The most important advice you will get is “save money by starting early.”
And that’s exactly what we did. When we started working, we invested into our 401(k) accounts and we saved our bonuses. Having a compensation plan with a substantial portion of our salary in the form of a bonus is a great automatic savings approach.
But then things changed. We bought a house. We bought new cars. We became consumers.
We continued saving, but we also spent money on lots of stuff. Our 20’s were an accumulation phase.
Over the years, we have accumulated more than we have thrown away. So if you are anything like us, you have lots of stuff. I’m talking full closets, drawers, garages, attics, storage units, and things stacked in the corners. I don’t want to exaggerate. We don’t live in a hoarders house, but we definitely have too much stuff.
And the problem is all this stuff keeps you from living your life. One of the reasons we like to travel (besides seeing new places) is that when we leave our house, all we have with us is what we carry. By not having much stuff, we can focus on the world around us. We can focus on each other.
With this realization, I’ve decided to make our home a little less crowded. I don’t want to feel the need to leave our home to feel this connection to the world and to each other.
It’s time to purge all this stuff that I’ve been collecting for years and years.
Make Money by Getting Rid of Clutter
Here’s an inventory of the stuff I am going to get rid of:
Clothes. I don’t know how I have accumulated so many articles of clothing. Most of it doesn’t fit anyway. Some items are too small – from my thin days. Some are too big – from my large days. And all are probably out of style, although I am not much for current style trends (this is a PF blog not a style blog after all).
Electronic parts. I take stuff apart. Always have. Even when I was a child, I was always taking things apart and never putting them back together. I have 6 tubs full of electronic parts. Most of this stuff will never be used again and it’s in the way.
Old papers. We have old papers everywhere. As an example, I have expense reports from 1998 in a filing cabinet in the closet. And because the filing cabinets are full of really old papers, the more current papers are stacked in boxes.
Books. I love books and I’ve been collecting them for years. My parents have owned a used book store for 25 years and we regularly stop by and pick up books. Rarely do they ever go back to the store. But it’s not just fiction that fills our shelves, there are also textbooks from college and from my CFA studies. I’m pretty sure I will never need my 20 year-old organic chemistry textbook.
Parts. These parts are different than the electronic parts I mentioned above. These are left over parts from stuff other than electronics. These are things I have taken off my car (i.e., old windshield wiper motors). There are also extra pieces from things I have assembled. My garage has more parts and pieces that will never get used again. They just take up space and create clutter.
Furniture. Do we really need Ms. Financial Slacker’s childhood bed? I’m pretty sure it will never get used in our house and it takes up space in the garage. We need to donate it so a little girl can have a nice place to sleep. Things like this are meant to be used, not stored.
Save Money by Cutting Expenses
It’s great to get rid of all this stuff. And if I work at it, I’ll be able to make money selling a few of these items on Craigslist. Some will be donated which will give us a tax deduction. And the rest will be recycled or thrown away.
And while the proceeds from selling and tax deductions are good, the way I’ll save money is by purging my unnecessary expenses. Because just like I have been collecting stuff over the years, I have also been collecting expenses.
I estimate that I can cut at least $10,000 per year by eliminating the following:
Cable TV. I’ve been working on cutting the cable TV cord for years. We have Apple TVs, and Fire TVs, and Chromecasts on most of the TVs in the house. And the kids don’t watch much regular TV, preferring YouTube on their tablets. I have an HDTV antenna on the roof. Using that along with the apps, we should be fine. And to be honest, we all could afford to watch a little less TV anyway.
Home landline. All four members of our household have our own cell phones. We also have business lines in the house because both Ms. Financial Slacker and I work from home. We rarely answer the home landline unless we know who is calling. It’s really unnecessary.
Club membership. I can play golf at one of the public courses or one of the resort courses. I don’t play often enough to justify the monthly expense, my children are too busy to use the pool, and Ms. Financial Slacker doesn’t care to eat in the restaurant. Goodbye country club.
