How Minimalism Can Help You Spend Less

Live more and spend less — that’s the simple idea. It’s no secret that today’s society places value on piling up the possessions and spending more than we need. Ultimately, this can clutter our lives and weigh us down. Minimalism encourages you to make conscious efforts to live simpler and value the things that are a part of your life. 

How it helps your wallet

Naturally, if you are spending less on material goods then your savings will definitely feel the benefits. However, it’s important to note that minimalism isn’t about restricting your budget so much that you feel trapped. It’s about spending your time, money, and energy on things that are important to you. If this means taking a vacation or getting your nails done, then invest your money in experiences that make you happy.

How to make it work 

Minimalist living can help you feel freed from the things holding you back. Start with small things and work your way up to living with less. Take inventory of the stuff you have and start decluttering, donating, or selling things you don’t need. 

For more inspiration on how to start a minimalist lifestyle, check out these 10 TED Talks on minimalism to help you spend less (from Mint.)


Today is Day One

BAM quote 1

If you could not fail

What would you do if you had the time, money, and energy to do it? If you knew you could not fail?

  • Learn a new skill?
  • Spend more time with your kids?
  • Take a family vacation?
  • Take a vacation by yourself or with your spouse?
  • Write a book?
  • Lose 50 pounds?
  • Cut your hair really crazy?
  • Plant a garden?
  • Start a business?
  • Find the love of your life?
  • Have a baby (see above)?
  • Follow a dream?

What the hell is stopping you? Probably some of this:

  • Work
  • Debt
  • Finances
  • Lack of support from family & friends
  • Being too busy
  • Being tired or stressed out
  • Not believing in yourself
  • The timing is wrong
  • Not knowing how

I am here to tell you that none of that matters. I have learned new skills, lost 30 pounds, started writing a book, and started a business in the past year, despite having bills to pay, little to no energy some days, working unpredictable long hours at a job, and the little voice in my head telling me I’m not good enough.

Anything that is important to you means you make the time for it in your life. Anything that isn’t a true priority means you will find an excuse to explain why you can’t do it. All those promises of “some day” and “tomorrow” are empty promises (unless you legitimately have a planned out timeline and are taking steps to achieve those goals).

Waiting for Monday

So many people start working on new goals on a Monday. Or the first of the month. Or the first of the year.

So you’re telling me that you can only start improving your life a minimum of once and a maximum of 52 times per year? No. Not good enough. Stop waiting for Monday. TODAY is day one. I don’t care if it’s a Tuesday, or the 29th of the month, or if it’s January 5th. Start working on your dream TODAY.

My fitness journey

I ordered a fitness program online in June 2014. It arrived on a Thursday. I started that day. On a Thursday! I made Thursday “Day one” of this journey. I went into it knowing that with exercise and nutrition as a daily habit, I would thank myself in three months. I made two goals with the program: finish it, and lose 15 lbs. I did finish the 60 day program and went on to complete 4 more (ranging from 21 to 90 days in length) and am working on my 5th exercise program.

This is what works for me.

Maybe your fitness journey is deciding to get a gym membership, or do free workouts on YouTube, or go jogging, or subscribe to a fitness On Demand program. The important thing to remember is that small steps create big changes over time. If losing 50 pounds is important to you, you need to make it happen. One pound at a time. One workout at a time. One glass of water, serving of vegetables, or “no thanks” to a cookie at a time.

There’s never any time

Another trap on your way to making your dreams happen is the belief that you don’t have time. Here is a secret: The most successful people in the world have the exact same 24 hours that you have. What are you doing differently?

My business journey

I started freelance writing in December 2011 and have written for the same client since then. I had long been considering looking for a full time copywriting position at a marketing company for a while when it occurred to me that I could be my own boss and write for the clients I wanted to write for. With some technical support (and a ton of encouragement) from my boyfriend, I recently launched a business as a freelancer, working exclusively with companies that make the world a better place. Companies and business owners like organic farmers, local restaurant owners, organizations that support women and children, birth and maternity care professionals like midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants, and people who create all-natural products for homes and bodies.

It made sense. I am extremely passionate about these types of organizations and small businesses, and I am extremely passionate about content marketing and writing. It was clear what I had to do. But how on Earth could I start my own business while working full time (with a 1.5 hour round trip commute each day) and balancing another part time job on the side, all while trying to actually spend time with my friends and family? Building a business while working full time is HARD.

