When she saw the $20 bill I had folded and put in front of her, her eyes grew three sizes. She needed a minute to tap her almost-10-year-old vocabulary to be able say what her eyes meant. “That’s too much, Mom. I can’t take that. That’s a lot of money.”
My daughter was headed to sleepaway camp for two nights, and hitting the ATM was the easiest way for me to give her a little cash for snacks and anything else she might need while she was gone. It was not a painful $20. This was not a financial sacrifice.
But we live minimally. We do and buy what we need, with periodic exceptions. And her reaction to that $20 showed us that our decision to intentionally live minimally had left an imprint.
We talked about the moment later, unpacking the benefits of our choices, especially when it comes to our consumer habits. We gift our kids experiences over toys, and that whole concept has been whole-heartedly embraced to the point that they begin scouting potential adventures months ahead of birthdays and Christmas. We do this knowing that it has both short-term and long-term benefits for them and for us. Here are a few reasons why we choose to embrace minimalism.
It’s just plain cheaper.
That is the most obvious, immediate benefit. Every purchase adds up, so it only makes sense to make those purchases count. We have saved an untold amount of money by choosing to take the inexpensive route, even if that route is something less convenient. And, by living minimally, we have a greater opportunity to save for the bigger, longer-term expenses we want to spend our money on.
It fosters self-reliance.
Necessity truly is the mother of invention. By living minimally, our kids have an opportunity to create. Think of what kids can do with an oversized, cardboard box. Absent every gadget and a bottomless budget, kids are forced to feel the freedom of creativity and embrace a general “let’s figure this out” attitude. They also discover, pretty quickly, that they can count on themselves to solve problems that come their way.
It teaches about needs.
Kids are inundated with messaging — from every angle, it seems — about things they “need.” Especially this time of year. Toys. Technology. And, as they get older, clothes, shoes, make-up and the entire impulse-buy section at every store. Giving them the confidence to bypass things they don’t need early on will only benefit them in the years ahead, when they start making their own financial decisions. It also helps a parent’s sanity when the kids are young. Try standing firm against buying that “one thing” they think they need, and then try it again the next time they beg for something. It gets easier.
It gives kids lasting memories.
Try to remember what you got for Christmas when you were 8. It’s a challenge at best. That’s why we veered away from things, focusing instead on experiences. There is no forgetting skydiving or zip-lining, a horseback ride in the mountains or a first-ever trip on an airplane. Moments are gifts, and the memories from them last longer than anything that requires batteries.
It means less clutter.
This seems like another obvious benefit, but it’s something you can feel, almost immediately. Allowing kids to appreciate moments, instead of the act of tearing wrapping paper off boxes, is priceless. And fewer toys around the house means fewer toys to clean up. Raising little minimalists also simplifies travel, because they know they just need the necessities, which generally fit in a backpack.