FI Adventure Month 1: Minimalism

Less Is Better

Written By: Collin

I had initially planned on writing about and focusing on our food and grocery spending this month. I even wrote out at least half of a blog post about it and used some great tactics to drop our monthly food bill by ~40%.

But, we over spent our budget on food last month by a bit. So I want to have a successful month in December to compare and contrast, so stay tuned. Additionally, in truly evaluating the month I realized that I had spent way more time and energy working on another aspect of our lives, minimalism and decluttering.

You probably know what minimalism is, but it can mean different things for different people. For some it's an entire way of life that becomes a core aspect of their identity. For others it's a word that makes them stop and say "...why?" But for me, it's an important tool in the tool box.

I define minimalism as being intentional about the things I own and focusing on functionality and happiness.

Let's break this sentence down into it's parts.

Intentionality

This is a core principle of my life in every area, not just the things I own. I mentioned this in my first FI Adventure Month post but I want to elaborate on it here as it relates to things.

I try to be intentional with not just the items I buy but also the items I already own. I'm not afraid to cut ties with something instead of saving it "just in case". Frequently during the year I'll take a few days or weeks to evaluate different areas of the house and see if there is anything that needs to be removed.

I wasn't always this way though. Especially when I would go through different transitions in my life, I would have a tendency to hang on to something because it used to be useful. Ask Alli how many random pieces of rope I had when we got married because during my six years working at a summer camp, rope was super useful nearly every day. I've gotten better at this though and now I'm routinely evaluating the usefulness of an item and if it is something that I haven't used in 6-12 months then it usually goes into a box in the garage to sell or donate.

Being intentional is great, but if you're already thinking like this then what is the criteria for making these informed decisions? That leads to the next part of my definition of minimalism where I focus on functionality and happiness.

Functionality and Happiness

As a young family of four living in a small 2 bedroom condo, we're forced to focus on functionality first when thinking about buying something. We've lived here for five years now so by this point, if an item comes in to stay, then another one probably needs to leave.

We try to evaluate the things we own based on whether or not they're going to be functional for us and bring us happiness. We'll ask questions like:

Does owning this remove a negative in my life?

Do I already have something similar that can work just as well?

Do I actually need to replace this old item, what if I just don't own it?

Or in the case of an XBox, will this lead to me playing an unimaginable amount of video games and getting kicked out onto the street where I will have to watch through the windows as Alli uses the XBox to watch Mama Mia?

In the end though, it's just about trying to be a little bit more conscious of _why _I'm making a purchase and question my assumption that it is truly necessary. My best tip for implementing this in your life is this.

When you want to buy something – don't.

I know right? But just don't buy it yet. If you can, wait a few days or even a couple of weeks or months. If you still find that you have a need for it then go ahead and purchase it.

In our condo we have vaulted ceilings in the living room. We love them because it really opens the space up. But with a vaulted ceiling it can be difficult to clean the fan or top windows. We didn't own a ladder tall enough and for a few years we thought about buying one, but following my own advice, we waited. Then one of the bulbs went out in the accent lights that I definitely can't reach without an extension ladder.

Now we really needed a ladder. So I went out and... borrowed one. That was a year or so ago, and just recently the other bulb went out in the accent lights. With Black Friday deals coming up and knowing that I've needed a nice ladder for a few years, I finally went ahead and bought one.

Buying a ladder is really such a mundane thing, but I think because I held off on purchasing it for so long, I now have a greater appreciation for owning it.


Monthly Check In

November Savings Rate: 40%

November Debt Total: $103,235.09 (↓ .31%)

I don't know how, but we still managed to have a 40% savings rate this month despite blowing our grocery budget and doing a bit of Black Friday shopping. This was our best month savings wise. I don't know if this quite makes sense, but it feels like the previous two months of frugality finally caught up to us to result in some actual dollars saved.

This is the first time I've done the math, but a normal monthly loan payment only brings my total loan amount down .31%. But I suppose I should be happy it doesn't go up each month.

Since we're saving up a down payment for our condo we haven't put any extra money towards the student loans. As soon as we can buy the condo we'll start doing that and hopefully be seeing a much more exciting debt pay off every month.