Less is More: 5 Ways to Start Managing Your Finances Like a Minimalist

minimalist interior with desk and chair on white walls
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Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Our lives are so complicated. Our world is so busy, so noisy, so distracting.

To counter that overwhelming feeling, there’s a movement afoot in America to embrace the idea of minimalism.

It means living with less. Buy less. Own less. You don’t need all this stuff to be happy. Without all that meaningless stuff dragging you down, you can focus on what really matters to you.

The Penny Hoarder recently ran an intriguing interview with Joshua Fields Milburn, one half of a two-man team who call themselves The Minimalists.

Stressed, miserable and overworked, Milburn quit his lucrative job and got rid of 90% of his possessions. Now he preaches the benefits of living a simple, meaningful life with less.

Now, we’re not suggesting you throw out 90% of your stuff. That’s not for everyone.

But along those lines, here’s an assortment of apps and tools that can help you simplify and streamline your life — and save you some money to boot.

1. Declutter Your Home

If you’re an American (or Canadian), let’s face it, you probably have stuff in your house or apartment you don’t need anymore. Get rid of your clutter —and make some extra cash — with these free apps:

Decluttr: Clear out your old DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, video games, old phones and other electronics. Scan the barcodes with your phone, and Decluttr will make you an offer. It’ll send you a shipping label, so you can ship everything for free. One user, Gil Flores, sold about 100 DVDs and 75 CDs and made $275, an average of $1.57 each.

Letgo: You can sell nearly anything through this app. Just snap a photo of your item and set up a listing in about 30 seconds.

2. Use a Simple Cash-Back Credit Card

Credit cards and cash-back rewards programs can be so freaking complicated. Pay this annual fee. Remember to scan your receipts. If you rack up enough airline miles, you can get 5% cash back at Shell gas stations on Wednesdays in July.

No. Forget that noise. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

With a simple cash-back rewards card, you get paid for every dollar you spend.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

3. Streamline Your Student Loans

Student-loan debt can be insanely complicated. It entangles you with your alma mater, the government, some private company you’re barely aware of, banks and sometimes debt collectors.

To simplify things, consider student-loan refinancing. Through a marketplace like Credible, you can refinance federal and private student loans.

Credible connects you with a lender to replace your multiple loans with a single loan, potentially with a lower interest rate and/or lower monthly payment. Just enter your info to see what your new interest rate could be.

4. Figure Out Where All Your Money Is Going

Nothing is more complicated than us humans and our weird spending habits.

To keep tabs on what you’re spending, use Trim, a Facebook messenger or text bot that helps you hold yourself accountable. It’s like a personal-financial assistant that lives in your phone.

The best part: Trim helps you negotiate bills with cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner or Charter. It’ll keep at it until it succeeds at saving you money. (It keeps 25% of whatever it saves you.)

5. Use Less Power, Spend Less Money

If you’re anything like me, you could probably be using less electricity. We all could. Have you already taken the basic steps to cut your power bill?

Contact your power company. Many offer programs that’ll lower your energy usage — and reduce your bill.

Again, minimalism is about living with less — even though our culture has conditioned us to want more, more, MORE.

Joshua Fields Milburn, one of the duo called The Minimalists, says it best:

“How might my life be better with less?” he encourages you to ask yourself. “Maybe I’ll be able to regain control of my finances. Maybe I’ll focus more on my health. Maybe my relationships will improve. Maybe I’ll reclaim my time and my creativity and work on that passion project.”

“Or maybe I’ll just have a cleaner house.”

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He has too much stuff.

*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.