Income level shouldn’t affect whether you decide to be a minimalist. But realistically, minimalism will manifest differently for people on a low income—though it absolutely can still manifest. We just have to go about it a different way, and have particular hurdles that are more pronounced.
However, that won’t allow for a less fulfilling minimal experience unless you let it! It’s all about what you get from it that’ll allow you to live and think more freely, get more things done, and take better care of yourself, which naturally leads to even greater changes over time.
Minimalism on a Low Income
Before we go further, there’s an important distinction that needs to be made. Low income does not mean financially unstable or struggling. There are people who are low income but the amount they make is perfect for their current circumstances.
They might not necessarily need to make much because they’re splitting living costs with a roommate (or a best friend), or their parents help them. Low income is simply an objective measurement of how much money you make relative to the average overall income in the country.
You’re considered low income if you make less than twice the amount of money that is the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which varies from year to year and depends on the size of your household.
Minimalism is the pursuit of upgrading your quality of life by downsizing your living, so going minimalist is fitting for someone on a fixed low income.
The fact of the matter is that people who don’t make much money are more susceptible to hoarding behaviors such as keeping broken and expired things and things they haven’t touched in years, as well as regularly bringing more useless things into the house, and reluctance to throw things away.
Low income people are in a position to benefit most from living minimally. Establish a mindset that sees past the allure of material possessions and you’ll be able to make decisions about how to allocate your money that are conducive to success!
Minimalism With No Money: Doing It on a Budget
Though there are those that say minimalism is for the rich, that typically isn’t the case. Minimalism is best done on a budget! Budgets dissuade us from overbuying and accumulating unnecessary things. They notoriously save us money as well (who doesn’t love that)!
First, make a list of household necessities. Make sure it encompasses all, but only, what you need. Then set your budget according to the overall value of your list. There are several minimalist techniques that even people on an especially strict budget can use to improve their mental and financial health.
1. Sell (your stuff)
If there’s anything you can think to part with, consider selling it on an online marketplace.
There are billions of people around the globe, you never know who might need it. It’s free to list items on most marketplaces so really, why not! (Note: You should only put possessions up for sale that are not damaged, missing pieces, in poor condition, stained, malfunction, or broken beyond repair.)
If you have a bunch of knick-knacks and toys, or just don’t want to deal with any marketplace seller’s fees, a yard sale is a fun way to make some quick change.
2. Save (on your living expenses)
Look for ways you can cut down on your living expenses. If it’s feasible for you, try cutting your internet bill and going without Wi-Fi (aim to go a month without it in your home). You can visit a cafe or library if you need to use Wi-Fi.
More than likely your smartphone has cellular data that it can use to reach the internet, which is also okay to use. What’s important is that you now have one less regular expense which is a huge step!
Minimalism can apply to appliances as well, only using them when you need them drastically cuts down on utility bills. Minimalism can be in the form minimizing your use of appliances to only when you absolutely need them.
This can include turning the air conditioner off when the house reaches a comfortable temperature, turning a light on when you enter a room and off when you leave, and not turning on lights at all during the day.
3. Select (what you bring home)
$0.00 is our favorite price tag. The temptation is great but refrain from taking free things that you don’t actually need. Just because it doesn’t cost anything doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
At the worst, being quick to accept a freebie can saddle you with another liability (yes the puppy is cute and fluffy and it was given to you, but now it needs to be fed).
No matter how much it does, or doesn’t, cost, consider how it would realistically contribute to your life. If there’s someone giving out free lanyards, and you just so happen to need a lanyard for your keys because you’re always losing them, then take one.
But if you already have one or just don’t need one, don’t coax yourself into taking it. This keeps our liabilities down and our floor space up.
4. Savor (some simple, minimalist recipes)
Minimalist cooking is perfect for conspiring to keep your grocery shopping list short. Minimal recipes only consist of only a handful of core ingredients and in most cases can be whipped up quickly. You can also research how to revamp your leftovers into something fresh and tasty so nothing goes to waste.
Baked chicken, asparagus, and mashed potatoes; chicken or steak quesadillas; pasta dishes. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming to be delicious. Get creative in your kitchen and, with maybe a little help from the inherent, find ways to transform your food that you’ve never thought of.
5. Separate (your happiness from your possessions)
Assign value to how much it adds onto your life, not how much it costs you. Today the human race has come to value material things much more than they value people.
It’s a very sad truth that people die over “things” almost every day in this country; that she’d rather drop her food than her phone; that his Alexa started malfunctioning and it ruined his entire morning.
