My Journey with Essentialism & Personal Finance
“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done” (Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown).
It used to be very hard for me to relax. I always felt like I had to be doing something. If I wasn’t busy, then I felt like I wasn’t productive. I got a lot done, but I still felt like I was wasting time and energy. Last year during one of my many google sessions, I came across a book about essentialism. While reading and examining my own life against the concepts that the author was presenting, I started to explore the idea a bit more. I started implementing the concepts in my personal life, and I explored ways to apply essentialism to my business and professional life. I looked for ways to apply this concept to personal finance and more specifically my own finances. As I got deeper into essentialism, the need to always be busy went away. Wanting to have a lot of stuff just to have stuff went away. Making decisions became easier. My spending habits and budgeting methods changed. And because I was no longer occupied with non-essential busy work, I had more time, energy, and resources for the things that I really enjoyed.
The first step in this process was getting rid of things that no longer served me, provided value, or made me happy. Physically, I went through my space and began purging. I sold or donated everything that didn’t fit this criteria. If I didn’t absolutely love it or if it served no real purpose, it had to go. I didn’t want to have a lot of stuff just laying around. After working on my tangible belongings, I moved on to examining the tasks that I felt like I wanted or needed to accomplish. I started to realize that I no longer wanted a to-do list filled with things that weren’t essential to my goals and what I really wanted to do. I scratched out everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. If it didn’t NEED to be done or it wasn’t purposeful or satisfying, then I was no longer worried about getting it done. I focused on the tasks that really made a difference and I was able to put more effort into those things. Over time, I began to evaluate all of my processes and procedures and eliminated everything that took time and energy but was no longer important or valuable.
As it relates to my financial situation, essentialism manifested as prioritization, elimination, and automation. I’ve always been fairly disciplined when it comes to money, but essentialism made me more disciplined. I started the process of prioritization, elimination, and automation by evaluating what I was currently doing to manage my finances and the results of my processes. I took a close look at what was actually working, making a difference, and benefitting me and I weeded out everything else. I realized that I was doing some things out of habit, but those habits weren’t providing value or producing results. Cutting them out freed up more time and energy that I could put into the things that were actively pushing me towards my goals.
It was important to me to prioritize my finances. When I say prioritize, I mean prioritizing needs vs wants and wants vs other wants. The needs are obviously more important than the wants, but then there are things that I want and things that I WANT. Separating the needs from wants was simple. Separating out the more important wants was a bit more difficult. My WANTS ended up being my goals. I wrote out my goals to make them concrete and I wrote out what it would take to accomplish each one. I decided that instead of trying to multitask, I would focus on one goal at a time and pour everything into that goal to achieve it quicker and more efficiently before moving on to the next goal. This not only yielded better results, but it allowed me to concentrate and put my efforts into the best plan of attack.
Now when I think about spending outside of my necessities and goals, I think about this level of prioritization. (Fun fact about me: I can be very indecisive when it comes to spending money.) Prioritizing made it easier for me to make decisions because I have something to weigh my options against. Does it provide value to me? Does it push me toward the things I truly want? Do I REALLY love it? If the answer isn’t a definite yes, then it’s a no.
Elimination & Automation
Saying no is much easier for me now. Not just in terms of how I spend my money, but also in terms of how I choose to use my time and other resources. It’s easier to say no to other people. It’s easier to say no to anything that doesn’t align. It’s easier to say no to myself. My mindset shifted from “more” to “right”. I don’t want more things, I want the right things. I don’t necessarily want to do more, I want to do what’s right. The things that eat up the most resources aren’t always the things that are essential, and the non-essentials almost always serve as distractions. The elimination portion of this journey has made me aware of how I have been spending my energy, attention, and money frivolously and how to make better use of those things.
Of course part of elimination was cutting back on expenses that weren’t essential (i.e. I no longer shop when I’m bored, how many streaming services do I actually need?, etc.), but I also examined the processes I was using to manage my finances. As many of you know, earlier this year I switched up from budgeting every penny to the anti-budget. Essentialism was the main reason for that shift. I am now at a place financially where I don’t require the level of structure that a zero based budget provides. Because I can handle a more loose approach, budgeting out to $0 every month felt unproductive. Along with switching up my budgeting method came automation. I sat down one weekend and wrote a list of all of the manual financial processes that I was doing that I could automate. I took the time to set everything up to run automatically, and now my finances flow with very little manual input from me.
Elimination and automation was me letting go of the things that weren’t necessary, and realizing that just because something is necessary and needs to be done doesn’t mean that I have to spend time doing it. Setting up a system to automatically take care of the small essential tasks increased efficiency and gave me the ability to concentrate on the tasks that do need my manual efforts and expertise.
So far, I am really enjoying this new journey. Everything, every process, every move makes an impact and serves a purpose. I am more selective with what I spend my money, time, and energy on, and I am a lot more interested in quality rather than quantity. I’m really enjoying the idea of having/doing less but having/doing better. I’m no longer spending just to spend. I don’t want to accumulate things just to say that I have them. Everything is intentional, satisfactory, and serves a purpose. Every now and then, I take some time to reevaluate and switch things up as circumstances change or after I hit a goal. If you are interested in essentialism and want to give it a try, take some time to think about your goals, what you value, and what you desire. Be honest with yourself about the things that you need to change and let go of, and be sure to check out Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
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