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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 2 million readers. As featured on: CBS, BBC, NPR, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Day 15: Finances

Finances

Reduce Your Expenses, Bills, Credit Cards, and Junk Mail

If you ask most people to name the top three areas of discontent in their lives, the vast majority will say that they aren’t content with their finances. They’re not happy with their financial situation, so they constantly feel insecure or worried or even trapped, a slave to their soul crushing job.

And being trapped is a terrible feeling. That is, until you discover what has been trapping you, that a life of consumption is the culprit. And minimalism is an answer (N.B. we don’t think minimalism is the answer, it is an answer, it’s a tool that can free you from the trappings of constant consumption).

It doesn’t matter if you’re a single guy in your twenties or a family guy with six children, we often spread ourselves too thin. We live beyond our means. Both of us were certainly living this way. We both had high paying jobs and yet we had more debt than ever, debt that continued to increase as our salaries increased. It was counter-intuitive.

Why did our debt increase as we made more money? Well, some people call it keeping up with the Joneses, others call it becoming accustom to a different lifestyle. Really you can strip away all of the aphorisms and call it consumption. More specifically, consumption of unnecessary indulgences, impulse buys, mistaking wants for needs.

For example:

Ryan does not need his three bedroom condo (he’s a single guy).

Joshua didn’t need a couple closets full of clothes and shoes and coats.

And our consumption list could go on. And on. And on. But the point is that unnecessary consumption leads to debt, debt leads to financial woes, financial woes lead to discontent, and discontent is a key element of unhappiness. And that’s the equation: unnecessary consumption equals unhappiness. The path is obvious, and yet we ignore it. We chose to go through each day suffering with worry and anxiety and fear so we can buy things we don’t need and often later don’t even want.

It’s time to break the cycle.

The only way you can be content with your finances—no matter how much money you make—is if your income is greater than your expenses.

We know that is not some erudite revelation, and it won’t be your “ah ha” moment. But sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious.

Also, do you hate how much junk mail you get from the post office? We did too, so here’s what you can do:

The Direct Marketing Association offers a free, online-only service at DMAChoice.org that allows you to stop catalogs and junk mail-or get more of them, if you desire. Most legit mailers are a member of the DMA, so this could reduce your load of junk mail by up to two-thirds. When you’re at the DMA site, you may see a direct link to OptOutPreScreen.com, which will prevent the major credit bureaus from sending pre-approved credit card applications to you. One other website you may want to check out is WorldPrivacyForum.org, which is a clearinghouse for all these matters.*

One word of advice: People are sometimes afraid to use the DMA site because you have to give a credit card number to verify your identity. You will not be charged. This practice was put in place because some folks were putting others’ names on the receive list just to annoy them. When it comes to the OptOut site, people are scared of ID theft because you have to give your Social Security number. But you actually help prevent ID theft by cutting down on pre-approved applications that may be going to an old address where they could be picked up by ID thieves.

(*Source: clarkhoward.com)

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Go to the main page: Our Journey Into Minimalism: 21 Days That Changed Our Lives