Does a minimalist lifestyle actually save you money? Here’s the honest truth from a minimalist family of four plus the four ways minimalism has changed their lives.
I’m excited to share a guest post from Cassie from A Life on a Dime. She is going to talk all about her family’s journey to a minimalist lifestyle and how it has changed their finances. I’ll let Cassie take it from here!
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Can minimalist living actually save you money?
I’m sure most of you are familiar with minimalism, or at least think you are.
A minimalist lifestyle is where you live in an all-white house with white furniture (probably designer) and wear an expensive capsule wardrobe, right?
Not all minimalists (I’m guessing most) have that kind of budget… or taste.
Minimalism is more about focusing on only the essentials in life and ensuring physical possessions serve a purpose. This frees up your time and your money to focus on what you value most in life. But how exactly does this save you money? Here are four ways a minimalist lifestyle has saved my family money.
Suchot’s note: A way to save money on purchases you’re already making is by going through Rakuten. This is a legit cash back site (I use it) and here is $10 to get you started. I recommend signing up for it now.
A minimalist lifestyle led to fewer impulse purchases
It can be so easy to spend lunch wandering through Target (did that many times) and walk out with a random assortment of impulse buys you had no clue you needed when you walked in the door.
It can also be so easy to stop at the drive-thru on your way back to work from said trip to Target and spend $10 on lunch because you forgot to pack one.
I used to shop just for the sake of shopping.
I think I came by that one naturally – my mother loved shopping. It was an extreme sport for her; there was nothing like the hunt for a good bargain, the weekend trips to cities about two hours away with more shops to visit, and of course, buying things because they were a good deal.
I don’t like to travel just to shop, but I did find myself looking just for the sake of looking before embracing minimalism.
Related reading: How to Live Green on a Budget: Eco-Friendly Ways to Save Money
This is when things changed
After our mother died my sister and I were left to help my dad sort through a lifetime worth of… stuff. Most of it was useless to him and didn’t really have much value to her other than the fact that she knew what she’d paid for everything. If purchased on sale she would proudly tell you how much she saved.
But staring at all the items she’d accumulated through the years, it was obvious she hadn’t saved anything. So much of their hard-earned money had been wasted on clothes she would wear, hobbies she wouldn’t follow through with, and so many sets of dishes.
The majority of the items in that house were not of sentimental value or of any use to our dad. We sold what we could and several trips were made to local donation drop off centers with the rest.
I wasn’t aware of it then, but that was when I officially became a minimalist; I had pared down possessions prior to having our first child and was determined not to inherit the pack-rat traits of my mother and grandmother, but it wasn’t really a focused effort. Then and there it became one. And it hasn’t stopped being one now almost five years later.
What embracing minimalism has saved us
I basically stopped impulse shopping.
It is quite a bit easier now that we live farther out in the country and I have to drive 20 minutes to browse the stores which means I plan my trips into town. But I don’t really window shop online as much anymore either. I save items to my Amazon wish list and revisit them later. Most of the time I don’t want it anymore.
We were never out-of-control with our impulse shopping, but I’d say this has easily saved us a few hundred dollars a year. I really don’t enjoy shopping very much either. It’s a chore or an errand, not a hobby.
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A minimalist lifestyle led me to be more environmentally aware
This is a happy and unexpected side effect of minimalism; a new priority became to keep a safe, non-toxic home for our family. This led to more diligent recycling, which also led me to discontinue purchasing and using most one-time use products.
I no longer purchase paper towels, paper napkins, soda, bottled water (save for one case reserved for our emergency kit), Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, or shrink wrap. For birthday parties when we have more people than dishes I will simply buy compostable paper plates. As a result, we go through fewer trash bags. We do not pay for trash service since we live out in the county and it is overpriced considering the bag limits and lack of recycling pickup.
