What is Minimalism? How Sustainable Living Can Save You Money


Posted on Monday 13 January 2020


What is Minimalism? How Sustainable Living Can Save You Money

You’ve probably heard the term minimalism before, whether it in that art history class you took back in college or if it describes your favorite musical composers. Or maybe it’s a photography trend that you’re employing in your work. The phrase “minimalism” is used a lot in the arts, but it also describes a specific lifestyle and budgeting approach.

There are tons of books, documentaries, and podcasts that are all dedicated towards living as a minimalist to save money. Even more focus on sustainable living. And if the success of Marie Kondo’s KonMari method of folding, organizing, and decluttering has taught us anything, it’s that there are thousands of people who are totally ready to make changes to their lifestyle.

So what is minimalism? Regrettably, we don’t have time to get into the specifics of minimalism in art, music, or literature—but when we’re talking about creating a long-term, sustainable, and budget-free lifestyle, minimalism is pretty simple. It’s all about looking for ways to live with less and spend less (which are two goals that we could all seriously benefit from).

Using the principles of minimalism, it can help you:

  • Simplify your financial life
  • Get rid of things you don’t need (and the clutter that comes along with it)
  • Focus on experiences and purchases that are truly important instead of things that end up becoming clutter
  • Decrease day-to-day financial stress
  • Improve your mood and boost your overall happiness

Aside from the above, for many who practice minimalism, the most important benefit is freedom. It allows them to live without feeling trapped by consumerism, debt, financial obligations, worry, or guilt. And sustainable living goes hand in hand with minimalism. Both share the same goal of conserving your resources, ultimately saving you money in the long run.

If you haven’t heard of minimalism or sustainable living before, you may want to consider using them as a way to simplify your finances and save money over the long term. This is especially true if your finances are causing stress and anxiety, or if you are looking for a more holistic way to organize and declutter. In the sections below, we’ll show you what minimalism and sustainable living looks like and give you three steps that you can take to use them both to save money.

less-clothes

Step One: Own fewer things

Owning fewer things is the classic definition of minimalism. While it certainly helps when it comes to decluttering and making you more mobile (and who wouldn’t want to avoid renting a huge van when it’s time to move), simply owning fewer things can have a huge ripple effect on your financial health.

We tend to attach a lot of meaning to our possessions, which is totally normal! Things like photographs, journals, books, and family heirlooms can hold significant emotional and personal value. But there are plenty of things that we buy that don’t have much meaning at all, or things that we put in our shopping cart on impulse because they’re on sale. Think about what you (and your family) own when it comes to things like:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Beauty accessories
  • Kitchen appliances and tools
  • Electronics
  • Books
  • Toys

Getting rid of the things that you don’t need and aren’t using is the first step—and there are a couple of simple, straightforward ways to do it that don’t come with agonizing over making a decision. One option is to use the 90/90 rule as a guideline. Ask yourself if you’ve used something within the past 90 days. Will you use it in the next 90? If the answer to both is no, then you’ve identified your first opportunity to declutter.

Your second option is to look for duplicates. You probably also have a ton of duplicates laying around your house, like two sets of measuring cups, three hammers, or seven different fall jackets. Take all of the duplicates and store them away in a box. If you don’t miss them after 30 days, get rid of them.

OK, got it. But how does owning fewer things save me money?

Owning fewer things might not save you money right away—sure, your closet will feel lighter, and you’ll have more storage space in your closets and kitchen cupboards, but you’re not going to declutter and magically find thousands of dollars hidden away (what a dream). While decluttering like a minimalist doesn’t save Present You money, it does set Future You up for financial success.

Looking for opportunities to downsize will give you a unique perspective on how many things you have vs. what you actually need or use. It gets you in the perfect mindset to start rethinking how you spend your money on things.

Once you realize how many duplicates you have laying around, or how many things you bought that you never use, you’ll be much more inclined to approach your next shopping spree thoughtfully. Buy only what you need, and only if it truly sparks joy every time you use it.

