I am challenging myself to a minimalist budget for 2022, mostly because we are finally getting settled into our new home and our new routine. We want to get on the right foot financially, and so I thought it would be a great time to evaluate our spending with a very simple filter. Every time we are about to spend money, we are going to ask three questions:
Do I need this/can I survive without it?
If I need it, can it wait a month, six months, a year?
Can I get it for free/highly discounted?
These questions will apply to necessities like groceries, household items and regular bills. The ten items below in this post are going to be cut from our budget completely. It may seem a little extreme, but this cut is only for a finite period: one year. Can we do it? Yes we can!
Why a Minimalist Budget?
The motivation for this minimalist budget is that we eventually want to get back on our debt-free journey. An exercise like this will help free up some extra cash that can be used to bolster our savings and get started knocking out this debt. For additional motivation, we have also set our credit card payments to pay the statement balance in full every single month. We are done handing over our hard-earned cash to credit card companies via service fees, interest and finance charges.
The secondary purpose of this challenge is to be forced to examine our spending practices. Once we fully understand what we spend money on and why, we will be able to clearly identify our spending triggers and create a plan to reduce spending.
Here are some things I am thinking about cutting from our budget this year that we may spend money on during a regular year:
1. Hair Appointments
I actually don’t go to the salon that frequently, but when I do, it can cost a lot of money. I can get a blow out for under $100, but if I want a crochet style or braids, it can cost $200 and up. Besides the money savings, skipping the salon means skipping the heat damage. They always blow dry and/or flat iron my hair for the styles that I want, and no matter how much heat protectant they add to my hair, my curls don’t bounce back 100%. I am taking this year to learn about my hair again, get on a deep conditioning routine, wear protective styles and bring my hair back to health, all while saving money.
2. Gym Memberships
We finally live in a neighborhood where it is safe to be outside. Our neighborhood is secluded and we have sidewalks, which is perfect for just getting outside and going on a walk, or going for a run. Additionally, our city has free yoga classes in the town square almost every Saturday, so there is no reason to spend any money on gym memberships or yoga classes. The weather here in South Georgia is also mild all year round, which means we don’t need to be indoors from October through April like we did in Chicago. Nature is free, and I think it will be good for my mental health to be out in the sunshine and fresh air.
3. Clothes (the baby excluded)
We have enough clothes that are in good condition that we don’t need to buy anything else. Having a “capsule” wardrobe helps, too. We have outfits for work, formal events, lounging, exercising and running errands that are appropriate for almost every occasion. Our clothes aren’t trendy. They are classics, and we choose styles and colors that stand the test of time. Additionally, I don’t enjoy shopping as a leisure activity. I shop to get things I need, and replace pieces that are worn. In general, if we do decide to shop, we like to buy second-hand at thrift stores, but sometimes we can score free hand-me-downs from friends and family, which is even better. This year, only our son will be getting any clothes.
We haven’t really gotten on the home décor train in the past because we could never justify spending more than the occasional couple of dollars at the dollar store for seasonal home decorations. This year will be especially tempting because we live near a HomeGoods and a Kirkland’s, and we are living in our first single-family home. I am planning on staying away from YouTube and limiting my social media use to avoid the temptation to keep up with the influencer Joneses.
Being exposed to all of that can really make it seem like it is normal or even expected to drop hundreds of dollars on your home décor purchases. One day, that might be something that we do, but not until the rest of our financial ducks are in a row. Our home is beautiful as it is, and we have no trouble reusing and repurposing the little décor that we already have.
It can be tempting to feel the need to spend money on gifts for friends and family. For me, it almost feels like spending money on a gift shows how important someone is in my life. This is not rational or based in reality. I think people just want to be thought of and remembered on their special days above all else. Phone calls are free for most of us, and that can be enough! This year, if we feel the need to give a gift, we may do something homemade. Our son can make a homemade card, or we can bake cookies to share with friends and family on Christmas. I can bake a special cake for Noah’s birthday as a gift from mom and dad, and for Christmas, Noah can choose what free, family experience he wants us to do together as a family. Create memories, not debt.
