By now, you've likely come across the growing minimalist movement in some form, whether you've binge-watched “Tiny House Hunters” or found yourself curiously thumbing through “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The purported benefits? Owning less and living a simpler life, the theory goes, translates to a happier, less-stressful existence.
Of course, living with less can also help you save a lot more. And devoted minimalists say that’s not the only money-related perk of paring back.
Minimalism isn’t about giving away all your possessions, and doesn’t require sacrificing comforts like a nice home or car. Rather, "minimalism is all about intentionality," says Ryan Mitchell, 34, of The Tiny Life. "The key element is asking: What do I want my life to be? When you're clear on your goals, ask yourself if each purchase gets you closer or keeps you away from them."
The goal is to move toward only spending money on things that rank on your most-important list. "I don't shop recreationally,” says minimalist and money coach Emily Shutt. "My budget includes all the basics with a small buffer for flexibility each month. Some of that usually goes toward fancy candles or fragrance diffusers for my office because I greatly value having a beautiful, calm space to do my work.”
There's a misconception that minimalism is about deprivation or being cheap, yet Mitchell says minimalists are actually some of the pickiest shoppers: "When we do buy things, we do research [to ensure quality.] I recently considered four different types of socks to find the best ones. Who researches socks?”
After all, you’ll save money in the long run by investing in a few high-quality items. "Cheap things aren't good, and good things aren't cheap," says minimalist and professional organizer Ben Soreff. "For instance, if you are going to have more than one child, investing in a well-made stroller will serve you better for years than one that will only last for one kid."
Becoming minimalist means bowing out of the great one-upmanship game that others around you may still play. This can save cash and clear your head. "It no longer matters what the Joneses do or have since the goal is not to amass things," says licensed mental health professional and minimalism expert Kryss Shane. "By not comparing oneself to others, there is no stress or anxiety about trying to keep up or maintain appearances."
Shutt notes a real mindset shift in her clients who adopt a minimalist approach, which often leads to an immediate impact on their finances.
"They can actually start to build some momentum in debt repayment because they're not constantly adding to the bill each month," she says. "They begin to feel in control of their decision-making and often identify ways to increase their earnings on top of reducing their spending, so they're able to achieve their financial goals much faster."
It takes more than money to lead a rich life—and practitioners agree that minimalism leads to just that. "By being surrounded by beloved things, a person is likely to be happier and calmer than if they simply amassed items that brought no joy or that cause stress to maintain,” Shane says.
The benefits trickle down, too. Salt Lake City-based author Milana Perepyolkina, 45, passed her minimalist lifestyle to her daughter. "Growing up, she had fewer toys than her friends, yet she valued them more. She proudly displayed [them], and could name every single toy,” she says. "She still has the same mindset: It’s much better to have several good things you love than a pile of things you don’t care about.”