8 Countercultural Decisions to Find Financial Freedom

financial-freedom

“You all laugh at me because I’m different, I laugh at you because you’re all the same.” — John Davis

Financial advice abounds everywhere we look. It is not difficult to discover. And yet, the statistics paint an ugly picture that it may not be working so well. The average American family still holds $6,700 in credit card debt and 76% live paycheck-to-paycheck (just to name a few).

Unfortunately, most people think more money is the answer. And while there may be some truth to this solution, most of us would readily admit that our most basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing) are financially covered. It appears then that most of our financial troubles are not based in need, but in cultural expectations—that because we live in a society based almost entirely on consumption and the promotion of it, we have too subtly bought into the lies and built our lives upon them far more than we realize.

Perhaps, then, the pathway to financial freedom requires a bolder, more countercultural approach. One that intentionally begins to question the messages we believe and looks elsewhere for answers. To that end, consider this list of 8 Bold, Countercultural Decisions to Find Financial Freedom.

Each of them questions culturally-accepted norms. Before you begin, know that we believe and practice each item on this list. We have found wonderful freedom in them. And whenever appropriate, I’ll share the story of how we arrived at each decision.

Eight Countercultural Decisions to Find Financial Freedom

1. Purchase based on necessity, not possibility. Especially in large purchases, consider necessity over possibility. When we bought our first home, we went to the local bank for pre-approval. They approved us for a loan up to $135,000. And… we immediately started looking at houses up to $135,000. We based our search entirely on possibility. There was no consideration given to our actual needs. When we found a new, higher-paying job, we were pre-approved for a $300,000 loan and… we immediately started looking for homes in that range. Our purchase became a heavy burden in payments, maintenance, and upkeep. During that season of life, we discovered minimalism. Our desire for physical possessions changed dramatically. As a result, when we moved into a new home two years ago, we determined our ideal house based on necessity, not opportunity. Our payments are smaller. Our upkeep is easier. Our lives are more freed to pursue other passions. We have never regretted the decision. And I actively encourage others at every opportunity to purchase based on need, not possibility.

2. Never carry a car payment. One financial decision that has had a profound impact on our financial well-being was our wise decision to always pay cash for our vehicles. Subsequently, we have never had a car payment—ever. I bought my first car from my parents with money I had earned working at a local carwash. And all future car purchases were based on the most reliable car (or mini-van) we could afford with cash already in the bank. We have never owned a brand-new car or one that turned heads in traffic, but we’ve also never felt stress or regret over a car purchase. And if you ask me, that’s a pretty fair trade.

3. In dual-income households, don’t spend the lesser income. One of the most valuable pieces of financial advice we ever received came early in our marriage when both my wife and I were working. My boss encouraged us to live entirely on my income and save every penny my wife earned. We did just that. Her earnings became our first down payment on a home. But more importantly, it prevented lifestyle creep from setting in. And when our first child was born, becoming a one-income family was an easy transition.

4. Avoid alcohol. Countercultural? For sure. Financially-beneficial? Absolutely. Even-possible? Definitely. I inherited the lifestyle from my grandparents. Both sets refused the consumption of alcohol for different reasons (some personal, some religious). But regardless of their reasoning, the pattern continued with my parents, myself, and my siblings. While financial concerns were never a chief motivator, the decision has resulted in significant, personal financial benefits for us. Americans spend $50 billion each year on alcohol—despite the fact that 34% of Americans don’t drink. This is a significant expense for many families. Removing it completely returns a significant amount of discretionary income. And adding other unhealthy behaviors to this decision results in even greater returns.

5. Never retire. I learned it from my grandfather. He is 92 years old and still works full-time (40+ hours/week). I learned from him the value of work and the importance of seeing work as contribution. This view of work changes everything. Work is no longer something to avoid or retire out of as soon as possible. Instead, work becomes joy. Now, just to be clear, it is still wise to plan financially for the future and old age. The truth remains that our physical bodies break down and some types of work become difficult (or impossible in some cases) to continue. I would never argue against the importance of transition in life or saving for it. But getting set in a mindset that only looks forward to retirement without the possibility of embracing work during it is one that should be adjusted. And ought to impact our financial decisions today.

6. Pay with cash. Every study reports the same finding: We spend more when we pay with plastic than when we pay with cash. And one of the most commonly offered pieces of advice for those trying to stick within a budget is to pay with cash rather than credit. Yet the strategy remains rarely used. While we have only used the strategy off and on over the years, we have found great personal benefit each time. Not only does it help us stay within a budget, but it also helps us keep a tighter record of where the money is going. And greater intentionality in tracking expenses is advantageous regardless of your income level.

