Minimalism has a lot going for it -- a simpler life could simplify your spending and thus your finances. But does it always bring you the big wins?
The answer is yes in some regards and no in others.
Big win: housing
Is your garage filled more with stuff than cars? How about the rest of your house -- how much stuff do you have?
The one virtue of decluttering and going minimal is that you eliminate the need for extensive storage. And unless you like living in big empty spaces, that means you can live very comfortably in a smaller place.
Whether you're renting or buying, going from four bedrooms to two or three will often save you a considerable amount of money. If you want to live in a nicer neighborhood, going for a smaller home frees up the cash that might be needed to move you closer to the beach or into a better school district.
Bonus: It might also reduce the cost of your insurance as well.
Where you lose: nonessentials that aren't strictly nonessential
Think about those people who travel with their phone and maybe a small bag and nothing else. I travel a lot, and as someone who always brings a carry-on suitcase or oversize work bag, I've always wondered how the bare-bones travelers do it.
Then it came to me: It's because they buy what they need when they need it.
Whereas I always refill my water bottles and bring snacks wherever I go (no seriously, I always have snacks), a devoted minimalist might just buy whatever is needed at the time.
This is obviously nice in terms of convenience, but it means the cost of everything goes up exponentially. Now add more than one adult and a kid or two, and suddenly buying sandwiches at the airport versus bringing lunch from home begins to get pricey.
The same can be said for other essentials -- while minimizing your need for storage is fantastic, it's a huge pain to have to buy a new set of sheets and blankets every time someone comes to stay at your house instead of just having extras on hand. Same with those extra Thanksgiving dishes or the funny cookie cutter shapes your kids love to see around Christmas.
So, instead of going completely wild with minimizing, take into account that some stuff just has to be lugged around, stored, or used only occasionally. If you're going to need it eventually, this kind of stuff is worth having around to save you from having to buy it all over again. And that's OK.
Another win: time!
Depending on your version of it, a more minimalist lifestyle may mean getting rid of your TV, cable subscription, or even (gasp!) Internet. It might mean eliminating that weekend shopping habit and, along with it, the care and maintenance of all that stuff you end up buying.
What you get in return? Time. Big, sometimes weird stretches of it.
With no TV in the evening and shopping on the weekend, you suddenly have huge chunks of time that you can fill with... well, anything you want. Does that make financial sense? I'd argue that it does.
More time for recreation might mean getting outside and playing with your kids, which is good for your health -- which can cut down on healthcare costs in the future. It might mean a return to an old hobby like building ships in bottles. Your hobby might help you reduce stress, also good for your health, and again, your wallet.
Or it could mean starting a business or investing back in yourself with education. That doesn't have to mean going back to school -- it could involve learning the art of bonsai, catching up on industry news, or reading The Motley Fool and becoming a better investor. Hard to argue that such an investment in yourself won't pay off!
Whatever you do with your newfound time, financially speaking it's pretty priceless. In the end, I'd say a little more minimal is a lot more optimal.
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