The Minimalist Life Cleanse Stage 3: Overhauling your Spending
In stage 1 of this Minimalism Life Cleanse Series, I touched on the basics of de-cluttering your home space, to cultivate a more organized and calming atmosphere.
You looked at our relationship to our possessions, and decided which ones you had held onto for too long, and then discarded those things which had no real place or meaning in your daily life.
You reminded yourself of the things which are precious and worth keeping, items which bring something significant into your life, or remind you of your most cherished memories.
In stage 2, you cleared out your social media accounts and inboxes, to change your connection with, well... being connected.
You tried to create a more fruitful and less overwhelming online space, being that you spend so much of time engaged in online activities.
The purpose of both stage 1 and 2 were to simplify your life. To maximise your time, improve your calmness and your ability to just be content and in the moment, not bogged down by things or status updates.
Now we continue on our quest for a simpler life with stage 3, overhauling your spending habits.
Hmm, I think this stage will be the hardest of them all so far....
Our consumer habits are not simply born out of this capitalist commercial world we are wholly embroiled in; they are partly ingrained in our psyche based on many things, from our family, upbringing and education. Even our self-esteem and general self-image play a role in how we consume.
We all develop bad habits in our lives, from smoking, to eating too many cupcakes, but this one, well, it underpins so much of what we do each and every day.
We overspend to quell a sad mood or to reward ourselves for reaching a goal. We too often determine how free we are with our spending based on our emotions and desires.
Advertising, seeing our peers with shiny new things, the disposable nature of fashion trends; these are all the things that can be blamed for your habits, but they aren't always at the route of your spending.
If you are my generation, a Millennial (born between the 80's and early 90's) we are well aware of financial crisis and don't just spend all our cash without thought.
We grew up in a strong global economy that then spectacularly collapsed.
Our futures are financially fraught because of overspending and overstretching, albeit on a different and more complicated scale. We are well aware of this and most of us have adjusted our spending mindset accordingly.
Some studies and publications disagree, and state that us Generation Y'ers are big bad spenders:
“...Millennials are 52 percent more likely than any other generation to report making impulse purchases simply to pamper themselves.“ “...no matter the recession and a continued shaky economy, and no matter the age group we’re talking about, the impulse purchase is alive and well..." [Brad Tuttle, Time].
Yet others state that we are mindful purchasers, and favour experiences over material things:
“...The Eventbrite survey of over 2,000 adults found that 3 in 4 millennial's said they would rather spend money on an experience than a material object..." [Kimberly Palmer, US NEWS].
You will find contradictory stories about millenial spending habits...but there's little doubt that the manner in which we consume has changed.
Many of us are making more mindful spending choices, not simply (or even at all) because of the economic downturn, but due to the prevalence of new online influencers and their blog's and YouTube channels; us and our peers are able to compare, research and consider our purchase choices more. Sites like Amazon rely on having lots of quality reviews to bolster sales, because our generation want to consider the quality of the items we are bringing into our lives.
But researched and thought-out spending is still spending is it not?
We often don't see our habits under the light of excess, and we feel justified in our expenditures, or we give simply give them little thought. We enact a lot of daily spending automatically, the way we always have done, without really considering what we are doing.
Not everyone spends all their disposable income on clothing or gadgets, some of us just spend heavily in other areas.
But of course there are those whose entire life revolves around acquiring new shiny things.
People will ditch a perfectly good smart-phone for a marginally better one; the very thing they loved (and paid handsomely for) 6 months ago now goes onto Ebay or sits in the bottom drawer.
That's maybe an extreme example of a somewhat wasteful and excessive relationship to consumerism.
And why is this example a bad thing? Why can't we be interested in developing technology you ask? Why must we use our things until they breakdown?
Well, if you replace your smart-phone say twice a year, what is the actual cost of doing so? And what is the true benefit to you? What do you truly gain versus what you give, in time and money?
Bad spending habits add clutter to your life, whilst subtracting time, money and energy.
If you are trying to save money, or want something bigger or more important in your life, like maybe a less stressful job or your own home, the willingness with which you part with your cash is going to be the first thing you need to simplify.
You can't have it all.
And by that I mean you can't have every material thing you lay your eyes on, and advance yourself in all your other dreams.
Taran and I currently are not earning much money whilst travelling, but when we chose to come to Australia we didn't just save up and think, 'Okay this is it for a bit, we'll be back to the 9-to-5 earn and spend grind soon enough'.
We quit our jobs and came travelling because it was the big change that we needed to untangle ourselves from the process of working to live and living to spend.
So, to repeat my earlier statement, spending habits underpin so much of your life, and really do play a role in how content and fulfilling a life it can be.