7. Give away (at least) 10%. There are numerous religious traditions that teach the importance of giving away 10% of income. Personally, it is a financial philosophy that we have put into practice during times of both little and plenty. Certainly, the gifts benefit the receiver. But more than that, the gifts benefit the giver. Generosity is an important step towards contentment. It brings the fulfillment and joy and meaning to life that is often sought in financial purchases and personal gain. It reminds us of how much we already have and how much we have to offer others. And while it seems entirely counter-intuitive, one of the most important steps we have taken to financial freedom is to embrace the practice of giving some away.

8. Put the spender in charge of family finances. While this may or may not suit your family’s unique dynamics, it has been entirely helpful for mine. I hold a college degree in Banking and Finance and Accounting was one of my favorite classes in high school (seriously, thanks Mr. Fink). I understand budgets, spreadsheets, assets, and liabilities. But my wife is a bigger spender than me. And one of the most helpful actions we took as a family was to put her in charge of the finances rather than me. Because our bank account levels were always small, she became far more careful with her purchases… and worked hard to keep me in line too.

Again, I don’t offer this list as an exact prescription for each reader. Each and every family situation is entirely unique. What has worked for us may not work for you. But if financial freedom has eluded you, earning more money may not be the answer. It may require a bolder, more countercultural decision instead.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. laura m. says

    On retirement: People I know that are self employed and older ones that are semi retired work as a hobby, others like my husband took an early retirement at 62 since shift work wears you out over time and is hard on the family. We actually have more money now than when he worked, as we drive way less and did most our travelling years ago. If you work for a company and want to retire and have the money go for it; after all you can’t take the money with you as I’ve known some who never get to enjoy retirement. As for the 10% giving, most I know don’t keep track of what they give, like me they give when they feel the need to. Churches that demand 10% are money pits and in constant debt. Give to charities in your community instead.

    • joshua becker says

      Thanks for the comment Laura. Sorry you’ve had such bad experiences with churches, my experiences have been different… of course, I’ve never attended a church that demanded 10%.

      • Monica says

        My experiences have also been different. I’ve never attended a church that demanded any percent of my income. When doing our budget, we may cut out a lot of things but we feel blessed to be able to contribute 10% (at least) to spread the good news that we believe all people in all financial brackets are in need of. We’ve also noticed that as long as we have been giving 10% we have had all of our own needs met.

      • Katie says

        My church does not demand a percentage either…I give because I feel blessed to be part of the community and I want to support the programs that are offered.

    • Cayla says

      Thanks for the article and I love the blog! Laura, you’re probably right about most people not keeping track of what they give; most people don’t actually stick to a budget. That’s why the encouragement offered here is not to be like most people, but to be countercultural. In order to be responsible givers, we try to be deliberate givers. A certain amount is budgeted in and set aside at the beginning of each month. Then we can intentionally choose the causes we support, but we also can choose to leave room for spur of the moment giving. As our debt decreases or as our income increases, we can increase our percentage of giving as we maintain the same lifestyle. If we don’t give away everything that we budgeted for that month, we roll it over to the next month’s giving amount. We find this to be a fulfilling and sustainable way of giving financially, so maybe someone else will find it helpful.

    • Niko says

      I love the comments of those who give for their own compassionate reasons, rather than a religious demand.

      I would like to offer one piece of clarification: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is one of the churches that expects 10%, but it is one that is NOT in debt. I happily give that in addition to other donations to local organizations and programs not associated with my church.

  2. maggie s says

    for the record, while Kim may have earned a paycheck for her work early in your marriage, she has never worked harder, longer, more selflessly, and more loyally since the paycheck vanished and the REAL work began!!! What she contributed to purchasing your house pales in comparison to what she has contributed to making it a home!!!

        • Kristi says

          Thanks Maggie, I personally appreciate the support. In my experience, although my husband was more than willing to work while I stayed home, I found that I was never taken as seriously once my paychecks stopped. It’s a shame when priorities and values can differ so grossly.

          • Andrea says

            God always takes you seriously and His opinion is the only one that matters! For both working and stay-at-home moms (me being stay-at-home) Jesus’ death and life is my validation! His alone is enough! Amen!

