This is a quick guide on what we do to keep even our finances minimal and simple.
1. Credit cards - we have one credit card account. And that is plenty! It is nice to have a credit card as a back up. Luckily, we have (what I personally think is the best option) a rewards credit card. What that means is that for every dollar or (currency equivalent) we spend we get points which we can then redeem for travel, cash, gift cards, etc. Additionally, the card is a travel card which means that it does not have conversion or foreign usage fees. This is what works the best for us and our lifestyle. We highly suggest if you do choose to get a credit card, that you choose one that works best for your life so that you do not need to have several different ones.
2. Debt - try to keep debt to a minimum. I do not include mortgage in this category as rent/mortgage is a an expense/debt that is pretty much non-negotiable as you've got to live somewhere and most people don't own outright. However any extra loans, credit lines and so on should be limited to a minimum. Focus on paying off debt if you have the financial ability as it will be better for the future. Living debt free is one of the most rewarding and meaningful things we have done. It is freeing not only for your wallet but also for the soul.
3. Daily expenses - cut them to minimum. Here is what we have to worry about:
-utilities (water, power, heat)
-rent/mortgage (at the moment we have both as we live in BG but we also own a house in Denver)
We do not own a car since we can get away without needing one which means that we do not have a car payment or car insurance. We do not have cable as we would never watch it (um..hellooo have you heard of Netflix?), we have no credit cards from retail stores, no timeshares....nothing we do not need. Also by living in a country with free health care we do not have to pay for health insurance. Well more specifically, I do not have to pay however, Loren does due to her immigration status at the moment but it is a drop in the bucket (even when paying out of pocket) for her health care costs than it would cost us back in the U.S. even with insurance.
To summarize there are expenses that are inevitable and there are expenses we choose to make. Limit the ones you can and choose not to have any that will burden you even more.
4. One checking and one savings account - simplify your finances! Do not lie to yourself that if you have one account for bills and one for the house and one for whatever it will make you save more. One account for saving and one checking is the way to go. It makes budgeting and tracking where your money is going much more straightforward and it shows you a clearer picture. It is easier to look at one big picture then to try to figure out the whole picture by looking at a small piece of it one at a time.
5. Stay organized and budget - budgeting will help you stay on track and achieve your goals. Stay focused and organized and not only will you end up saving money but you will also eliminate a lot of unneeded junk, frivolous purchases and work to get your balances in order.
6. Invest - if you know how to invest do it. We are still working on that part but if we somehow discover the magic formula we will let you know.
7. Go paperless - bills, bills, bills... that is all that it is in the mail these days. Go paperless or set up automatic payments. You will save so much time if you don't have to go through copious amounts of bills and going through the process of paying them manually. And by having automated payments your bills will be paid on time. It is harder when living on a smaller paycheck but if you have completed the previous steps already then eventually you will reach the point where you can simply have the bill automatically paid without stressing out if you have enough money in the bank to cover the payment. Bonus, a lot of companies are trying to encourage people to sign up for automatic bill pay by offering small discounts or reductions on your bill!
8. The last and most important one might be a bit controversial... Many of the people advocating in favor of minimalism do not own homes as it is a bit of an extra expense but I disagree. Yes it is a higher expense for now but eventually the mortgage should be paid off and in that sense you will be able to embrace an even better debt-free life. Real estate for me is the best way to invest in your future (of course all risks considered). I do not see why paying someone else’s mortgage is beneficial for my future and my financial independence.