I don’t want to live with less

CUTTING BACK IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER

(This is not the post for you if you are used to regular raises, bonuses, shopping and living large. Obviously.)

Sometimes I feel like the only person online who doesn’t religiously read and follow minimalism blogs. (And many of the mainstream PF blogs, for that matter.)

Why?

They don’t resonate with me.

Decluttering and downsizing are not things I struggle with or aspire to.

I am the person who rotates through the same 3 pairs of shoes every week.

Who put up with only having 3 forks for nearly a year.

Who has lived in painfully small places due to money not choice, and bought a small and dated house because it’s what I could afford.

Who has always lived in a one-car, two-person household.

When you tell me to get ahead by saving my pay raises, living in a small cheap place, ditching the car, cutting back on coffee and clothes … I bounce, cause that ain’t my life. Many of us don’t get raises, live in large places we can downsize from, have a car, buy lattes or shop for leisure. These are not practical options for everyone.

I get it. Trimming the fat is an easy win for lots of people. They are the low hanging fruit. And they’re everywhere on the internet.

There are also people who are doing all the right things, but can’t get ahead. Quite simply, if they want to change that, they need to bring in more. Cutting back is not realistic (any odd small splurge they can manage is what keeps them going, and is not going to materially impact their overall situation). Popular advice assumes a baseline that is way above where they operate from. I don’t know what percentage of the population they represent, but they exist. Particularly in a low-wage, high cost-of-living country like this. They are on the internet too, but you don’t see or hear about them as often. I’ve seen their comments and stories pop up more and more over the past year, and it breaks my heart.




I often find myself short of things that are more need than want. I’ve lost so much over the years through various cycles of flatmates, and moving house. I got by for so long without a shower caddy, baking trays, and tons more little domestic touches that make a home. It made no sense to invest in anything of that nature while renting, and even after buying my house I struggled to spend money on those little things despite their huge ROI in terms of quality of life.

I’m not saying I am perfectly ascetic. I have plenty of crap I don’t need lying around the house and it’s a battle as I have hoarding tendencies rooted in a scarcity mindset (what if we need it someday?!) Mainly free stuff. When freebies come into my home, be they books or drinking flasks or candles or whatever, it’s really hard for me to get rid of something ‘perfectly good’.

I know just how little it’s possible to live on. I backpacked around the world for six months. Full time travel forces you to get pretty bloody minimalist.

I’ve lived with less and I know that I want more. A life of abundance. (And yes, for me that means some stuff.)

Could I cut down my possessions by 30, 50, 70 percent?

Sure. But I’d really rather not.

Could I live on a lower income?

I have done. And I definitely would rather not.

Every new job/salary bump has enabled me to save more and build the life I want. My best life costs money – a house costs money, dogs cost money, babies cost money.

For lots of us, cutting back is not the answer.

(But I still haven’t cut my hair in over a year. I’m still not sure when I actually will get around to it.)

15 thoughts on “I don’t want to live with less

  • Reply Ms. Montana April 19, 2017 at 14:28

    I remember reading Gretchen Rubins book on happiness and her saying how she didn’t need to make her life more simple but more complicated. She always errored on the side of getting rid of things, or not fussing with things or not doing things. Sometimes we can be better at getting rid of than we are about adding. I just reduced a monthly expense by $51 by finding a cheaper cell phone plan and I am determined to spend that money each and every month on something that does add value. Cutting can be easy, but adding value and adding joy are also important parts of the equation.

  • Reply Financial Samurai April 19, 2017 at 22:07

    Hmmm, neither do i, sorta.

    I don’t read any minimalist blogs b/c after you get rid of everything, what is there to write about?

    I did like downsizing to a ~25% smaller house in 2014. It feels good to right size!

    Sam

  • Reply Making Your Money Matter April 19, 2017 at 22:44

    I feel this way about certain things, like I wish I actually had MORE clothes (but ones that I actually love and want to wear!). For me, wanting less in most things has to do mostly with not wanting to spend my TIME cleaning up a house full of things that I don’t care about. I think it’s my season of life-I have 3 kids and time is more valuable than anything in the world right now.

  • Reply Lindsay | Notorious D.E.B.T. April 20, 2017 at 02:01

    “Popular advice assumes a baseline that is way above where they operate from. ”

    Yesss!
    I’ve never been a huge spender. I’ve never gone on vacation anywhere aside from work trips or visiting relatives. I’ve been known to wear shoes until the soles come off. I’ve never even been in a new car, let alone owned one.
    But, there have been other things I’ve been a “big” spender on and had to cut back from – notably, eating out. Other than that and a few other scattered bad decisions (student loans, buying a house when I shouldn’t have), I always felt like conventional financial advice about cutting back just didn’t apply to me. I wish more people realized this fact!

  • Reply Anya April 20, 2017 at 07:52

    As we would say here in the US, minimalism belongs under “stuff white people like.” I think you definitely have to be comfortable financially to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. And that includes people who make 6 digits but live paycheck to paycheck. When you have to stretch every dollar b/c it’s the only way to survive, you tend to hang on to stuff that may come in handy some day. I grew up with my parents keeping every jar that they could use as a storage container, or stashing away an old appliance in the garage b/c it could be used for parts. Free pens we’re not given away to goodwill and writing pads were not recycled. And when they had an opportunity to splurge on something unnecessary but that would make life just a bit easier or bring a temporary feeling of happiness, they’d do it. For better or worse, I follow the “white people” trend.

  • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life April 20, 2017 at 12:35

    I’m sure I’ve said it before but YEP. I carefully control where my money goes at all times, I don’t have a ton of fat to trim, and the fat I do have was carefully chosen thank-you-very-much. That’s not to say I haven’t made purchasing mistakes, of course I have. But not to the tune of having extra designer shoes, bags, or cars to sell off, I’ve never played at that level 🙂

  • Reply Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial April 21, 2017 at 00:44

    I definitely feel the pro-minimalism verve in blog world comes from a place of “I’ve got enough so I don’t need anymore” sort of privilege, which clearly is not applicable to everyone’s circumstance. For me though I think it a welcome addition to American consumer culture, where cheap and superfluous tchotchkes used to (and still) clutter bookcases, mantle pieces, sofa tables and more as a matter of course in a well-decorated home.

  • Reply Mel @ brokeGIRLrich April 22, 2017 at 03:33

    I’m really impressed with people who have so little and do manage to figure out a way past it, because for me, frugality was the first step to learning about money and the first mental hurdle to jump – and there were a lot of opportunities in my life for me to do so.

    The earn more mentality was 100X harder, so I can’t imagine having to start there to be able to achieve any success because it’s such a difficult mentality to wrap your mind around sometimes.

    Cutting back on what you already have is so much easier that figuring out how to generate something out of nothing.

  • Reply Amanda @ My Life, I Guess April 22, 2017 at 06:08

    I totally agree with you!

    I know that I have a lot of “stuff” that I no longer need, but that’s not the same as being a minimalist. It’s just that things have changed and those items are no longer useful in my life. But that doesn’t mean I want bare walls and empty rooms, either.

  • Reply Frugal Desperado April 24, 2017 at 02:35

    Thank you for making an argument for the other side. I like my things. I don’t want to get rid of my things. I use what I use, I donate what I don’t, but generally, I like what I have – that’s why I have it, and I don’t feel like parting with my possessions to live a particular sort of life.

    I’ve cut out the purchase of new items because I need to balance the scales of my flagrant shopaholism, but I don’t feel like getting rid of the perfectly good things I already own. If I’m still paying wads of month towards debt every month, I at least want to enjoy the things I went into debt for (mind you, things I bought in an attempt to self-medicate from depression, etc) but STILL….the longer I hold on to and care for them, the less chance I need to buy them in the future when I know I’m lacking. Like you said, if something is perfectly good, hard to let go as you might need it one day. That was the MO in my immigrant household, and my mom gave us a rich life of very low income with that mentality.

  • Reply Amanda April 25, 2017 at 12:32

    Oh, man, do I identify with that struggle to spend on small things that would make my life better. Well, what’s “small?” I’ve been thinking about a dishwasher for MONTHS, and I know it would make my life so much easier. It’s a $400 investment, and I know that’s more than what you’re talking about here, but what you wrote made me think about a post in my queue about “Investments for a Better Life.” I don’t NEED any of them, but any one of them would make a big improvement. And isn’t that what money should do? Improve our lives?

    • Reply eemusings April 25, 2017 at 16:26

      OMG YES to the dishwasher. No hesitation there from me. It made my life 100000x easier when I lived in places that had one.

      BUT … for us it makes sense to incorporate this into a big kitchen reno, and so I’ve been waiting. Waiting. Planning to hopefully do that later this year – knock out a bit of wall, put in some splashback, a rangehood, get a gas stove, countertops that aren’t made of tile and constantly chipping/breaking, replacing our old and dying fridge … and yep, a dishwasher. CANNOT WAIT.

  • Reply Maggie @ Northern Expenditure April 28, 2017 at 18:14

    We did a big declutterfest last year, but we’re no minimalists. We have hoarding tendancies as well. And Mr. T will get raises, but they’re usually more like 2%. And if the kids have stuff happening, I work less (work at home mom). So yeah. I agree with you. We could live on less, but we don’t want to. Also, I’m realizing I don’t want my kids to be teenagers in this tiny house. And that depresses me because it means moving and another mortgage potentially, but I want them to have their own rooms when they’re older.

  • Reply Funny about Money May 19, 2017 at 14:26

    Well…you can’t become “minimalist” unless there’s something for you to become minimalist FROM. That implies that the advocate of minimalism is at least verging on middle class. If you’re already poor as a churchmouse, then “minimalist” is normal, daily life.

    I’d suggest that frugality — in the sense of “common sense” — is different from obsessive minimalism.

  • Reply Cheryl Coleman May 20, 2017 at 03:54

    Greetings! Great post as always – really enjoy reading up on your financial advice and how you made living responsible financially work so well for you. I can definitely see how the minimalistic lifestyle can’t work for everyone. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more material items in your life.
    I was wondering if you ever considered Housesitting as a means for travel and income. It is a low-maintenance job and has the benefit of free accommodation. Housesitters have the chance to experience a different lifestyle in a new location. I recommend visiting a website like Housesitter.com to view opportunities for you!

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