to get $10 off it.  If not, no big deal.  I’ve never been much of a haggler and you can still definitely get great deals without haggling.

      Let me know if you have any other questions, I could talk about Craigslist forever lol

  • I love this post Jaemin – what a fantastic way to look at it. Renting gear. I need to do this more.

    I don’t own too much stuff, but I certainly could buy second hand more and it is something my wife and I are talking about doing as we move to a new home (where we will need a few things).

    • Awesome Chris, glad you dig it.

      Yeah, buying secondhand is what it’s all about.  Craigslist will definitely be your best friend in a new move, whether it’s to get stuff or get rid of stuff.  Good luck man, hope the move goes smoothly.

      • Thanks! Craigslist isn’t that big in the UK but we have eBay :)

  • Anonymous

    I LOVE this! I gave up my buy-new-gear decade long bad habit in January of this year and I feel so free. I am happier with what I already have and it all feels like a gain.

    • YES!  So awesome Ariella.  Just remember that us gear-heads can still stay up to date by trading up our things and trying to consolidate devices as much as possible.

      Btw checked out your blog and super stoked about your book!  Can’t wait to check it out on my Kindle

      • Anonymous

        Yup, absolutely. This year I:
        -Sold a PS3
        -Traded down an iPhone 4 for a Samsung Gravity
        -Sold an iPad
        -Sold an indoor bike trainer
        -Traded down a road bike for an urban cruiser

        There’s a few others I’m not remembering right now but suffice it say that I I buy with an empowered choice instead of an empty-feeling need. This kind of deliberate consciousness with borrowed items (love this term — we are mortal after all) is enriching beyond belief!

        Thanks for the interest in my book! I hope you enjoy it and will provide feedback afterwards! It’s relatively new and needs some comments to start appearing on the bookstore sites. 

        Since it’s not hosted at Amazon yet, buy the non-DRM PDF from Smashwords and enjoy! (I think with the Kindle you can either wire-sync or email it to yourself?)

        • This comment is FULL of win.  “I buy with an empowered choice instead of an empty-feeling need.”  Love this.  Now I’m starting to feel inspired!

          Will let you know what I think of the book!

          • Anonymous

            Reciprocal inspiration! That’s the best. :D

  • What’s up Jaymin! 

    This is a great intro guide into minimalism. Personally, I don’t have much interest in living minimally – just not my ‘thang’, but I appreciate any and everyone who has interest in that. 

    Brest to you!

    • Yo what’s up JK!

      Totally feel you on not wanting to live completely minimally, but I think even adopting a little bit of the mindset without going extreme about it can be helpful.  

      No need to get rid of everything except for your socks, but it’ll probably be helpful to want a little less stuff and want more time with your family, friends, and life experiences.  Right?

  • Ben

    Hey man,

    This is great, seriously. I’ve actually been doing this for the last couple of months, and it works out perfectly. I agree that too many people buy stuff, use it, then it just eats dust in the closet. I always sell stuff on Craigslist now; obviously, I don’t get what I paid for it, but that’s not expected anyways. As long as I make some money back, I’m happy.

    • Yeah man, feel you on this too!  Even getting rid of stuff for free is great cause at least someone’s getting some use out of it instead of it just taking up space in your closet!

      • Ben

        Well said buddy. I agree!

  • Ha when I read the title, I thought to myself “oh I’ve got a witty comment, I’m going to write that everything we own is temporary.” But sure enough you beat me to the punch with that idea! 

    I love this idea for so many of the reasons you said. It opens up the door to new hobbies, its economical, it fights off materialism, it aids in minimalism, and it just seems like it’s basically a humanistic way.  

    There was a story (not sure if its true because it sounds quite abstract) of a guy who traded a paper clip and eventually got a house.  Wild if that occurred.  

    Great post Jaemin!

    • Haha sorry man, I had to do it!

      I heard about that paper clip story too.  If true, that’s CRAZY.  I also remember Dwight Shrute pulling some similar shit on The Office lol.  

  • Pingback: Friday’s Favourites ~ 20 Jan 2011()

  • Pingback: "Possesso Temporaneo" | Minimal...Italy()