Less is more - no doubt you've heard that saying before. Following a decade of excess and consuming, minimalism is becoming a more popular lifestyle choice with America feeling an urge to get back to basics.
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The term minimalism actually comes from the arts, where it puts simplicity first in art, music and architecture. So how do you adopt minimalist principles without living out of a suitcase or turning your house into a monk's bedroom? Here are seven simple tips to get you on your way to a minimalist life.
- Use What You Have
You're redecorating your living room to match that magazine picture you saw. You make a list of all the stuff you'll need, and off you go to the store, ready to burn a hole into your credit card. Stop. Pretend for a moment that you couldn't buy anything - what could you use that you already have to achieve your goal? Rearrange furniture, paint what's worn and get creative by using what's available in your house.
You can apply this minimalist tactic to just about any purchase, from kitchen appliances to groceries. You'll save money, and get a great sense of accomplishment from using your creativity rather than your wallet to solve a problem. (Looking for more ideas? Don't miss 10 Home Repairs That Will Save You Money.)
- Get Rid of What You Don't Need
If you're like most people in America, you have closets or a garage full of stuff. Sure, it's still perfectly good, but are you actually using all of it? One day a week, pick one room in your house and de-clutter. If you haven't used something in more than a year, get rid of it. Get the whole family involved, so everyone takes ownership in your new, simpler lifestyle.
For sentimental items, get one box or container for each of you, so you can take a trip down memory lane without taking up the whole attic. If you have trouble letting go of things, imagine someone finding whatever item you don't use at your garage sale, and being really happy with it. And remember: when you sell your stuff, you'll make money. (For more, check out In A Cash Crunch? Hold A Yard Sale.)
- Don't Need It? Don't Buy It
We're a nation of consumers, and our buying habits are driven by careful marketing campaigns. At the supermarket, there are those end-cap displays; in stores, there is always sales - limited time only! Don't fall for it. Before you go to the store, make a list and only buy what's on it.
As far as those electronics, that new car and the latest fashion, resist the temptation of keeping up with the Joneses. That TV still works, your car will do fine with an oil change, and your closet is probably full of clothes for you to rediscover. Before buying anything, ask: do I really need this? If the answer is no, don't buy. Avoid the mall and stores if you're easily tempted. (Learn more in Stop Keeping Up With The Joneses - They're Broke.)
- Uncover Luxuries
It's Tuesday, and you just had a long day at the office. On your way home, you pick up dinner for the family, because you're way too tired to cook. Did you know that the average family of four spends more than $4,000 a year on eating out? Dinner out used to be a luxury. Minimalist living is all about cutting back to the essentials, which includes rediscovering luxuries like this. Plan for easy-to-cook meals at home so that you aren't tempted. Have a family movie night at home instead of paying for theater tickets and overpriced popcorn. Rediscover your local library for free magazines, books, movies and often even videogame rentals.
Look at your monthly spending, and list those things that are needs (like shelter, food, electricity), and those that are wants (like eating out and that premium cable package). Cut back on spending in the "wants" category, so you can savor those luxuries instead of getting dulled by the frequency. (Saving money doesn't have to be hard work. Check out 20 Lazy Ways To Save Money.)
- Prioritize Your Time
Do you feel like there's never enough time in the day? Try this: for a week, log how you spend your time every day, whether it's at work or during your off hours. Do you spend a lot of time surfing the web? Limit your computer time, and be tough with yourself about it. Running lots of errands all week? Try saving them up, so you go to the stores only once a week. Just like you budget your money, budget your time.
What's really important to you? If you have an overflowing social calendar, learn to say no. If you have kids, limit their extracurricular activities to those things they truly enjoy - you'll save money, and your kids will be less stressed. Think of your time as a commodity, like money, and take a more minimalist approach to how you spend it.
The Bottom Line
Living minimalist is all about cutting the clutter in your life. Budget to this principle and you'll not only save money and time – you'll feel more content too. (For more tips on budgeting, check out Save Without Sacrifice.)
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