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Save Money By Going Minimalist
“The best things in life aren’t things”
Being a minimalist is going to look differently for everyone. It all has to do with what your goals are and what you are willing to sacrifice to get there. It also has to do with your relationship status (single, married, kids), your location and job requirements. Our mantra for this is “the best things in life aren’t things” We don’t want to be stressed or consumed by always needing to buy “things”. We want to enjoy all that life has to offer through relationships, adventures, travel, etc.
One of the biggest money-savers for us was getting rid of our car.
Now I know you’re thinking that’s crazy and how can you possibly manage NOT having a car. For us, living in Burlington, Vermont has allowed this to be possible. Everything we do is within 3 miles of our apartment, so the bus is very practical for us. And with a monthly bus pass only costing $50/month ($1,200/annually combined), the savings are pretty amazing!! Consider this: gas, insurance, car payment, maintenance, inspections, registration. It adds us quickly. I took a poll to see how much people are spending annually for this expense. The average cost was around $7,000 for a 2 car couple/family. We haven’t had to pay any of that for the past 3.5 years. And there have been plenty of times that we didn’t even get the monthly pass, like in the summer months when we could just walk or ride bikes to our destination. And if we wanted to take a trip, renting a car is something that we could afford, since we have been saving so much throughout the year by not owning a car. But like I said, this isn’t practical for everyone’s situation. So if it's necessary for your life, you can still take advantage of money-saving situations. If you are in a city with public transportation, take the bus if you plan to be out all day. This will save on gas and parking. If you live close to your grocery store, walk and bring a hand cart to carry your groceries. If you live close to a co-worker, carpool to work. All these things will take a little bit of planning, but can be totally worth the effort.
Another big saver is clothing.
And yes, I know that nobody wants to talk about this one, but it’s important. Listen very carefully because I don’t want you to miss this- you don’t need to buy new clothes every year. You don’t need to buy new clothes every month. You don’t need to buy new clothes every winter. You don’t need to buy new clothes every summer. For some of you, this isn’t an issue, but for the rest- I know you think I must be crazy to even say it. Clothes are necessary but they don’t have to be new. If you take care of your clothes properly, they will last for years. I’m one of the ones that struggled with this thought for a long time. I love shopping!!! The bottom line here is that its mostly consumerism and just not necessary. So here’s my suggestion, create your avatar (your look, your style). Then go through your closet and make sure that your style fits with your clothes. Put a few outfits together (per season, if necessary) to see that it works. Then get rid of anything that you haven’t worn in the last year or even the last six months. And I mean even down to your socks and underwear, lol! This is part of decluttering your life. It’s excess if you aren’t wearing it regularly. The rule in our house is that if you need to buy something new, you have to throw something away. It forces you to really think about what you want, and it allows you to really value what you own. ;)
Our house rule doesn’t just apply to clothing, it’s applies to everything.
The reason for this is because of my earlier point- consumerism, excess. If clothes shopping isn’t your weakness, then it’s obviously something else. (Books, coffee mug, games, electronics, whatever is new in the tech world) We all have a weakness for something that we think we need. More often than not, it’s just consumerism. The marketing world makes us think we need whatever is new and shiny. I mentioned at the top that minimalism is going to be different for everyone, based on what your goals are and what you are wanting to accomplish. For us, it was minimizing and decluttering everything, and to eventually travel. We went from having 30 coffee mugs to having 4 (two for each of us- 1 large and 1 small). So now if I see a coffee mug I want to buy, it means I would have to get rid of one of mine at home. Needless to say I’ve had the same mug for almost 4 years now. If you have a big family or entertain a lot, then obviously your kitchen needs will be different from ours. It’s just the two of us and we live in a studio apartment. We don’t have a lot of space and we don’t often entertain. We donated anything that was excess for us. Plus it means we have a lot less to wash ;)
My next money-saving tip is portion control and food habits.
