When many people think of minimalists, they think of people with clean white apartments that have a couple of chic pieces of furniture. What’s funny is that typical portrayals of minimalism on the internet seem to involve professional designers that most minimalists would never pay for. But done right, you can use minimalism to achieve financial freedom. The best part? It is really simple to embrace.
How to Embrace Minimalism
Minimalism is the simpler and trendier version of frugality. The word frugality seems to scare people. Extreme cheapskates often come to mind. You know, those people who bake cookies in the heat of their car and reuse paper towels. Before I scare you off, I swear, you do not have to live an extreme lifestyle to embrace minimalism. Minimalism is all about being happy with what you have and realizing that you probably have a lot that you don’t need or even truly want.
The first step is going through what you already own. You can go room by room or go by type of things (clothes, kitchenware, office supplies, documents, food, etc.) Really be honest with yourself on what gives you joy in life and what is a necessity. If you pick up a book that you own, are you excited to start reading it or are you just holding onto it out of guilt of not reading it? Do you actually enjoy wearing all those shoes or just keep them around because you might wear them one day? What’s the point of owning all of these things unless they actually enhance your life? Don’t make your possessions a burden on yourself.
Living a simpler life doesn’t mean just what you own. You must declutter your entire life. As you go about your days, think about everything that doesn’t provide value to your life. Do you really need to save that email or have that unused app on your phone? I am a internet tab hoarder. Realizing that I have a problem is the first step. Now I actively work to close internet tabs that I deep down know that I don’t need to look at again. Getting rid of unnecessary attention grabbers is a huge relief.
Using Minimalism to Achieve Financial Freedom
When you start to realize that you actually need less than you think to feel happy and fulfilled, you start spending less. You don’t need more clothes because you didn’t like wearing most of them anyway. You also realize that constant stimulation isn’t making you any happier. It’s actually making you stressed out. The less you spend, the more you save. The more you save, the sooner you’ll hit Financial Freedom. Because you have embraced the changing perspective of minimalism, saving more just becomes easier. You don’t feel deprived.
Oh and all the other non-material clutter that was removed from your life allows you to spend time and attention on things that matter. This freed up time and energy will also allow you to go after more useful pursuits like a promotion or a side hustle.
Minimalism Can Make You Happier
Let’s say you have zero desire to retire early. Reevaluating what’s important in life, changes your life. You realize that happiness doesn’t come from accumulating things and spending money.
Once you clear the clutter from your life, a few things happen. You start to appreciate all that you own instead of being burdened by all of your possessions. This gratitude also helps you realize that you really don’t need much to be happy. This mindset teaches you to only fill your life with things that enhance it. Now your life only includes things that you actually enjoy or need.
How I Joined the Minimalist Movement
It wasn’t the trendy white apartments on Instagram that sold me on minimalism. The ability to use minimalism to achieve financial freedom was what got me hooked. I want the freedom to work at a job because I enjoy the work, not because I need the paycheck. Financial freedom also gives you the option to quit your job if you want more time to spend with family or to travel the world. If avoiding unnecessary consumerism would help me get there, then I was all for it.
I must give credit to those who have came before me and inspired me. Stumbling upon the blogs of Mr. Money Mustache and The Frugalwoods introduced me to the concept of using a simpler lifestyle to achieve financial independence. Both blogs involve people who decided to save more of their paycheck than spend it. They built a large enough nest egg through saving money so they were able to quit their jobs and live off the returns of their investments (largely simple ETF / Index investments, nothing complex). They still work but only when they choose to. That’s the goal right there.
Break Your Consumerist Chains
At first, breaking the spending pattern seems easier said than done. For me, giving up shopping for things like clothes and accessories wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. My weakness was “experiences”. This seems to be a weakness for many people in my generation (us darn millennials doing things wrong again). Here is some of my old thought process.
New Michelin star restaurant in town? I have to try it! Catching up with friends over amazing food makes it worth it. Yoga retreat to Costa Rica to recharge? Self care is important you know. New workout class that burns more calories than any other? Health has no price right? I HAVE TO ENJOY LIFE WHILE I CAN!!
All this spending on Instagram worthy trips and experiences is just another form of keeping up with the Jones. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t fill your life with incredible experiences. I sure haven’t since adopting a minimalist lifestyle. You just don’t have to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars a month to have meaningful experiences. Once you change your mindset, you’ll see that spending less isn’t as hard as you originally thought and you can still have an incredible quality of life.
There are plenty of ways to have great life experiences on a budget. I credit card hack to travel. I still eat out every once in a while but prefer to cook at home now. My meals are much healthier than what I can get at a restaurant. When I hang out with friends I don’t spend hundreds of dollars on food and drinks just to see them. I invite friends over or do something with them that doesn’t require lots of money. Sometimes we hike or see a free concert to discover new artists. I still take up new hobbies.
You can still have an exciting life living as a minimalist. You may even have more adventure and excitement because it can help you pursue financial independence, giving you more time and flexibility to pursue new opportunities.
Remember the Goal
Like I said, I have yet to feel deprived out of life because my mindset has changed. It’s all about perspective. Will spending extra money on unnecessary things or events truly make you happy? Or are you just trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing?
Besides the fact that my previous consumer desires aren’t there (most of the time, I’m only human), my goal of financial independence is much more desirable. I know that by using minimalism to achieve financial freedom, I will have something that most people only dream of. The freedom of time and the freedom to have options with my life.