Can embracing minimalism reduce financial stress?

Written by Lisa Pallavi Barbora

Lisa Pallavi Barbora is a Senior Consultant for Content at WFAN. Lisa is also a founder of MoneyPuzzle.in In her earlier avatar, she was a National Writer and Consultant for HT Mint - a premier business journal in India.

May 26, 2021

Falling employment figures across the globe are testimony for the hard times thrust upon us thanks to the pandemic. With lockdowns in some form or the other across cities and countries, economic activity is also slowing down. This in turn means fewer jobs and lower earnings. It’s a vicious cycle that can continue and there could be a lag before things turn around.

In some countries, citizens have the benefit of social security pay-outs on unemployment, but in India we don’t. The pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued somewhere taught us to have a lifestyle with less rather than more. Living with less doesn’t mean living poorly, it means that you focus on what your needs are, what brings you happiness and then rather than adding frills to those needs, focus on what is important like health, relationships and our environment.

The important stuff doesn’t require any expenditure, it’s the frills that we add on to our needs, which become desires and then demand a lot more from us in terms of our time and money.

Taking away this clunky stuff that we don’t need that just add on to fan our desires is what a minimalistic lifestyle is about.

The idea is that it leaves you with enough time, money and mind space to focus on the people and issues which really matter and make a difference to how you feel.

Moreover, by spending less on things you don’t need, you can ebb financial stress by saving more.

However, a minimalistic lifestyle is not simple and the question is, is it your answer to reducing stress?

How can you tell that minimalism works for you?

Everyone has wants and desires and if some of those are not fulfilled then instead of reducing stress it can add to it. Moreover, we work hard to earn a living that ultimately is utilised towards building a lifestyle, so who is to say that yours is an indulgent lifestyle if it is what you desire.

Minimalism naturally suits some people who don’t seek material possessions.

However, for those who are intertwined with material possessions,  minimalism not only means getting rid of the clutter but also being able to say that one doesn’t mind having a glass half full.

It’s not easy and if you’re not ready, it can cause more stress than reduce it.

You may spend two months, trying hard to not spend needlessly on what you consider excessive, but if your state of mind has not reconciled with minimalism, in the third month you may give in to temptation and spend way more than you intended to on a lot of unqualified possessions.

Don’t be in a hurry. If you think that this is the direction you want to move in and begin with one aspect of your life at a time.

Let’s say you have two luxury cars, begin by dialling it down and sell one for a basic value-for-money model. Or you may want to start with your wardrobe, make a choice to not buy anything new for an entire year and challenge yourself to mix and match what you already own to make it a fresh look every time you step out. Or start with the kitchen and ditch the processed, imported, packaged foods and stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables available at the local vendor. These changes, done one at a time, may be more effective rather than trying to get rid of all the excess at once.

Minimalism is not about getting rid of what you like, rather about choosing not to indulge in the ten other things that you have no strong view about just because you are following the herd or attempting some kind of posh signalling.

Keep the things and keep following the habits you like even if they cost a bomb, but in a minimalistic lifestyle you won’t feel the urge to add on other stuff and habits just to make a show of it for your neighbours.

If you succeed in making some of the early changes in a committed manner, then you may be ready to embrace minimalism more cohesively.

What impact can it have on your finances?

Clearly, a minimalistic lifestyle will mean that your expenses go down. When you don’t crave for too much, you won’t have too many avenues to spend. Two things can come out of it. You can save and invest in a way so that for the rest of your life you only spend – frugally or lavishly – on what brings real value to your life rather than adding on meaningless possessions. The other impact is that you will find, you may still have a lot left over after catering to your few demands, that money can now be used to help others in need.

In the big picture, if more privileged people embrace minimalism, there is a chance that others in society who are not as privileged will get a lift up and stand at par for the opportunities which lie ahead.

Minimalistic lifestyles, give your finances a lop sided opening to commit to giving in a more significant manner.

If the objective in your life is not just about growing wealth for the sake of riches but rather you would like a more altruistic purpose to your riches, then minimalism may be worth a try.

Different people will move towards this extreme sounding lifestyle in different ways. However, you don’t have to copy what others are doing and instead may like to build on minimalism in just one or two aspects in your life rather than all at one go. Choose your own path.

Minimalism can also become an unhealthy extreme which, you want to avoid.

At the same time some degree of minimalism can have positive outcomes on just mental and financial health, but also your relationships and your external natural environment. Embrace the aspects of this idea which appeal to you without the obligation of an extreme renunciation of life’s pleasures that make you happy. Be it in lifestyle, money, relationships or nature, a balance is important. Make your minimalism about balance rather denial.  

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