I don’t tend to talk about money on this blog. I prefer to write about ideas over numbers: minimalism, travel, and a handful of other passions. For whatever reason, sharing cold, hard numbers on a blog is scary to me, and I admire those who do. As a proponent of minimalism, however, I hope to convince you that it does achieve results.
Many people turn to minimalism in order to save money, to break poor habits, or simply to refocus their lives on non-material pursuits. And they should, because it works.
Frugality used to be a popular topic among young people. Saving money was– at one time– what people in their 20s did. However, as I look around, I do not see many of my peers saving their earnings. Some of my peers took relatively high-paying jobs right out of college, and are choosing to spend as they earn: a luxurious hand-to-mouth lifestyle. Other peers are not making any money at all; they’re volunteering, interning, traveling, receiving grant money, or enrolled in graduate school. It appears that very few of us are building a savings account, for one reason or another.
In such a relatively unpredictable season of life, saving money is no easy feat. Furthermore, much of it has looked like extreme frugality: zealous couponing, stashing cash in strange places, or choosing to only purchase clearance items. When you’re working long hours, busy with travel or volunteering, or swamped in grad school, who has time for that? There’s no question as to why these time-consuming methods of saving money just don’t work for a lot of people.
So what does it take to start saving money in significant ways? We need to start asking ourselves the right questions. Saving money is not about changing the way you spend money, but the way you perceive your resources and needs. Transforming your perspective on wealth and its purposes is the closest thing to a magic bullet for saving money.
Enter minimalism: the removal of all that distracts us from pursuing what’s most important to us. If we allowed minimalism to inform our financial decisions, we would not have to spend as much time scratching our heads at credit card statements or digging through boxes of coupons or waiting for the very best deals on an item we need immediately. Minimalism helps us to save money– so that we can spend money on what matters most.
5 Minimalist Secrets to Saving Money
Secret #1: I am not defined by what I own (or wear, eat, live in or drive).
Money is often spent, unnecessarily, on building an image. Whether it is clothing, cars, gadgets or even food, maintaining an image can be extremely expensive. Looking closely at how we spend money on things just to exude a certain lifestyle is one way to start cutting costs and saving. Just because everyone at work buys a giant latte before work does not mean you have to, as well. When I’m done with procuring my own image and fitting in, I’ll start being able to put my time and resources towards the things that matter to me more.
Secret #2: Ask not where the greatest deal is, but where the greatest need is.
So many shops have us hooked on the idea that snagging a great deal is the same as saving money. It’s not. Every so often, an excellent store offer will provide multiple items that you actually need. But usually it’s more about making you feel that you got the long end of the stick- for once! In the end, however, more money is usually saved by simply purchasing what is needed. Nothing more.
Secret #3: Minimalism keeps my personal values always in my mind.
Once minimalism seeps into multiple areas of my life, I am much more focused on what I truly desire, envision, worship and love. My biggest life priorities are constantly on my mind, where they ought to be. I rarely do something without knowing why I’m doing it. Whether I am getting ready in ten minutes, traveling to a new destination, or spending time outdoors, minimalism helps me live intentionally. And thus, I spend money intentionally, not accidentally.
Secret #4: Minimalism is the enemy of clutter and busy-ness.
The commitment to not accruing lots of stuff is at the core of minimalism. And the secret to avoiding stuff? Purchasing only what is needed, only occasionally in bulk, and only in the most efficient way. Promotions that offer a prize for spending $50 at a shop rarely entice me anymore. I hardly ever “buy one get one free” unless I need both packages of the same thing. I do not replace an item until it has completely worn out; not simply gone out of style. In the quest for owning less and living more, we become less susceptible to unintentional accumulations and impulse purchases. (7 reasons we buy things we don’t need)
Secret #5: Minimalism reminds me that contentment can never be bought, sold, or stolen.
Though we might know this to be true, it is so difficult to live out. This is one of the toughest truths that I have learned recently. When we make purchases, we often justify them by the “happy points” that they merit. How many time have I said, If I just had this, then I would be so much better off.? But, if you’ve spent some time trying to acquire one more thing to bring contentment, you may have found– like I did– that it doesn’t work. Contentment is not on the shelves at Target or in our virtual online shopping carts. Contentment is somewhere in those things that matter most deeply to us: friends, faith, passion, community, adventure… the things that have no price tag at all.
The bottom-line is, saving money in a significant way has to come from the heart. Our consumer-driven economy does not make it easy to refrain from making one purchase after another. Our culture of material goods does not make it easy to appear uncool or outdated. But if there is something worth saving your hard-earned cash for— and there usually is– then perhaps the change of heart will be worthwhile.