“The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them.” Unknown
My love and I began to embrace minimalism about five years ago, as we were establishing our relationship and merging our homes. Although we’re fairly new to minimalism and adopted it in midlife, it has had an overarching positive impact on our time together. It helps us to “keep it real,” stay present, and focus on our priorities.
We aim to live simply and well, spending time with those we love experiencing activities we enjoy. We have streamlined our budget and financial habits in ways that allow us to save and plan for the future while enjoying the present. We enjoy our time together at home, and love to experience new places together.
We’ve crafted the lifestyle that works for us through minimalist practices. It’s a personal journey, but some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way may help you if you’re interested in a simpler way of living and an early exit from traditional work.
We combined our households and then downsized from a 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom townhome, all over a two year period. The process was liberating.
We decluttered clothing, books, mementos, furniture, and household items.
Not only did we shed belongings that we no longer used, but also released slivers of the past that were weighing us down. This downsizing involved hours of discussion, compromise, decluttering, organizing, selling, and giving things to friends, family
We married last year and have been residing in our smaller home for almost two years. We enjoy the freedom it affords. We have less stuff and more time.
We have time to read, write, relax, visit with family and friends, travel and get outside and explore. We have a guest room and plenty of space for when our adult children and other family visit, and we can leave our place for weeks at a time since we have no outdoor maintenance responsibilities.
My husband left the rat race and is working part-time at a job he enjoys. I plan to work several more years at my full-time job which provides our medical insurance and ongoing retirement contributions.
We’re making decisions about how we want to approach this next stage of life in a loving and meaningful way.
We grapple with the same concerns as others our age about health care costs, the future of social security, our health, our families’ health, etc.
The two of us have made the most of our time together in later life by leaving full-time, structured employment as soon as possible.
Here are a few ways we save a considerable amount of money as a 50-something minimalist couple.
Select affordable housing and pay cash for your car and keep it. Focusing on the two highest ticket items in your budget will save you the most money.
Downsize and lower your mortgage or rent payment. A smaller home saves on taxes, insurance, utilities, furniture and maintenance. Live in all of your space and use everything you own. It’s really quite simple!
Select a reliable car you can afford, and commit to maintaining it for the long haul. If possible, become a one-car couple. We downsized to one car about six months ago with some trepidation, but have been thrilled with the reduced costs of insurance and maintenance, not to mention the reduced impact on the environment. When we take longer trips we rent a car or use public transportation. It’s less stressful and adds to the adventure of travel.
Track your spending and establish a budget. Every six months or so, track every dollar you spend and readjust your budget. It’s got to be real to be effective. You need to see where you are spending and decide whether or not you’re okay with the patterns. Be intentional about your purchases and commit to make corrections in areas where you identify overspending.
Choose one credit card with cash back rewards and one with travel points. Pay off the balances each month.
Move toward maxing out your 401K. Work with a qualified financial advisor you trust, and save and invest each month as you are able. Be clear on what your monthly budget is. Have a plan for when you want to retire and what pots of money you will need to have in place in order to reach your goals.
Prioritize your health and fitness. Commit to regular preventive medical visits and screenings, and habits that support your physical, mental and spiritual health. Eat healthy and stay fit. Focus on spending time with those you love and keeping your relationships strong.
Make exercise part of your daily routine. Find something that works for you and stick with it. Join a gym that meets your needs or walk, run, hike and bike outdoors at no charge. Develop hobbies that promote heath and fitness. We bike regularly during the warm weather months and plan vacations around this interest.
Buy quality foods and drinks and enjoy at home. Make it, “Eating in: the new going out!” We limit meals and drinks out to a set number of times per month, during vacation, and for special celebrations.
Plan, shop, and prepare meals a week at a time. This will help to prevent impulse dinners out which can really add up. Get into a routine with a rotation of meals you enjoy. Brew your own coffee and create a morning ritual. Pack something simple and healthy for lunch, and make your lunch break a time of relaxation.
Create a capsule wardrobe. Nobody keeps track of what you’re wearing. Wear what you love and wear it out. Eliminate the stress of wardrobe decisions. Declutter shoes, accessories and jewelry too. There’s lots to read on this topic, so find what works for you. I recommend Courtney Carver’s Project 333.
Once you have sorted through your clothing, eliminated the excess, and organized what you’ve chosen to keep, it will be much easier to make decisions about new items to add.
Make independent decisions. I’ve read that minimalists are self-righteous and that minimalism equates to a life of lack. My life has become full of what’s important to me, more purposeful and real. I’m less influenced by the media, advertising, and trends, and choose what intuitively pleases me. I spend very little time taking care of my stuff.
My love and I buy what we like and need, and enjoy watching our savings grow. Focusing on experiencing life rather than collecting and caring for things has dramatically improved our daily experience. I look forward to the next steps on our journey with hope and anticipation.
About the Author: Jennifer Tritt is an academic counselor at a community college, has recently adopted a minimalist lifestyle, and is passionate about sharing her experiences.