I had to find the time. You have to find the time. If this is your stumbling block and you don’t have the time for your dream, keep a journal for one week and track your time. Here are some places you might find it again:

  • In the morning before people get up (yes, you will need to get up early, it will be worth it)
  • At night after people go to sleep (go kiss your family goodnight and then get to work)
  • On your lunch break at your full time job (if you eat in 15 minutes, that’s 45 minutes for your dream)
  • On your commute (dictate notes or listen to professional development books or podcasts)
  • On the weekends (the harder you hustle now, the sooner you will have the weekends back)
  • When everyone else is watching television (I know, Arrow is really captivating, but this is your LIFE)
  • Whenever you find yourself on Facebook or Twitter (put down the phone, go work)
  • When you would normally be attending a club, social hour, or other event that is not as important as your goal (stay in touch with friends but be firm in your priorities)

Following your dreams is not about finding time. You only have 24 hours. You know where they are. You have to decide what you put into them. Remember that sleeping is important though.

I can’t afford that

Money trouble preventing you from achieving your dreams? Get your finances under control. If you have debts, pay them off. If you think you need a business loan, reconsider and learn to do it without debt. If you can’t afford a nice vacation, find your money in the same way you found your time: pay attention to where it goes.

Go to your online banking information and pull the last month of records. Make a list of all your spending – what did you spend on groceries? Entertainment? Household purchases? Transportation? Impulse buys? Toys? Gadgets? Snacks? Bills? Debt payments?

Today is the day you get a grip on your finances and set some realistic goals. How much debt do you have? Make a plan to pay it off – aggressively. Good things come to those who hustle! You are not going to become a millionaire or afford that Cancun trip by making minimum payments. And for the love of all that is holy, stop digging the hole. Cut up your cards and make a commitment to never take on more debt. Make a written budget for your household each month and stick to it! YOU are the boss of your money, not the other way around.

Manifesting what you desire

This is where it gets a little crazy, kids. You can get whatever you desire, want, or need from the universe simply through believing it can be done. Sounds insane, right?

My sister had a couple of friends she had loaned some money to, and they never paid her back. The total was about $300. She wasn’t angry about it but she did express that she wished she had that money to save up for her moving expenses. Over the next two nights at her serving job, she made crazy tips and was within a few dollars of the amount of the loan. She put that “$300” energy into the world and let it go, and it came back to her.

My friend and mentor Shari, who quit her full time job with barely a safety net so that she could achieve her dream of opening a wine store, has been flying through her project by the seat of her pants, never knowing where the next piece of the puzzle was going to fit in but somehow managing to get it all taken care of. She asked the universe for a $5000 investment and between her partner’s contribution and a very low interest personal loan from a friend she had that $5000 to complete the project within a week. (I know, debt bad, but this is how it worked out for her). She also got her permits put through their channels with pretty unprecedented turnaround times.

I had a big mental road block to getting down to business in my new freelance career and I put my finger on it. There was no space for me to work in the house. I was working on my couch, usually with the tv on in the background. I couldn’t focus. I needed a desk. I knew I could find an awesome desk for under fifty bucks on Craigslist, so I just scrolled the postings each day and kept an eye out. Suddenly I saw it. A beautiful hand-painted PURPLE desk. PURPLE!!! It was perfect for me. It was listed at $40 but they came down to $30 to get it out of their apartment before they moved. It’s all set up in our home office now and I have been putting crazy time into the business since then, waking up early to work and also working after dinner instead of watching tv all night.

The formula for manifesting is simple and hard at the same time:

decide what you want + tell the universe – worry

Yes, you have to let it go and quit worrying about it. The universe hates being pestered. You must take action (such as checking Craigslist for the desk I wanted), but to continually say every day “I WISH I COULD FIND A DESK” would be counter-productive. I would be too focused on not having the desk that I wouldn’t be able to manifest it into my life.

Alright, enough woo-woo for today. Let me know in the comments if this topic would interest you to learn more about, I would be happy to share more!

It’s not the right time

You could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Go for it!

Seriously though, I can relate to this one especially when it comes to having a baby. It seems a small miracle to be under 30 and not have started a family, but I have a lot I want to get done first. It really isn’t the right time. When I say this to my grandbaby-crazy father, he tells me there is never a right time to have a baby.

That may be true, but there can be a less not-right time and a more not-right time… right?

It’s not the right time for us because I want to have the option to stay home with the baby which I cannot do without either my business replacing my full-time income or my partner getting a pretty awesome paying job. Also, we have too much debt right now (in my opinion). Hence the $50,000 payoff plan for 2015. If we can pay all of that off, we will be down to my big student loan and our baseline operating expenses would be well able to take the hit of mama staying home with the baby, which is a huge priority for me.

I know it’s not the right time for us right now because we are prioritizing the future payoff over the desire to have a baby sooner.

But you, right there, yeah. You. Quit makin’ excuses. I wanna see you hustle. Make today DAY ONE.

Pick a topic

I talked about a lot of topics this week, and I want to go deeper and tell you guys more. Which of these things would you like to hear about next week? Let me know and let’s talk about it.