  3. says

    Thank you for your articles and links to educational sites. Found your website a while back via the minimalists. Everytime I need a reminder and self-check on this simplifying track, I read blogs like yours. I found it hard to “achieve minimalism” at first and realised that it’s so much more than just paring down (although that is a highly recommended start!). I am seeing the change in my family life and hope to continue on this journey. It is definitely a countercultural one. Keep up the good work! Many Thanks.

  4. Victoria R. White says

    Wow, we have lived our lives just like you explained above. I’m keeping this post to share with our children, nieces and nephews. Thank you.

  5. Seth says

    This is really good stuff! This blog is slowly helping to change lives of myself, my wife and three daughters… Keep up the good work!

  6. Gary says

    Love your blog. Re: “never retire.” There are, of course, millions of “retired” people who work/volunteer for no money and contribute mightily to their churches, service organizations, schools, and other groups in their communities and elsewhere in the world. Retire from life? Never. Be good for nothing! And work for pay if it brings meaning and joy to others and yourself in later years — or like many older people today because they must financially.

    • joshua becker says

      Thanks Gary. I agree wholeheartedly. “The best fruit grows on the oldest trees.” Keep contributing (paid or unpaid).

  7. says

    Your adage of spending based on necessity, not possibility, is a good one, Joshua.
    This plays on our desire for immediate gratification. Flashy item now, but not enjoy what the possible extra money from downsizing could have done for us later. Un/fortunately we learn from experience what being strapped for cash feels like versus that sense of relief when not feeling stretched.
    In Canada, the use of debit and flash cards for purchases is commonplace, so that’s my substitute for cash. When the account is empty, it’s empty! (I like being able to see a computer record of my spending too) In regards to credit cards, I only have one and the limit is quite low. This keeps my use of it in check. (it’s mostly used for reservations or for digital purchases) This forces me to pay it off monthly so I have access to that credit again. In case of large unforeseen expenses, I have a hefty credit line (low interest!) available if need. (I note here that we have provincial health care so I never have to worry about paying for a sudden hospital bill on a weekend!) How do I control the use of this credit line? The key is knowing my habits! I don’t have access to it online or at an ATM. Basically, I can be lazy so if I have to walk into my branch and ask them to withdraw money for frivolous shopping, then I won’t bother or I will think twice! haha! Both my husband and I do the finances together. Regular meetings encourages us to evaluate our goals and helps keep us both accountable.
    As for a car, we don’t have one! (live in a big city with decent transit, or we walk/bike)
    As for retirement, we are both self employed and enjoy it so we’ll likely keep at it for a long time!
    Jo
    p.s. My accounting teacher was Mr Finkelstein :-)

  8. Kim says

    Hi! Thanks for your blog/FB Page. I definitely agree with your philosophy. I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey (www.daveramsey.com) and follow most of what you have shared. Thank you for what you are doing…..helping people see the bigger picture in life and leave a legacy! :)

  9. Ron J says

    Great article. I would add another point; quit watching television or engaging any type of media that is primarily a vehicle for advertising. If you think you immune from the influence of advertising, think again. All of these ads attempt to make you feel dissatisfied with your current life, and promise to make your life better if you will only but their product. While most thinking people know this is false, we still fall for it, or they wouldn’t keep doing it! Every purchase begins with a whim or a want. Exposure to advertising creates whims and wants where none previously existed, so just don’t expose yourself to it, and be more satisfied with your life.

      • Cameron says

        Added benefit of disconnecting the television: not spending money for cable and not buying the latest flatscreens. Rather, use the computer to stream news, listen to public radio, and READ (now, there’s a concept)! Additionally, disconnect the landline: use SKYPE or Googevoice for no-cost phone calls. Prepay-cellphone plans are affordable.

        • laura m. says

          Cameron: agree, we just got a new 40 inch flat LED but most cable shows are really a waste of time, like reality shows, other TV shows, not much educational except PBS and several others. Talk shows sometimes are educational. If I lived alone, I would ditch the cable and use an inside antenna having more money for giving to my favorite org. and charities. I read news, etc. online.

        • Rosalie says

          Cameron, the only point I disagree with you on is disconnecting the landline. Ours is not terribly expensive and the plan on long distance calls is very good. Where we live, on a farm, and driving on country roads, cell service is poor. Calls are often dropped mid-conversation and texts are often received long after they were sent. My librarian and I agree with you whole-heartedly about the READ concept! :)

      • Cal says

        Oddly, pinterest does the opposite for me. Being able to look at a collection of things without owning them somehow frees me from the desire to acquire that set of things.

