Intentional spending may not spark joy, but at least it will help you with your finances. Middle-class minimalism won’t. Here’s why.

I only want to buy one leather jacket, so it must be perfect, I thought one afternoon at work while on a coffee break. I fell down the online shopping rabbit hole, as I searched through one online store after another. Ringing in my ears was the benefits of a capsule wardrobe as declared by flocks of fashion bloggers. Chiming in was the joy of having “just one” of everything, as promoted by a multitude of minimalists.

In the end, after buying and returning three leather jackets, I settled on one. It was more than I wanted to spend. It’s so perfect, but I’ve only worn it twice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of having the perfect capsule wardrobe, an apartment full of shiny, clear surfaces and a fuller (but chosen carefully) wallet. But I question whether a curated collection of belongings is as beneficial to your wallet as is often claimed. It may be instagramable and aesthetically pleasing, but it’s not doing anything for your bank balance. It’s middle-class minimalism, an aspirational lifestyle that promotes having perfect items and an orderly home.

Not everyone can afford to throw out their duplicates. What if the one you have breaks, and you threw the other one away? Not everyone is in a financial position to be able to throw things away that are of perfectly good value, and may have a future use.

By following that brand of minimalism, you may end up spending more. After all, your handbag may “spark joy” and it may be your one handbag, but if it’s Chanel… well that’s not really helping you build your emergency fund now is it?

Intentional spending works better for me

For minimalism to work for your wallet, it needs to be combined with an approach of intentional spending. Minimalism combined with intentional spending can absolutely help you out financially, if it means that you correct your mindless shopping behaviours. It can definitely assist if you take a minimal approach to your overheads and cut down on your monthly subscriptions, or reduce the cost of your gas bill by changing providers. If you take a minimalist approach to food shopping, batch cook meals and take a packed lunch every day it can surely benefit your costs of living.

What’s problematic is that people talk about minimalism as if there’s just one type of it. But that isn’t the case; there’s middle-class minimalism (I want to own less stuff, but it doesn’t bother me if that means I spend more), frugal minimalism (I want to spend the minimal amount) and minimalism just used as a general term of just less.

Since buying the perfect leather jacket, I’ve moved away from middle-class minimalism, but towards intentional spending. This means putting more thought into what I’m spending, why, whether it’s a necessity and whether it’s taking me towards or further away from my financial goals.

What’s your take on minimalism? Are you a frugal minimalist or an aspirational minimalist? Are you not a minimalist at all? How does your stance impact your personal finances? Let me know in the comments below.

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