Photo by Autumn Goodman via Unsplash.com
Minimalism and personal finance are far more connected than people might assume. Of course, minimalists generally buy fewer things. But how can the tenets of minimalism apply directly to personal finance? You might be surprised to hear that my first introduction to perspectives on debt freedom and investment was through The Minimalists‘ podcast, but it’s the strange truth. That’s how closely related these two personal development topics can be.
Here are three specific examples of how minimalism has not just been a “decluttering” idea in my life, but a legitimate wealth management tool.
1. A minimal budget. I originally found myself drawn to minimalism because I value simplicity. I believe that simple living has brought a lot of clarity into every realm of my life– relationships, health & fitness, and even finances. A huge obstacle to getting “good” with finances is that there’s a lot of complicated advice out there (a lot like the health & fitness industry, I might add). There’s mountains of confusing information about things like playing the stock market, cryptocurrency, debt repayment methods, mortgages, etc. For someone starting out with effectively zero real-life financial literacy, it’s overwhelming to say the least. Seeking simplicity, beyond just material things, helped me gravitate towards advice that made clear common sense. But even more crucially than that, it led me to create the simplest kind of budget: a zero-based budget. It also led me to focus on one goal at a time– right now, almost all of my money and energy is going into paying off debt. Everything else is low-priority, peripheral, and (mostly) automated, in true minimalist fashion. Getting rid of these payments, and thus simplifying by taking away one more complication in my life, inspires me. After debt, I’ll move on to my next goal of completing my emergency fund and investing for retirement. It doesn’t make complete sense mathematically, but it psychologically helps me focus and win on one goal at a time so I don’t lose momentum.
2. Defining what “enough” is in my life. This is perhaps the most obvious one. In practical terms, it means I don’t buy that much stuff. I don’t have a budget line for material non-essentials, like clothing or tech. I have a $60 pocket money/miscellaneous budget each month, and I often don’t spend most– or all– of it. My budget gives me the permission to use this money for anything I might want (or, less often, need), but when I question each purchase, I know that what I already have is truly enough in almost all cases. So the extra money from this category goes straight to my debt. When I’m out of debt and under-spending in this category, I will pay it forward to myself by adding it to my travel fund.
3. Following my values instead of society’s values. Think of all those things you think you want that you don’t really want. Maybe it’s a new pair of shoes that you saw on an Instagram model. Maybe it’s going out every day of the weekend and ending up hungover, unproductive, and stressed. Maybe it’s a piece of technology that you have to take out a payment plan for, but becomes less important as soon as the newer version comes out and you’re still making payments. I’ve been there with a lot of things, before and after finding minimalism. I used to give into these impulses a lot more, and I certainly still do. But questioning my true values– apart from what society values, or even what my friends and family value– has led me to make better decisions and spend a lot less on things I don’t really need, or sometimes even want.
Even if material minimalism doesn’t feel totally right for you, the principles of simplicity can be useful in some of the least-expected corners of life, money included.