    • joshua becker says

      Very true Ron. Corporations don’t spend billions of dollars on television commercials because they think they can get you to buy their product, they spend that much money because they know they can get you to buy their product.

  10. DJ says

    I like it all, Josh. But that last point makes me nervous. I’m the soul earner and most of our debt is in my name only. If I put the spender in charge, I’m afraid my credit score would plummet. It all comes down to control and faith. Both of which I’m lacking right now.

    • joshua becker says

      Each family is unique and each point may not be as appropriate for others. But #8 was a helpful shift in our family.

  11. Mary Cannette says

    I love your site and agree with most of it. I retired at 65 and it has been the joy of my life. I garden, read, do things with my family and friends, volunteer at church and my Granddaughter’s school, bake, cook, and so many things. I am 70 now and I did go back to work as “emergency relief” which amounts to 2-4 days a month. But, I believe in retirement 100%….it is good to relax and do things you never had time for.

  12. Kathleen says

    My husband and I found our happiness after we sold our car and our first retirement home in Costa Rica (with all its contents minus a few boxes of personal mementos and clothes) and decided to collect experiences instead of things. We chose to rent a small furnished townhouse in the middle of a beautiful U.S. city and walk everywhere or take the train or bus. When our time here is complete, we will choose another city in the world and experience life there. We are far less tempted to buy things because they no longer fit into our idea of a great life.

  13. says

    “View work as a contribution.” Brilliant! So many of us who are on our way to financial freedom see quitting our jobs as the light at the end of the tunnel, which tends to make us miserable while we’re still working. Your way of reframing the concept of work is much appreciated.

    • joshua becker says

      There is something to be said for “working just for the sake of work.” Our work ought to bring value to others around us. It ought to be a contribution to others—even selfless. And in that thinking, we find joy and freedom in it.

    • joshua becker says

      Dude, that’s awesome! I use and send people to unsplash all the time. Thanks so much for your contribution and making the world a little more beautiful for everyone else.

  14. says

    Great post! I need to work on #7 though. I give away on occasions (birthdays/deaths/anniversaries/weddings) but I still haven’t been able to cultivate a habit of giving away regularly.

  15. tashanicole says

    Great article!
    I have never understood the principle behind number 7 though. Where did this 10% figure come from? I don’t believe there should be a “set amount” that we give to charity. Doesn’t that take away from it being from our heart, if it’s more of an obligation? I always think of the example in the Bible where Jesus said that the poor widow who only put in two small coins gave more than all those dropping in money because they dropped in out of their surplus and she gave out of her WANT. I believe we should all help out our fellow man, but don’t put a specific amount on it. And also, many times it is better to give of ourselves and our time than it is to simply give our money away.

      • Jennifer G says

        10 % is in the O.T. when it came to supporting the Levites (the priests of the community, who did only that and needed community support to survive). N.T. does not set aside a specific amount and actually specifies only to save to support Paul while he was preaching the Gospel at a specific location and then no longer saving once he had moved on to preach somewhere else.

        10 % to church or charity is not required (most places) but it sure does make you feel good when you can afford to do it.

        • joshua becker says

          In Matthew 23:23, Jesus points out the expectation that our 10% gift would continue. If anything, the New Testament argues 10% should only be considered the starting point. It moves quite seamlessly from tithing to giving.

        • tashanicole says

          At no time were first-century Christians commanded to pay tithes. The primary purpose of the tithing arrangement under the Law had been to support Israel’s temple and priesthood; consequently the obligation to pay tithes would cease when that Mosaic Law covenant came to an end as fulfilled, through Christ’s death on the torture stake. (Eph 2:15; Col 2:13, 14) It is true that Levitical priests continued serving at the temple in Jerusalem until it was destroyed in 70 C.E., but Christians from and after 33 C.E. became part of a new spiritual priesthood that was not supported by tithes.—Ro 6:14; Heb 7:12; 1Pe 2:9.

          • tashanicole says

            As Christians, they were encouraged to give support to the Christian ministry both by their own ministerial activity and by material contributions. Instead of giving fixed, specified p. 1111amounts to defray congregational expenses, they were to contribute “according to what a person has,” giving “as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Co 8:12; 9:7) They were encouraged to follow the principle: “Let the older men who preside in a fine way be reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching. For the scripture says: ‘You must not muzzle a bull when it threshes out the grain’; also: ‘The workman is worthy of his wages.’” (1Ti 5:17, 18) However, the apostle Paul set an example in seeking to avoid bringing an undue financial burden on the congregation.—Ac 18:3; 1Th 2:9.

