Black Hills Woman Magazine | Finances: Living & Spending Consciously by Kathleen Fox

Finances: Living & Spending Consciously
Kathleen Fox

I still regret the panda drawing.

Years ago, my husband and I, shopping for Christmas gifts on our meager budget, browsed through a display of art prints. My attention was grabbed by a beautiful Chinese-style ink drawing of a panda. It was simple. It was elegant. It satisfied something in my soul.

It was $35.

Given our income, I “knew” we couldn’t afford it. It didn’t occur to me to consider alternatives, like buying it as my Christmas present. So I let it go. But every now and then, I still have a wistful thought about that panda. At that time and for much of my life, I was an expert at spending like a minimalist. What I thought that meant—what it did often mean, out of necessity—was not spending a penny except on necessities.

This frugality served me well in many ways, but it wasn’t exactly minimalism. Living minimally isn’t just about not buying stuff. It’s about choosing not to waste your resources (financial and otherwise) on mindless clutter, empty experiences, or destructive habits.

This means not simply pinching pennies, but living consciously and thoughtfully within your budget. Minimalist spending is using your money with care, focusing on things and experiences that nourish you.

Here are a few possibilities to consider:

Living SpaceLiving space:

Ignore the lifestyle gurus and find what suits your budget and your interests. For example, I don’t need big bedrooms, am happy with a so-so kitchen, and couldn’t care less about a formal dining room. But I am grateful for a garage, need lots of sunlight, and insist on some sort of nook that’s my private space. And there’s no one in the world I love enough to share a tiny house with.

ToolsTools:

Imagine supplying your kitchen from scratch. It would make sense to buy a few well-chosen pieces of quality cookware, a selection of good knives, and appealing dishes you like and use. Compare that with the motley collection of pots, pans, dishes, and duplicated or unused utensils that many of us have. (No, sorry, you can’t look in my cupboards.) And if you have good china and pretty serving bowls, please use them. The same principles, by the way, applies to garage and gardening tools.

ClothingClothing:

Focus on quality basics and colors that make you look your best. Follow your own taste and create your own style rather than blindly following fashion trends. Buy on sale, but remember that a bargain is wasteful spending if you don’t like or wear it. And no, you probably don’t need 30 pairs of shoes or six black turtlenecks.

FurnishingsFurnishings and Such:

Again, choose to suit yourself. In buying furniture, consider comfort, function, creating an overall look, and whether good-quality used is a better buy than cheap new. Instead of buying generic decor, consider investing in a couple of pieces of original art that you love (like a panda drawing that calls your name) or creatively displaying your own photographs.

Finally, keep in mind one of the biggest advantages of living like a minimalist: spending less on unimportant external stuff frees more of your financial resources to support a deeper inner life. It allows you more room to take advantage of opportunities that feed your soul.

These opportunities are often more about doing things than buying things. You can enrich your life with creativity, play more, appreciate beautiful things without needing to own them, and devote more energy to the people you love. Because living minimally reduces the distractions and demands of our physical lives, it increases our ability to build rich, healthy, and fulfilling emotional lives.


Kathleen Fox is the author of Making the Best of Second Best: A Guide to Positive Stepparenting and the co-author with Rick Kahler, CFP®, of Conscious Finance.

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