Materialism is a way of life for many people. Some of us like to pretend we are not materialistic in any way, saying that money is not important and that other things are far more important. And then we get into our Escalades and drive home in our $200 Tory Burch flip flops and park our massive SUV in our oversized garage next to our luxury speedboat and walk into our huge home in a gated community just before hopping online to drop a grand on sports sign-ups for our kids to keep them occupied the next two months. It’s a way of life for so, so many of us, no matter how many people pretend that materialism is not a part of our lives.
We like our nice things, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with any of the above, and that’s all right. But the problem is that the vast majority of people in the world are living materialistic lives that cannot afford it. Some have credit card debt and they know that they need to pay it off, but they don’t feel the need to do so when there are new clothes, shoes and toys to buy. Then there are those of us who spend money just because it’s there and we can. I’m guilty of this; I did it just this morning. It just reminds me that most of us focus too much on materialism and not nearly enough on minimalism. Did I really need a new pair of shoes just because they were on sale? No; I’m a woman who has too many shoes I don’t wear already. I could have saved that money and used it for something else, like adding it onto my monthly mortgage payment to help pay off my home faster. But I didn’t. I could use some practice with minimalism.
What is minimalism? It’s the art of living a minimal lifestyle. For example, a minimalist might have one pair of shoes for different occasions (flip flops, work, church, sports) rather than the dozens most women have for just one occasion. A minimalist does not spend frivolously. A minimalist spends only when necessary and does not partake in wants so much as needs. And those people can really do a number on their debt and their financial situation by applying this concept to their overall life. Here’s how becoming a minimalist can help you pay off your debt that much faster.
Reduce your lifestyle
The simplest way to live a minimalist lifestyle is to reduce the cost of your lifestyle. Are you renting a three bedroom apartment in the city so that you have more space even though it’s just you and your spouse? It’s time to downsize and get a one bedroom so you can reduce your lifestyle and stop spending money on things you don’t need. This frees up your money to pay off debts.
Get rid of things that are not necessary
Do you live in NYC and own a car? Sell it. Not only do you no longer have a car payment, repair payments, parking fees and gas fees, you might have additional cash in your pocket from the sale of your car. There you go; you just saved yourself a lot of money and applied it toward a debt while living like a minimalist. You can walk where you need to go in many locations around the world.
Buy only what you need
You do need those vegetables to eat a healthy diet. You do not need that bottle of wine to go with dinner tonight. You also do not need to see a movie this weekend when you could stay home and watch one on television, take a walk or read a good book.
Pay off emotional balances
Do you owe money that’s emotional to you? A hospital bill that brings back bad memories of an accident? A loan from a parent that racks you with guilt? Pay these off first and you’ve done two things; eliminated some debt and freed up your emotional state of mind to focus on other debts that need paying off.
Pay off small debts
For some, paying off larger more expensive debts is a better decision. For others, smaller debts are a good idea since they let you get rid of more at once and make you feel more confident from the start. Paying off three or four small debts at once is a great motivator when you are getting started.
Establish relationships that make you happy
If you’re going to live the life of a minimalist, you’re going to need to remember to put a newfound effort in your personal relationships. You’re not buying things to make you happy anymore, so you have to find other means of happiness, and that should come from personal relationships with the people in your life.
You might want to go out and buy the same cute bag as a friend since she has one and seems so happy about it, but don’t. That bag is not going to make you feel happy. That bag is going to prevent you from paying off a debt. Remember this; pay off debt today and provide yourself the freedom to buy whatever you want the rest of your life.
Stay away from shops and the internet
It’s not easy to be a minimalist if you are constantly near shopping. Get rid of the internet and take a new route to work or something, and you will find it much easier to pay off debts and stop buying things you do not need. All that money you are saving not buying things you don’t need, it goes to your debts.
If you cannot control yourself, stay home. Do not accept invitations to do expensive activities you cannot afford or to go to expensive restaurants you cannot afford. Plan your outings accordingly and stay home when they seem excessive. Each time you turn down an invitation, spend what you might have spent that evening on a bill. It’s a nice way to pay yourself for your current sacrifices.
Why not get creative in your minimalism? For some, it sounds like something that’s completely off the wall – and it is. But that does not mean you cannot get as creative as you want and get done what you need to get done so that you can pay off your debts and live a comfortable life. For example, make a deal to spend one year living as a minimalist so that you can pay off all your debts. Make money on the side with small jobs, apply everything to your debt and then begin enjoying your life.
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