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BRINGING ATTENTION TO YOUR SPENDING AND MOVING FORWARD POSITIVELY:
1. Check Your Bank Statement
To begin this phase you need to look at the basics; what do you spend each day/week/month on things and experiences as well as the necessities.
- Look at the latest page of your bank statement, online or paper-form however you receive it.
- If you NEVER look at your statement, well, this is going to be a bit of a shock for you, if you are the type who just hands over the plastic and hopes for the best.
- Count up the last 10 things you spent money on excluding essentials and bills.
- What figure do you have? Is it more than you expected or more than you'd care to admit?
- Is it an amount that would help nicely toward your saving goals?
- Write down what the things that you bought, and consider what purpose they have brought with them.
- Did that spending bring in joy and fulfilment beyond the initial thrill of acquiring?
- If you can't even remember what you bought or why, well then, there's part of the problem...
2. Confront Your Debts
You've wizened up about what you spend, where you spend it, and maybe you feel like you want to sort it out... But you have something even bigger on your mind, riding your back and keeping you awake at night...
Credit cards and overdrafts are not the devil. They have numerous benefits and are sometimes a necessity (we use a credit card to make deposits and bookings in Australia).
But debt is something that happens when you get overexcited by seeing your credit limit whilst ignoring the very word, CREDIT. Credit is not free money, it is a shackle and an instant burden, unless you can comfortably make the repayment each month.
It's time to take your head out of the sands of debt, and confront your situation. List your debts from small to large. List the amounts of interest you pay on top of the minimum payments.
Immerse yourself these figures and wrap your head around them even if they shame and scare you. Don't let guilt or regret rule however, use the confronting emotions to motivate you to change things
If you are earning and working, and you know you aren't paying enough off, its time to ramp up your efforts, make larger payments, more often, whenever you have a random injection of cash.
Have your debt total as a figure ever-present in your mind. Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet. Every time you go to spend money on something you don't need, you will be reminded of your bigger goals.
The sense of freedom that comes with being debt-free is real. I have experienced it. The stress of owing and the feeling of being tied down to my past regrets and difficult life moments was completely lifted the day I became debt-free.
3. Fix Your Mindset
You've looked at the facts and figures. You've been confronted with the reality. You know how easy it is to just hand over your plastic and get the objects of desire you believe you need. But if you are now reconsidering your spending habits, then it is time to refocus your energy on positivity, as opposed to falling into a pit of deprived and harsh frugality.
Consider alternative ways of getting the same buzz that you feel shopping gives you. If you love buying books and have shelves filled with them, then instead of finding joy in the buying, find joy in the reading!
When you have had a need for something in the past have you ever considered heading to a charity shop/looking on gumtree/craigs-list to find a cheap and perfectly usable version of what you want? I feel like we can save so much money but also create a fun challenge for ourselves when we endeavour to recycle, revamp and reuse. Not that I am encouraging you to get more clutter, but there's something humbling about getting the things you do actually need really cheaply but at the same time recycling, helping others and giving new life to someone's old junk.
Look at all the things you have spent money on and find ways to get new value from them. Review your wardrobe and try new outfit combinations. Use your myriad of cooking utensils to try new recipes. Create regular self-care routines that help use up your overflowing collection of beauty products.
Do you have some larger goal for the future, a bigger reason behind pinning beautiful places on Pinterest? Do you want to travel more, see more and learn more? Outlining some exciting goals will motivate you to scrutinize your everyday spending further.
Are you feeding your passions and creativity, finding ways to express yourself and do what matters to you at your core?
Try to find a way back to the essence of what you want out of life, and step out of the confusion and overwhelming feeling that being on a spending downward spiral engulfs you with.
You might be thinking that you won't ever change, that you neither want nor need to. But if you can find a reason to derive more pleasure out of life that isn't related to what you spend, then you might find yourself less stressed and with heavier pockets.
I still want for things, and I still regret certain purchases, but by being mindful and confronting how I spend, I have still managed to clear my debts and go to Australia. I obviously have changed, and have managed to get something amazing out of being more thoughtful with my plastic.
Maybe you desperately want to clear debt but don't know how. Well, the first place to look is to consider the way you waste the money that should be going to clear them. You might think you already scrimp in order to make your credit payments, but so many pay the bare minimum, so as to free up that money up for disposable things.
You are normal to want things, normal to need things, normal to spend that which you work so hard to earn, but you needn't be a slave to the means of acquiring money to then simply acquire stuff. It's up to you.
Before you leave, you can now get the whole minimalist cleanse in book form, as an expanded and deepened process of steps and ideas! Available NOW.
Thanks for reading!
Hannah here, one half of NomaderHowFar. I love reading, the beach, proper fish and chips, and a good cup of tea. But I mostly like to chat about minimalism, simplifying your life, the beauty of travel and sometimes I get a bit deep. Get to know us here!