Minimalism & Money: Crazy Extreme Things I've Done to Save Money & Why You Shouldn't Do Them (Unless You Want To)

As I walk through my days in our log home deep in the woods, I think of you, my dear friend. I can see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice. With my work as a financial coach, I know that look. Money is tight right now for you.

For years, we were looking up at the poverty level thinking it would be nice to be poor. At one point, we had 4 pennies left in our budget. The next month, 25 cents. I called it "increase!" During this season, I began my journey to minimalism. Even as we were struggling to make ends meet, I felt this overwhelming drive to get my home, and life, in order.  I was desperate to be able to find my purse even if there wasn't any money in it.

My dear friend, maybe you are struggling to pay the bills, or maybe you make six figures+ but have debt that keeps this horrible sting in your soul. Maybe you just want to have enough time and space to sit down and eat a meal with your family. Without rushing. Without yelling. I understand.

As I walk through my days in my little log home, I think of you as I make bulk tea.  I keep thinking I should really tell you how much money it saves. My laundry baskets (2 for a household of 8 people) are from the half-off day at a local thrift store. I should tell you how I used to have 8 baskets overwhelming laundry mountains on the floor and deep depression in my mind.

I should tell you it's possible to change everything in your life, including your money. 

I saved money during that hard season of financial pressures in every way possible.

  • I made my own toothpaste (see the earlier blog article for the recipe) and my own deodorant. I didn't label them for my sweet husband and that had disastrous but funny results! Yes, he brushed his teeth with homemade deodorant! He loves to tell that story from stage when he teaches financial literacy workshops. I still laugh, but I make sure to keep those items nicely distinguishable now.

  • I made my own soap and burned my arms with lye. Be careful! It was fun and dangerous and I gave it as zero waste Christmas gifts.

  • I cut up old t-shirts for diaper wipes, and lined dried laundry in winter in front of the wood stove when our dryer broke during a double flu illness in our house.

  • I even gathered plants from our woods to cook, fun but a little risky. Always use extreme caution. I made scrambled eggs with day lilies and all the children got sick. Complete “mom-fail” right there.

  • I buy food in 50 lb bags. In a household this size, it lasts a week or two and I store it in paint buckets from Walmart. Don’t worry, they never had paint in them. They are #2 plastic so it’s food-safe enough for me.  

  • I saved the littlest scraps of fabric to make pillows and even made DIY mattresses that were cheaper and non-toxic.

  • I built my own couch from an old wooden door. That was not comfy.

  • I don’t own my socks. I borrow my daughters’ if needed in winter.

  • I cut my own hair (still do because You Tube videos can teach serious cool stuff).  

  • I went without a vehicle for 9 months, running to the grocery with three kids in the jogger stroller and prayed my husband's green Dodge Caravan he drove to work would last with 356,000 miles on it. It drove for two more years after our mechanic gave it the “last rites.” God knew we needed that extra time for our only vehicle to keep running.

  • I sewed my own baby clothes and had 2 homebirths after a c-section (not a recommendation just saying it was right for us).  Homebirth is much cheaper than a c-section, but that's not obviously the main reason we chose that path.

I canned and scrapped and scrimped and saved and tried every way possible until I was exhausted. 

Seriously, those are some crazy things to save money but none of that relieved the financial pressure entirely. I realized abundance is a choice first and always!

Especially with our economic and materialist system, you cannot "tight-wad"  your way to freedom. I believe that it is mathematically impossible due to our tax code and financial structures.  Many well respected financial educators suggest beans and rice until you are debt-free. I respectfully disagree. There is a deeper answer. The change had to happen in my heart first, before provision would come. 

My sweet friend, I had to change my view on money and ultimately how I viewed God and the world. Everything shifted as I opened my heart and my hands, beginning to share almost everything we owned to charity. I donated over 2/3rds of everything not because we had tons of money in the bank. I gave it away because I was desperate to create my best, inspired life. Somewhere deep in my soul I knew that holding onto "stuff" was keeping me from incredible goodness and gratitude. Being a tightwad is not living my best life.

I've done some extreme things to save money. And I still do them today (minus the homemade door-couch, we did “upgrade” by buying thrift store couches) because the money-saving rhythms just became part of normal life for us. And I love to do them, but I don't think you necessarily should work yourself to exhaustion just to scrimp a penny. That's not efficient.

My conclusion on saving money after all my extreme measures may surprise you. You can't save your way to abundance. Saving is only a first baby step to seeing ABUNDANCE in hidden spaces.

As I wake up in a house that is paid for, I crack my eyes to see the high wooden beams of our log home and I still am amazed at the incredible journey it took to get here. I had to become open to new information about money. Even with my advanced degree and certifications and having taught at a business college, I knew I didn't know everything about money. I started seeking answers. I also knew I needed help, a real live person along the way. I found my own financial coach (she's amazing and has tons of kiddos as well). I was able to help my family by creating additional streams of income, eliminating debt, and re-writing the story of our entire life. Oh my dear friend, we’ve had so much help along the way!

You don't need to make your own toothpaste unless you want to. Just becoming open and teachable for new ideas and believing a new life is possible - that is the first essential step. Then, start learning. Be a hungry student, evaluate how to save AND create money in a way that works for you.