4 Ways a Minimalist Lifestyle can Boost your Personal Finance

Minimalism

You’ve heard this term trending all over social media along with ‘influencers’ that promote it.

But what is it really, and how does it effect the lives who decide to live it?

In this article, I will share some of my personal experience in minimalism:

  • What my definition of minimalist is
  • How I started (or more like forced into it)
  • What I like about it
  • What I don’t like about it
  • How you can give it a shot too

Now let’s start with defining Minimalism:

What is Minimalism Anyway?

Here’s my definition:

Minimalism philosophy is all about living your life to the fullest with the least amount of worldly possession (includes material stuff and relationship).

As I defined it, it is not about being as cheap or stingy as possible, but getting the sweet spot between enjoying your life and minimal cost.

Some people choose to be in it, I was literally forced to embrace it. Here’s what happened:

What Forced me Into Minimalism

2 major events that forced me into this movement:

MAJOR LIFE EVENT 1: I was working in Singapore and was laid off twice in close successions during the Oil & Gas turmoil of 2014.

It was rough. I had to bring all of my stuff back to Kuala Lumpur and only then did I realize… I got too much stuff! I sold most of my stuff thanks to online platforms like Carousell. By the end of it all, I still have about 3 big suitcases of stuff.

I can’t fly with all this, and it’s too much to carry with me on a bus too. So my best option at the time was to drive mom’s Honda Civic down to Singapore and bring everything back to KL in 1 shot.

Dealing with this was stressful, and the 4-hour drive home with a car full of stuff not knowing what to do next in my life was demoralizing, to say the least. Imagine going through this twice.

MAJOR LIFE EVENT 2: As I decided to downsize my business and move out of my home office in 2019. I had to move back to my parents while I restrategize on what to do next.

The amount of stuff that accumulates in your home over the years really sneaks up on you. Again, I managed to sell most of my stuff and made a bit of cash too at the end of the ordeal.

By default, I still want to stay in my own apartment while I work on an online gig. But from time to time, I still rent out my own apartment on Airbnb so I can get my mortgages covered.

With the constant moving in and out, it forces me to live with the bare minimum to ease my constant moving.

I now have 1 duffel bag with clothes enough for up to a week and a backpack for my laptop and online work stuff.

What I Like About Being a Minimalist

Living from a suitcase and a laptop bag is very unconventional. It forces me to let go of stuff I thought I needed. It started from letting go of physical items and it made me use the same philosophy on other areas as well as I’ll explain in the later.

Here’s what I grew to like about this lifestyle:

Obvious Declutter

The less stuff I have, the least clutter in my mind. I have less stuff to take care of, replace and worry about.

Back in the day, I had 1 desktop, 1 laptop, 1 cellphone, and 1 tablet. Capitalism greed at it’s finest.

But do I really need all of this? I need to charge all of these devices every day. Every 3 years, the batteries need to be replaced. Every 1 year, the charging cable needs to be replaced too. It’s just too much. Now I only have 1 laptop and a phone.

All in one charger

To further minimize my stuff, I bought a special all in one charger that can charge both of my laptop and phone. Review about it here.

I used to have a closet full of clothes and shoes, but as my friends like to point out, I keep wearing the same 5 shirts over and over again with the same pair of shoes. Only these things make me feel good wearing them. So I decided to donate all of my remaining clothes.

My closet after I have donated most of my unused clothes

I had too many dishwares, but every day, I only use the same dishes over and over again. So I got rid of the ones that I never use.

Good for my Health

Once I got a hang of living with the absolute minimum, I also started to audit the things that I usually buy at the grocery store and the amount of junk food I buy every month is clearly unhealthy.

Let’s take a look, these are the junk food that I always buy:

  1. Ruffles chips at RM 12+ a bag
  2. Jalapeno Cheetos (only available at Ben’s Publika) at RM 12+ a bag
  3. Coke (the drink :p) at RM 6 per six-pack
  4. Butter biscuits at RM 10 a pack
  5. Pringles at RM5 a can
  6. Instant Noodles RM 3 for a pack of 5
My cabinet filled with junk food

It’s unhealthy and expensive! I replace most of these with as many fruits as I can. I just get them at the Pasar Malam where it’s significantly cheaper compared to buying them at Village Grocer.

But who’s kidding who, I still eat those Jalapeno Cheetos, just that I reduce it significantly to maybe just 1 bag a month.

Good for Environment

Considering the amount of packaging (boxes, bubble wrap, and plastic) when you buy stuff from an online reseller like Lazada or Amazon, the least stuff I buy, the less packaging goes to the landfill.

The Packaging when I bought my new phone on Lazada

I used to buy all sorts of chemicals to clean my apartment and Airbnb:

  • Mopping detergent
  • Kitchen degreaser spray
  • Bathroom stain remover
  • Bathroom mold remover
  • Window cleaner
So many cleaning supplies

All these chemicals not only cost me money each month, but I am releasing all these chemicals into the environment when I use and throw them away.

When I purchased a steam cleaner, I don’t have to buy any of these chemicals anymore. Saves me money, fewer chemicals end up in the landfill and also less inventory

steam cleaner to replace the need for a lot of chemicals for cleaning

Good for My Bank Account

Living in a small apartment with obvious space restrictions teaches me to always think before I buy anything:

  • Where am I going to put this thing in my tiny apartment?
  • Do I really need this thing?
  • Is this going to cost me money and headache to maintain in the future?

What I Don’t Like About Being a Minimalist

When you’re living against the grain, people might look at you funny. If people don’t really know you, their first impression of you is that you might be cheap.

So it gets a little getting used to and strong will power to stay true to your own beliefs to keep this minimalism thing going.

How you Can Give Minimalism a Try

This minimalist lifestyle is not for everyone. But you can give it a try without going through what I did.

Here’s how I think you can start:

Plan a really long backpacking theme vacation (at least 2 weeks). It’ll force you to pack everything you really need into a large backpack.

During your trip while you’re sitting in your hostel taking a break, you’ll look at your bag and realize: “hey, if I can live with just the contents of this bag, why do I need all of my stuff back home?”

Let me know if you have other ways to do start out with minimalism 🙂

Helmi Hasan

Hi, I'm Helmi Hasan, the founder, and writer for the personal finance blog, Balkoni Hijau. Read more in the 'About Me' page or follow me on Twitter.

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