When Spending Less Means Appreciating More: One Dad’s Approach to Minimalism

May 17, 2017

So, what does it take to be a minimalist?

I mean, do I have to give up pork and abstain from malls on Fridays? Do I need to be baptized?

Seriously though, the idea of buying only what you need, instead of borrowing to buy things you don’t, is a radical concept for the average 21st-century consumer. Minimalism appeals to millions of Americans in search of freedom from mindless consumerism. My journey to enlightenment wasn’t exactly poetic or profound, but it has altered the course of my life.

I became a minimalist by necessity.

Faced with eviction, suddenly laid off, and reduced to part-time work for minimum wage, my life had hit a wall. I was completely unprepared, with no savings and no credit to fall back on. Once I became a parent, child care costs quickly absorbed most of my monthly income.

It occurred to me that no matter how much I was making, it was never enough. I simply spent more when I was making more.

With the average price of a home in Canada skyrocketing out of reach every month, home ownership became a distant dream, as it has for many other hard-working Canadians. I felt increasingly terrified by the idea that I was engaged in a futile struggle for financial security; that there was no escape from the relentless cycle of earning and spending, working and saving.

Stripped of my salary position and status, I was forced to search more deeply for value in my life. And I hated it. I couldn’t just buy something to make me feel better, or indulge in expensive habits, because I was perpetually broke. Privileges I had taken for granted, were now out of reach. If I wanted out of this financial rut, I was going to need a long term solution that would set me up for life.

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In my search for a new, more lucrative career path, however, I was struck with a revelation. It occurred to me that no matter how much I was making, it was never enough. I simply spent more when I was making more. Gourmet coffee three times a day, fast food lunches, taxis, business attire — these were things I didn’t need or miss on a minimum-wage income, but they were necessities when I earned a salary. A higher-paying job wasn’t going to be the answer.

I’ve seen flat-screen televisions, DVD players and laptops in the garbage. I’ve seen dining tables, chairs, futons and lamps thrown out to make way for newer models. I’ve bought new furniture just because I was bored with the old. I’ve purchased two smartphones, each valued over $300 retail, in the past two years — on minimum wage. I’m willing to wager the average Canadian wears $300 worth of clothing and accessories just to visit the corner variety store.

Once I realized that I actually don’t need a lot to be genuinely happy, I was free to find work that was actually fulfilling.

What’s my point? Wealth is relative. There are people who can do more with a dollar than I could with a hundred. There are whole families who own far less than I do, living in much smaller accommodations, who wake up every day grateful to be alive and looking forward to the future. There are people in a hospital ward, who would give anything to go for a walk on the beach without pain for just five minutes, or any of the ten thousand other activities I regularly take for granted.

Working as a freelance writer, I make less now than I did in my salaried roles, but I spend less frivolously, enjoy quality time with my family, and very little is wasted. Once I realized that I actually don’t need a lot to be genuinely happy, I was free to find work that was actually fulfilling. By distinguishing my needs from my wants more clearly, I stopped chasing an income, and discovered the things I actually value. 

Minimalism has made me a more grateful and conscientious person than a six-figure income ever could.

Article Author Anthony King
Anthony King

Read more from Anthony here.

Born and raised in Toronto, Anthony King is a freelance content writer, with a background in English literature from the University of Toronto. When he’s not ghostwriting SEO blog articles for local businesses, you’ll finding him playing his broken guitar, working on his novel, or playing superhero ninjas with his seven-year-old daughter.

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