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4-Part Minimalist Guide: What Can I Live Without?

What’s behind the steering wheel driving your financial life? Is it thoughtful decision making? Or is it the insatiable desire to buy and stockpile bigger, better and more stuff? If you’re on a path of financial instability, here’s one way to get off shaky ground: approaching your spending and money management with a minimalist mindset.

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism can be defined as a philosophy, a way of life and a tool for moving away from materialism and toward a more meaningful life (that isn’t shaped by what you own).

So how can you practice financial minimalism?

  • Focus on the essential, and not excess.
  • Be a consumer, without letting consumerism control you.
  • Live and spend within your means, and not beyond your means just so you can create an enviable life you can’t afford.
  • Make decisions consciously and deliberately, instead of imprudently and emotionally.

Budgeting is typically the first tactic for saving, building financial stability and getting ahead. But budgeting and minimizing together can elevate your financial life and future. Learn to invest in your passions, relationships and experiences — instead of things.

Here’s a four-part Q&A guide to help you get started:

Part I — Am I failing at my finances?

It could be denial: “My spending isn’t that out of control. It could be so much worse.” Or justifying treats: “I work hard and deserve to reward myself!” Or excuses: “I DO need this because…” Whatever your reason is for emptying your bank account or maxing out your credit card, it comes with a cost and it goes beyond monetary.

Habits are hard to change, and a financial overhaul can feel like you have to make sacrifices and deprive yourself, or stop enjoying life. But if you answer “yes” to these questions, you could probably benefit from adjusting your money management ways.

  • Are my finances a constant source of stress and anxiety?
  • Am I too comfortable with having debt and adding to it?
  • Am I a binge shopper? Do I get shopping hangovers and buyer’s remorse?
  • Do I have to hide my purchases from loved ones? Do I hide from my bank account?
  • Do I buy out of boredom or use retail therapy as a coping mechanism?

Part II — What Does It Take to Be a Financial Minimalist?

Let’s say you’ve decided it’s time put the brakes on frivolous spending and try out this minimalist way of living. These tips can help nudge you in the right direction.

  • Learn more about how to be a financial minimalist and see what the pros have to say to get motivated!
  • Write down how you feel when you regret a purchase or go over budget. Then use this journal as a reminder to think twice about a purchase.
  • Evaluate an item’s upkeep and how much time and money it’ll cost to maintain it.
  • Change your thought process and think beyond price. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your money.

Part III — Is this a “Can-Live-Without?”

If you’re an impulsive shopper or overspender, getting into the habit of asking yourself a couple questions can help with your recovery. Switch off auto-pilot mode and pause before “place order” to see if you can live without what you’re about to buy.

  • Will this purchase set me back from pursuing my goals?
  • Am I easily influenced by what others have? Do I want to this to impress, keep up with the trends or fit in socially?
  • Will this item quickly grow old to me? Am I always seeking the next best thing and something new once a novel purchase becomes normal?
  • Will this item bring me temporary happiness, or long-lasting joy and value?

Part IV — Common “Can-Live-Withouts” to Watch Out For

Determining what YOU can live without is a personal journey, but we’ve listed a few things that are commonly an unnecessary want or luxury.

  • Upsizing your house (now you “need” more stuff to fill the extra space!)
  • Designer brands and brand-name items
  • The latest and greatest gadgets
  • Numerous subscriptions and high-priced gym memberships
  • Over-priced “aesthetic” products (e.g. expensive skin and hair care)

You may be concerned, does being a financial minimalist mean I can’t enjoy things that bring me pleasure or make me smile? No! You’re human and we can’t restrict ourselves to only spending money on the bare-bones necessities needed to survive. As a financial minimalist, you’re just vigilant about your spending behavior and lean into the idea that “you need less than you think to be happy.”

Curious about money minimalism?

Learn how to transform your financial life as a minimalist.


The material presented here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.