For me, a huge part of my journey with minimalism was to decrease my amount of physical possessions and increase my financial savings; with the end goal of getting closer to financial freedom. When I broke that down in my head, that meant in the next 3-5 years I’d be: in the process of buying my own home, have over $10,000 in savings, no credit card debt, and paid off whatever vehicle I’ve since purchased (I already own my 2012 Ford Focus, but an upgrade is due here soon!)
Moreover, when I began with my journey of minimalism on January 1, 2017, I had:
- 10 active credits cards (Wells Fargo Visa, MasterCard, Capital One, David’s Bridal, American Express, The Limited, Kay Jewelers (2), Nebraska Furniture Mart, and PayPal Credit).5 out of the 10 had balances while the rest were paid off and just sitting in my wallet. The balances of the active cards (and my University Bill) totaled to $7,456.20
- Student loans ( I don’t even want to think about that amount – lol)
- University Student Bill ($1,263.66 – calculated in the figure above)
Needless to say, while that may be more or less than what others my age may have in credit card debt/debt overall, it was SO overwhelming to think about all the money that I owed. Especially considering all of the things I bought with those cards were things that I didn’t need or didn’t add value to my life. Therefore those credit cards and debt felt like bricks on my ankles, while I could shrink my closet and get rid of possessions that didn’t add value to my life, eliminating credit card debt was a huge factor in being a minimalist for me.
While student loans would take a bit longer to knock down (being that I am still in school and not actively making payments) I knew that I could easily eliminate my dependence on credits cards.
I know there’s an array of opinions on credit cards.. some believe that you should keep them for those “emergency situations”, some believe that you should actively use them and pay them off to increase your credit score, and some believe you should use them as you please… So I was on the fence when I started my journey with minimalism as it pertains to what to do with my credit cards – keep or eliminate?
Long story short, I decided for me the best decision would be to rid myself of all credit cards with the exception of my Wells Fargo Visa (for emergencies and travel). As for the others, I just didn’t want them anymore as they were more of a burden than anything else. If I had them I felt compelled to use them, I’d buy things that I certainly didn’t need, and overall spend too much, given my monthly budget – nah, I’m good.
So in January I made an action plan, I said by my 23rd birthday (June 22, 2017) I want my 5 credit cards with balances paid off, as well as my balance at the University. From there I became more diligent in my budgeting per month so I could double payment amounts and cut up the cards that didn’t have balances.
As of March 14, 2017 I have completely eliminated my balance at the University and am down to 4 credit cards to pay off! Woo hoo! My total debt balance is now $5,692.54. That’s down $1,763.66 since January 1, 2017.
Once I really began to evaluate where my money was going per month (dining out, shopping, groceries, work related expenses, travel, pageantry, gas, etc.) it was easy to determine what was necessary and what was not. While I can easily cut back on shopping and dining out, I had to get creative in saving money with grocery shopping and other necessities. Below are some resources that helped me:12
- Save on Groceries – Time Magazine
- 12 Smart Ways to Save on Groceries Without Coupons
- Freezer Meals for Under $50
Those are just a few that helped me out. Also above I mentioned that I evaluate my expenses, I do this by documenting all (no matter how big or small) 0f my spending long hand in my planner that I carry with me (this is easier than holding on to receipts).
Most of my money saving and purposeful allocation of my money came with answering one question before purchasing anything: Does it add value to my life? If I was unable to confidently answer that question, I don’t buy it. Period. I had to get out of the habit of buying things just to buy them, buying things to fill a void, buying things because I had the funds, or buying things to make a statement to those around me. I work hard for my money, just like many others do, but I don’t work hard to feed into a cycle that perpetuates debt and overspending.
I mean think about it, we live in a culture that encourages spending to look like a certain figure or lifestyle, promising this happy and glamorous life, soon discovering that’s not the case at all. You will never be able to keep up because there is always going to be something new, something better, and something that is overly advertised to make you feel like you need it.
That being said, like many minimalists, I was tired of feeling pressured to buy things to define success. I never needed 10 credits cards, and will argue that no one does. I never needed to go shopping every weekend, or have over 20 pairs of shoes and handbags. Those thing, are just things and things that only have value if I decide to give it to them. I decided to be purposeful and place value in people, experiences, memories.. not things. Understand, there’s nothing wrong with owning things or like things, they just shouldn’t own you.