From Thrifty to Minimalist


The path was long, I can see it clearly beginning when I was about 19 years old. I had just started going to the state university not far from my house. My mom convinced me to stay home and go to school. My parents let me know from the beginning that they would not be able to pay for my university education, so any additional schooling that I pursued would need to be my responsibility. I didn’t think anything strange about that. For me it was something I expected and just went with as normal.

I got a part time job at the home office of a major retail chain (that has since gone out of business). I never had any intention of staying in corporate America, but I am always curious to see how things work and so I was interested in my job. I was driving to work one day and I happened to turn on the radio. A lady by the name of Mary Lynn Hunt was on the air talking about how she and her family got out of over $100,000 of debt in a few years. I remember listening, but not really having any concept of that much money. I could barely think past $500 in my savings account, much less thousands of dollars.

However, listening to that talk show on my commute proved to be life changing. I began to look at all things concerning budgeting and saving money. I listened to the conversations of other people and the money problems that they had in their lives. I discovered Dave Ramsey, Amy Dacyzn and other personal finance teachers.

I began to budget. I had just a simple notebook that I wrote all of my bills in and all of the money that I would be making. I gave myself some money to spend and the rest went into savings. It wasn’t anything elaborate and I continue the same method today. If I try and do something more complicated, I fail, so as a minimalist, I leave all the rest alone.

I know that some people feel that a budget is restrictive, but the type of budget that I do, simply writing down what is coming in, what is going out, and what to do with the rest, can be a huge step in achieving whatever goals you have. In the beginning, I wanted to have enough money for a down payment on a home. After a few friends bought homes spoke constantly of the upkeep, repairs, ad the money going out, I changed my mind. I decided to save money for “A BIG MOVE”.

One of the things that I have discovered along the way is that being thrifty and being a minimalist can go hand in hand, however, there are traits of a thrifty person that I have learned to let go. When I was practicing being thrifty, I would stockpile items. That is how the craft stash began, in addition to other habits that were necessary to break.

As a thrifty person, I would see items on sale at a good price and stockpile them for the future. For instance, people who teach thrift say if you see a shirt on sale that is the right color, fit, etc. buy several of them. I did that with tights. I love tights and I would buy multiple pairs in varying style and design and then when the season was over, discover that I had not worn but a few.

Another example was when I was practicing thrift, I would save jars to reuse for other items. I would wash, peel off the labels and store them. When I moved a few years ago, I had so many jars to get rid of that I never used, even though I had the best intentions to make homemade gifts to give to friends.

As a practicing minimalist, I must give myself permission to spend more on a quality item than on something that will do in a pinch because it is less expensive. This is a habit that has been the hardest for me to get over. I can squeeze a penny until it screams. In the past year or so, it has become a joy to realize that I am not in a state of want and deprivation. I can enjoy the beauty of life through experiences and treating others to experiences as well. It brings me much joy and satisfaction, more than staying home and making sure my bank account is growing.

In the end, transitioning from being a purely thrifty person who is watching every dime, to being someone who is more free with her money in search of things that truly bring joy and add value to my life, has not always been comfortable. It sometimes is like a tug of war in my mind. But I am happy to report that I am on the right track, slowly I am learning to look not only for a saving, but for added value as well.

If you have years of experience as a thrifty person who has discovered minimalism, please let me know how you are doing this. I welcome your ideas!

7 Comments on “From Thrifty to Minimalist

  1. I could never describe myself as a thrifty person but now in retirement I am trending that way out of necessity. Fixed income does that to you. And moving toward minimalism also out of necessity – my husband is disabled and less clutter means less barriers for a blind person.

    In our marriage, my husband always managed the money and I did everything else. I didn’t have a clear idea of what our bills were. There were always some disconnects because I didn’t know. And I always felt – he needed to have some kind of home responsibility so I didn’t bother to get more involved. He kept it all in his head – nothing written down. It was always a problem. Then I went back to school to re-train after staying home with the kids. I took a basic required accounting class. And the light dawned. We now keep simplified books – probably similar to what you do but using basic accounting methods. It is written down – we both know what is going on. And we can stay on a budget.

    You are right. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

  2. I am experiencing the shift from frugality to minimalism too – I am finding it really uncomfortable. There is guilt from overspending and then shame at the stuff still usable and also frustration that I don’t look like a minimalist yet !
    However, I have packed up all I can and everyday I practice. I practice with clothing, I practice with kitchen items, I practice with paper.
    I have a few new rules that help too – only rebuying items I have finished and loved or better quality items of something I already own and love.

    • It really is uncomfortable! It is not something I would have imagined.
      Don’t worry about looking like a “minimalist”. I believe we all look
      different and are basically striving to live more mindfully without
      excess material clutter. That remains a journey.

  3. I’m working towards minimalism, but I live with a guy who’s to attached to the idea of “it might be useful someday.” Or momentos of his past. One of our three bedrooms is used as an office. I have a cardboard box with some of my stuff and a bookcase of (mostly my) books. The cardboard box used to be two cardboard boxes. Periodically I go through that stuff and get rid of the stuff that I clearly haven’t needed in the years it’s been in a box. And I’ve pared down the books quite a bit. He keeps insisting that it’s “our” office. I don’t know who he thinks he’s kidding. I had hoped to create a little reading nook in the corner. I’ve given up that idea. It’s a hot mess in there and he has all the reasons for keeping all of it.

    • That’s actually an ideal situation when you’re trying to go minimalist yourself. My situation is the same but it works to my advantage that any of his mail, packages, stuff left lying around etc all gets put in his office. I look after every other room in the house so if he is happy to have to step over things to get in to his one room then so be it! Interestingly enough he started going through his stuff himself without any nagging or stress on my part so win/win.

  4. This is an interesting post for me – I come from a family where dad insisted on having enough cans in the pantry and food in the freezer to take us through a nuclear winter, this is on top of still doing a weekly shop! I found that I had the same tendencies which stopped when I went through my pantry and threw out TWO big rubbish bags full of food that had expired or got weevils in it, rusted etc – ridiculous! There is merit to it if you are way out in the country or somewhere where resources are scarce or weather conditions could leave you stranded but for most of us where we have a wealth of options there just isn’t a need for it. (although if I ever find the perfect t-shirt that ticks all the boxes I’m buying 10 of them lol)

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