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Minimalism and Economics

minimalism and the economy

My husband is getting dangerously good at photography. I love this pic!

I have heard that minimalism is dangerous for the economy.  That somehow if too many people accept these ideas the economy will explode and we will all die… an painful and slow death.  I don’t think this could be further from the truth.

I believe that if the whole world would become minimalist it would be a better place.  Not saying that everyone has to, but it is a safe and amazing possibility.

It seems like current government opinion is that we need to spend, spend, spend, and go into debt (just like them) to keep the economy going.  Spending does create jobs, but lets not get to excited with that idea and say it isn’t minimalist. Minimalists aren’t afraid to use money.  That being said I think it would turn the economy upside down.  It would be very bad for say… big houses… utility companies… trinket sellers… etc.

Here are the 5 ways I see minimalism benefiting our world and our economy:

1.  Quality would be valued

Becoming minimalist doesn’t mean anyone has less money to spend.  There is still the same amount of money coming in, still the same amount of money to circulate through the economic channels.  However, since less quantity is needed (or wanted) more quality will be chosen instead.   I could especially see technology benefiting.  Instead of buying cheap computers and cell phones that break within weeks, more people would be able to spend for and benefit from quality.

Quality is a beautiful thing with finances because it makes more money available later when we would have had to replace lesser quality items.  Ideally this would be a spiral of getting better and better quality 🙂

2.  Less waste

It is sick to me how much we spend on junk that just breaks or fades shortly after we buy it.  I have heard (and don’t doubt – planned obsolescence) that it is actually intended to break down so we will need to buy another.  This makes me angry not only for my wallet, but for the earth!  Here we are encouraged to bring re-usable bags to the store where companies are making things designed to go to the dump.  Seriously?

Not only do minimalists buy less things – therefore less to throw away later, ideally they will see through this mess and demand quality (reason #1) and we will reward companies who build things to last.

3.  New technology would be encouraged

With quality being prized over quantity and less turnover (and waste) of belongings there would be an increased demand for new technology in other areas of our life.  If our cell phone works great and lasts more than 1 year maybe we could spend on new inventions in other areas.

4.  Service and local business would grow

If you look at the majority of ‘things’ in your house (minimalist or not) they are made in a far away country and probably not in great working conditions.  This is what the ‘make it as cheap as possible’ economy demands.  However, those who are concerned about quality and knowing where their things come from would purchase more and more from local businesses.  Already, local business can often create better quality but can’t compete on price with cheaper overseas alternatives.

Service business would also be able to grow.  Less money spent on things means more money spent on experiences and services.  Service businesses are (most often) local.

At least here in the USA I think we would see lots more of our dollars staying in this country instead of being spent on foreign products.  Not only is this better for this countries economy, it cuts down on a lot of transportation cost/waste that is hurting the environment.

5.  Self-Control and Intentional Living would be practiced

The need for self-control seems to be at the root of so many problems in our society.  From health to money to relationships and much more.  Learning to think before purchasing and choosing to live with less, when human nature tells us more is always better, is a huge character discipline.  This strength can then be used in other areas of the life to help make our lives, families, and bodies better.

From there we can move to intentional living and working to make other’s lives better as well.  When we aren’t so busy trying to get the biggest and best and fight for the top we can spend time helping others around us.

So,..

I don’t see anything changing anytime soon and it wouldn’t be an easy change, but adopting minimalism should never be seen as something hurting the economy…. just twisting it a bit and making it work for us instead of rule over us 🙂

*note:  I am not an economist, just a dreamer.

How has your spending changed since adopting a more simple life? (if you are reading RSS or currents join us in the comments)

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35 Comments

  1. Shelly Shelly

    I recently heard someone talk about Organic food as being a waste of money. I’m not out to change other people’s minds, but neither should they change mine. I’m sure neither non-organic nor non-minimalist will go extinct… EVER. I like your points. Money will be made based on whatever people value. Right now, the majority value stuff. What if practical training, experiences, and holistic healthcare were focus to mainstream spending? There would simply be a shift from “stuff” to other profitable things. I like how you think outside the box. There are many useful things being sold to minimalists. Minimalists still consume. I think people can get a little extreme in their perceptions at times.
    We can celebrate our agreements as well as our differences. No need to stress that “if everyone did ______________… what would happen” because that really isn’t ever going to happen.
    Great flow of ideas from your post! Thank you!