Total Money Makeover, Week 4

It’s week four of my Total Money Makeover, and I had my first Financial Peace University class this week.  The class only has three people attending, myself and a newly engaged couple.  The instructors seem very nice!  The FPU class consists of watching a DVD of Dave Ramsey doing the lesson each week, followed by discussion.  We started late this week due to the instructors traveling and being delayed half an hour, so there wasn’t much discussion afterward.  I hope that changes in the future.  I am a little disappointed the class has so few people but I still think it will be a really good resource for me to help keep me accountable (you know, besides my Dave Ramsey friends on Facebook and posting weekly on the blog!).

Week 1 of FPU is all about saving.  DVD-Dave discussed baby steps 1 (save $1,000 for a starter emergency fund) and 3 (save 3-6 months expenses in a fully funded emergency fund).

Some important take aways from the first class:

  • To avoid “running out of money” for savings or giving in your budget, take them out first.  Give, save, and then pay bills.  I used to automatically take out 10% of each pay and move it to a savings account.  I am temporarily not saving so that I can focus all extra money on debt repayment.
  • Money is amoral.  It is not good or bad.  Being wealthy does not make you a good or bad person.  Money is like a brick; you can use it to smash a window or build a hospital.  The important thing is to use money in a good and moral way.
  • Saving money is about emotion and contentment. This is really important to understand and was something that really clicked for me in class.  We save money for things that are important to us.  Consider the analogy of a life-saving treatment that’s a non-negotiable need. If your kid is sick and you need $1000, $2000, $5000, whatever amount – you can save that up.  You might sell everything you own, you might cancel cable, you might get a second job.  GETTING OUT OF DEBT IS JUST AS IMPORTANT – RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.
  • Dave says over and over again… “If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”  Basically, if you’re a 25 year old professional willing to take a weekend job and additional freelance work, cancel internet (haven’t committed to that but I still think about it), and sell your Star Trek autographs on ebay, then in a few years you’ll be able to do whatever. you. want.
  • We should save for three reasons: emergencies, purchases, and wealth building. The emergency fund is important because it’s insurance.  It is insurance that you won’t have to cash out your retirement or sell your home if hard times hit.  And, Dave reports, most people find that when they have a fully funded emergency fund, they stop having emergencies.
  • Always pay cash. Dave’s best example for saving up to pay cash is a car.  The average car payment is $492 per month for 63 months.  If you just put $492 into a cookie jar, in less than a year you can buy a $5,000 car with cash.  Boom.  Then you save up more, trade in your $5,000 car, and you can get an $8,000 car, and so on.  How great would life be with no car payments?  This method applies to every purchase – cars, furniture, appliances, etc., and you’ll be able to save money with cash too.  If you walk in with a handful of hundred dollar bills, you can bet a store or seller will come down on the price and you can get a deal.
  • Start saving NOW. Dave gives the example of “Ben and Arthur.”  Ben starts saving $2,000 a year from age 19 to 26, then he stops saving.  Arthur starts saving at age 27 and saves $2,000 a year until age 65.  Due to the miracle of compound interest, Ben comes out of this with almost $2.3 million while Arthur only has $1.5 million in the bank.  …clearly I need to get me to a bank and start saving ASAP.

Some of the discussion questions from the workbook include:

Talk about one or two things you are worried about having to deal with or something you are looking forward to achieving as you work through the program. I am honestly less worried now than I was a month ago… I have a plan, a real plan.  That does a lot to comfort my fears.  I am looking forward to being able to discuss with the group, and I am REALLY looking forward to week 4, the week of plastic surgery.  (More details later).

In what specific areas could you be more diligent about saving? I want to start saving for retirement and an emergency fund (I know the emergency fund comes first).  Seeing all this information about how small investments now can become millions by retirement really inspires me to start saving now.

Talk about a financial emergency you’ve had over the last few years. How would the situation have been different if you’d had an emergency fund? When I first separated from my ex-husband and lived with friends, I was putting everything on my credit card.  I only made $600 a month from my graduate assistantship, and my car payment was over half of that.  With gas and food to pay for, I had no money.  I put McMuffins on my credit card.  McMuffins.  I am so happy I paid interest on a $3 crappy breakfast sandwich.  Not.  If I’d had an emergency fund, I would have been fine.  I could have afforded food, gas, car payment, everything, without the use of credit cards.

Dave recommends building sinking funds into your budget to cover big purchases and future expenses.  Talk about some expenses you’ve had in the past that could have been less stressful with a sinking fund. Well, my car.  I had $1,000 down and we financed at 7.75% because were NEWLYWEDS and wanted ADULT STUFF because THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO.  At least we bought it used and a couple years old.  But I wish I had had Dave Ramsey in college to teach me these things before I went into into the world and promptly jumped off the plank into debt-infested waters.  I have always saved up for things (mom taught me that saving is important) but it just never translated into the big stuff like student loans and cars.  Probably because my mom also missed the memo that ALL DEBT IS BAD DEBT (except maybe a mortgage, if you do it right).

