Minimalism: Happiness, Kakeibo and Economics

Minimalism trends have been around at least a decade. They contributed to the rise of the FIRE (Financially Independent Retiring Early) movement, where 20- to 40-somethings shared ways to “retire” before the conventional 60-something age. Much of the movement’s advice questions how much one really needs to spend to be happy.

While staying-at-home one recent morning, my husband and I had a heartfelt talk about the future. We began with guessing how the world might change; and how our microworld-within-the-world might change. We braved scary thoughts out loud about health, family, finances, and society. Then we shifted to how little we need to be happy. No matter what, we decided, we will choose to be okay.

It’s a Choice To Be Okay

In other words, should scary stuff happen, we agreed to make a choice on our outlook about it. Along those lines, the pandemic has helped us affirm with each other that stuff, even money, isn’t our highest priority. More important is using this time to become our highest and best selves; enjoying time together-but-apart with those we cherish; and making time for self-care from the stress of uncertainty.

It’s possible we aren’t the only ones coming to these conclusions. Want to be shamed on social media? Post social-distancing selfies from your yacht. In contrast, journalist Sarah Harvey described in a recent article her discovery of kakeibo (“kah-keh-boh”). Kakeibo is the Japanese art of keeping a written financial ledger. Writing her expenditures down brought their relative need (or lack thereof) into sharp focus for her. It helped her to spend less. Weight Watchers worked the same way for me. By tracking what I ate, I quickly learned where excessive calories came from.

Out With Excess; In With Minimalism

Right now, it seems excess of anything is out. Minimalism is in. What excesses could be permanently pared from some people’s lives? There could be tectonic shifts underway in what we are willing to spend time and money on. Hopefully we find there is more true worth in being who we are than counting what we have.

But financially, then, what if consumers permanently choose more home-cooked meals; more family time; more home theaters; and more neighborhood bike rides? Like an ecosystem hit by a disaster, some parts of the old economy may crumble and not come back, while others will adapt. With a rise of minimalism, the system’s size may temporarily shrink. 

There may be more illness, more sadness, more pain, and more uncertainty along with new lives, new hope, and new opportunities. We can’t know the whole picture. We can only realize that our own happiness is a choice. That choice can be made in advance by answering this question. What is the minimum it will take for you to decide to be okay?

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Del Palmer

    Nice article. Thank you. Stay well.

Leave a Reply