We are buying things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even know
Josh from The Minimalists
I loved the film and I’m fascinated by the overlap between minimalism and financial independence.
Minimalism is simple. Its where you stop buying, worshipping and hording ever more stuff – physical possessions.
What I love about minimalism is that it’s 100% positive and the benefits are immediate. And where you then take it is up to you. Minimalism might just be a prompt to de-clutter or it could become a gateway drug to pursuing financial freedom.
You should definitely watch the film for yourself…but here’s a free taster:
Full-fat financial independence appeals to people who want to get rich as well as those that just want to get better with money. If I look back on my motivations when I got started, they were a mixed bag…mostly of fears (of poverty and homelessness) but also partly of
greed desire (I wanted to be rich).
On The Path to financial independence, people often start by thinking about buying less as a necessary evil – a way of accepting less now to get more in the future (more freedom yes, but maybe more more stuff as well?).
I started out thinking that way but the journey changed me. What started off as a get rich scheme ended up changing me into a
hippy minimalist. What started off as forced frugality ended up becoming a preference for simplicity.
When I was 18, I wanted a Ferrari. But I realised that if even if I had the money to buy it (I didn’t) that would be a really, really dumb use of the cash.
I realised that £100,000 invested & earning 10% a year would allow me to live off the interest…and that was an tantalising idea. I still wanted the Ferrari…I just realised that I couldn’t have my money and spend it. I had to choose. You can afford anything, you just can’t afford everything.
I now have zero urge to own a supercar. I still admire the craft that has gone into designing and making a Ferrari. I still admire them on the street; its just that I don’t feel the need to own one. I don’t need a reward / treat / consolation prize for being locked up in The Prison Camp.
Minimalism is about beauty
Minimalists love beauty, efficiency and elegant simplicity.
I love the idea of rich people voluntarily choosing less because its better. Like Steve Jobs who only had black trousers and polo necks and an apartment with bare floors. I’m pretty sure that dude could have afforded more shit. But it wouldn’t have made him happy. It would have been a distraction, using up valuable headspace.
Perhaps you have to have tried buying happiness to appreciate that the more, more, more promises of consumerism are a scam? Apparently Jim Carey put it this way:
I wish everyone could be rich and famous so they’d realise that those things don’t make you happy
Being broke, being in debt and being trapped in a job will all definitely make you UNHAPPY. Money is just a tool that gives you the power to change this.
Saving the world
The financial independence movement is a way of reducing our impact on the environment. If you read Your Money or Your Life or Mr Money Mustache, both are pretty clear that environmental reasons are the motivation for the author’s efforts at persuasion. And I agree with that: you come for the money, you stay to save the world.
But with the focus on financial independence, a lot of people interpret that as saving money at all costs. This can turn into penny-pinching for people with a scarcity or fear-based mindset. Fear was an effective motivator for me to earn and save more…but living your whole life based on scarcity and fear is miserable.
Minimalism means that you don’t worship physical stuff but it absolutely does not rule out investing in yourself. You can still spend money on valuable services and wonderful experiences. Let’s imagine you had always wanted to spend 6 months in Barcelona learning Spanish. A money hoarder would not spend that money. But a minimalist would. They’d have no problem with an investment in their life experience and their self-development.
Buying a Hummer, not so much.
Its not about money
Minimalism is not really about the money (although it will save you a ton of money over your lifetime).
And that’s a good thing because money drives people nuts. As soon as you put your head above the parapet and talk sense about money, people try to shout you down.
People associate public debates about money with politics. So debates about money often stray into politics and envy. People who’ve made bad life choices with money (and who hasn’t?) wail and demand to be bailed out with other peoples money.
Here’s where both the right and the left-wing of politics are going wrong. Both sides make the same mistake of assuming that having more money / stuff is always the answer. It usually isn’t.
The beauty of minimalism is that its personal and it’s under your control. If you’re broke and can’t find the important stuff because you’ve filled up your attic / garage / basement with shite then you are the problem and blaming politicians is not the answer.
I was recently at the charity shop reflecting on the irony of giving away our books on de-cluttering. I could no doubt blame Theresa May [insert your own scapegoat here] for tricking us into buying them but, let’s be honest, this one is on us.
It’s good for your soul
Human beings are part of nature: we are not above it. We evolved over millions of years to live in a simple natural environment with few possessions. As hunter-gatherers we were often nomadic and we travelled light.
Then we “hacked” the world: we invented the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and the information (IT) revolution and those 3 things are now making us sick. We weren’t designed to graze constantly on processed carbohydrates and junk food. We weren’t designed to work 40+ hours a week doing the same thing over and over like photocopiers. We weren’t designed to stare at a screen, hunched over waiting for the next
dopamine hit notification on social media.
Minimimalism helps reconnect us with a more natural way of living so its good for your soul.
The benefits start right now
If (and its a big if) the benefits of financial independence all lie 15-20 years in the future and if (there’s that word again) its all about sacrifice and deprivation until you enter the sunlit uplands of financial independence, then that’s a bad trade.
Now, let’s be clear, I think that many of the benefits of pursuing FI start right now. And I don’t accept that you need to live a life of miserable deprivation to get there. But I will agree that pursuing financial independence often feels like you are prioritising your future self over your current self.
In contrast, the payback for minimalism is SUPER-FAST. It’s so powerful just to have somewhere to put your keys and wallet when you get in the door. The Escape Artist is an utter clown and must have taken years off my life with the self-inflicted stress from not having a set place to keep my keys / wallet etc. And its not just me: apparently the average person spends one year of their precious time on this planet looking for lost stuff.
In RESET, David Sawyer makes the case for de-cluttering which I’ve summarised here:
- Clutter overloads your senses and adds to your stress levels
- If you have a cluttered house, its likely you have a cluttered approach to food and waste money every week throwing it away
- Clutter makes you live in the past
- Clutter makes you feel as if you’re not in control
- Clutter is inefficient and prevents us taking action to meet our goals
Some may question why de-cluttering is included in a book about money management and financial independence but David is absolutely right on this.
It’s for everyone
Everyone can get better with money and everyone can use the tools, techniques and mindset of financial independence.
But at the same time, the problem with financial independence is that its seems too big a mountain to climb for many people. I know achieving FI is possible because my own experience proves that (to me). But that doesn’t prove its possible for everyone.
With Minimalism, its obvious that anyone can do it. I mean really…you just start by tidying the fuck up.
There are no excuses
When it comes to money, I’ve heard every
excuse rationalisation going.
People have told The Escape Artist (with a straight face) that there is no ridiculous spending in Britain (apparently that only happens in America). I’ve heard people blame politicians, the Patriarchy and the Beer Pixies for taking their money.
The reality is that those people are self-sabotaging. You can do better than that.
I’m not saying that everyone can get to financial independence by 40. But I am saying that everyone can buy less shite.
As Jordan Peterson might put it:
Tidy up your goddamn room, bucko.