Minimalist living – How to Live with Less
Be honest with yourself for a moment. Do you really know what you’re spending your money on? A lot of the time we have a general idea of how we spend our money, but we don’t really keep track.
May 2021 – 5 minute read
Key takeaways from this article:
- What is minimalism?
- Who can live a minimalist life?
- Benefits of a minimalist lifestyle
- Starting a minimalist lifestyle on a low budget
- Living with less – The 5 R’s of a sustainable life
- Minimalism and shopping
- Financial Minimalism
- We’re here to help
Minimalist living and minimalist finance are about reducing unnecessary expenses and putting your money towards the things in life that you really value. While buying new things can make us feel better for a short period of time, often it can put a drain on our finances and leave us feeling guilty.
In response to consumerism and the realisation that having more does not always make us feel better, people are increasingly turning to what is being called ‘minimalist living’.
What is minimalism?
Simply put, minimalism is about prioritising the essentials.
Minimalists try to declutter the amount of ‘stuff’ in their lives. Instead of accumulating material possessions, they look to generate meaning to their life through other means, like family and experiences.
We sometimes buy and hoard things without ever really using them or questioning their necessity.
Who can live a minimalist life?
Really, anyone can live a minimalist lifestyle. Becoming minimalist isn’t about depriving yourself of comfort, and it’s not about living like a hermit. You can still have money, clothes, trinkets, and possessions – it’s just about reducing the ‘stuff’ you don’t really need.
For some families and couples, it can be a challenge to adjust to a minimalist lifestyle, especially when your needs can be so diverse and unique. If you’re looking for more advice on understanding and managing finances with your partner, try our financial habits quiz.
Benefits of a minimalist lifestyle
There are countless benefits to a minimalist lifestyle. Here are just a few.
1. Live more comfortably
The minimalist lifestyle focuses on decluttering and eliminating the ‘stuff’ you don’t use – old clothes, unused appliances, meaningless trinkets, and desk junk. This will help create more living space in your home.
2. Keep your living space clean
Having less stuff will help you to maintain a cleaner house or apartment. With less stuff around the place, your living space will be cleaner and easier to tidy.
3. Save more money
By focusing only on buying things that you need, minimalism can help you take back control of your finances and put your money towards what matters most to you.
4. Take care of the environment
By consuming less, you’ll be reducing your impact on the environment and reducing your product wastage.
5. Reduce stress
Having only what is necessary and well-ordered can help you feel unconsciously more at peace. You can clear your physical space and clear your mind by eliminating some of chaos from your life.
Starting a minimalist lifestyle on a low budget
Managing your financial situation on a low income can be difficult. A minimalist lifestyle could be just what you need to cut down on your expenses and learn to live with less. It’s certainly worth investing some of your time to plan ahead and understand how a minimalist lifestyle can work for you. Learning how to budget and save on a low income is a useful skill for anyone, but especially when you’re struggling with your finances.
If you’re looking for more advice on understanding and managing your financial habits with your partner, try our financial habits quiz.
Living with less – The 5 R’s of a sustainable life
Minimalism is really just a modern label for a lifestyle dedicated to living a simpler life. There are many approaches to living the minimalist lifestyle, some more extreme than others. To live like a minimalist, you don’t need to throw out everything you own, but rather, focus on discerning what is important to you – what you need, and what you don’t.
One of the simplest and most sensible approaches to minimalism is to follow the 5R’s of a sustainable life: reject, reduce, reuse, reintegrate and recycle.
The first step on the road to a minimalist lifestyle is to reject the things we know will end up in the garbage – things like plastic bags, unneeded packaging, and low-quality products.
The fewer new things you buy, the less waste you generate. This step, (rather than completely rejecting certain products) is more about reducing your current expenses. If you don’t need new clothes, then don’t buy them for no reason. ‘Reducing’ is about reducing consumption, and making use of what you already have.
Many of us are still in the habit of using single-use items – bottled water, grocery bags and takeaway coffee cups. By finding ways to re-use items we already have, we can reduce waste and save on these expenses. Be sure to always carry a refillable glass or plastic bottle with you, take a re-usable bag to do the shopping, and use a reusable-cup when you go for takeaway coffee. This step can also be applied to our wardrobe – rather than buying new clothes due to a tear or stain, make the effort to repair them and save yourself the cost of new clothes.
If you find something you no longer use, can you alter it to make it useful in a new way? An old t-shirt can be used as a cleaning rag, or an old sauce jar can be used as a pencil container. Re-purposing, sometimes known as upcycling, items that you already own will save you from having to buy new products that only have one very specific use.
Recycling is most commonly thought of as separating your garbage into different coloured bins, but recycling can be more practical as well. There are plenty of ways you can do this – by using old newspapers to line your bin, using rechargeable batteries, and using your coffee grounds as fertilizer.
Minimalism and shopping
Besides getting rid of the things you don’t need, you might also want to reconfigure the way you shop. Without making conscious changes to the ways you’re consuming you can revert to making unnecessary purchases without realising.
When you go to buy something, get in the habit of considering the purchase, and ask yourself whether you really need it. Consider the lifetime value of the product and whether you could find an alternative solution. If it is not essential, then don’t buy it.
Minimalism can change your physical space, but it can also reduce your spending habits. This is what we call ‘financial minimalism’.
Financial minimalism involves re-evaluating your relationship with money and how you perceive what is valuable. Thinking off the top of your head, how are your expenses distributed? Make a detailed list of what you’re spending your money on, then take a look at your bank statement to see how accurate you were. If you missed something completely, it’s probably not essential and you might be able to eliminate that cost. Once you’ve done this, you can revise your budget to reflect any changes you need to make.
First, try to simplify your expenses, and only automate the essentials – things like utility bills and rental payments. On your bank statement, identify any ways you might be able to reduce your expenses by eliminating the things that aren’t absolutely necessary.
We’re here to help
If you’re a Westpac customer experiencing financial hardship, Westpac Assist are here to help.
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Things you should know
This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.
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