Minimalism: Just a Fad or Can it Really Help?

Have a single checking account, and a savings account just for an emergency fund. This makes it easy to transfer money between the two if need be. You also won’t have to deal with pesky fees, and you’ll lessen the potential for hackers if you have just one account (but be sure to use a very strong password). In addition, you’ll be able to track your expenses much more easily.

Of course, this type of budgeting may only work for one type of person. This leads us to the complicated discussion of the problems within minimalism.

The problems with minimalism if you live on a low income

Minimalism has been hailed as a “rich, white, single person” lifestyle. They’re the ones with the privilege of owning less. After all, if their car breaks down, they don’t need a spare one for parts, they can just go buy a new one. And they don’t have the task of entertaining kids with a variety of toys and, in today’s day, technology.

Here are a few reasons why it’s harder to be a minimalist if you aren’t well off.

Buying food in bulk helps cut down on the food bill

Shopping every week for the freshest food, and keeping just what you need immediately is a luxury not all can afford.

Buying in bulk saves money over time. Stocking up on canned and frozen goods when they go on sale is the only option lower income families have to save on vegetables and other non-perishables.

Low income folks can’t afford “experiences”

Minimalism is a theory based on valuing experiences rather than things. While it’s true that you don’t necessarily need money to enjoy your interactions with others, things such as travel or going to the theater cost money that most just don’t have. “Experiences” can cost as much, or more than the things we can accumulate.

The psychology behind owning is important to consider

There’s a reason lower income people (especially those who grew up so) hold on so tightly to their possessions.

If you never had anything growing up, owning anything now holds great value in your mind.

Minimalism is about having the “right” things…aka expensive things.

Quality over quantity is a popular phrase, especially in minimalism. But there’s a reason Walmart and wholesale stores are so popular. They’re what most people can afford.

It’s easy to own just one piece of nice technology—a laptop, for example—if you’re not constantly worried it will break and you won’t have the money to repair it. I knew plenty of people in college who were technologically inclined and kept boxes of extra, worn out, laptops for their spare parts.

This also holds true for clothing. Sure, buying a pair of really nice, $300 boots could last you years, but coming up with that money upfront can be difficult for someone living paycheck to paycheck. The alternative? Keep buying $30 replacement boots every year, or couple of months.

Should you become a minimalist?—A personal account

I’ve been critical of minimalism in this post, but I truly believe it holds a lot of great values. You don’t have to go all out and get rid of everything you own in favor of living a minimalist life. That is one of the great things about minimalism—you can pick and choose what’s right for you.

Maybe you just use a minimalist budget like I described above, or maybe you get rid of those possessions that don’t really make you happy and take up a hobby instead.

I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard minimalist by any means, but I’ve spent quite some time listening to The Minimalists podcast and have been trying to teach myself to live with less.

I started slowly, by simply asking myself each time I wanted to buy something “does this bring meaning to my life.” For nearly everything, the answer was no. If anything, this simple step has helped me start a substantial emergency fund in lieu of having a closet full of the same plaid flannel in different colors or books I’d never read laying around my apartment.


Whether or not you become any form of minimalist is entirely up to you, but living by a few of their simple philosophies can do wonders for your finances.

This article was republished with permission from Money Under 30.