Or in other words, Why I Am Not a Minimalist
If you were to walk through my front door at this moment you would immediately assume one of two things. One, I had recently been robbed or two, I take the minimalism mantra to heart. Well, you know what they say about assuming. While my sparsely furnished apartment, with no TV stand and stools for side tables, appears minimalist, I may be one of the few personal finance bloggers who will actively speak out against the wave of minimalism that has taken root.
You may be thinking, if I don’t have much “stuff” how can I claim to buck the minimalist trend? I say so because my lifestyle goals are not aligned with the minimalism agenda.
The reason I don’t have much “stuff” is because my mother gave me the sage advice to be able to pack all my belongings into the back of a car until I’m ready to settle down. While I still embrace my nomadic spirit, I keep moving costs down my combating the natural inclination to “nest” in my apartment. My mother also told me not to waste my money on junk furniture and instead slowly build up possessions with quality purchases that will last decades, if not a lifetime. Instead of sinking my greenbacks into the money-pit that is Ikea furniture, I’m subscribing to her wisdom.
Many of those who joined the minimalism march will lecture about cutting out anything that isn’t an absolute necessity, rejecting products purely because of their convenience, constantly combating your desire the indulge and to view splurge as a four-letter word.
To me, this advice is only practical to a select few who feel innately called to transcend earthly possessions, instead of providing realistic advice for those of us who practice the unholy acts of indulging in life’s consumer-oriented pleasures.
Perhaps some will seek to revoke my personal finance blogger status, but I enjoy getting an occasional manicure and find value in paying for my eyebrows to be professionally waxed. Do I search for deals and use customer loyalty cards and coupons to get the best deals? Absolutely. Do I find it worth the $230 a year it costs for me to have these indulgences. Yes.
There are people who will genuinely be content living in a small cottage, on a self-sustained farm in the middle-of-nowhere. This woman isn’t one of them. Just as it’s irrational for me to pitch my lifestyle ideals to a sparse-living hippie in Washington, he (or she) can’t expect me to give up the the lifestyle goals I strive to achieve.
Living a small-town life is not appealing to me as a lifestyle, and as I prefer to live in major cities I will incur a far greater cost of living than those who appreciate the charm of knowing most of your neighbors.
Some of the minimalists out there use the tactic to achieve their version of financial independence or early retirement. There is of course nothing wrong with either goal and there are two ways to achieve both — spend less or earn more. Clearly, a lot of people agree with the spend less mentality.
However, early retirement shackles you to a certain way of living.
For those who have embraced minimalism and plan to never live in an area with a high cost of living, it’s possible to raise a family on $40,000 to $80,000. For those of us who dream of owning property in a major city, sending children to private schools and of going on excursions around the world that don’t involve hostels, $80,000 a year is an unrealistic amount of money to raise a family on.
Granted, there are those who mean more of a “career shift” when they say retire early. Instead of a complete absence of income, they would rather not have to rely on the steady paycheck from a 9-to-5. They’ll still generate revenue through passion projects or a small business.
If my version of the American dream is to own a plantation home on acres of land, stay in five star hotels when I travel and use wealth to make a change in my community, then I’ll be motivated to make the financial moves to enable my dream comes true. Even if my dream means having a career and not retiring in a decade at the ripe-young-age of 34. Luckily for me, I’m also early in my career with no children or husband to factor into my decisions. I can make career changes, find a place I’m happy working, or start a business without a drastic impact on another person’s life.
Minimalist may say I’m a slave to consumerism because I dream about certain expensive items, but as long as I’m generating the income to buy what I want without incurring any debt or hindering my (hypothetical) family’s future, no one is in a position to judge how I choose to spend my money.
For newer readers, it is important to note that I have no debt. I made my college decision based on graduating debt free and thus don’t carry any student loans. I live in New York City as a renter, so there isn’t a mortgage payment I need to factor into my budget. I recognize this does give me a distinct advantage when it comes to not living a minimalist lifestyle.
To that end, minimalists and I do agree on one point: one should not go into debt, nor dig deeper into the red to “Keep up with the Jonses.”
To those who practice and preach minimalism, I do respect your dedication to a difficult lifestyle choice. To those who crave the “finer things” in life, there is at least one personal-finance-oriented blogger who understands and supports your choice. But do understand wanting expensive, luxury items does come at the cost of hard work, a dedication to saving, investing, making tough decisions, staying out of debt and prioritizing what is truly worth your money.
And let the spirited debate begin in the comment section!
Images from Unsplash