The secret to supersizing your travel fund

By Anna Brech

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Try minimal living to save money and infuse your life with meaningful adventures

From daily lattes to impulse Amazon splurges, it’s amazing how much we spend on things we really don’t need. This influx of generic “stuff” forms part of the tapestry of everyday life, and – if you’re anything like us – you won’t even think to question it. But removing it can have radical results.

When you declutter in a major way, you’re not simply giving yourself #Kondo bragging rights on Instagram. You also shift gear to a simpler, slower way of living. This, in turn, reaps such a dramatic financial impact that it can be used to fund a lifetime of adventure plans.

Like becoming a digital nomad, minimalism is a lifestyle that paves the way to long-term travelling freedom. And yet people rarely think of it as a financial strategy. Here’s how to make it work for you:

Breaking the stuffocation cycle

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life,” says Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo, in her world-famous book on the topic. If you surround yourself with a mass of belongings and buy things that you quickly lose or forget about, it’s likely you’ll exist in a similarly chaotic mindset. Things around you rarely bring the pleasure you expect them to; instead, they’re a source of stress – even if you don’t realise it. They drain your attention and bank account, create mess and generally distract you from the present moment.

One comprehensive purge, of the kind Kondo details in her guide, will change all this. When you dramatically whittle down the things that you own, you’re able to see more clearly once again. The process opens up acres of headspace, which is a gift in itself. But the more powerful impact comes in perspective, and how you view belongings post-clearout. Almost overnight, all value you once attached to your things vanishes. You start to recognise clutter for what it is: annoying and expensive; a barrier that gets between you and life.

No more comfort items

This moment of recognition is a game-changer, because it goes against everything we’ve been led to believe about things. Cultural conditioning, not to mention a multi-billion dollar ad industry, teaches us that belongings hold meaning; they’re a measure of status and success. But it’s a catch-22, because, as author James Wallman explains in his book Stuffocation, “In that system, where more is always better, you can never have enough.”

That’s why, when you’re going through a stressful time – in work or life more generally – you might look to things to reward yourself. The typical example is keeping down a high-powered job that’s so stressful, you coax yourself through the week with treats. “During my time in D.C., there were so many things I wasted money on,” says Kristen Bor, a one-time Congress lobbyist who quit her job to live and work in a van. “Coffee every morning. Lunch. Happy hour. These things were part of my daily routine. I looked forward to them, and they helped me cope with the fact that I was unsatisfied.”

The same reasoning applies to material things;  “Instead of trying to understand who we really are, we reach for the ‘Real Thing,'”says Wallman. “When the goods we buy fail to match up to those deep desires, instead of giving up on material goods, we just keep banging our heads against the wall and buying more.” A dramatic de-clutter, however, sweeps away the comfort blanket and helps you see things for what they are.

A slower way of living

A lot of people think minimal living means going without, but that misses the bigger picture. “I live in a normal house, in a normal street, with normal children,” Chris Wray, of the blog, tells the Guardian. “I own a car and have rent and bills to pay. To all intents and purposes I’m as normal as you. Where I differ is I arrived at the conclusion that having more ‘stuff’ doesn’t make you happy.”

This realisation has real financial benefits. When you’ve gone to the effort of a dramatic clearout, suddenly you notice clutter everywhere else. Department stores and shopping malls, in particular, seem massively overcrowded and stressful. Overnight, spending money on unnecessary things – such a hard, mindless habit to kick – becomes second nature.

You stop shopping for the sake of it. You start thinking and considering everything that comes through your doorway. As Kondo says, “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” When you think of belongings as having to deserve a place in your life, rather than just existing by default, you become a lot more selective. Without things tying you either to your past (sentimental attachment) or the future (“I might need this because… “), you can focus on the present. And life becomes a lot calmer and slower as a result.

Experiences, not things

The reason why minimal living is so effective is that it has lasting consequences. Yes, you can raise some cash along the way by selling your items on eBay and Facebook Marketplace. But the process is bigger than that. And unlike say, renting your home, it’s more than a temporary solution. When you cut off the impulse that says things equal success – and more things will help you keep up – everything changes.

The desire for belongings is no longer there, so you shop only when you need specific things. Decluttering often sets off a chain reaction that translates from lower grocery bills to less weekly spend to fewer presents, a downsized home and so on. You realise you can get by on a lot less than you thought you could – and doing so brings financial freedom that plays into a broader sense of happiness. With each step, you feel more liberated, and so the cycle continues.

A happy byproduct of this is the money you can save to splurge on adventures. “If you have the ambition to radically reduce the amount you spend each month on discretionary items, it might be possible to start making significant savings towards your future goals – whatever they may be,” Hannah Robinson, financial planner at Ellis Bates tells the Guardian.

We know that the novelty of things wears off quickly; whereas experiences hold the potential for lasting happiness (we anticipate them better, they help us grow and we enjoy re-telling them). So there’s a pleasing logic that comes from decluttering. You save money by rejecting the power of things, which can then be reinvested into experiences – fuelling a lifetime of global adventures. Who can say better than that?

Images: Patrick Craig and Taylor Simpson on Unsplash

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