Don’t skip this tip! I KNOW this is a struggle for pretty much everyone! I also know that everyone is talking about meal prep right now. It’s like the cool thing to do now, haha! Are you actually doing it though? EVERY WEEK? And what does it look like for you? Are you actually planning out ALL YOUR MEALS, or just dinner? We have had to adjust our eating habits and food budget multiple times before we were able to find our sweet spot. So don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work right away. Taking control of your food/coffee habits can save you SO MUCH MONEY! I know this is going to sound boring to you, but we eat the same things every day. Why? Because it’s consistent and easy to budget, down to the penny. We measure out everything so we know how long it will last. We know how long our almond milk will last. We know how many meals we can make with each box of pasta. If that seems a little extreme for you, then pick a few dishes that you like and rotate them. But the important thing is to not make something different every single night of the week. It’s incredibly expensive to do this. At the end of the week, our fridge and cabinets are empty. This is because we don’t have excess in our house. We eat everything we buy, every week! This is also what keeps our bodies the same size. We don’t ever have to buy bigger clothes because of our clothes not fitting. We are consistent with our food, so we are consistent with our waistline. I should also mention about eating out and coffee on-the-go. It’s convenient, for sure, but is it necessary? I know life is hectic but prepping beforehand can save a ton of money. I totally support buying a travel mug and making your own morning coffee! It only take a few minutes to do and is so much more affordable. And yes, we like Starbucks too, so we have to budget what we spend each month. And I even got a part time job there to support our coffee addiction! Now if eating out isn’t negotiable for you, then make sure to get a budget for it and stick to it. We limit our eating out to once a month- for date night! It’s a special occasion that we always look forward to!
Now let’s move on and talk about electronics and daily living.
Yes, we live in the age of technology and social media, but it doesn’t mean you have to be on it ALL THE TIME! It’s all about finding balance in your life and making time for the things that are important. We’ve all seen the joke meme where a family is out to eat, sitting in a booth and everyone is talking, but through their phones. And we all know this isn’t limited to when we are dining out. It’s also common when you are sitting on the couch with your spouse and, yet, you are still consumed by your phone. A very simple solution to this- don’t have a smartphone! What?! It sounds crazy but it’s true. It’s a huge expense that really isn’t necessary. It’s a luxury. Let’s be honest, you don’t need a smartphone AND a tablet AND a laptop AND a desktop. It’s excess. Find your balance. Another way to save in this category is cable/internet. We haven’t paid for cable in 5 years. The costs were ridiculous and caused us to be blobs on the couch. We found a compromise and pay $9/month for Netflix and found an affordable internet, costing only $35/month- so much better than paying almost $200/month!! So if we want to watch a show that’s not on Netflix, we just have to wait for it to be online. It frees us up to do other things, like read or do projects together, instead of sitting in front of the TV for hours every night. We also put a cut-off time for social media/phones, so that our evenings can be spent together and not spent staring at a screen.
Lastly, I want to emphasize the importance of making a budget and sticking to it.
I know this is nothing new but it really helps! It’s easy to think that you have no money, but when you are forced to go through your receipts, the truth comes out ;) When we sat down and went through several months of receipts, we analyzed all our expenses and all the things that we could cut back on. From this data, we were able to create a workable budget that allowed us to save hundreds every month! Keep in mind- buying a coffee here and there, a lunch date, a late night movie, a new shirt- it may not seem like a big deal at the time, but it adds up very quickly. So this is what I’m talking about- ALL your expenses should fit into your budget. If it doesn’t, then it’s excess. If you love going to the movies, then have a movie category in your budget. If you go to 4 movies a month, maybe cut it back to 2 movies a month. If you like going out to eat with friends, maybe start meeting at your houses instead of going to a restaurant. Find creative ways to still enjoy your favorite things without going over your budget. And always make sure your spending is less than your income!!
Let's wrap this up!
I want to reiterate what I said at the beginning of this post. These are money-saving tips and examples of things we’ve done to have a minimalist lifestyle. Not all of these tips will be relevant for everyone, since everyone’s life and situation is different. Our goal is have a decluttered life and to travel more! By minimizing our expenses and our possessions, we believe that we can accomplish this! I hope these tips are helpful to you and that you can find ways to reach your goals, both personally and financially! Cheers!