Minimalism and money

I’m a minimalist.  I own very few physical possessions.  What use do I have for money?  Can a person claim to follow the Spartan Plan, if she has lots of money in the bank?  Minimalism and financial prosperity aren’t mutually exclusive. 

Much of my inspiration for the Spartan Plan came from historical figures like Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, and of course, the Spartans.  They saw asceticism as a way to transcend the human condition.  They understood that a focus on material acquisition distracts people from what truly matters in life--community.  My greatest professional aspiration is to positively influence the lives of over 1 billion people.  

For many of us, cash has become an end unto itself.  I disagree with this attitude.  Wealth is a tool.  One earns money by sharing valuable skills with their community, be it local, national, or global.  The best investors may have different strategies, but they’d all agree that stuffing your earnings in a mattress is lousy financial advice.  To truly master your resources you must invest. defines, “invest,” as, “to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve something.”  So a good investor spends money, but what should she spend it on?  

While most minimalists don’t earn boatloads of cash, it can be argued that significant sums of money make it easier to improve one’s community.  For example, I can donate my time to a charity.  Maybe I enjoy serving meals at a soup kitchen every weekend.  That’s a wonderful way to spend my time, but with proper funding, I can hire an army to feed the hungry.  Money gives me the ability to scale my reach and help more people.  

Can you follow the Spartan Plan and achieve financial independence?  I think so, but money should be a byproduct of the value you offer the world--not an end unto itself.  Using your oney for conspicuous consumption isn’t in line with the Spartan Plan, but money is a powerful tool when it comes to making the world a better place.