Use the place you’re in now as an opportunity to rise above all that noise and place your appreciation into things that feed your soul, and make you laugh, and support you when you’re not at your highest. Friends, family, partners, kids, fulfilling jobs, hobbies, special places—that’s where your happiness should come from.
Material things are specifically designed to be temporary, a principle referred to as planned obsolescence. There are important things in your life that will long outlive any object you can buy.
Put your energy and soul into cherishing the people around you and making memories that’ll last a lifetime. You have nothing to lose by letting go of your attachment to physical objects and giving the other areas of your life some attention.
6. Setting (some goals)
Set up some goals to reach. Goals, paired with a treat, are a great motivation and celebration of a job well done. Financial checkpoints are important as they keep us on task and help us save for bigger goals like a major purchase or investment.
You could live minimally to put money back into your home or save up for a bigger living space, a car, or some self-care treatments. Specifically define what you want to gain from your minimalist experience and set goals in that direction.
You could even aspire not to watch as much T.V.. It doesn’t put money directly in your pocket but it can sure diminish your electricity bill, as well as your dependence on your T.V. for entertainment.
You could go for walks and reconnect with the Earth, visit the library and take a couple books home with you, or find a new, more constructive minimalist hobby.
Examples of suitable goals would include perhaps challenging yourself to get rid of two things every mont, or to spend not a dollar more than what’s needed for essentials this month.
Make sure your goals are reasonable and attainable, but outside of what you would normally do. Set goals according to your intention behind your minimalist journey, be clear about what you wish to gain from this minimalist experience, and the byproduct of reaching for those minimalist goals will likely result in a reduction of costs somewhere.
7. Settle down (your thoughts)
It’s a good idea, while you’re working on what’s going on outside, to simultaneously address what’s going on inside. Anyone can partake in mindful exercises that align your energy, unbind your mind, and relax you. They don’t require anything but a calm, quiet environment. Engage in some meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, or tiger light exercise.
Remain in a state of mindfulness—a coherent understanding of your feelings and keen awareness of yourself and the world around you. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you learn about yourself.
Minimalism can be an enlightening experience if you view your circumstances as privileged for having less distractions rather than burdened with lack.
Tips for Minimalists on a Tight Budget
- Meal prep. Planning your meals for the week cuts out last-minute dinner buying. When you wait until the day-/night-of to buy dinner, you’re more worried about getting food on the table than spending wisely. Plan and buy your meals for the week at the beginning of the week.
- Walk when you can. You don’t need to rely on your car to go everywhere (unless you live in the middle of nowhere). If it’s within walking distance, get some light exercise and fresh air.
- Take advantage of coupon apps. You take your phone everywhere anyway. There are so many cash back and coupon apps that make it possible to pay less for the things you need. Also take advantage of free rewards programs from stores—they usually offer point-system savings and exclusive sales.
- Go used. Used items are just as good as store-bought items. Plus recycling things like toys, clothes, and tools (that are in good condition) instead of throwing them away reduces waste.
- Try the cash stuffing method. This is an orderly way to effectively budget your money. Cash stuffing requires that you make a list of your life expenses: savings, car note, rent, groceries, shopping, etc. Acquiring the according number of envelopes or zip-lock bags—one for each life expense. Label each envelope/bag with a life expense. When you get paid, withdraw your checks into cash and allocate a little money, or a predetermined amount of money which you can write on the label as well, to each envelope/bag. This ensures that you’re consistently saving for everything that’s important.
Though minimalism may outwardly appear as something different depending on your flexibility, nothing’s stopping anyone from implementing minimalist principles into their lives today.
Low income can present unique challenges but they might just be blessings in disguise in this case. It’s a starting point that doesn’t require as much decluttering or cutting down.
The greatest benefit you get from pursuing minimalism is the mental transformation that occurs once you separate yourself from these pacifiers and realize that life is so much more than what you could own.
If you shift your mindset just a little bit to a place of appreciation instead of a place of lack, you’ll see even greater changes in your life that reflect those thoughts and feelings.
It’s not easy to imagine choosing to focus on living with less when you already live with little. This is why low income people tend to spend in spontaneous and flamboyant bursts when they do have money (rather than handling their money with more consideration).
Impulsive and eager spending is a natural symptom of depravity. Being mindful and aware of these things is the only way to combat these internal pressures. Minimalism is an equal opportunity for anyone to learn, grow, and make decisions for their own personal betterment.