Minimalism revisited

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Last July I wrote that “Less Is More” in a piece about how a minimalist approach to spending leaves us with more to either spend on goods and services we couldn’t before or to put aside for our longer term financial future.

I’d focused on the redoubtable Michelle McGagh whom I’d met earlier that month and who was just over half way through her epic year of no spending, apart from mortgage, taxes, utilities and a food budget of £35 a week for two people. When I met Michelle, sticking to her ethos, she’d cycled to our meeting rather than incurring costs on public transport or parking.  I caught up with Michelle a couple of months ago and she was delighted to report that she did complete her challenge and was proud that she’d accomplished her goal, saving bucket loads of money in the process. However, needless to say, she’s relieved that the reins are off and she can go out for dinner or the cinema – and pay for it.

My challenge was a lot less extreme; in fact it was minimalism at its minimum. I’d vowed to stop buying vinyl records for a year.  However, I kept to my vow to not buy vinyl records.  Well, with one exception. The thing is, a must-have, previously unreleased and limited edition, David Bowie album was issued on Record Store Day in April.  I temporarily fell off the wagon.

But it doesn’t mean I’ve ditched my minimalist pledge and become a spendthrift. Life’s too short to forgo the occasional treat but I’m now a firm advocate of the philosophy that cutting back your spending is good not only for the wallet but for the soul.

As someone approaching 60, I simply don’t need to buy more stuff. Sure, I’m tempted to upgrade my portable music player but I’m going to resist and stick with the old model I have till it croaks.

Making yourself better off isn’t always about not buying stuff, it can be about selling stuff.  A different type of vow I pledge to make over the next 12 months, is to make inroads into selling as much of the perfectly decent technology, furniture and household goods I have in the loft but no longer use as I can.   So if I do need – says he using the loosest sense of the word – to buy something, I’ll make sure I’ve the money from the E-Bay sales fund beforehand.

I’m confident that over the next twelve months I will have a few more quid in the bank by not spending unnecessarily and by selling stuff. But taking care of your financial well-being isn’t always about penny-pinching.  As much as the enormous sense of well-being I get from buying some good food from the supermarket at knock-down prices just before closing time after which it would be past its sell-by date, making your financial future that little bit brighter is also about taking care of the money, however little, you do have.

Last year I was true to my word and invested in a stocks and shares ISA – I was prepared to keep this invested for at least five years but possibly more. So far it’s doing very nicely as the stock market has performed well over the past year but of course, investing in stocks and shares means the value of your investment can go down as well as up and you’re not guaranteed to get back the amount invested.  Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and tax law may change in the future.

I’ve not been diligent about seeing if I can do the same again this year so I pledge to take care of investing in a stocks and shares ISA for the current tax year sooner rather than later.

Finally whatever life stage you’re at, but particularly at my age, thinking about life after work could be beneficial to make sure you are on track to meet your goals. While my retirement is some years away yet, I’ll be looking at my pension investments to see if they are working as well as I’d hoped.  I am confident about making my own investment decisions but if you’re not, then consult an independent financial adviser.

Less spending, more selling and more checking my savings and investments are working as hard as possible is my mantra for the year ahead. Bring it on!

No advice has been provided by Scottish Friendly. If you are in any doubt as to whether a savings or investment plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial adviser for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.