Guest Post: Minimalism and finances go hand in hand

Note: Today’s guest post is from Fabulously Broke, a 20-something who is currently a full-time hotel dweller, working as a freelancer in a big city.

I am a minimalist.

Actually, I didn’t know it was called “minimalism” when I first started, I called it being a “modern nomad”. What that term meant for me was someone who has the same lifestyle as a gypsy (traveling with what we own), but using a plane and living in hotels instead.

I didn’t become a “minimalist” until around 2009. I wanted to become one, simply because I hated carrying all of this junk from city to city, and never using 50% of it. It wasn’t until I finally got down to where I am at (3 suitcases, 2 carryons), that I realized all of the benefits of minimalism, and how it’s improved my finances.

Conscious of everything I own
I am now extremely conscious of what I own and what I use on a daily basis. I re-evaluate my items every 6 months, and I’ve come to appreciate what I own.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to collect more, to have more variety, or to simply have beautiful objects around you, but all of this stuff makes it very difficult for me to travel simply and easily. Even though I enjoy curling up in armchairs, just the sheer thought of knowing I’d have to lug it around with me when I move, or to put it into storage because I may not be able to stay in one city for more than a year, makes it a lot easier to avoid accumulating more to carry around.

Quality over quantity
Since I want to carry around less, I buy higher end products where it makes sense. I spend more where it counts so that my things can last with some light maintenance and care. That said, I wouldn’t spend $900 on a pair of shoes, when a $100 pair would do just fine, but I would consider spending more money on a winter coat if it were going to last me far longer than an inexpensive one. I’m always evaluating what I buy by how long I want to keep/wear it, and if it’s worth it to pay extra money for something that may not be a long-term item.

I care less about social status & image
I admit, I did care a lot about what people thought of me when I was younger. When I was younger, I cared if people thought I was well-off or struggling. I spent money to look like I was rich, when in fact I was struggling with student loans and juggling 2 jobs to barely make ends meet.

Now, I don’t care what people think of me.

I have priorities in mind for everything, including my possessions and I don’t need that validation from others by portraying a false image of prosperity. I don’t care that people look at my old car and think I’m a struggling student who can’t make her bills because I no longer put stock on buying possessions to show my social status.

I no longer buying as much stuff on impulse
I no longer go into a store and spend unconsciously, purchasing decor (yes, pillows were my “thing”), or buying yet another grey sweater to add to my growing collection. As a result of planning, and trying to curb my impulse spending, I am buying less, which means I am spending less.

I will point out that not all of this has turned into 100% savings. True, I do save quite a bit of what I earn, but I am perfectly willing to spend it as well. This year alone (2011), I have decided to take the entire year off to travel around the world and do whatever I please. In doing so, I have forsaken my income for the year and set myself up for a year of 100% spending.

I don’t need to take care of so many things
While I dream about owning a huge wardrobe with rows and rows of knee-high boots, I am far too practical now, being a minimalist. I think: Why don’t I just have ONE pair of flat brown knee-high boots that I will love? Why do I need two? One is just enough and therefore I will spend the time and money to find the perfect pair so I can keep it for a long, long time.

The bottom line
Minimalism isn’t the solution for everyone and  but it has certainly worked out for me.

Aside from the monetary benefits of thinking about living with less, I also feel better not having all of these extra possessions or commitments to weigh me (and my mind) down. I can now do whatever I want, so if I am on vacation for a week and decide I want to stay longer, I stay.

Being a minimalist is a choice of a lifestyle and it can be as extreme or as light as you choose it to be, which is a lot like how people make personal decisions about their money and how frugal they want to be.

It is all up to you.

Ultimately, I really believe that the less you have, the more free you will feel.

Fabulously Broke cleared $60,000 of student loans in 18 months. She can also be found at The Everyday Minimalist, a blog all about real-life, doable minimalist living for the modern urban dweller.

P.S. The winners of the JukeboxPrint.com business card giveaway were Blonde on a Budget, and Clinton! Congrats you two! :)

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

13 comments

  1. Where do you end up living? Do you rent for 6 months or a year at a time? I assume you rent fully furnished places then? It sounds like you that must be the case if you are constantly traveling.

    How do minimalists make it work with children?

  2. I take the same approach to buying things as you. If I’m only going to have one, I’m willing to spend money to have it be exactly what I want.

    Do you ever struggle with seeing those around buying things more frequently than you?

  3. I have become more and more of a minimalist over time. I have learned that we do not own thing; they own us. Quality over quantity. Experience over stuff.

    What do I want for Christmas? Less.

    This YouTube video by Canadian singer Remi Boudreau pretty much tells it like it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdRg4cua1PY

    • Totally agree. For Christmas this year, my boyfriend and I agreed to buy each other nothing. Instead, we’re spending a week in Montreal and Quebec City. I also asked my parents not to buy my presents. There’s nothing that I want or need. Just spending time with friends and family is enough!

  4. Ive been on the move a bit the last few years, and before I buy anything I always think about whether or not I’ll move it or take it with me to my next living destination. This has been a huge help to keep clutter down.

  5. I don’t think I could ever be a completely minimalist type of person, but I am trying. I do agree with the others, I usually never know what I want for Christmas. This year all I really want is clothes.

  6. I completely agree with not caring if people see you as successful or struggling. However, my experience has been different. In our family, if someone sees you as successful they will stick you with the bills for meals or ask to borrow money from you and “take their time” paying you back (it could literally be YEARS). They take their time hoping you will just say “oh, you can forget about it”. I have found that it actually helps you by looking like you are struggling.

  7. I’m trying to work on quality over quantity, but I also try to make sure that I am not “over-buying” in terms of quality.

  8. This is something that I think about lately and try to “live out”.
    Unfortunately for me, most shopping I do is a result of boredom and not necessarily “needing” anything. Now im not exactly a hoarder but I do have a lot of stuff. I am trying lately to think more in terms of quality over quantity esp with clothing purchases.

  9. Fabulously Broke,
    I discovered your blog early this year and have been religiously following it since. I have changed my mindset about ‘stuff’ and have been trying to become more a minimalist (one step at step). Though I don’t ever see myself living living on suitcases like you are. Like you stated in this post, I have become very conscious of everything I buy and own. Everything I buy now, outside of consumables, I think about it long and hard before I buy. In the past, I have bought too many things due to impulse or want. Some are still sitting here collecting dust and have been rarely used. Thank you for the inspiration!

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