Give Me Back My Five Bucks

When minimalism and personal finance collide

Now, I am not a minimalist by any means. I don’t strive to only own 100 things, travel for months with just a small backpack of possessions, or get rid of the gadgets that I love (Kindle, iPhone, Macbook Pro, Canon G10). And while I don’t mind our small apartment here in Germany, I’m looking forward to having a bit more space in my townhouse back home. :) But I do respect minimalists. And ever since I forced myself to condense my life into a 60L backpack, I don’t even remember or miss the things that I left at home.

But if I only brought the items that I actually care about, where does that leave the rest of my stuff? Does that mean I only need 2 pairs of shoes, 1 jacket, 2 pairs of pants, 1 sweatshirt, and a handful of t-shirts? I’ve never once uttered “oh, I wish I had brought X with me.” In fact, I overpacked. By a lot. I could probably do without 30% of the stuff I brought with me. And hypothetically if I were to leave my possessions in Vancouver behind forever, the only thing I would have regretted not bringing are a few pieces of sentimental jewelry.

So what does that mean for my personal finances when it comes to minimalism? Fabulously Broke touched upon the subject in a guest post for me – Minimalism and finances go hand in hand. And just like my No Spend Day Challenge – where I’m trying to curb my needless impulse purchases – I feel that minimalism is the same concept. It’s trying to de-clutter your life and make it a little simpler.

I know that I could be happy with only owning whatever I can fit into my backpack, but the truth is, I like the comfort that my “stuff” provides me. I like having a home – which is why I am a homeowner. And while I don´t (and never will) have a lot of stuff, I like having a comfy couch, nice dishes, a bread maker, a flat screen TV, and a few more pairs of pants than I actually need to have. :)

Do you ever think you could become a minimalist?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a 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, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Daisy says:

    I wrote a post about then when I was on blogger, but I don’t see myself ever being a minimalist. I can see what some people would want to, but knowing me and my stuff – mostly clothes, shoes, accessories – I just don’t think it’s for me!

  2. Jeffrey says:

    I definitely think I could become a minimalist, and I don’t think it means living with nothing, either. To me, the things I’d get rid of are the knick-knacks around my house. I don’t really need those. While I think only having 2 pairs of pants might be tough, I doubt I need much more than that.

    I think there’s still a sizable gap between owning 100 things and limiting yourself to just a 60L backpack. I like having a nice couch and dishes to eat off, too, but I don’t think I need 3 couches and 20 plates to be content.

  3. I’m aiming to become a minimalist, but it’s a hard process. I have entirely too many clothes!

  4. psychsarah says:

    I like the philosphy of minimalism, that you only have what you absolutely need and value, but I don’t think I will ever qualify as a minimalist. I have curbed my packrat tendencies considerably over the years, but still have some sentimental things I can’t get rid of (e.g., my band sweater from high school-I’m never going to wear it again, it’s horribly ugly, but it was a huge part of my life back then).

  5. bogofdebt says:

    I was living out of a suitcase for a little over a year without most of my stuff. I’ve found that I need less then what I used to think I did but I still love some of my things for keepsakes and sentimental reasons.

  6. I think I need to follow your lead and cut back on all the crap I’ve accumulated over the years. There’s nothing wrong with having appliances and basic home necessities, but my issue is that I have way more clothes than I actually use and I’m too reluctant to throw stuff out.

    Simplicity is the key!

  7. haha, and yes, I understand the apparent paradox between my comment and my most recent blog post.. Thankfully, the post will vindicate me in the end. ;)

  8. Modest Money says:

    I guess you would really learn to appreciate both sides of minimalism when suddenly only having a backpack full of possessions. I’d like to think I could live a minimalist lifestyle, but it is comforting to have a lot of stuff even if I don’t use most of it regularly.

  9. Michelle says:

    I think about it all the time, but I don’t think I could. I like having a big closet full of clothes.

  10. Kristin says:

    I try to not accumulate tons of stuff, since I know I have a hard time getting rid of things. So if I don’t have lots of stuff, then I don’t have to go into fits trying to get rid of it. I know I will be moving a lot at this stage in my life and having fewer things makes that easier to deal with.

