How to be a Financial Minimalist

Published on: Dec 16, 2020fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Broom sweeping credit card, old clothes, cable dish and remote Daniele Simmonelli
The Story

KonMari-ing isn’t just for stuff. Simplifying your money life can also spark joy. And extra savings.

I’m not sure “simplifying” and “money” really go together.

Hear you. Money is the top stressor for 73% of Americans. Enter: financial minimalism. That’s when you embrace only the things in life that you really value or serve you in some way. Then cut out the rest, guilt-free. Money made simple.

I want to go to there.


Then it’s time for an audit: the financial equivalent of taking everything out of your closet and sorting it into “toss” and “keep” piles. But instead of your wardrobe, comb through your wallet, bank statements, investments, and savings accounts.

And then what?

Review the following categories to make sure they align with your values and current situation. Repeat regularly for best results.

  • Subscriptions. Scan recent bank statements to see what’s regularly dipping into your account. Then start cutting. Think: the streaming account you only needed to watch one show or a gym membership you haven’t used in months. (Apps like Truebill and Trim can do the dirty work of canceling for you.) If you’re not willing to part with a subscription, try downgrading. Like opting for basic streaming with commercials. Or swap it for a free version. Your local library says hi.

  • Financial paperwork. VIP docs to keep forever: tax returns. Toss bank account statements and pay stubs after a year and supporting tax documents after three. Climate-friendly option: go paperless. You can use apps like Adobe Scan, Dropbox, and Evernote to scan docs using your phone, then store digital copies safely on your computer. Bonus: going paperless may get you perks with some service providers.

  • Fees. All the extra charges for credit cards, investing, getting cash, etc. add up. You can avoid a lot (but sadly not all) by being careful about where and how you spend. For example: withdrawing cash from your bank or an in-network ATM instead of an out-of-network one.

  • Financial accounts. Sometimes, separating your money – like in a checking account, emergency fund, and sinking fund – can help you organize your savings goals and track progress. But having too many accounts can be overwhelming. Consolidate where you can and close accounts you no longer use. For retirement accounts, consider rolling over old 401(k)s into an IRA.  

  • Investments. Mutual funds and ETFs can help you create a simple portfolio. Both are expert-run baskets of investments that offer diversification for a relatively low price. Make it easy to invest regularly by setting up automatic transfers from your paycheck or checking account each month.

  • Credit cards. Like with your financial accounts, you don’t want to overdo it with plastic. Decide which cards you like best. And make sure any fees attached are worth the rewards. If not, it might pay off to cancel. But fair warning: closing a credit account could negatively impact your credit score.

  • Debt. Consolidating loans or using a balance-transfer card can help streamline your debt repayment plan and minimize your monthly bills. You might also think about refinancing.

Wow…that was a lot. Anything else I should know?

Regular-style KonMari can be good for your finances, too. The start of a new year is the perfect time to sort through your belongings and get rid of anything you don’t use. If your items are in good condition, you can sell them on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, Mercari, and eBay to make extra money. Donate the rest.

Any tips for making sure my money life stays decluttered?

No surprises here: check in with yourself regularly. Set aside time to review your statements to make sure your spending aligns with your values. Watch out for any new expenses popping up on your statement. And set a cal reminder to avoid paying for stuff that doesn’t add to your life (like free trials you forgot to cancel).

theSkimm

Managing your finances can be a lot. Going back to basics and simplifying how you spend, save, and build wealth can help you think clearly about your money goals and reach them faster. That sparks joy.

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Skimm'd by: Ivana Pino, Stacy Rapacon, and Elyse Steinhaus