I've always wanted to travel. When I was a little girl, I would flip hungrily through the pages of my parents' sociology books, excited to see that people in other places around the world lived entirely differently than I did.
But after I grew up, I realized everyone I knew was in debt. It seemed that having high credit card bills and loans was the norm. So, I forgot about travel for a long while because with student loans and other debt, my dreams of traveling seemed completely unobtainable.
I got a stable job. I settled into “normal life.”
Finally, three years ago, I woke up and realized I didn't give a crap about any of the pointless crap I owned. I remembered my dream of traveling and decided to embrace minimalism.
So, I decided to give myself one year to go completely minimalist and pay off the $10,000 of debt I had racked up, as well as save enough cash for my first international trip.
It was so much harder than I could ever have imagined, but I did it.
Here are the five things I did that made the most impact in paying off my debt and saving up for my trip:
1. I sold my expensive car and bought a more practical ride.
My car payment for my car was a shocking $490 a month when I started my journey to becoming a minimalist. Today, I only pay $120 for a cute little Toyota Yaris that not only gets me from point A to point B, but also packs a lot of storage space.
My new car also gets almost 40 miles to the gallon, so I save a ton on gas. Consider selling your SUV and investing in something that does the job, but won't make such a dent in your monthly income.
2. I stopped buying things just to buy them.
I evaluated everything I owned based on how often I used it, how well it performed the task it was meant to do and if I was comfortable with the amount of space it took up in my mind and physical dwelling.
When I was done purging, I bought nothing that I didn't absolutely need, no mater how good of a deal I could get. I save tons of money by simply not buying pointless stuff I didn't need. I know it seems simple, but when you really think about it, how much of what you own do you use?
3. I donated or sold most of my closet.
I struck up a friendship with a local thrift store, and the owner took many of my items on consignment. I go a very good commission, and I made almost $800 from selling items I hardly ever wore.
These days, it's even easier to do that with services like ThreadUp and Poshmark, which allow you to sell your old clothes online for an even higher profit margin.
4. I simplified my living situation.
I used to live in a nice one-bedroom apartment on my own. It was glorious, but also extremely expensive. To cut down on costs, I sold most of my furniture and moved into a furnished room with a friend with super low rent.
While I have much less space than I used to, I have come to not need hardly any space since I have so few belongings. I have even become interested in one day owning a tiny home.
5. I re-evaluated the services I was subscribed to.
I stopped paying for things like cable, my monthly subscription to Birch Box and other conveniences I loved, but were definitely holding me back financially.
Instead, I kept my Netflix subscription instead of cable, cut my cell phone plan back and started sharing internet. You could achieve this even if you decide to live alone by sharing with neighbors, but just be sure they are trustworthy.
Within nine months, I had reached my goal of being credit card debt-free, and I had saved enough for an international vacation. I took my first trip to Mexico that summer, and I have since experienced what life is like in Dubai, explored Thailand and am currently planning a trip in a few months to Peru to see Machu Picchu.
I finally have the debt-free life I always dreamed of, and it's all because I embraced minimalism, re-evaluated what I felt was important in my life and made a solid, dedicated effort to change.
And you can too if you really want it.
All you need are some beginner-friendly resources for adopting a minimalist lifestyle. If you are considering paying off a large debt, start by changing the way you think about buying, owning and saving rather than focusing on making more money. Good luck.