    • thanks so much for your comment 🙂 I know that not everyone will every accept it, it just bugs me the idea that ‘what your doing is fine, but it isn’t sustainable’. I want to say ‘no, the current economy as well as the pressure it puts on the earth isn’t sustainable’

  2. I have to agree with all 5,makes perfect logical sense to me (especially #5).

    In our own home,we’ve started evaluating each “major” purchase (which for us is anythign approaching $75-100),and once that has been done long enough to become habit,we will be lowering the cutoff price until eventually we’ll be sitting down and really thinking about each purchase. We didn’t realise how deeply consumerism (or otherwise the “need” to “gotta have it now” mentality) we had let become ingrained into our kids until we statred this practice…long road ahead to teach them more responsible spending habits that what we (ok…I myself,mostly) taught them already…

      • thanks 🙂

    • this week trying to do the ‘no spend’ challenge has been harder for me than I thought. I didn’t realize how easily I rationalized spending money.

  3. I think that the problem that when people talk about the economy suffering if everyone was minimalist, well it obviously is true. The economy is based on how much stuff people buy, so if people stop buying stuff, the GDP and entire structure of the economy would suffer. Not that I necessarily think that is a bad thing. However, I am not sure that as a Western country we could go backwards like that. It may not seem like it, but we are so dependent on this type of economy now, I think we would probably lose a lot of the normalcy that we still find we need even as a minimalist. If the economy and GDP decrease, I think things as normal as shopping at a grocery store would not be available anymore. While I have systems set up to buy directly from farmers, I think that people who have no other option but to go to walmart – they would have a problem. If people aren’t buying stuff, walmart isn’t going to continue to exist. I’m not entirely sure what the answer is though. Obviously, the fact that we buy so much stuff (and most of it is to replace other stuff that doesn’t last more than 6 months), is a problem, but I can’t see people changing their thinking enough to get to that point.

    • yeah, I agree. ‘if’ it every happened (which it won’t) it would be a pretty bumpy change 🙂

  4. Isn’t the US in that downward spiral right now? Unemployment is insanely high > consumption is down = economy screwed? Over night if everybody reduced their consumption of stuff, it absolutely would affect the economy. But that’s not a bad thing in the long run. In fact, let’s give the economy a break and make it a slow, gradual phenomenon. Each new “minimalist” encourages another and so on and so on. Thing is, the “machine” tends not to like such trends and tries to change them when there is no hope rather than embracing and changing itself.

    • yeah, I am not really an economist, but it seems like the economy is hurting. The plan to fix the economy is to have people spend more money, but already people are spending more than what they make… with very basic math, I’m not sure this can work. However, spending to boost the economy can still be on quality stuff and services. Making these purchases now will boost the areas of the economy we want to grow 🙂

      • I’m not an economist either. But it seems that spending got the US in a bad predicament in the first place: banks were waiving home loans in front of people that couldn’t afford them (you know, to foster the Great American Dream of home ownership), and people developed an insatiable appetite for cheap stuff made in China–hence, something like $16T in debt to China.

        You’re right that spending can be good. And as you suggest; on quality things only. Quality things made in the US or other, sustainable import markets.

        • Yep! Loans are bad 🙂

  5. Laura Laura

    Our spending has definitely gone more towards quality!

    A small example (of many) is the new Cuisinart stainless steel roasting pan we bought. I don’t know how many cheap roasting pans I’ve gone through (I cook a lot) in the past 10 years. The metal is flaking? Walmart. Rusting? Walmart. Warped? Walmart.

    Since going minimalist and downsizing I have started replacing the things I need with high quality (hopefully long lasting) replacements.

    My turkeys look so pretty in a nice shinny pan!! 😉

    • that’s awesome 🙂

  6. I agree with and practise the buying quality model – hopefully the products are US made, but I also see the need for people in other countries to earn a living, so I’m torn there. My hope would be that if we bought quality US goods, we would use the extra money to visit other countries (and spend tourism dollars) and/or buy fair trade things (like coffee) that we cannot produce here.

    • In my opinion (and it’s just that,my OPINION,and I’m not implying or outright stating anyone needs agree with me),we should care for and make priorety-one the US of A first above any other nation’s economy,including our allied nations-THEY do. Understanding that we all share the planet,how can we be concerned with other nations ecopnomies when we have so many starving and homeless right here within our own land? By no means am I saying we shouldn’t visit other countries for our own enjoyment (and if they gain some tourism moneys in the process,great),but IMO if we’re looking to spend money specifically to help someone out (not refering to 3rd world countries who are in desperate need,mind you) we have more than enough people here.

      Spending our moneys here buying quality products is a win-win,everyone benefits from better built things,plus if they’re built here and people are shopping for higher quality rather than “I want it yesterday,and cheaper than the Jones’s got it for!” it creates jobs right here for our own people…who can then better afford to go overseas to vacation/donate to others in need…food for thought anyways.

      • Stephen,
        You said what I meant much more eloquently than I! Thanks!

        • Awe,shucks (blushing),thank you 🙂

      • I tend to agree, Stephen. Whilst I think it’s of great importance that we help out people in greater need in other countries as well–through aid, volunteering, and other arrangements–I think we do have certain responsibilities to our home country. Not only from an economic perspective but an environmental one.