Imagine yourself debt free with a fully funded emergency fund in place, fully funding retirement and college investments, and writing the check to pay off the house.  What are some things you can’t wait to do with the money – and freedom – you’ve secured for yourself? Well, step one for me will be to afford being a stay at home mom, but that will happen before all of the baby steps are completed (hopefully).  But, say 5-8 years into the future, all debt is gone, there are no payments, retirement and college funds are going strong… I’d like to take a family vacation.  I want to go somewhere awesome and beautiful.  Beyond that, I want to go to restaurants and leave $100 tips, or throw $100 bills into musicians’ open guitar cases on street corners.  And I want a house with land so I can have chickens and a garden. 🙂

Homework for Week 1 includes making a quick-start budget (I already have a detailed budget I follow), complete the Financial Reality Check in the workbook (below), and read the chapter “Super Saving” in Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money (already read the book but I will do a refresher).

Financial Reality Check

What is your total non-mortgage debt? $62,232.51

How much liquid cash do you have available? $2,200 (ish)

How many open credit card accounts do you have? 5 ($0 balance)

Rate the following emotions in regard to your personal finances (scale of 1-10)

  • Fear: 4
  • Anxiety: 4
  • Confidence: 8
  • Hope: 10
  • Peace: 5

Minimize your budget with Gillian

Today’s post is a guest blog by Gillian at Drop that Debt!  I also wrote a post for her blog today, which you can read here.

Hey all! I’m Gillian and I blog about personal finance over at Drop that Debt. It seems that Caitlin and I both started blogging and reading each others blogs around the same time, and I’ve been hooked ever since! Her Not-so-Minimalist Bathroom post was so eerily similar to my own experiences I just had to read more. I graduated school with a college diploma and a university degree like most young people do these days– in loads of debt. After a bit over 6 years in school, I was over $60,000 in debt with no real job prospects immediately leaving school. I was lucky enough to get a job serving a month after leaving school, which is not in my field but it is enough to pay the bills and it will do for now.

I got smacked by the reality train pretty hard after graduation. I realized that no, it is not as easy to pay off student loans as I thought it would be and yes, it will take me years to pay off my loans, even if I put over $1,000 per month towards them. I had been overspending during school, coupled with not earning enough to pay my tuition and living expenses and I decided I needed to finally get real about my finances so that I could throw any and all extra money at my student loans. Over the past 6 months, I have learned a lot about personal finance, what works, and what doesn’t work so well. Here are some things you can do if you find yourself not knowing where to start with getting your finances in order:

Create a budget. This is hands down the most important thing that got me on track when I started. You need to figure out approximately how much income you earn each month. Once you figure out how much you are bringing in, you can figure out how much you can afford to spend in each area. I had a set amount for rent, car insurance, car payments, and student loan payments (minimum monthly payments the institutions require) and everything else was under my control. I started by deciding how much money I wanted to dedicate for repayment of my loans. I decided on about $1,000 / month as an ultimate goal; and it’s slowly been climbing to reach that number.

Pay off your highest interest loans first. Both of my loans have fairly small interest rates. One is about 4% and the other is 4.5%. However, if you have a big credit card debt (18% +) or something else with higher interest rates, pay that off first. Make the minimum payments (or a bit above) and throw the rest of your extra money at the highest interest loan first. Once you pay the first loan off, you can add that payment onto any other loans you have.

Don’t discount anything. Even “fixed” costs can be cut back. It can be tough but often people end up living far outside of their means. If your rent is taking too large of a chunk of your budget, you should find a new place as soon as you can that is cheaper. If your mortgage payment is too big, it’s time to seriously consider selling your house and buying one that is worth less. The same thing goes for cars. It kills me that some people are making car payments that are $600 or more per month! I didn’t have too many high fixed costs but I still cut back where I could. I got my cell phone bill down from $73/month to about $33/month. Every $40 counts and can be used towards loan repayment, savings, or somewhere else.

Think before you buy. There can be many temptations when you are cutting back on spending, especially if you aren’t used to being careful with your money. Cute clothes, new gadgets and the like can be hard to ignore. I don’t deprive myself of anything (within reason), I just make sure it’s really worth the chunk of my budget before I buy it. Many times I’ve tried on clothes, left, then decided I didn’t need them after thinking on it for a day. Occasionally, the item really was worth it and I would go back the next day and make a purchase. Taking that extra time away from the store and the immediate gratification of the purchase often gives you the clarity to see that you don’t really need the item.

Since making these changes, I have consistently brought in far more money than I have paid out. My student loan payments are always high, generally in the $700 range each month and with some work I plan on increasing that number in 2013. These methods are surefire ways to get your finances in order.

If you would like to write a guest post for Born Again Minimalist, or if you would like me to write a guest post on your blog, please contact me via the suggestion box link above, or email  Thank you for reading!