Are you familiar with the minimalism trend? It is not all about tiny homes, capsule wardrobes and Spartan living spaces. It is actually mostly about ideas rather than numbers. For instance, there is a bestselling book by author Marie Kondo, and instead of calling it minimalism, she refers to it as tidying up. There is also the idea of Swedish death cleaning (it is much more appealing than it sounds), and it too emphasizes thinning out the material goods around you.
Both examples of minimizing ask you to look at each item in your home and determine if it a) has value or b) brings joy. If it is not clear whether or not it falls under either heading, it is time to reconsider ownership of it. For instance, the great vintage leather coat you inherited from your grandfather might bring you some smiles and good memories whenever it comes out of the moth balls, but if it is not being used and simply taking up space, you may want to consider finding a good way to sell it to someone who will wear it and experience actual purpose and joy from it.
As you might see, that example was a very good illustration of one way to minimize to save money. Cleaning out the closets can help you to cut down on clutter but usually turns up several items that can be converted into cash.
Is that the only way that you can minimize to save money? Not at all, and before start diving into the “how” part of it, let’s really consider the “why”.
Why You Can Minimize to Save Money
Not long ago, I began to look around my living spaces and realized that they were packed with unused and unneeded items. Some did have sentimental value and did bring me joy, but I also realized that I had started to forget that many of those things were even there. That’s when I started to learn about minimalism in its many forms, and what I have found is that you can minimize to save money because doing so forces you to:
- Make Plans – Whether it is developing a capsule wardrobe, trying to thin down the food budget, look for ways to earn extra income, eliminate debt or increase savings, when your goal is to minimize it involves careful planning. I don’t mean you need to spend many days or weeks just thinking about how it is to be done. No, what I mean is that you start to give more thought and consideration to any actions that will allow you to acquire things, spend money, and so on.
For instance, I recently made the move to vegetarian eating and wondered if it could actually save money. As I experimented and learned, I realized I was going to save a lot more if I made solid meal plans and did some cooking ahead of time. Because of that, I could take a few cups of rice, some dried beans and some homegrown ingredients and make many tasty lunches and dinners out of them, while also saving lots of money. I pre-packed individual or multiple servings to save time in the mornings, and even this helped by eliminating loads of dirty dishes and chaos as we headed out the door each day. I also kept the cupboards from bulging with an oddball assortment of foods unlikely to be used, avoided impulse buys and saved lots of times weeknights when I’m not always eager to cook.
Plans don’t apply to food alone. I looked at the times of the week I did cleaning and got our household on an Amazon Subscribe &Save plan that ensures we have the ideal number of cleaners on hand, and at a deep discount. They are delivered to the door once each month – and usually just as I am tossing the empty bottle of floor cleaner or the last laundry detergent box into the recycle bins. The same is true of planning our recreational activities, travel, savings goals, and so on. There is little time and resources wasted when firm plans are always put in place first. This is why minimizing to save money works – it keeps things clear and simple, and helps avoid waste of all kinds.
- Spend with intent – One of the reasons that you can minimize to save money is that it forces you to change your relationship to spending. Once you start making plans, almost everything you choose to purchase matters more than ever before. Why? Because planning shows you precisely what you need and you start to ignore items that are simply eye-catching, tempting or alluring because they are discounted. In fact, I found that my habit of planning all of my spending automatically made me take a lot more care when contemplating any purchase not in my plans as well as those in the plans. Those cans of tomatoes on sale, for instance, were not so tempting when I knew I had four just like them at home and plans to use them the following week.
As another example, when I need to buy something like a tool or even a new pair of shoes. I don’t go for trendy, low priced or the first I see. Instead, I now take time to shop around, research brands and reviews, and have a willingness to spend more on a dedicated (rather than cheaper multi-purpose) tool as it will last longer and perform better. In other words, when you minimize to save money, it also affects your relationship to future spending, and you become willing to pay more to get more in the long run.
- Skip credit – When you start to minimize to save money it is also going to force you to reconsider the use of funds you don’t have, i.e. credit. Living within your means is something that is a natural part of minimal living. Your goal is to live with less and keep everything simple – including the budget. Buying something on credit complicates your budget (adding a new line item until it is paid off) and also makes it easier to buy what you want rather than need.
