I have written about saving money before, but my minimalism journey didn’t start with the urge to save money, rather with realizing that I have much more than I need, decluttering and becoming more conscious about my shopping habits (besides other habits). Along the way I saw that my debts are gradually melting and I am able to save lots of money. Saving money is a plus but it wasn’t what I initially set out for.
Lately I’ve been seeing lots of posts on social media that go around the topics of being frugal, thrifty and minimalist. Some are trying to live a so-called minimalist lifestyle by just being frugal, some others are just on a no-spend challenge, and so on. I fully support these attempts – but sometimes without understanding the idea behind minimalism, these challenges can do more harm than good, and may even affect your health.
What I feel about minimalism is that it’s all about accepting yourself and the micro\macrocosm that you live in. If you are just beginning on the path of self-acceptance, limiting yourself and not buying what you really need may end up in frustration and self-guilt. That’s why I think it’s time to make a distinction between the three terms.
Minimalism is not frugality.
The fact that most minimalists can’t find stuff to spend their money on doesn’t mean they are frugal. The famous Minimalists, Josh and Ryan, like spending money on good coffee wherever they go and they mention going to lots of gigs too. Lots of others forego material goods and enjoy spending money on experiences. So not all minimalists are crazy about saving every last penny.
Minimalism is the art of spending money wisely. There are even discussions on reddit suggesting you need to be rich to be a minimalist. So if you think an item is going to add value to your life, why not spend good money on it? For me, for example, this could be going to places I want to see, theater or concert tickets, a high-quality pair of trousers or a really good chocolate. 🙂 You may also need to spend a lot of money (not all at once but eventually) on a capsule wardrobe that you will use for years. My suggestion is, spend money on things you LOVE. Other than that, just be very cautious about where your money goes to.
When you live more frugally, you also start to question the things you love and need. This may eventually affect your social life or your health even. So while one-week or one-month experiments or challenges are fine (I did one no-buy month back in November 2016 as well), making frugality a life style has nothing to do with minimalism in my opinion. It also can get very boring, you need to go out and spend money sometimes to do things you love (like arts, travel or sports).
Minimalism is not being thrifty.
I’m sorry but it isn’t. What is dangerous about being thrifty is that it can cause a hoarding problem. Imagine you see a big discount on toilet paper, let’s say, 70%. If you are a minimalist, you say, meh, I don’t need it right now, I’ve got plenty to last for six months. If you’re thrifty, though, you can go and buy years’ supply of toilet paper. You save more money than a minimalist too. That is the biggest difference here. While minimalists care more about living in the moment, thrifty people usually think more about the future. I can sometimes be thrifty of course, but at the end of the day what matters is what you choose to spend your money on, not how much you spend.
Money turns into a purpose rather than means if you obsess about how much you spend.
So which one is better?
The answer to this question is another: Which one do I need in my right now? At this stage of your life, what you need may be saving money for a purpose, or just clearing your debts. Then you can be thrifty and even frugal. But if you are financially in a good state, then you can decide which path you would like to take: finding discounts and good deals or living a more simple and minimalist lifestyle. At this stage of my life I’ve been trying to live a lifestyle that is based more on production than consumption, with minimum environmental impact as possible. And I have everything that I need, too. Need is a concept that can have various meanings depending on culture, gender, and individual preferences. So only you can decide on what kind of a lifestyle you need right now.