Step Two: Minimize your spending and your finances

Minimalism helps you learn how to live with less—and in turn, it also helps you learn how to spend less. After all, once you realize that you don’t need quite so many things, you’ll be less inclined to buy more.

There are tons of different ways that you can minimize your spending, ranging from extreme, immediate changes to small, gradual adjustments to make over time. Not everyone is able to make the extreme changes, but two of the most common ones are downsizing to a smaller home or apartment and/or selling your car. Both of these changes are big ones, and they can have both immediate and repeated benefits to your financial health over time.

Unfortunately, we aren’t all in a position to change where we live or trade in our vehicles for biking, walking, or public transportation. Another way to use the principles of minimalism towards your finances is to simplify how your finances are structured.

Instead of having multiple credit cards, use only one. If you have a rewards credit card that gives you points and cash back, make that your primary credit card and start racking up points much faster. And if you have more than one checking and savings account, downgrade to only one of each to make money management as simple and as straightforward as possible.

OK, got it. But how does minimizing my finances save me money?

Living in a smaller home means that you are cutting down a huge chunk of your monthly bills. You’ll probably pay less in rent or a mortgage, and you won’t be spending so much on utilities like heating and cooling. If you sell your car, you aren’t paying for car insurance, gas, or repairs.

By using only one credit card, paying bills becomes much simpler—you have only one credit card bill to focus on instead of seven, eliminating the possibility that you will be paying multiple interest rates. And if you keep only one checking and one savings account, it will be much easier for you to control account-related fees and track your expenses (which should, in turn, make budgeting into a breeze).

Step Three: Live sustainably as much as possible

Living sustainably is all about minimizing your carbon footprint, using your resources smartly, and (of course) decreasing the amount of money you spend on a day-to-day basis. It’s not only good for the environment, but it’s good for your bank account, too! The possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to how you can start living sustainably. Here are some of the most common:

  • Install a clothesline (or get a drying rack) and start air-drying your clothes
  • Replace your old appliances with newer, energy-efficient models
  • Recycle any plastic, glass, aluminum, and electronic waste
  • Use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic
  • Stop buying bottled water and carry a reusable water bottle
  • Buy clothing and household accessories secondhand
  • Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when you have a full load of dishes or clothes
  • Use power strips for major appliances and turn them off when you leave the house
  • Only turn on lights in rooms that you are in
  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat
  • Keep windows open in the summer and layer up in the winter
  • Create a small garden in your yard to grow your own veggies
  • Use a rain barrel to collect water for your plants instead of using the hose
  • Install solar energy panels on your home
  • Bike or walk to work instead of driving

If you are really into living sustainably, you can even start making your own soaps, lotions, shampoos, and laundry detergent. There are tons of recipes available online to help you create your own formulas in bulk that will be cheaper, last longer, and eliminate packaging waste.

sustainable living

OK, got it. But how does living sustainably save me money?

Adopting sustainable living can help you conserve your resources and spend less on the things that you need every day. While much of sustainable living strives to have a positive impact on the environment, there are some great benefits to your personal finances, too.

It forces you to look at how you are using your household energy and provides opportunities to save on electricity, heating, and cooling. Over time, small changes like unplugging electronics or air-drying your clothes can ease your monthly financial burden, making it much easier to save towards an emergency fund and manage a budget. And if you have the ability to start your own vegetable garden, you’re decreasing your spending at the grocery store and making it much easier to eat healthy at home (double win).

Minimalism and living sustainably may not be for everyone—but the good news is that there are plenty of ways to customize these principles to fit your unique needs and lifestyle. Don’t worry if you can’t do everything all at once. Start small and make incremental changes to the way that you are spending your money, from buying only what you actually need to rethinking how you set your thermostat. With a little bit of focus and determination, anyone can start using minimalism and sustainable living to save money and boost their financial health!