Sometimes, I joke that I became a minimalist out of necessity. While there is a little truth to that, I have found that I actually prefer a minimalist lifestyle to one that celebrates excess.
Minimalism is intentionally choosing to own and live with less.
Living with less creates space to be more. For me, it allows for more mindfulness, exploration, and meaning. My energy, along with time and money, are spent with a concentrated purpose.
I believe freedom means different things to different people. Ultimately, for us, it means that we aren’t tied down by debt and can choose how we want to live. Minimalism has shaped our budget to align with our commitment to financial freedom.
Because minimalism is characterized by intention, our finances are divided between the areas that matter most to us.
Values-based budgeting is an introspective method that requires consideration and prioritization according to what you value. It directs your spending towards what you genuinely care about and reduces spending in the areas that don’t bring you joy, so to speak.
For example, Brian and I used to venture out to pretentious foodie restaurants. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a nice meal every now and then. However, we found that we were dropping some serious dough for these meals only to leave frustrated and starving. Our lackluster experiences became so frequent that we realized how much we actually preferred and enjoyed a divey hole-in-the-wall (with delicious food!) versus an upscale, frou-frou restaurant.
We figured out what we valued and redirected our spending!
Groceries & Meal-Planning
Brian and I weren’t always as deliberate with our grocery budget as we are now. With inflation and rising prices, we’ve learned to pivot and create more flexibility. The number of grocery stores we visited increased from two to six. Intentionally shopping for weekly sales, purchasing different brands, and buying in bulk has curbed our spending and allowed us to try new meals.
We now get more for our money while still eating fresh and healthy. To keep things simple, we often make bulk meals to fuel ourselves through busy work weeks. This is something we’ve done for years.
Bulk meals have conveniently fed us through demanding jobs, chaotic months, and busy house projects. Our main staples include:
- Paleo Slow Cooker Chili
- Wild Rice Soup
- Jook (or Congee)
- Celery Soup
- Ginger & Tumeric Chicken Soup
- Tofu and greens
In the end, our grocery budget helps us stretch our dollar, build bulk meals, and free up time that would otherwise be spent meal-planning and cooking!
Pro Tip: A slow cooker is an amazing investment for easy, no-fuss cooking.
We’ve tapped into newfound freedom with our home improvement projects. While some might not consider these kinds of things ‘freeing’ per se, Brian and I have discovered a genuine appreciation and love for our DIY adventures.
Our approach is minimal in that we purposefully limit the number of cooks in the kitchen. We learned our lesson with hiring contractors. Unless our project includes something specialized (HVAC, for example), we’ve committed to the DIY-route as much as possible.
Truthfully, no one will ever care about your project more than you do. Learning and understanding that fact has been freeing in and of itself.
Self-investing through home improvement has helped us build equity, skills, and knowledge. Budgeting for tools has allowed us to acquire a handful of ‘assists’ that enable us to complete projects and invest for future use. Not to mention, we are saving a pretty penny by rockin’ these projects ourselves!
The scope of our travel narrowed considerably at the start of the pandemic. Since then, we have mostly concentrated on optimizing our rewards through our preferred loyalty programs.
Our membership through IHG and Holiday Inn Club Vacations, for example, has helped us save thousands of dollars this year. We traveled throughout Texas and along the West Coast, in addition to a number of other stays throughout the country, using the benefits of our membership.
With exclusive access to member-only rates and promotions, Brian and I have intentionally booked travel through our loyalty programs to build our status and create more travel opportunities.
Additionally, our IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card accelerates reward earnings through IHG transactions, which receive up to 10X the points. Travel, dining, and gas stations receive 5X the points, while all other expenses earn 3X the points. This credit card has been a great tool for us as we constantly earn points from our day-to-day activities!
Savings & Investments
Through intentional values-based budgeting, Brian and I have challenged ourselves to continue to squirrel away savings. We consistently save 30% of each paycheck, excluding our retirement funds, as a result of our minimalist approach to consumerism.
This amount is disbursed between our annual savings goals and future investment opportunities. You never know when a good deal might pop up! Budgeting for our savings and investments keeps us flexible and prepared for emergencies and unexpected situations.
Small Adjustments for More Freedom
As Brian and I focus on what’s important to us, we have found that it’s pretty easy to minimize or go without certain things.
- Hair Cuts: I cut my own hair
- New Clothes: Unless we truly need something specific, we shop secondhand
- Car Payments: We own our cars and will drive them until they die on us
- Repair Instead of Replace: If we can fix it, sew it, or patch it up some way, we do it
These are some of the examples of the small adjustments we’ve made. This kind of thing might not be for everyone, but it works for us! Since we are more invested in pursuing the things we really care about, making these changes hasn’t affected us all that much. Leaning into minimalism has helped us budget in ways that facilitate our commitment towards financial freedom.
Could Minimalism Help You?
If you’re curious about minimalism, try giving it a go. Sometimes, I think it gets a bad rap in our overly consumerist society. It seems like many folks consider minimalism restrictive, as opposed to freeing.
It’s all about perspective. Some thrive on excess and find comfort in material things – and that is A-OK (well, as long as you’re not hurting anyone!). Your life is yours to live. However, if you find yourself feeling more owned by your possessions than truly enjoying the possessions you own – it might be worth it to explore a more intentional way of living.
Brian and I value the minimalist lifestyle and how it aligns with our own goals. I don’t personally like a lot of “unnecessary stuff”. Material, or otherwise, I’m just not a fan of needless stress, obligations, or other distractions. By minimizing excess noise, we’re able to really focus on the areas that bring us joy as we work towards our freedom.
Do you think minimalism could benefit you? In what ways?
I must agree with the concept of ‘being owned by my possessions’. When I was younger, I liked to go party boat fishing. While out on the boat, I’d see those people that had their own boats, coming and going as they’re whims directed. I was envious and decided that I should have my own boat. That happened in 1983.
The boat was great…at first. As time went on the required servicing and repairs became more of the face of boat ownership. Add in docking and storage fees coupled with a short boating season in New Jersey, and I got the feeling that the boat was dictating my attention rather than serving as a source of pleasure. I was not terribly upset to finally sell it.
I find that ownership of any kind, be it tangible or intangible, is often explored through moments of trial and error. Lessons learned and a few ‘oopsies’ along the way can either strengthen or release that bond. Possessions come and go. Though you sold the boat, the experiences and memories still remain. Sounds like it was a fun adventure while it lasted 🙂