People often associate spending less money with living a frugal life involving deprivation and frugality. For chunks of my life, I also shared this view as I chased after money rather than what was truly important to me. However, every time I had ‘had it all’ on paper, I was generally miserable. In fact, I had to seemingly lose it all twice to really understand how you can live well and spend less.
What is minimalism?
At its simplest, minimalism is about focussing less on material positions by opting out of the incessant need to continuously purchase the next big thing; the bigger house, the better care, the nicer suit, the more expensive holidays.
So it is about deprivation – right?
The reason some people decide this way is actually to have MORE! More time freedom, more peace,
more calm. When your life is not cluttered with buying unnecessary possessions, that cost a lot to buy, clean, tidy and maintain, then suddenly there is less need to work 24/7 in a career that you hate.
When you really sit down and think about what makes you happy, and what possessions that you own are making a positive contribution to your life, quite quickly we see just how much junk is weighing us down. Minimalism doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of everything and live like a monk. It simply means being intentional about what you buy and what you keep in your home.
How does minimalism help us to live well, and spend less?
Twice in my life, I have reached nice six-figure plus earnings; that holy grail that so many people seem to aspire towards. Both times I have ended up cutting myself off from many of the things that are important; family, friends, self-care, exercise, rest and hobbies.
I had to chuck money at problems because I had zero time to do anything myself.
I went on fantastic holidays but I was still in the office, just in another location.
On paper I had everything. Inside I was empty.
Then both times my body suddenly said STOP! And I had no choice but to stop everything. My health had broken down completely and without that, you realise there is very little you can actually do.
In both cases, my earnings dipped dramatically and I wondered what I would do. Then both times as my health improved, I realised that my simpler, and dramatically cheaper lifestyle was somehow more fulfilling. I was spending so much less, but living a lot more. I was seeing friends and family and enjoying the simple pleasure of being mentally present as a I walked my dog, rather than being focussed on a work call or my emails.
Obviously old habits die hard, and the fact I’ve been through this cycle twice shows just how easy it is to stop living well and spending less. For many of us, the COVID-19 lockdowns showed, in a dramatic way, how it is possible to live while spending a lot less. We suddenly found joy in spending more time at home, on walks, reading and all those things we often forget in the blur of our hectic lives.
Trading your life for possessions
There are some very sobering statistics across the world about the very low percentage of people who have enough money in savings to weather the simplest of financial emergencies. Advertising, peer pressure and the general desire to keep up with the Joneses has so many people living paycheck to paycheck.
The strategy I have found most effective to deal with overspending is roughly calculating how much of my life I am selling when I make a specific purchase decision. You can do this with a simple equation:
- Calculate your monthly salary
- Divide that by the typical number of hours you work each month to get your hourly rate
- Divide the cost of that new shiny item you want to buy by your hourly rate and see how you feel about giving us that much of your life to bring the item home
Strategies to stop overspending
Other effective ways of curbing tendencies to overspend include:
- Setting yourself a strict spending budget each month. Put that money into an account and once it is gone, it’s gone.
- The financial guru Dave Ramsey recommends the ‘old school’ approach of using a cash in envelopes system. Break your budget into elements such as food, clothing, toiletries, entertainment etc, and put the allocated budget in cash into each separate envelope. Studies show you feel more pain if you pay in cash than by debit card, let alone credit card, so you are less likely to overspend.
- Put the credit cards away! If you don’t have a cash balance to pay for something, then don’t spend it.
- Save up for big purchases over time.
- If you feel an impulse to buy something, wait 24 hours and see if you feel the same afterwards.
Support to live well, spend less
For me, the journey to live well and spend less has been a long one and I am still learning. I’ve found the following resources super helpful:
- Minimalism: A documentary about the important things – this is where it all started for me. I saw this film on Netflix just as I was at a burned-out low and it spoke to me on so many levels. You can buy it on Amazon here.
- Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. These guys are collectively known as the Minimalists and this book tells the story of how they went from being desperately unfulfilled chasing corporate world success, to getting rid of most of their material possessions to focus on what is truly important. This is the classic book to get started with. Also check out their free podcast which is great.
- The More of Less: Finding the Life you Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker. Joshua is another prominent content creator in the minimalist space. He has a great YouTube channel as well.
- The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker. If you’ve decided that you want to start the process of reducing the amount of stuff you have, this is a great ‘how-to’ guide.
Share your story!
So have you tried minimalism? What are your top tips to live well, spend less?
I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
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