One of the many arguments against Minimalism goes something like;
“If everybody adopted Minimalism and reduced their consumption, the economy would fall apart.”
Part of this statement is true.
In order for the current economic machine to function, money does have to be spent.
Because one persons spending is another persons income, the more you spend the more somebody else earns, the more businesses grow, the more tax is collected, the more general living standards improve. (That’s the theory anyway.)
On the other hand, the less you spend, the less somebody else earns which can eventually lead to job losses and redundancy which inevitably leads to very low living standards. (Again that’s the theory.)
However, part of the argument above implies that Minimalism is strictly about spending as little money as possible. This is a common misconception.
Minimalists spend money like everybody does. The difference is that, they do so with intention.
The problem with modern consumerism is that it focuses around the concept of acquiring material goods. Marketers get paid very well to persuade you to buy things you don’t need claiming that the blissful instant gratification feeling you get when you make the purchase will last forever.
Maybe you can say from experience that acquiring things does not lead to long term happiness. If so, I congratulate your self-awareness.
Does this mean you have no choice but to go out and buy things you don’t need and just hope someday you’ll find happiness in your purchase?
Believe it or not, there are alternatives to this model, ways you can spend your hard earned income that not only keep the amount of things you accumulate to a minimum but also bring you much longer lasting happiness.
Let’s talk about them.
1. Knowledge and training
Growth is a fundamental human need. When people don’t grow, they become stagnant.
Without physical growth, people become weak.
Without intellectual growth, people become ignorant.
Part of living happily means continuously improving your life and a great way to do that is to always be learning.
If your health is an important element to your life, you can invest in attending yoga or fitness classes. If you’ve ever wanted to learn another language or how to play an instrument, you can invest in either online or local courses.
One of the greatest things about living in the information age is the ability to access knowledge that would’ve otherwise been very difficult to find just a few decades ago.
When you acquire knowledge, not only does it last forever but it can also be used to add value to other peoples lives.
And since it’s largely intellectual, there’s no requirement that you accumulate a bunch of things you don’t want or need.
2. Digital products / services
Back in about 2010, I started buying almost all media digitally. This included music, films and books.
I encountered a lot of resistance from others.
Some said I was being ripped off because I didn’t have a physical product to show for it. But to me, that was actually the advantage.
When you purchase digitally, you are essentially paying for the freedom of not having to deal with the sale or disposal of the physical product. Some may see value in being able to sell a physical product later on and they may well be right to do so.
But value is subjective. What someone else places value upon could be worthless in from your point of view and vice versa.
In the end it comes down to whether you value your time, energy and freedom more than some money back in the future. If the former is more important, then digital purchases will likely work for you.
You can purchases digital copies of music, tv programs, films or books.
Some services offer one-off purchases while others operate on a subscription basis.
How do you choose? As a general rule I like to say the less you consume, the more likely one off purchases will work for you.
And inversely, the more you consume the more likely subscription will work for you.
If one day you find that your digital products/services no longer bring you value, it’s as simple as deleting or canceling, no sales, packaging or posting needed.
I’ve met very few people who don’t enjoy films.
Whether you’re watching on your laptop or a 50 inch 4K tv with surround sound, often it’s no comparison to what a good cinema can offer in terms of audio, visual and environment.
When you see a film in the cinema, chances are you’ll remember the experience for much longer and you’ll leave feeling more energy and inspiration. And the best part, you don’t even have to own anything physical to enjoy it.
Also, cinemas create a great opportunity for you to get together with friends and family which can help strengthen those all important relationships giving you something else to remember and talk about in the future.
4. Cafés / restaurants
As satisfying as a cup of ground coffee can be first thing in the morning, often it’s not merely as delicious when compared Costa or Starbucks.
Of course you could buy your own coffee machine and make your own coffee from the comfort of your own home. But if you do, you also have to deal with cleaning and maintaining the machine not to mention replacing it if it breaks.
