There is a strong connection between minimalism and personal finance. For popular minimalist advocates such as Leo Babauta, Matt D’Avella and Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus(“The Minimalists”), debt forced them to smarten up about their finances and, subsequently, developed their personal philosophy that quality of life increases when you live with less.
I arrived at minimalism through the same route. I graduated law school in 2015 with over $50,000 of debt. My salary as an articling student was less than $45,000 with no guarantee that I’d be hired back after it was over. Fortunately, I was hired back and received a tremendous raise but unfortunately, I realized that the organization wasn’t a good fit for me. I jumped ship and followed my passion to serve others, ultimately accepting a part-time position at a legal aid clinic. Nearly three years later, I’m still there now but on a full-time, permanent basis.
But public service, on whatever level, is often a financial sacrifice. HBO’s moving documentary, Gideon’s Army, shows what U.S. public defenders in the deep South must sacrifice in order to protect the freedoms of those fallen through the cracks. In one particular scene, a public defender is counting change to see if she has enough gas money in order to make it home. Though, my career looks nothing like that, (for one, I don’t practice criminal defense — I help low-income workers who are wrongfully terminated) I too am dependent on the generosity of the government.
No matter your income though, minimalism can help you allocate your money in a way that best aligns with your values. That’s because, at its essence, minimalism is an ongoing practice of reevaluating what you need and, out of all the things that bring you joy, what makes you really want. Instead of viewing the practice of living with less as some cruel sacrifice, consider it a practice of trade-offs.