  16. says

    Wonderful post! My husband and I follow almost all of these principles, and we live with great financial peace.

    I don’t fully agree with the never retire step. While I don’t condone retiring and sitting in a chair flipping channels for twenty years, I do think that retirement allows people to follow their dreams. It may mean leaving a job that didn’t completely satisfy you and freeing up time to start a business or write a book, which would technically mean you were still working. :) Retiring also frees up time to spend with family you might not otherwise have the opportunity to spend time with. There is also the freedom to volunteer and serve the world in other ways.

    You had an amazing boss to offer you the priceless advice of living on one of your incomes. Not everyone has that kind of guidance when they are young. Kudos to him/her.

    • Lisa says

      I completely agree with you! The reason we live the way we do is so that we don’t have to do what we’re doing now, forever.

  17. Lisa says

    We do most of the things on this list as well, and not only is there the safety of knowing we have money in the bank to cover pop-up expenses, but there’s the added benefit of no money fights. Ever. In six years of marriage. Even when we had to replace both of our cars at the same time. :)

    One thing I would add to your list is to have a financial goal. For us, it’s really hard to maintain focus if we aren’t working toward something. That’s what motivates us to stick to cash, or to remind ourselves that we don’t NEED that new thing all of our co-workers are raving about. It’s also what allows me to not feel guilty about working full-time with kids in daycare. We’re a few months away from paying off our house (yippee!!!), and I can say with 100% certainty that the amount we are putting toward our mortgage every month is always far more than what we would come up with if we were sticking the money in a savings account. For us, that goal is what has motivated us to do most of the things on your list.

    Love your blog. Keep it up. :)

  18. says

    Hey Joshua and thanks for a thoughtful post.

    I’ve been enjoying a simple life for over twenty years and while I was never “converted” into the lifestyle, I found that how I was living fit in with many of the simplicity tenets we adopt.

    I have never owned a car, I always pay cash for whatever I buy (thank you mom), I also do not drink, nor do I smoke or do recreational drugs.

    What I do do, is live an enjoyable life teaching guitar and writing on my blog and while I am not a die-hard minimalist, I am a die-hard simplicity lover :)

    Take care Joshua and thanks again for some great pointers. All the best.

    Lyle

  19. Laura says

    Good article – motivating. We’re doing well on some points, and failing miserably on others. We are carrying some credit card debt, a hefty car payment, and I am a work-at-home wife (seamstress/homemaker) who only gets occasional jobs nowadays. My husband, 58, wants to retire next year, and it scares the bejeebers out of me. Because I don’t bring in a steady income, I don’t feel at liberty to discuss what I feel is a too-early retirement with him. He has worked hard to provide a good life for us, and wants to get out of the job he’s had for 36 years. I can’t blame him. His idea is that we will get into flipping houses together, as we have extensive experience renovating our own homes. I will be 60 this year, and am what you would call, “not spry”, to put it mildly. We want to sell our too-large family home, that has a lot of unused space now that our three kids are grown & moved out, and have been waiting for the housing market to pick back up before we sell. Your house sounds ideal. I’ll be sharing your article with my husband – thanks!

  20. says

    It always shocks me how people don’t see the simple truths in financial statements like these. It really isn’t hard to build wealth these days if you simply forgo buying needless crap and invest your money wisely.

  21. says

    Great tips! I especially like the last one. I am the spender in our family, and I have been in charge of our finances for over a year now. It has made a huge difference in my spending habits and helped my relationship with my husband as well. Although, I have to say I just can’t swing tip #4. Alcohol is a hobby for us more than a habit, and one that we enjoy quite a bit. I’m sure we’d save a lot of money if we didn’t drink, but then we would miss out on some of the experiences we enjoy as well (like brewing our own beer or wine dinner with food parings, etc.)

  22. says

    Hi Joshua,

    I really love your site. Transforming our relationship with money is a subject that gets me all charged up. You bring up some really great points. I agree with another reader that you were fortunate to have a boss who mentored you. But, great mentoring usually falls on deaf ears so the really great thing is that you took it in and DID SOMETHING WITH IT!