I also find myself more aware of the environmental impact of shipping when I make online purchases and either forgo the purchase altogether or wait until I have more I need to order. I also choose to buy fewer, higher quality items that will last than lots of cheaper items. If you’ve seen any of my YouTube videos you’ll probably see a few outfit repeats. My wardrobe may be smaller than most, but I love everything in it!
A simple minimalist lifestyle led to more focused priorities, including for our money
Saving money is definitely much easier of a priority now that we’ve adopted minimalism; when you stop buying things you don’t need them and plan your purchases according to your priorities, there is naturally a little more money in the bank account at the end of the month.
We now save more money every month; in terms of percentages, we’ve roughly doubled our savings. It still isn’t where we want it to be, but we are certainly getting there.
Suchot’s note: For other ways to save money here are 16 Weird Saving Tips From Extreme Cheapskates.
Last summer our toddler son lacerated his hand, leading to nerve damage in his thumb. Since he couldn’t tell us how much feeling he had or why he wouldn’t move his thumb we opted for exploratory surgery to assess the damage. We would’ve made this decision whether or not we had the money in savings to pay the bill immediately, but we certainly had more peace of mind knowing we could afford to take care of our son without going into debt.
It’s really easy to tell people no to certain requests that would take up a significant amount of your money when you can see what the impact would be on your budget and be able to tell them that isn’t a priority right now. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on this, but it sure feels priceless!
A minimalist lifestyle was part of what got us out of consumer debt
In line with our new priorities, which included my being home with the kids and not relying on expensive daycare or daily assistance of our parents to watch our youngest prior to going to school, we started talking about building a smaller home.
It’s not a whole lot smaller than our old home, but it is brighter, more open, and much more energy-efficient than our 1970s ranch style home that was beginning to feel way too close to the road.
We wanted to live more simply, in a smaller home with no wasted space (or hallways with seven doors). We wanted less room for stuff. A fresh start in a new home that only had room to hold a reduced amount of possessions sounded too good to pass up.
I decluttered our house more ruthlessly than before and sold or donated what no longer served a purpose or was no longer my taste. We boxed up what was left, moved in with my dad, and finished the renovations on the house.
This is how much debt we were able to pay off
Less than a week after going on the market our house was under contract. Once it sold we were able to become debt-free!
Our desire to live more simply with fewer possessions had gotten us out of about $60,000 of consumer debt!
Two car payments and a mountain of student loan debt were gone as soon as the payments cleared.
Not only that, but it saved us over $800 a month in childcare expenses since without all those monthly payments I could stay home from work. I was already home on a severance package, and my husband and I both wanted me to stay where I was – with our kids.
Now that we’re out of consumer debt we try our best to stay out of it by prioritizing our emergency fund and keeping spending to a minimum. Minimalism makes both these tasks easier! Cleaning house takes a lot less time as well since I do not have an endless amount of frames on the walls or shelf space to dust every week.
Suchot’s note: An easy way to save money is to use Trim, a free app that helps you by canceling old subscriptions, setting spending alerts, checking how much you spent on ride-sharing apps the previous month, negotiating your cable bill, and more. You can try out Trim for free here and see what it can save you!
What could a minimalist lifestyle save you?
Have you ever thought about minimalism?
You might want to give it a try and see how much money or time you save once there is less of a focus on stuff. And you don’t have to sell your house like we did to embrace minimalism!
Start with a good declutter of your home and then see how you feel. Revisit your wardrobe and see if it needs paring down or if you just need to focus future shopping on more quality pieces.
You don’t have to do it all at once either – I recommend focusing on one thing that is preventing you from being comfortable and at peace in your home.
If it’s stuff, focus on one category of stuff and declutter that. If it’s shopping, focus on that. Once you have a better handle on the first stressor, move on to the next.
Who knows, you might even make some money from a good declutter, but it shouldn’t cost you a thing!
This minimalist can say I have gained so much from embracing a life of less. Dumping debt and saving money along the way was just an added bonus.
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