What’s the meaning of your life? I grant you that’s a heavy intro but if you want to be a minimalist that’s likely the first question you need to ask. Finances play a prominent part in our lives whether we’re material gluttons or minimalists so it’s best we figure out what’s important right of the jump. Sadly, when I tried to think about that question, my mind went as blank as a polar bear in a snow storm so here’s a little help. According to Joshua Fields Millburn, founder of The Minimalists, it can be boiled down to two things. First, it is personal growth. Second, it’s contributing to others. Deep stuff! Obviously minimalism means having less stuff and a thinner budget but the question is how do we get there?
First, we need to ask ourselves the right questions about finances. Keep this equation in mind. Minimalism = freedom. Here are 3 questions that can help achieve a minimalist lifestyle and, thus, help lead to making good financial decisions.
1. Does this purchase help my personal growth?
For me, personal growth comes down to pursing things that I love or have passion for. I love to read and learn new things. I like to goof off with my kids. I love to cook dinner and enjoy it together with my family. I like to sit on my front porch and talk about the Browns with friends. Mark my words – The Cleveland Browns will win the Super bowl this year! Ummm sorry where was I? It’s not often that one’s passions matches up with financial success like a professional athlete or a published writer but even if your passion doesn’t bring you financial success, there’s a good chance it isn’t a financial drain either. So when making a purchase, ask yourself if it’ll contribute to your personal growth.
2. Does this purchase contribute to others?
Sure maybe you are donating to a worthy charity or a food bank. Great! How do you contribute to others? Do you volunteer at a local organization? Even if you don’t, no doubt you have had the opportunity to coach and mentor others on occasion even if it was by chance. You know the satisfaction that it brings. What purchase can you make that matches the satisfaction you can get from helping someone understand something previously unknown or just connecting with someone else?
3. Does this purchase contribute to my freedom?
This one resonates the most for me. We’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money”. Sure it is but time is also freedom. Most of us devote 40 hours a week to get get paid for our time. Maybe it’s an hourly rate or a salary wage but it’s something we can quantify. Pick up a $20 bottle of wine or a $20 shirt or $20 at the movies – how much of your life did you give up for it? 1 hour, 2 hours or 3? A minimalist lifestyle is all about freedom. When making choices about money, you must ask yourself does this give me more freedom. How much of your life (i.e. time) do you have to give up for a $30,000 car? How about that new $2000 refrigerator? How about the $60 on dining out? When I think about money as my freedom, I pay attention!
You don’t need to quit your job and move into a box to start living the minimalist lifestyle! But if you want more freedom in your life start thinking like a minimalist. First make a list of your basic expenses or those things that you need to pay. These would include:
- Food costs
- Insurances such as car or health
- Car loan if you have one
- Credit card payments if you have them
- Maybe internet
These are just the needs as you have them now. If you have credit card debt, the first priority is to pay down debt and eliminate those bills. Do you need that car loan? Maybe you live in an area where you don’t even need that car. Every other expense is a want. So start asking yourself three questions about the money you spend:
- Does it contribute to my personal growth?
- Does it help me contribute and connect with others?
- Does it contribute or restrict my freedom?