We’re Not Broke, We’re Minimalists

We’re broke, didn’t you know?

Believe me, it came as a complete surprise to us as well. All these many months of budgeting and saving and investing and paying off student loans and buying a car with only 2 payments, and here we sit today, flat broke. The way I hear it, we can’t even afford to buy a box of Kleenex. You’re shocked, I know. You thought we had more sense than that. And you’re probably wondering what happened. Where would a couple of minimalists spend their life savings and how would we suddenly go from financially flexible to strapped for cash.

Here’s a clue. We didn’t.

As much as I love toying with the idea of living a moneyless life, being broke is not on my list of things to do in 2018. The assumption that we’re living paycheck to paycheck came from someone who is living the “American Dream” (in other words, she is broke herself) and it caught me so off guard that since hearing it, I’ve turned it into a joke.

“No, love, we can’t get those day-old croissants. We’re broke, remember?”

“Mom, do you have a quarter? I need to get some Ramen for dinner.”

There are people all around us who are living in poverty. There are hardworking men and women who can’t make ends meet no matter how hard they try. There are students saddled with so much educational debt that they have no choice but to live with mom and dad until they are 30. There’s nothing funny about that, and I firmly believe that it’s going to take the voices and efforts of all of us to make any changes there. But when someone mistakes minimalism for financial insecurity, now that’s something to chuckle about.

Let’s talk about how we got here…

We’re broke because we eat out of the dumpster. 38 million tons of good food goes to waste every year in America and the grocery store next door does a fine job of contributing to this terrible statistic. Knowing this, we feel a responsibility to at least rescue what we can. Besides, when you can find foods like this for free, why would you pay for them?

We’re broke because we shop at the thrift store. The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothing per year. Most of which ends up in a landfill somewhere. The average minimalist wears 30 pounds of clothing per year (yes, I weighed our wardrobe). Angie and I both could dress quite nicely on the discards of just one person so yes, we shop at thrift stores. Not only is thrifting better for the environment but it’s quite fun. Who doesn’t enjoy finding a pair of $80 ExOfficio travel pants for just $2.99?

Monkeying around at Rainforest Zoo on a Groupon.

We’re broke because we use coupons and discounts. I’m sorry but paying full price for something is not an indicator of wealth (like so many folks here in the South think). Every dollar saved is well…a dollar saved. And with those saved dollars, we can do other, more important things like travel.

We’re broke because we don’t have luxuries like cable and the latest iPhone. Don’t even get me started on how backwards we are because of this! Yes, our $50 Boost Mobile phones do have a tendency to attach random sentences to text messages but what’s life without a little novelty? And on the subject of cable, we broke up nearly 5 years ago and we haven’t missed it yet. We have; however, had quite a lot of fun on the $79 per month we used to spend for the pleasure of clicking through channels to find there was never anything on.

Playing cornhole at the park.

We’re broke because our idea of fun is a day at the park. Not the theme park. The regular park. The one with the grass and trees.

But mostly we’re broke because we “failed” at Christmas this past year. While this person went overboard, buying everything that everyone in her family even thought about wanting, we made our gifts and stuck to our guns about not supporting rampant consumerism. And we have yet to live this down.

Minimalism is a hard concept for some people to understand. It’s different, I know. Maybe even revolutionary in some respects. It’s definitely counter-intuitive to the way we (Americans) have been raised, where “stuff” and “debt” are such a part of normal culture that we often fail to realize a different path exists. Minimalism asks folks to take stock of what’s important to them and usually, because of it, they eschew the traditional path of excess and responsibility and do something far more fascinating/important/worthy with their lives. When this happens, those around them react and more often than not, the reaction is a negative one. I’m sure there’s a better psychological reason behind this but my take on it is that people often feel threatened by things they don’t understand, or think are beyond their own reach.

The thing is, minimalism is not beyond reach. Anyone can choose to live a life of less. You don’t have to live in a tiny house or wear the same clothes all week long. You don’t have to get rid of everything you own or stop shopping altogether. You just have to decide what’s most important to you and reduce or eliminate anything that doesn’t support that choice. For us, the most important thing is spending time with each other and our family (and travel, of course!). Having cable or an expensive phone doesn’t support that. Neither does buying new clothes or handing out expensive holiday gifts to show “how much we love someone”.