As one expert wrote, “Minimalism goes against the cultural temptation to purchase things that are not only out of your price range, but that you don’t really even need. By living a minimalist lifestyle, you’ll make careful purchases that you sincerely need, which ultimately means you won’t spend what you don’t have.”
- Improve upkeep and maintenance habits – One of the most profound things I have seen as I have started to minimize to save money is that my relationship to my belongings has changed. I am now much better at taking care of the items I own. I don’t just buy less and buy only the best quality, but I feel like I have invested in everything I buy. This makes me much more likely to take care of the things I own – whether it is my new, tiny little car, the pricey leather boots, or the brand new refrigerator. You even start to live in a tidier home because everything receives regular attention, and is either used or discarded because it serves no purpose.
So, when you begin to minimize to save money you will see that it actually pushes you into new habits. These habits only support your goals as they help you to be more conscientious about spending, but more importantly, about bringing new items into your home and even your budget.
Bringing in Real Items and “Line Items”
For instance, I have written about the ways that subscription services can really sap your bank balance, and also about the myriad ways you can free yourself of debt by using the freebie services from the local library. This too can be a way to minimize to save money.
How? Take some time to look at your budget, and be sure it is not just categories but actual line items that show how much you are spending on everything from food and gas to subscription services. As an example, instead of “subscriptions” make sure you have every service itemized. Is the list full? Does it have a lot of lines to manage? If so, you can start to minimize to save money just by consolidating and eliminating many of these items.
As a prime example, take the ways you bring entertainment into your home. You may be like millions of others and use Netflix, Hulu, and premium subscriptions through services like Amazon Prime. Yet, you should also look at the ways to eliminate many of them. Why? There is an abundance, or actually, an overabundance of options you can use for free from the library.
I would say that frugal folks should stick to the Amazon Prime options because the subscription also enables you to save tremendously through the free shipping, Subscribe & Save, Pantry items, and so on.
However, take the time to look at your subscriptions, and use services such as Truebill, Trill, Trim, Bobby, Bean and others. They are going to review everything that is a recurring charge in your bank or other accounts and help you narrow things down to the most minimal amounts possible. If you see that you have hundreds headed out the door every month on subscription music and movie/TV services, and you know you rarely use them, the sites or apps can help you end the digital clutter and budget draining.
Of course, as you do this one simple thing to begin to minimize to save money, you can also see that you can do a lot more than you realize without spending money. Outdoor activities as simple as hiking, cycling, going to the library, gardening…they cost nothing and can be a much healthier and more mindful way to spend time instead of sitting on the sofa gazing at the TV.
Sell What You Don’t Need
Of course, a major way to start to minimize to save money is to declutter and sell those goods that have value. In my recent article about spring cleaning to generate cash, I pointed out that you should direct attention to the attic, closets, and garage to find things you no longer need. You can then use the standard, keep – sell – donate – toss method of sorting the items.
Before tossing, though, I always remind readers that items often seen as garbage can be worth money. As an example, out of date electronics and empty printer or toner cartridges can actually be converted into cash or gift cards. Websites like Amazon and their Buyback Program, Best Buy, Nextworth, Buy Back World, Glyde, Swappa, eBay’s instant sell option, and Gazelle are all ideal spots to find out about these opportunities.
Clothing that has some value should also be brought to consignment shops or sold online (though you have to hold on to them and keep them organized until they sell). And appliances should be narrowed down too. For instance, those who minimize to save money need to eliminate items like spare refrigerators, as they take up space, use energy and rarely earn their keep. You can always donate them to a Habitat for Humanity group and they can use, refurbish or recycle them for cash.
Almost anyone can use these tips to begin to minimize to save money. It really is all about thinking in terms of smaller – smaller expenditures, smaller numbers of belongings and even smaller living spaces. As you begin to alter your mindset and reduce the numbers of possessions, you will see that there is a lot more to life than the material goods around you. You can even make a nice sum when you minimize to save money by selling off many of the things around you.
The minimalist lifestyle can be many things and you can start with something as simple as your closet or your way of eating, but you will soon find it spilling over into other areas of your life and encouraging you to think differently about spending and saving.