6. Beauty Products
I have been a Sephora Beauty Insider for years, and have accumulated samples and products that I stocked up on when they were on sale. I don’t need to purchase any beauty products this year, I just need to use what I have. These products are taking up space under my bathroom sink, anyway, and so I consider this decluttering to be a form of fancy self-care. Challenging myself to shop my medicine cabinet and use what I have is also an exercise in contentment. I used to scroll through the Sephora website, looking at all of these cool products that would be so amazing for my skin, adding items to my cart so that I can return later when they go on sale and buy them. I won’t be doing that this year because I have what I need.
7. Junk Food
This will be an easy one for us. As a policy, we don’t keep chips, candy or sodas in the house. We are happy with eating the healthy foods that are in our fridge and drinking water. Junk food unnecessarily increases the grocery bill and provides zero nutrition, often making us feel tired, cranky and even hungrier than we would have if we had just chosen a homemade meal or a nutritious snack. Our real downfall is fast food. Failing to plan our meals in advance sometimes results in us ordering a pizza or picking something up in the drive-thru. This happens a couple times per month for our family, but planning and getting organized will help us save the money that we would normally spend on these items.
8. Leisure Vacations – Obviously Not in our Minimalist Budget
We haven’t actually been on a vacation since the couple of nights we spent on the beach to celebrate our honeymoon back in 2019. I am aching to go on a real vacation, and we have floated the idea of taking our son, Noah to Disney World this year for his second birthday. If we skipped vacations this year, and got ourselves on track with our finances, we could put some money away for a vacation next year. I think I would rather wait and not be stressed about paying for the vacation.
Books are my weakness, but they are not a part of my minimalist budget. I love walking into bookstores and walking out with books. If it isn’t a brick-and-mortar bookstore, it is an online second-hand bookstore like Thriftbooks. I also love to buy books for Noah, especially all of the children’s books that I loved when I was growing up. This year, we are going to read and love the books that we have, which shouldn’t be a problem because we have plenty. The other option is visiting our local library to check out new titles. The library is such an underused and underrated free community resource. They also have free and fun activities for the little ones that I hope we get to take advantage of this year.
We rarely went out to eat at restaurants in Chicago. We lived near downtown, and all of the restaurants nearby were expensive. You had to drive 45 minutes out to the suburbs to find your traditional restaurant chains. Now that we moved to Georgia, we live right by the chain restaurants, but we have been trying out the local food scene. We found an awesome Mexican restaurant downtown, and had dinner at a Chophouse and a lovely Italian restaurant.
While we don’t go out to eat very often, this year we will try our best to do date nights at home. We went out for a nice steak dinner on our wedding anniversary last December. This year, we can do a surf and turf dinner at home. For regular dates, we will try to find free events and activities that we can do together that are not based around buying food, like hiking or having a picnic in the park.
Excited to Get Started with our Minimalist Budget
Getting down to a bare bones minimalist budget is going to give us some wiggle room to save and ramp up our debt payments. Our minimalist year (and minimalist budget) is also going to teach us to be aware of and grateful for what we have. I hope it will decrease our urge to compare with others. It will turn the focus away from material things to what is most important.
This is also a challenge in contentment. This year, we will stop shopping around and looking at pretty houses we can’t afford, cars that we don’t need to buy and other items that invite us into unnecessary consumerism. We have what we need. I want to learn to be content where I’m at even if I am here for the rest of my life. Even as our income increases and our debt reduces to nothing, my goal is to be content with our little piece of our community, to be stewards of what we have and to stop searching for greener pastures.
What can we do with the money we save from this minimalist budget? Will it allow us to be more generous with our community? Will it give us the clarity we need to see the needs around us and meet them? This is almost like a financial fast, and I hope that it gets us on the right track. At the end of the day, being debt-free and financially comfortable isn’t worth much if you aren’t using your blessings to bless others.
Have you tried something like this before? Let me know in the comments below!