When Less Really Is More: How A Minimalist Mindset Boosts Your Savings
Minimalism isn’t just an aesthetic: it’s a movement and a mindset, and it applies to way more than just clearing out the joy-free junk. A clutter-free living space equals a clutter-free mind, which means being better able to plan and execute your financial goals.
Taking on a minimalist approach makes you think carefully about consumption – which has the flow-on effect of helping you save a whole heap of money. We’re steeped in a consumption-driven world, geared towards relieving you of your cash and filling your life with stuff.
Here’s why rejecting consumerism can help you get a comfortable bank balance and an enviably minimalist lifestyle.
#1 You get the freedom to say ‘no’
Rejecting social norms and cultural pressure is a cornerstone of the minimalist lifestyle and brings enormous personal and financial reward. For example, fashion: it’s always changing, not too expensive and there’s that dopamine rush of opening your new ASOS package.
But what if you resisted the retail therapy of a quickie from Zara and instead banked the $29.99? One less crappy t-shirt in your wardrobe and 30 more dollars accruing sweet compound interest in the bank. A minimalist mindset will help you resist the lure of the high street.
Quick fix: Examine your lifestyle to see where your dollars actually go, and be critical about what things you want vs what you actually need. Prime targets are subscriptions (businesses love subscription models because people often don’t get around to cancelling them), tech gadgets, hair and skin products, bottled water, expensive hair cuts, daily coffees… Start reining in your unnecessary spending and watch your figures increase.
Goals: You may have heaps of expenses that are less essential than you think. Cars, gym memberships, Apple products and even the rent on your cool inner city pad are often more about image than the value they bring. Figure out what sacrifices you’re willing to make in the name of accruing wealth rather than swag, and make the big decisions accordingly.
#2 Power comes from cutting your spending
Radical personal finance blogger Mr Money Mustache relates a story on his blog of a friend who worked a second job, in order – in her eyes – to pay down debt. However, she turns up to a dinner party with an expensive bottle of wine and a DVD: “[she] thought she was taking a second job to pay down debt, but in reality her second job was to pay for wine, DVDs, and video games.” #lightbulbmoment
Mr Money Mustache believes there’s more power in reducing your spend than in earning more money: if we earn more, we typically spend more. (This is ‘lifestyle inflation’, aka the spending spree you go on when you transition from uni student to full-time worker.)
Instead, he theorises, if you massively reduce your spending and put your savings to work, you can retire early and live off the proceeds for as long as necessary. And he’d know – he and his wife retired at 30 after spending their 20s saving 66% of their pay. Seriously.
Quick fix: Up the percentage of your income that you save, and measure what you give up in order to achieve it. Try a week of super savings – say, 60% of your disposable income – and see what changes and how you feel.
Goals: If you like Mr Money Mustache’s style, sit down to figure out what it would take for you to retire early. He even provides a simple chart for figuring out how soon you could retire (hint: sooner than you think).
#3 There’s fun in alternative modes of living
Being a savings maven and minimalist evangelist doesn’t mean life has to be boring. In fact, it can lead to all kinds of new experiences and fun. Minimalism goes hand in hand with the ‘sharing economy’ ethos – it prioritises access over ownership, not to mention a greener lifestyle.
Quick fix: Next time your wardrobe needs refreshing, host a clothes swap with friends. Join the library instead of buying new books. Borrow your neighbour’s ladder. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.
Goals: If you’re committed to living with less stuff and more wealth, find or build a community that does, too. Whether it’s influencing your friends, reading some blogs or joining a Freecycle group, the best way to make yourself accountable is to get a support network.
#4 You choose your experiences wisely
Minimalism and savings doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself. In fact, if, instead, you work out what you truly value – whether it’s travel, live music, original art, home ownership – being a minimalist will help you get those things sooner and appreciate them more.
Quick fix: Next time you’re considering buying something, think in terms of the hours it took you to earn that cash, and then ask yourself if it’s worth your precious hours – the ones you can’t buy back – and you might be surprised at how often the answer is ‘no’.
Goals: According to the blog Simply Relished, minimalism is about “the removal of all that distracts us from pursuing what’s most important.” The important things – like travel, or buying a house – can be expensive, so eliminating cheap but unimportant things means you’re more likely to reach those goals. Focus on the big picture and the temptation to spend aimlessly will fade away.
#5 Minimalism teaches resourcefulness
In wartime Britain, civilians were urged to ‘make do and mend’ to help with the war effort, and while we’ve largely forgotten how, it’s still a good motto: learning to repair broken things instead of immediately replacing them makes you feel like a wizard and saves substantial dollars.
Quick fix: Next time you’ve got a hole in your sock, try sewing it up instead of throwing it out. For more complex challenges, hit up iFixit, a crowd-sourced guide to fixing everything from electronics to doorknobs.
Goals: Buying long-term investment items with lifetime guarantees is a great way to fight consumerism and clutter – and it saves money in the long run, despite being a hefty investment upfront.
Minimalist lifestyles aren’t as simple as they appear – it takes a lot of self-awareness and also some sacrifice to achieve. But whether your savings goal is to buy your first house, start a business, retire early, go on the trip of a lifetime or all of the above, a minimalist mindset will definitely help you get there.
Vivienne is a travelling freelance writer/editor, feminist, Harry Potter nerd and co-founder of Taylor Hermione & Co, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes safe relationships, consent and gender issues to teenagers in Australia. Find her on Twitter @VivEgan41 and Instagram @vivalogue