When drink (or eat) out at a café on the other hand, even after you spend money you generally don’t accumulate anything physical. Even if you order to go, the most you inherit is likely just an (ideally) recyclable cup.
Cafés and restaurants are a good way to get you out of your home and the atmosphere is generally great for catching up with friends and family, being productive on the move or even if you just want to read a book.
Personally, I favour spending my time and money in cafés and restaurants over bars and night clubs.
Not only can alcohol be expensive, it’s also unhealthy and dangerous if consumed irresponsibly and can sometimes mean most of your memories of the night are forgotten. Although some may feel it’s a good escape from a the ethics of a dead-end job, this is not a very intentional way to spend precious time.
Escapism rarely leads to happiness.
Where ever you choose to go, be sure it’s somewhere you go to find joy, not to run away from somewhere you don’t want to be.
5. Live music
A friend and I were recently talking about music.
Curiously, I asked my friend what it was like buying a CD of an artist she liked. She paused, a slightly confused look formed in her face.
After concentrating, she eventually said “I don’t really remember.”
I then asked if she had seen the same artist perform live.
“Yes!” Suddenly, her face lit up like she was reliving the excitement. She then went on to tell me every detail about where she saw them, who she went with, what the atmosphere was like, what everybody was doing and just how much she enjoyed herself.
Although a ticket may cost more than a CD, I’d say the pros compare very favourably;
- You’ll likely remember the event for the rest of your life with clear accuracy
- You get to connect with other like-minded people face-to-face
- You get an exclusive story to tell to others that they won’t have experienced unless they were in the same place at the same time
- Unless you buy merchandise after the show, you can go home without accumulating anything physical that you didn’t already own
Despite the epidemic of illegal file sharing since the year 2000 (which I am strongly against), buying concert tickets is one of the best ways you can support the artists who have added value to your.
When you buy a record through a major retailer, several companies take a percentage of the sale leaving only a minority for the artist. With ticket sales on the other hand, the artists generally keeps the majority of the sale giving a relatively small percentage to the venue.
Do you find tickets difficult to afford?
A good place to start is to replace record sales (whether physical or digital) with streaming services (especially if you buy several records a month). In almost every case, it’s more cost effective to access a whole library than to buy small portions one-off fees.
If it saves you money, you can put that money toward buying tickets.
Trust me, it’s worth it!
At the risk of sounding cliché, travel is the ultimate experience.
It pulls you out of your comfort zone and forces you to see things differently even if you thought you knew how the world worked your whole life.
After being at work doing the same thing every day, very few things will give you as much vitality like seeing new people, new scenery, new foods, new architecture and new ideas that you maybe never even considered.
Although souvenirs have become a big part of tourism, there’s absolutely no mandatory requirement that you buy into this. There’s nothing wrong with coming back just as light as you left.
I consider tourism to be a separate category to travel.
Tourism sets high expectations of luxurious hotels, beaches, spas, cruises and anything else you might have seen on celebrity tv.
Travel on the other hand, is about exploration and exposing yourself to the unfamiliar not about escapism.
Some people are happier to come back with stories to tell rather than things to show.
The experience alone can benefit you more than any souvenir. You’ll have learned from the journey, and the stories you’ll be able to tell can greatly enhance the conversations you have.
If there’s any place you’re curious about, go see it for yourself.
It will likely be uncomfortable. But that only makes for a better story to tell your loved ones when you return!
To live is to consume.
We all need food, clothing and shelter.
The modern economy is centred around acquiring things you don’t need spent with money earned doing work you hate. But you were not born just to serve the economy (nobody is).
If buying things you don’t need does not make you happy, then you need to stop right now.
If there are loved ones you long to spend time with, knowledge and skills you desire to learn, like-minded people to meet, places you wish to visit or experiences you want to live, your resources are much better devoted to these things instead.
See for yourself…
You’ll find that the gratification lasts much longer than the few minutes between paying at the checkout and leaving the store.