        Relying on other country’s cheap labour to mass produce goods is how we have ended up in a lot of trouble. For instance, I live in Australia and our biggest export market is China. We send them vast quantities of minerals and fuel that we mine and buy back the value-added products they produce with them. It’s a bit of a bizarre set up really: we sell the cheap stuff and buy back the expensive stuff. Having said that, our economy has done markedly during the economic turbulence of the past few years. But it has done so on the back of unsustainable practices. It will all come crashing down…

        • Wow,that DOES sound un-sustainable…I can understand how the temptation to jump onto having the extra work available is impossible to resist (as a person,I’m assuming as a conutry),and I’m the world’s WORST for stepping on my own foot for short term fixes…I honestly don’t know what to say about that,other than when/if “it crashes down” all of those individuals it will affect are in my prayers.

          IDK that it’s directly related to your comment,but for whatever reason,it makes me think about some issues right here in my area…the coal fields of VA/TN/KY/WV (I’m currently in eastern TN,but birn and raised 2 hours from here in VA to a coal mining family-I was a truck driver before becoming disabled after a codriver wrecked me however,I have never worked in a mine)…there are thousands of families being affected right now (and throughout my lifetime by constant layoffs and call backs,depending on coal mines to support their families,knowing full well that it isn’t sustainable (or aywhere near green practices,not to mention very dangerous),yet adamantly staying doggedly determined to keep the mines going to avoid all of the change and hardships OF those chnges to more sustainable energy sourcing…my Dad,all my extended family (as well as my Wife’s),they’re all lifetime miners-I’m torn between loyalty for them and longing for greener energy,this too will one day crash down (if said crash hasn’t begun already…).

          • Woops…I didn’t mean to hijack or get off subject,apologies 🙂

          • haha, no worries. I love seeing the discussion 🙂

          • It definitely is related, Stephen. The situation in Australia isn’t much different–in principle–to the one in the US, or a heap of other countries. I guess our “lucky” position comes from the fact that we weathered the sub-prime issue pretty well, we are amidst a mining boom (which has started to slow), and we have always had a fairly competent government.

            If you feel strongly enough for something, you may become disloyal to them. But I think that’s all part of defending what is right. For instance, I am an ethical vegan. I oppose all exploitation of animals. If I had any friends or family directly employed by the industry, sure, it would suck when they lost their job, but its for a greater good. Declining industries give birth to new ones.

    • sounds like a plan to me 🙂

    • Raymund, thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  7. I agree with your post today, it’s a nice reminder of why I have started this liberating journey. I am just starting to shed all unnecessary things in my house and I am using Freecycle and Goodwill as outlets to get rid of stuff. I feel that at the same time I am doing something good for our family, somebody else who could really use all this stuff can benefit too.

    • I have never been able to figure out Freecycle, but we put lots of things ‘free’ on craigslist. Within a few hours people were there to claim their ‘treasure’. I think it is awesome to help others out like this and have items get reused. 🙂

      • I’ve never been able to work it out either. I tried to sign-up on my city’s page, but had all sorts of technical issues. Yahoo! certainly isn’t as smooth and intuitive as Google.

        I tend to leave stuff on the street curb and it’s gone within the hour. (I live in a fairly busy part of a capital city and many of my neighbours are international students that are just trying to set up their home.)

        • that works 🙂

  8. What a wonderfully thought-out post! I’m probably the lest educated person in economics, but I do know this– that less money circulating would make our currency more valuable. And truly, that wouldn’t be an entirely horrible thing. We’d see so many things homemade again. Quality would definitely once again be valued the way it should be. People would be forced to get creative in making a living. My husband is in the middle of that– we weren’t quite making ends meet, so he is starting an IT support business. Sure, it takes a lot of faith, but it’s a fun journey. Thanks, Lorilee!

    • I think regardless of what’s going on on the other side of the fence, everything you and your husband, and Lorilee and Stephen, and everybody else that is trying to live more simply, is on the right track. How can it be a bad thing to reprioritise one’s life as to not revolve around consumerism and unquestioned tradition?

      I think the same of the energy industries. Regardless of whether climate change is real or not (it is real), doesn’t seem wiser to use renewable sources over polluting, finite ones?

      • Very good points 🙂

        Checked out and commented on your bog,BTW,I likes it 🙂

      • Paul, you gotta check out Evelyn’s blog too. I think you would like it. She is more ‘hard core’ than me on living small 🙂

    • I agree the job world is changing a bunch. I think there is way more self-employment and contract work. ‘Real’ jobs are less secure. We have been self-employed for 5+ years now with different projects and we have never gone hungry. Good luck!

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