    My step mother has said that couples should live on the wages earned by the man. One, because it forces the couple to save and also because it makes the man feel, well, like a man. I never did this but it seems like a very good idea.

  23. Marya says

    Very wise pieces of advice; personally I made two months trials for my spending; one month I just paid with “plastic” card and the second month was just cash payment for the routine purchases and it was a huge difference.

    Very interesting quotation from John Davis. I googled it, there are lots of people named John Davis. Could you give more information about him. I really like his witty remark. Thanks.

  24. says

    I’m not sure that I’d call all of those points counter-culture because I wouldn’t say that they go against the mainstream culture of the United States. I’m also not sure I agree with some of them but I just wanted to add a couple more points.

    When abroad, it strikes me very quickly how foreign cultures differ from U.S. culture when it comes to finance. The biggest difference I see is a tendency for young people outside of the U.S. to live with their parents. From the time they graduate perhaps until they get married, they live at home. This is counter to U.S. culture because our culture celebrates independence and financial freedom. The problem with moving out of the parents’ house too young is that young people spend so much of their money on rent. Could they live at home for one, two, three or more years? Depends on the job they might have, but why not save up money for a few years before going out on your own?

    The other point I’d make is avoid eating out but for special occasions or date nights. Even if you don’t live in a big city, the expense of dining out (including sales tax) is much higher than the expense of buying groceries and cooking your meals. Cooking is a fun hobby, nurtures creativity, and brings people together at home. It also allows you to tailor your diet. Even when you’re out at a restaurant and you think you’re eating healthy, there are all kinds of preservatives, oils, salt, and butter that make their way into the food.

    • MelD says

      I’m not sure this is true and suggest that education attitudes could be to blame.
      In Switzerland, only 10-20% of young people study at universities. The others do vocational apprenticeships for about 3 yrs so that by 18/19 they are capable of earning a full-time living and usually leave home. An atmosphere of financial responsibility dominates and these youngsters usually manage to afford a pleasant rental apartment, modern furnishings and a car, while saving to afford to travel or to finance further training/education/language courses – I have seen this over and over. Practical skills rule over academic ones!
      Those who study, however, are in school till 19/20 (you need to pass high-level exams in 13 subjects to get into uni here), then university till 23/25 and once finished, still don’t really have work skills, so internships etc. till late 20s… that’s why so many young adults live at home in countries which promote further education over vocational education!!

  25. says

    Ahhhhh, number 8. Put the spender in charge of family finances. I wished this would work in our household. My husband is the bigger spender by leaps and bounds but he hates paperwork and paying bills and when he was doing his paperwork things were an even bigger mess. I’ve taken over and he loves it. The solution now is weekly financial meetings. They don’t need to be long, 15 minutes, but it keeps the spender aware of what the money is going. We’ve fallen out of the weekly habit so thanks for the ‘reminder’ Joshua!

  26. says

    Love that idea about buying for necessities and not possibilities. Just because we CAN have something doesn’t mean we should get it.

    We bought a used car last year and had to borrow because we had NO cash after 1.5 years of unemployment. Even though it’s not a large loan, I hate having it. That’s extra cash that could go toward savings and other bills, so we’re trying to pay it off pronto. I don’t think I’ll ever let myself be in a situation where I need to borrow money for a car again.

  27. says

    Isn’t it crazy how financial freedom is so counter-cultural? Our family is on the path to being debt-free, and it often strikes me how much effort it takes for me to say “no” to something that no one in our family actually needs.

  28. says

    I have often explained to others why it is so important not to borrow money for a car. (We have purchased both used and new cars with cash.) One woman said to me in real horror, “But you would have to save up all the money ahead of time.” Yes, you would. What a concept.

  29. says

    Really solid advice here. We are currently completely debt-free, renting our apartment, have one car we bought used from MIL with cash, have no TV, we don’t read magazines so we are not bombarded by ads… We do have and use credit cards (paid off fully each month) because both of us shop on-line. We don’t like going into shops and it’s just too easy to shop on-line.. And when buying groceries I don’t have to worry if I have enough cash in my wallet.

    But actually I would love to be paying with mostly cash. I think I would still occasionally use my credit card though. I’ve just gotten used to the convenience of the card.. but perhaps I will try to go without it for a period of time. It would be a good challenge and I KNOW I would be spending even less money. I would not go shopping unless really necessary!

