Understand that minimalism isn’t just about materialism
Most people think minimalism means getting rid of stuff. “While that’s a good first step and the most visible step, minimalism really has to do with the benefits we experience once we’re on the other side of de-cluttering,” says Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists. Those benefits, he says, extend to many unexpected areas of life, from health and finances to relationships and emotions. Millburn’s books, documentary film, and podcast, all produced with partner Ryan Nicodemus, include loads of tips related to those various areas. But, he says, they all tie back to this underlying philosophy: “Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things, so we can make room for life’s most important things, which actually aren’t things at all.”
Figure out your finances with a “Need-Want-Like List”
Before minimalism, Millburn had a six-figure salary, a big house, luxury cars, and expensive clothes—as well as six-figure debt. “Money wasn’t inherently bad,” he says. “The problem was the decisions I was making with the resources I had. So for me, minimalism was a way to regain control of how I use those resources.” Millburn discoverd a strategy that could work for others. Wanting to understand where his money was going, he sat down and listed every single expense from his mortgage to his morning coffee. He then put all those expenses into three categories: Needs (necessities like shelter and food), Wants (things you enjoy that add value to your life), and Likes (impulse buys, like another new pair of shoes). “Then I took action. In the first month I got rid of 100 percent of my Likes, which wasn’t as difficult as it seemed. In the second month I got rid of 100 percent of my Wants. The third month I reduced my Needs by moving to a smaller place and trying other cost-saving measures like using less electricity, which saved me another 50 percent per month.” Once Millburn succeeded in getting out of debt, he allowed himself to re-incorporate the Wants that meant the most to him back into his life. “I got far more value from those things because I knew if I was adding something back in, I was doing so with intention.” These are the habits of people who are great at saving money.