Money doesn’t have any value on its own; it’s just pieces of paper. The real value of money is what it can afford you. For a lot of people, the true motivation behind amassing wealth is the goal of not stressing about finances on a day-to-day basis.
But what if I told you that this is possible without having to be a millionaire? In fact, you can live a life of stress-free finances even if you’re earning less than the median income in America. I know because I’ve done it myself.
The trick is to embrace minimalism as it applies to your financial situation.
The Benefits of Financial Minimalism
I would define financial minimalism as a lifestyle decision with two distinct components: one, to cut out as much unnecessary spending as you can, and two, to automate your finances as much as possible.
If you truly live by these two principles, it won’t be long before you start experiencing the various benefits that come with them:
- Fewer mistakes. Clutter leads to chaos and indecisiveness, and if you’re constantly shuffling shopping sprees, bill payments, and impulse purchases, you’re setting yourself up for missed payments and overdrafts. Minimalism is the opposite of that.
- Better decisions. Decision fatigue is a real problem. Every time you make a decision, your brain gets a bit more tired. By automating as much as you can, you conserve mental energy and end up making better decisions elsewhere.
- More freedom. Over time, financial minimalism will result in a fatter bank account (and therefore a bigger security net). But more importantly, it teaches you to be a master of your money rather than being mastered by your money — and that’s true financial freedom.
1. Go Paperless With Email
Do you feel a sense of dread every time you open your mailbox to find paper bills and paper statements? I know I do, which is why I usually end up tossing them on a side table for later . . . and that causes clutter.
Not only that, but paper records can be annoying to keep organized. If you don’t have a filing system, it can be easy to lose tax records, banking details, bill statements, and other financial paperwork. I’ve found that PDFs on a computer are much easier to handle.
2. Cut Out Recurring Expenses
How many Starbucks drinks do you buy every week? Did you cut the cord only to replace cable TV with a dozen streaming services? Are you participating in too many subscription boxes? All of these things add up!
Now, I’m not saying you need to cut out everything and start living like a pauper. However, you can easily reduce your financial burden by being honest about which expenses you can sacrifice. Most “needs” are just “wants” in disguise.
Pro Tip: Take every dollar that you save from cutting a recurring expense and put it into getting out of debt ASAP! Life becomes much more bearable when you no longer have debt hanging overhead.
3. Set It and Forget It
Tired of the endless juggling of bills and other financial responsibilities, always worrying that you might miss one? The good news is that bills are usually due on the same day every month, so you can easily automate them.
And why wouldn’t you? This is why computers were invented: to handle repetitive tasks on our behalf.
Along with bill payments, it’s also a good idea to automate retirement contributions and the setting aside of a percentage of every paycheck into a savings account. Out of sight, out of mind.
The only caveat is that you need to make sure that your checking account always has enough so you don’t end up overdrafting. If you can, add up all of your bills in one month and make sure you never drop below that amount.
4. Combine Multiple Accounts
Speaking of checking and savings accounts, pare everything down so that you only have one account of each type. Do you really need checking accounts at PNC, TD, and Wells Fargo? Probably not.
By dropping both TD and Well Fargo, you now only have to worry about one account: one username/password combo, one monthly statement, one account through which you can funnel all of your money. Nothing gets lost this way.
Similarly, you should consolidate your credit cards. Keep one or two that have the best combinations of excellent rewards, high credit limits, and longest credit history ages. Close the other cards, especially the ones that have annual membership fees for no reason.
You can also consider consolidating your various loans. It’s not always the best option, but it may be worthwhile to turn five monthly bills into one.
5. Use All-in-One Budget Software
So you have a checking account, a savings account, a few student loans, maybe an auto loan, a mortgage loan, and one or two other financial accounts. That’s “bare minimum” for a lot of folks, but that’s still a lot to manage.
That’s why you should consider using an all-in-one budgeting app like Mint or You Need a Budget, two of the most acclaimed apps available right now. If you don’t like them, there are a few other budgeting apps you can try instead.
The key is that most of these budgeting apps allow you to input your credentials for each account type and the app will automatically pull your information from the financial institution’s website, so you can manage all of your financials on Mint itself rather than hopping between each account’s web portal.
These apps usually provide goal tracking features as well, allowing you to manage your money and plan for the future all within a single dashboard. If you decide to use Mint, use these advanced tips for an even easier time.
6. Stop Shopping Online
For some, internet shopping is a curse in disguise. You can open up a new tab and order an item within minutes, making it way too easy to shop impulsively and waste money — especially if you have an Amazon Prime membership.
If you force yourself to shop offline only, you’ll probably buy less stuff. Or at least the temptation to shop won’t be as strong. This is really helpful when you’re trying to live by the mantra of “buy only what you need, not what you want.”
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course, but it can be useful as a way to curb an otherwise expensive shopping habit.
7. Sell Unneeded Gadgets & Devices
If minimalism is about getting rid of anything that is excessive, then this should also apply to the various tech gadgets that we have lying around the house but don’t use. Not only is it clutter, but it’s potential money as well.
Why not sell your unneeded gadgets and devices? You have plenty of great options.
- eBay. You can make a lot of money by selling used devices on eBay, especially if you heed our critical eBay selling tips. It’s the first site you should try.
- Craigslist. This is the preferred option for selling used gadgets if you only want to deal with locals. As a bonus, there are several other ways to make money on Craigslist that you may want to check out.
- Amazon. A surprising amount of people don’t know that you can sell your used stuff right on Amazon. It’s a valid option if eBay and Craigslist fail you.
In the future, don’t buy things that you don’t absolutely need. If you already have something, like a camera or an external hard drive, consider selling it or running it into the ground before buying a newer version.
Spend Less, Automate Everything
That’s the formula for financial minimalism. Once you master it, you’ll find that money doesn’t stress you out as much as it once did — even if you’re only making $30,000 per year. You may even find more money in your pocket every month.
Where are you on the path to financial minimalism? Or do you think it’s a bunch of hogwash? What are you doing to rein in your financial situation? Let us know with a comment below!