    We have savings because we will probably buy a home sometime around next spring.. Rents are really high and there are just a gazillion more options when you buy your own home. But beyond buying that home (and I do think owning a modest home is reasonable) I wish we would not start stockpiling money for “retirement” or “emergency” or just because it piles up because we are not spending it on ourselves but not willing to use it to help others.

    And most of all, I take seriously what the Bible says about not hoarding treasure on Earth. It doesn’t mean just stuff. It also means money, stocks, other investments, retirement funds. You are putting your trust in the wrong place, you are making your own safety net when the much more reliable safety is found in God’s providence. I listened to a speech by Tim Conway where he said he pays the bills and groceries and gives away the rest each month. I loved that!! I didn’t get a feeling that he was bragging about it, he was just letting people know that it was entirely possible to live like that. I found it inspirational. How many of us really trust God that much? Is he only our plan B, while we are our own Plan A?

    For a moment I was into “Your Money or Your Life” but now I’m put off by the part of it that teaches you to save as much for yourself as you can, by exploiting the corrupt system of compounding interest and stock market. The part that encourages you to be thrifty and mindful about spending is all good :)

  30. jim says

    Put the spender in charge of the budget? Wow – I never thought about that. Spouse is the spender in our house. I may just try that and see if that doesn’t change things up a bit. Love it!

  31. Angel says

    I love this post (and your blog in general) It really makes me step back, breathe and relax when I read it. It’s easy to get tripped up, not following the concepts of minimalism, when you’re first starting out. Society influence creeps in everywhere and before long I feel like I’m caught up in the rat race again! Thank you for this blog!

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts, posts you could link me to, or ideas on understanding more about finances. What’s your opinion on financial things like 401(k)s, IRAs, etc.? I love the idea of saving more by spending less, but beyond that I don’t know where I should go with that extra saved money.

  32. Mandi says

    Most of these are very good and valid points to consider, however I’d like to focus on point #5 – Never Retire.

    “Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told” – Alan Keightley (Posted by Becoming Minimalist on Facebook)

    As an advocate of the Downshifting lifestyle, this quote is very inspiring and relates to my husband and mines major goal to hopefully “Retire” before we’re 40. I am currently 31 years old, (soon to be 32 this January), and my husband is 32. We have lots of time to plan for our goal. Does this sound drastic? Not really if you sit down, crunch your numbers and spend a lot of time, dedication, planning, researching, and figuring out what you NEED to maintain your home and have a happy, simple life instead of spending money on frivolous things and working the 9-5, 5 days a week system. Our plan of attack is to eliminate our major debt, which is our house mortgage with a principle balance of $39,000. We do not own credit cards, our cars are paid off, and we only pay cash for what we need. The closer we get to getting that mortgage monkey off our backs the closer we will be to our early retirement goal. Minimalism plays a huge factor in reaching our goals, because once we eliminate the “Stuff” and debts in our life, it will open more finances for more important things.

    Once we reach our goal, we will open up more time for more important things such as volunteering, writing books, spending more time with the people we love, and occasionally go out for a good time on the town.

    If everyone wants to become financially independent, it’s imperative to get out of the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mindset and get rid of the clutter and things you think you “need” but it’s actually a “want.” It’s truly amazing when you realize how much more money you will have by cutting out the frivolous. Own your material possessions, but let those possessions own you.

    • Mandi says

      Once we reach our goal of “retiring” early, we still plan to continue working, but will be reduced to working 2-3 days/week. We enjoy contributing to society, but we want to pursue other interests as well. I believe this would be a healthy balance of having the work life we want, and loads of free time to explore other activities.

  33. stephanie says

    working on step 1 right now! Have a 5br 4300 sq foot house on the market, hoping (better yet praying) to purchase a 2100 sq ft home down the road. Still a great size but considering where we’re coming from and with 3 kids it’s going to be a challenge and one that I’m looking forward to! Learning how to be more minimalist, looking to be better stewards of our money and following Gods nudges are leading us into 2014 and our best year yet!

  34. Randy says

    Joshua,

    What kind of work does your grandfather do? Many of us do physical work that requires bending, lifting, getting down on the floor & back up, etc. Most people reach the point long before turning 92 when physical work becomes too difficult or impossible to do. Also, many jobs require working at a pace or under pressure that would be difficult for a senior citizen to handle. How does your grandfather do it?

  35. Sara says

    Love this article!!! I think the first point doesn’t just mean for houses though. I know so many people who purchase because they convince themselves that they will need it someday.
    The other thing I noticed was the comment; ” I’ve never attended a church that demanded 10%”. I attend a church that suggests this amount, but it still comes down to free will, and there are a lot of blessing that come from this.

