I probably should have been counting the days I’ve been on this financial journey…
Eh, what matters is if I make it to my goal, right?
Anyway, as I continue to learn more and more about early retirement, I realize that a lot of these early retirees have tons in common; one of these things being that they seem to all be minimalists.
I started researching minimalism and trying to learn how to become a minimalist myself, and I didn’t realize just how many levels there were.
I mean sure, you have some minimalists who just don’t purchase everything they see. However, everything they have is super expensive. For example, I tried looking up minimalist clothing stores, and most things that came up were selling plain white t shirts for $60 a pop. Yikes.
Then there are minimalists who not only make an effort of not hoarding junk, but do whatever they can to spend as little as they can. This is the category I aim to be in. I’ve never really been into secondhand simply because my parents always bought me everything new. I’m not too proud to shop secondhand; I’m just very new to it.
Besides getting the best deals on ways to live, there are tons of ways to move to a minimalist lifestyle. Here are my top 10 that I can start practicing today.
(And so can you!)
Number 1: Stop spending money
Honestly, I feel that one of the easiest ways to save money is to not spend it. I mentioned in my last post that spending money used to be my greatest weakness before I started this journey, but since I have started, it’s gradually becoming easier.
For those that don’t know, I’m pretty addicted to Pinterest, so after looking up quotes on minimalism, there’s so much I’ve learned; not only about the process, but about myself. I’ve been able to better pinpoint my spending desires and how I can squash them. Spending money will get me a lot of stuff, but not that many memories.
Number 2: Save more money
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my mother taught me about saving at a very young age. I took it to heart when I was younger, but once I got older and realized that money buys things you want, I kinda threw her advice out the window. (Sorry, mom…)
Honestly, I’m thankful that I didn’t let that habit go on for very long, though it did go on longer than it should have. I didn’t get my first job until I was 18, and jumped around careers a ton. Once I settled on my job at an auto finance industry when I turned 21, I was able to actually make a decent pay, open a 401K, and I had benefits. (Thankfully I still get to ride on the coattails of my father until I turn 26, but still. I had the option, and that feeling was pretty nice.)
This really opened my eyes to just what it meant to not only making some real money, but saving for emergencies and retirement. I still put the majority of my paycheck in my savings, and am doing pretty well I’d say.
Number 3: Start a minimalist wardrobe
When I first saw pictures of minimalist wardrobe ideas on Pinterest, I was immediately hooked. I had the sudden urge to go through my entire closet, throw everything out and start again.
Boo, don’t do that.
What I didn’t realize until about 2 months ago is that I already had most of my minimalist wardrobe; I didn’t need to start again. Your closet doesn’t have to contain only black, white, grey, and jeans to be minimalist. Yes, it is easier this way because those colors all go together no matter how you put them, but isn’t it so much easier to keep the basics that you already have in your closet that you wear all the time?
For example, about a year ago I went shopping at Ross and found this adorable A-line dress. It’s orange with white elephants on it, as well as a variety of other fall colors, and comes up to my knees. I love that dress, and it’s my favorite fall dress.
The first thing I thought when coming across that typical Parisian wardrobe was, “Do I have to get rid of my favorite little orange dress to become a minimalist?”
No. I don’t.
I don’t have to get rid of that dress because I wear it all the time. Wine colored tights, green cardigan and black shoes… black cardigan, tights, and pumps… cream cardigan, no tights and mustard flats. I have enough accessories to wear that dress 2-3 times a month and be just fine. Now if I almost never wore that dress or I forgot I had it, then it has no place in my closet. That’s where building a minimalist wardrobe begins.
Number 4: Go paperless
If you’re anything like my mother, you have papers for everything. And I mean everything. There are folders, dividers, and binders everywhere for everything from the past 10 years or so.
But if you’re like me, you can’t stand keeping up with all of them. I know it’s extremely important to keep up with your files, bills, and so on. For me, I’d rather keep a book for each year and just log confirmation numbers, phone numbers, and whatnot. I only have two major bills right now: my phone bill and my school bill from before I transferred to Baylor University (I save money by living at home with my parents). I always make sure to pay my bills early, and I have a log for each of them that I keep up with on the site: one for Great Lakes and one for Verizon.
Going paperless clears so much clutter out of my space, and it’s much easier to keep up with everything behind a password than stuffed in a number of folders.
Number 5: Figure out what you want versus what you need
Wants and needs are two completely different things, and it’s way too easy to confuse the two.
So often we’re conditioned into thinking that a lot of things that we want are actually needs. At times, it can actually be uncomfortable to admit that something is a want.
When I turned 21, I treated myself to my own brand new cell phone and bill in my name. I bought a Samsung Galaxy S6 with Verizon, and right now my monthly bill is about $100/mo.
But you know what?
Before that phone, I had a Motorola track phone that I had to pay to put minutes on. The only thing I was able to do on that phone was call and text, but did I need to do anything else? Did I?
You better believe that after my contract ends in February 2018, I’m going back to that Motorola track phone.
Number 6: Sell what you don’t need
One of the first things to do in becoming a minimalist is decluttering, but who says you can’t get some of your money back by selling your stuff?
When I was younger, I had this horrible habit of throwing away anything I thought I didn’t need anymore. Little did I know I could donate it, sell it, re-gift it, and so on. You don’t have to lose money becoming a minimalist.
Number 7: Change your living expenses
This goes with that whole “knowing the difference between your wants and needs” bits. And I truly believe that this is one of the toughest things for the majority of people to do if they want to retire early.
What makes it so tough is that it isn’t that people can’t separate their wants from their needs. It’s that they won’t.
For example, do we need smartphones? Yes, they are an awesome resource. But do we need them? Do you need that many pairs of shoes? Do you need that car you have to budget around?
Because odds are, you really don’t.
This all goes for me too. There are so many things I realize that I really don’t need as I continue on this minimalist journey, and I feel like I’m constantly weeding through my closet and drawers to throw out more junk. Like I just said, one of the first things I decided to get rid of was my smartphone. My contract ends in February, and I’m going right back to my track phone.
Number 8: Buy second hand
(Depending on the item) I’m not too proud to buy second hand merchandise. (I’m not buying someone else’s shoes. No.) And for those of you who are, I’m a pretty big fan of Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and stores like them. I can always find an awesome steal there, and they aren’t second hand shops.
These stores are perfect for saving money, and the whole goal here is to save as much as we can to put it toward retirement.
Number 9: Ignore the naysayers
When I first started this journey, I was surprised at just how many people thought the notion was ridiculous. I talked about the basics of minimalism, what I was learning in the process, and how I was going to change to be able to become an early retiree. You know what I got?
But you know what else I got?
Satisfaction that I had a healthy savings and 401 K and wasn’t asking my coworkers to borrow money for lunch or gas.
This is your journey. Don’t let someone else deter you. They don’t pay your bills.
Number 10: Start now
If only I had this article during my first job at the age of 18…
The best thing you could do when investing in yourself, saving money, making a change, whatever… is doing it RIGHT NOW. Waiting does nothing but set you back further, and there’s no such thing as too late. Because while you may think it’s too late and you end up starting 10 years later anyway, that’s 10 years you just lost because you convinced yourself it was “too late”.
It’s never too late.
I will be a minimalist and I will retire no later than age 35. I will be financially independent and spend my days helping people and traveling the world. I will.
And you can too. It’s just gonna take a little willpower. If I can do it, I know anyone reading this can too.