The Minimalist Budget
Following a budget doesn't mean everything you want will be suddenly out of reach. It's about identifying your needs and fulfilling them, without excess, according to the The Minimalist Budget: A Practical Guide On How To Save Money, Spend Less And Live More With A Minimalist Lifestyle by Simeon Lindstrom.
According to Lindstrom, it doesn't make sense to buy food for 12 if you're only feeding four, clutter up your home with things you don't need or want, or tally excessive expenses.
“Minimalism encourages us to match our needs with our actions," Lindstrom explains.
While much budgeting advice revolves around saving a penny or a pound, minimalist budgeting focuses more on conscious decision-making.
Here's how to create a minimalist budget for your life (not just your money):
Understand Your Relationship with Money
We were all raised differently. Some people got showered with presents, and they equate buying things with feeling loved. Others were raised with fewer things and equate spending with being wasteful.
You have to examine what money means to you: Is it a tool to give you freedom, a way to show off your economic status, or how you show love? And most important, note if the way you spend your is money making you happy or unhappy. Figure out what your values are — what you need (and don't need).
“If you can pair your budget with a more nuanced understanding of your relationship with money," you can figure out how you want to spend and live, Lindstrom writes.
Discover How Money Is Not the Only Resource
People always say “time is money," but only one of those resources is truly limited and can never be regained. “We make choices as if time was infinite and money was the most important," Lindstrom notes.
That's why a solid life budget begins with time, since it's the “absolute most precious" of our resources. Start examining your life through this lens: Are you wasting time on things that don't matter to you, like spending four hours binge-watching a show, or 20 minutes making coffee you don't care about? Budgeting your time means to ask yourself what the best way is to use this scarce resource.
Examine Value, Not Just Money
Not everything is about how much something costs. Value takes into consideration time and well-being. Take that dishwasher you've been wanting to buy: Yes, it costs money, but if the 45 minutes it takes you or your spouse to do the dishes completely wipes you out — taking you away from your work or family — you might want to spring for the machine.
You're the only one who can decide an item's “real-life" value. “Budgeting with an eye to more fundamental value means asking what things add to the experience of your being alive," Lindstrom writes.
Find What Matters Most
The only way to make your “life budget" — which takes into account your financial, emotional and physical needs — is to identify what matters most. “What is the point of your life? When do you feel most energized, happiest and most fulfilled?"
Build your life around pursuing these moments. Block off that hour in the morning for learning a new instrument, spend a holiday serving food in a soup kitchen, spend one day a week tech-free with your family. “A budget will be more effective and more meaningful if it takes into account the fact that you are a human being who has a real need to be emotionally and spiritually fulfilled," Lindstrom writes.
Regardless of your income level, “minimalism is about getting down to essentials, and the essentials are different for each person." Some people want to live minimally to reduce their environmental footprint, others want to pursue the simple life, and still others may not have the resources for extravagance. The most important thing is to live authentically.
“Learning that we can still be happy and fulfilled and have a life that is as rich as anybody else's, no matter how in debt we may be, is a hard but sweet lesson to learn," he writes.
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