    However, I do think that your circumstances have a lot to do with it, as well as the situations you encounter. I’m not sure what kind of home you have, but if it had any kind of land to maintain, you’d need things like rakes, lawnmowers, etc. and a lot more tools, whereas you don’t need that for a short-term stay in an urban area. Or in terms of clothes, you are probably not going to lots of weddings and meeting businesspeople while you are abroad, so perhaps you didn’t bring them with you, but you will still need clothes for those types of occasions when you return.

    Most of the time, I only use a fraction of my stuff, for example my office supplies – mostly pens and notebooks. But when Christmas rolls around, I do need cellophane tape to wrap presents, and I need paperclips and envelopes for tax time. Does that mean I shouldn’t have those things the rest of the year? Minimalism won’t ever completely work for me, but I do try to be mindful of the things I do acquire.

  11. Bria says:

    I could. Since I was a child, “things” never meant a lot. That said, my job requires a nice wardrobe, and being a triathlete, I needed the essential gear.

    That said, the two suits I bought during my first year of law school are still the only expensive suits I own. I replenish my other “business causual” clothes as they wear out. My rule of thumb when buying clothes is whether I will wear the item enough so that the price, over time, would work out to $1/wear or less. I.e. would I wear this $50 blouse 50 times? If the answer is yes I may buy it, if not, I will usually pass. Just an example of spending awareness!

  12. I subscribe to the theory of it, but I’m not sure I adhere to all of the actions. I hate clutter, I keep my home very neat, and I have one-in-one-out rule for shopping, but I also love the comfort of having a decorated home. I couldn’t give up photos or things I’ve acquired in my travels…

  13. I’m moving across the country in a couple of months, and that has made me realize I need to de-stuff, stat! But I don’t subscribe to any arbitrary rules like “100 items” (which most of time don’t even include things like pots and pans that a partner or roommate has but that the minimalist uses).

  14. eemusings says:

    I would consider myself somewhat of a minimalist ( though I didn’t always used to be. To me it’s not about cutting down to an arbitrary number of possessions. It’s about owning things that are important to you and saying forget the rest. I have some expensive belongings – electric guitar, SLR, smartphone etc. All things I could live without, but that are priorities for me. By contrast, I don’t own a hairdryer, a car of my own, lots of clothes/makeup, etc. It’s about a mindset of being conscious of what you buy and saying no to consumerism and materialism.

  15. I don’t know if I could live from a backpack for an extended period of time (clothes-wise). The longest backpacking trip I took was 2.5 months and at that time I had a few shirts and pants. By the end of the trip I wanted to burn the shirts and pants I had I was so sick of wearing them.

    That being said, I don’t need much “stuff” to keep me happy but I agree that memories/ pictures/ my iPhone/ MBP are all very important to me. :)

  16. Bridget says:

    yes… I already try. I don’t own very much but I’m kind of cheating right now because I’m living in my friend’s apartment while she studies abroad so while I don’t “own” furniture I still have some ;)

    But I am happy I gave up books & DVDs and small things like that. And I tend to keep my closet pretty small, which is also how I like it.

  17. Cait says:

    I have no desire to become a minimalist but, kind of like you, having all my things packed up for a year made me realize how little I actually need in life to be happy. Since unpacking and living with it all again, I can look at almost every corner of my apartment and think: why do I have that DVD? Why do I have 8 towels, when I only use 2-3? When did I ever think I was going to use THAT!? etc. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to get rid of everything…

  18. Aaliyah Hudson says:

    Less is more. Being a minimalist would really help you save up money and space. Get something that you really need and want. It will really help a lot. Just sharing! :)

  19. You must be happy you didn’t go for the bigger backpack after all! :)

  20. David says:

    Its most difficult to save personal finance.

    Thanks for sharing story

  21. I’ve slowly been trying to be a minimalist here and there. It’s just crazy when I think about all the stuff I really don’t use, thankfully it gives me a lot of stuff to donate. :-)

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