  36. Andi says

    We are working towards a more minimal lifestyle- sold our big home and yesterday moved into our camper (errr its pretty fancy). We took cable out of our home a year ago but we’ve been in a campground for 24 hours that has a few cable channels in the past 24 hours our son has asked for more things than in the past 6 months together. Ahhhhhh!

  37. Antonio Ferez says

    Come on Joshua no alcohol!! Lol

    I love your blogs man, however I love having a beer with my friends while discussing them!

    Regards,

  38. Glenda Newbatt says

    I am a recent “follower” and love your blogs and philosophy. However, this is the first entry I cannot relate to and here is why. A few years ago, my husband and I, seeking a simpler and better quality of life for our children sold our 5 bedroom, 4 bath house, purged 70% of our material belongings and bought a MUCH smaller house in the country. We do not regret this decision in the least but the decision actually put us farther in debt. Country homes in our area are simply expensive. And we still have debt from our past “living beyond our means, trying to keep up with the Jones” years. While we have given up our old lifestyle and are happier, I don’t see financial freedom ANYWHERE in our near future. Suggestions? :)

  39. clarence Carrio says

    i find it ironic that u show a beautiful outrageously expensive beach scene to tell viewers to spend modestly – subliminal coveting ?

  40. Shelly West says

    One of the more difficult things for me has been gifts; not giving but receiving. I have told people for years not to give me anything for my birthday or Christmas, but they don’t seem to believe me. I have boxes of stuff, most of which needs dusting if it were on display. I tell my family and friends, “Please don’t buy me any ‘thing,’ let’s enjoy a nice long meal together and have some laughs.” They still bring gifts. I’ve even asked them to make donations to charity in my name, but that doesn’t work either. I am planning a garage sale and hope to purge many things, and it will include most of these gifts. I just wish I knew a way to make them understand that I’m serious.

  41. Carolyn says

    I have been minimalizing for a couple of years without realizing it had a name…just trying to get rid of clutter. I found your site and others in the past few months and have started over in earnest, since I have learned what it really means. I have come a long way, but just this morning I cleaned out a large media cabinet that is used for storage…I was sickened at the things I had in there that I thought was lost, and replaced. Expensive things like external hard drives, etc. I am 67, and when I think of all the money, stress, worries that have been for naught. I am on board now, please keep up the good hints, blogs, ideas…I am loving learning how to really live life lighter.

  42. says

    All good points, except the retirement one. I have no interest in working for someone else til I’m to old and decrepit to enjoy life. I wanna go hiking! How ever, I may be making an income writing. We’ll see.

  43. MaryT says

    Thanks for this post Joshua. I enjoy reading your posts. The message you share is so beautifully simple and inspiring. Thanks for generously sharing your journey, it has inspired me to look at my life and move toward a simpler life with my family.

  44. Kathy Buendgen says

    Thank you for the wonderful articles on “simplicity”. My husband and I have been married for 31 years and have put into place many of these principles. Some taught by my father ; always pay your self, give generously and save second income were his marriage advice. We purposeful put biblical principles in place even when we were a poor college couple. I had my nursing degree and put my husband through college including master’s work with no debt incurred. Even with small income we always gave to our local fellowship. I worked odd shifts so my husband could watch the little ones as the came along so we did not have to pay for childcare. My husband’s income became larger and the family grew, I stayed home full time . He travels extensively with his job . He now makes a good income but we still live on a fraction of his income. We live in a small, simple older home , no A/C , one car garage, not even a dish washer ( that would require extensive renovation, I would rather have the money in the bank then the $20,000 cost of putting in luxury of the dish washer). Our room is in the basement , the kids on the main floor. Simple! We pay for repairs and maintenance as we have the money saved for it. We drive a 9 year old Toyota . Most furniture is second hand or very loved. We have made tough choices . But, we can give generously, we eat good healthy food ( much of which comes from my garden) . We are with out want or need and can do with little. What bothers me is that many people I know of my age tell me that they have NO savings , no retirement fund, are in huge dept, have trouble making the house payment on their new , much to big homes. They make me feel guilty for being debt free and say that I can not understand what it is like to be poor. I am being condemned for living simply and not having debt. I am just curious if you get comments on your simple life that are not so nice. We live simply , make daily financial choices to stay simple, save , work hard and give generously . People do not understand us.

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