How Minimalism Has Made Me Rich

We only get to spend our money once.  So every time we buy something, we're making two statements:

  • I don't have enough (which might be true when it comes to food, gas, toilet paper, or some other things).
  • This thing is more valuable than anything else I could have done with my money (again, sometimes this is true).

Every time we make a purchase, we have less money for something else.  Yes, we can make more money, but that takes our time and energy – and those things are finite.

So our choices of how to spend are more momentous than we think.

That's why my Starbucks habit is a problem, or maybe why your clothes-buying or music- and app-downloading habits might be problems.  Maybe we can technically "afford" those things (that is, we aren't using credit to buy them), but is that the best way for us to use our money?

California golden poppies

A true windfall

I recently received a small bequest from my Uncle Clarence, who passed away early last year.  His wife Alice, who predeceased him, was my father's sister.  Uncle Clarence had no obligation to leave me anything in his will, but he chose to remember my siblings and I, the only living relatives of my aunt.

We don't often have a few extra thousand dollars at our disposal, so this was an opportunity for me to think about my priorities.  My husband and I have no debts.  So I:

  • gave some money to each of my children
  • made a gift to a favorite charity
  • added some money to a retirement account
  • set aside some funds for a trip we want to make this summer
  • wondered what to do with the rest!  We might replace our bed, I might put some more in savings, or I might make another donation.

We only get to spend our money once, and how we use our funds shows our priorities.  But when we simplify enough that we spend less than we earn, have no debt except maybe a mortgage that we can easily afford, and donate and save every month, then any windfall is exactly that – extra.

I realize that I'm privileged.  Jon's salary after 40 years of teaching is higher than the U.S. median income.  We have had no huge medical bills.  (Thank you, God.)

But we have lived below our means for over 12 years, and the results are obvious.  I'm thankful for Uncle Clarence's gift, but I don't need it.

What made this possible?  Not a huge salary, savvy investments, or a lucky lottery win.  Minimalism made this possible.

Simple pleasures

golden California poppy
Here's a minimalist truth you may not have heard:  The cheaper your pleasures, the richer you'll be.

Do you want to restore a classic car, or visit the classic car museum?  Do you want to own a second home in the mountains, or simply go camping and hiking there?  Do I want to fly to New York to see a Broadway show, or would I be happy with tickets to a well-produced musical at Broadway Sacramento?

I only get to spend my money once.  I need to know what's really valuable, and I need to realize when I already have enough.

Only you know what's important to you.  What I know is that finding minimal ways to enjoy life and expand my interests hasn't made me a millionaire, but it has made me rich.


  1. One of the clearest, most thought-provoking articles I've read on finances and minimalism. Thank you.

  2. Minimalism saved us enough money to move into a very nice retirement complex knowing we can afford to stay here the rest of our lives.


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