Subscriptions. Over the years, I have signed up for services that I no longer use regularly, but continue to pay for out of habit. Magazines and newspapers that I no longer read. Duplicative streaming services. A whole collection of online services. These can certainly be consolidated and many of them eliminated.
Meal delivery services. We order from a meal delivery service regularly. This is expensive. It’s essentially the same as going out (including a tip) plus paying a delivery fee. It’s easier than going out, which means we do it more often. By reducing the number of times we use a meal delivery service or go out to eat, we can save money every month.
Household services. When you are working all the time and especially if you travel for work, it’s hard to find the time and motivation to get things done around the house. But paying people to clean your house or to maintain your yard or to fix things just seems like a waste. Save money by doing these things yourself. And at the same time, teach your children self-reliance.
Improve Your Life by Simplifying
Now that I have cleared the clutter to make space and cut expenses to save money, we can focus on the things that matter – family, friends, and time for ourselves. While we will be spending time working on the yard and we will be assigning household chores, we will be doing those things together.These activities are part of living life and when you pay someone else to do them, aren’t you essentially paying someone else to live your life?
We will extract ourselves from our tablets, our phones, and our other electronic devices that seek to disconnect us from each other and instead will engage in conversation. We can play board games and card games. We can go outside and explore the neighborhood.
This is just a small step toward a different life, but that is how every journey begins. I’m excited to be taking this step and look forward to where it will take us.
Have you felt disconnected from the world? How did you reconnect? Do you spend more time managing your life rather than living it? Do you have ideas for smart ways to save money?
Mr. PIE says
Cutting ( decimating) our restaurant splurging has been one of the big ways that we have boosted savings rate. It’s so easy to get into the habit of one takeout per week that becomes two and then add on morning Starbucks and other convenient dining and suddenly you are spending north of four figures. Slowly and surely we have cut back big time and Mr. Vanguard is grateful to benefit from that habit change.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
Mr. PIE –
The young Financial Slackers have become very fond of stopping at the Starbucks on the way home from school in the afternoons. At $12 to $18 per trip, I explained that Starbucks can easily exceed the cost of their cell phone service. And is it really worth it?
The gold Starbucks card I just got in the mail tells me we haven’t done a very good job controllng that impulse buy.
Thanks for the comment.View Comment
Elle @ New Graduate Finance says
Man, can I relate to your statement about clothing.
I own lots of clothing. Like you, lots of it doesn’t fit. But I still keep it. Just in case one day it decides it will fit again.
Does this make sense? Not at all. Do I still do it? Of course.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
I even tried to rationalize keeping old clothes by saying, “maybe my kids will want to wear it someday.” What was I thinking? There is no way my kids would wear my old clothes.
Just get rid of it. There is someone out there less fortunate that really could benefit from those items.View Comment
I love, love, love decluttering. We’ve recently taken up backpacking and it’s so liberating to be in the middle of nowhere with only a 20 lb pack, yet still knowing that I have everything I need for a week. So every time we get home from a trip there’s this urge to purge our house of the extra.View Comment
I’ve never watched much TV, but after being outdoors and surviving without it, my husband finally cut the cable too!
Financial Slacker says
We love camping, but haven’t done as much backpacking since I was younger. We back up to National Forest land so it’s easy. I just we wish we had more free time to get out more often.
For me, decluttering is as much mental as it is physically getting rid of stuff. As you go through the process, you can feel the psychological weight being lifted off your shoulders.View Comment
LF Tommy says
Great stuff. I can totally relate. I was a corporate drone and it wasn’t until I hit age 40 before I figured out that there has to be a better way to live. I did a major declutter a couple of years ago. I was happy to find my old Air Jordans in the closet. They were a 1986 Italian made model that I stored in their original box. I was surprised to find they were collectible. A quick eBay listing and the bids ran up to $1084. Don’t just throw out or donate everything. Sometimes our old crap is valued by people with more money than FIRE sense.View Comment