We can’t change how other people see the world if they choose to keep their eyes closed. We just have to accept that for every one person who supports our choices in life, there are likely to be ten more who don’t. If being environmentally aware, if being thoughtful and considerate of others, if making more conscious decisions about what we do with our money and more importantly, our time, makes us “broke” then I suppose we’ll just have to accept that too.

Now does anyone have a dollar I can borrow? I really need that croissant.

13 thoughts on “We’re Not Broke, We’re Minimalists

  1. Thanks for the post i like your post. Minimalist lifestyle is very simple.When living in a larger space, you may have gotten used to the luxury of having a closet. But, when it comes down to it, a closet isn’t necessarily a need. Instead of a closet, try using a clothing rack. You can turn your clothes into art and display your most gorgeous pieces for everyone to see. The rest can go in a small dresser. My site also regarding minimalist life style the name of site is #Bentokai. Please visit there and read another which you are really like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think what you’re doing is great. But do we have to make fun of people? I know you’re usually on the other side of the jokes. People make fun of minimalists because they wear used clothing, buy food from the day-old rack at the bakery, don’t have a car, etc. These are all the same things that poor people go through, so why would anyone think that you had money if you were doing these things? You’re making fun of people because they’re ignorant. But isn’t that what the bankers do when they tell people to buy, buy, buy and they do when haven’t even two nickels to rub together? They get rich and laugh at all the consumerism making the working class poor while they get richer. Educating people, meeting them where they are, would be far better than making fun of them. Maybe they could be minimalists, too, if you took the time to be patient with them. I really like your blog, so please don’t take this as an offense. I guess I just wish we could be a little more tolerant.

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    1. No offense taken. I appreciate your perspective and believe it or not, I agree with you. My words weren’t meant to make fun of anyone who doesn’t understand minimalism, they were meant as encouragement for those of us who have had to deal with the demeaning remarks of friends, co-workers, or as in my case, a family member, who chooses not to understand their choices in life. I should have been more specific but writing about family can be tricky sometimes.

      Last week a close family member said something very unexpected and hurtful to me. She said that telling everyone we were minimalists was just a way of avoiding telling them that we were broke. “You can’t even support yourself. I mean, you couldn’t even buy proper presents at Christmas for God’s sake!” she yelled before hanging up the phone. My first response was to cry and then I decided to write about it. I figured I couldn’t be the only person in the history of minimalism (or any other ism) to be surrounded by people who, no matter how often you explain to them why you do what you do, choose not to understand. If ignorance were the problem, I’d be the first to offer my help. I love to talk about minimalism to anyone who will listen. But sometimes it’s not ignorance, it’s just plain meanness. When someone tries to make you feel bad or small for the way you live, in my opinion, there are two ways to deal with them – you can crumble or you can laugh. In this case, I chose the latter.

      Thank you again for taking the time to comment. I hope you’ll continue to follow us and continue to comment.

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      1. What I do with my family is play “How Much Would Pay for This” and then have them guess how little I paid for what I bought. People understand frugality. Everyone likes a good deal no matter their income. You have to speak in terms they understand. She would probably come around then and even join you.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I relate to this too well! Unlike you, I don’t have the consistent self-confidence so those sorts of comments make me feel as a bit poorly. That is until I remember that I love my life the way it is. There’s an absolute thrill I get about finding deals, making do and stretching my creativity through stretching a dollar.

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    1. I don’t always feel so confident but then, like you, I remember that I wouldn’t trade my life for theirs any day of the week. I think the feeling of being resourceful and finding a better way to do something far exceeds the temporary sting of other people’s negative comments.

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  4. We do all of the same things and I consider us rich!! We are rich in experience and connections, nature awareness and community knowledge and also financially as in our debts are minimal or zero and we don’t live in a credit cycle. We also do this so we can have a rich life of travel as a family and achieve what we dream of and not waste money on meaningless mind numbing things. Keep up the good work and live your life to the full. Don’t worry about anyone else 🙂

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  5. Congratulations on being “broke”. We are not as “broke” as you and certain family members just have to comment negatively every time we see them. Needless to say, we try to avoid them when possible. Some things in life are more important and you’ve realized what some are for the 2 of you! Again, congratulations!!

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    1. Aww thanks! Being “broke” has come with some unexpected advantages when it comes to our negative family members. When we revealed to them that they had been eating dumpster dinners at our house for a year, one did a complete turn and thought it was awesome and the other has not asked us for one dime in nearly 6 months. Gotta love being broke!

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