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How my partner became a minimalist

I got this question in an anonymous Ask Sherry forum but decided a full post on this was in order.

How did you partner start off / turn into being a minimalist?

So my partner started off as a minimalist right from birth in the sense that his parents had been through the war, and being mentally scarred from that, they refused to spend any money on anything not related to staying alive and basic living.

They basically only spent money on food and rent. That was it.

It was not an easy childhood.

My partner jokes about it but he is slightly resentful about it all. I am talking no toys until they were old enough to complain that kids got at least ONE TOY, so his parents caved and bought one doll and a G.I. Joe.

They only spent where it was necessary and having fun was not necessary to surviving.

Food was however, they could eat WHATEVER they wanted in WHATEVER amounts. They barely had any furniture, zero electronics (no TV, no computer, nothing), and when their refrigerator broke, they went two weeks without it until his mother firmly put her foot down and demanded they buy a new one.

My partner had a very creative childhood, but he felt deprived.

Even their school supplies were heavily rationed and he remembers that on the first day of kindergarten, they refused to send him to school with crayons (deemed it frivolous). He went with whatever they had in the house — a brown pen, a green one and a black one.

He could basically only draw trees all day, and other kids made fun of him, teased him.. they all found him really weird and poor, so no one wanted to be friends with him.

A lot of the stories are like that, a bit funny but also painful to hear.

To be clear, they had enough money.

His parents HAD money to send them to the movies once in a while, or pay for soccer during the summer, but because they were so traumatized during the war where they fought over every scrap of food, they simply could not bring themselves to spend the money. A little tragic.

Out of that, came two forms of coping mechanisms for the kids:

My partner accepted some of the minimalist teachings, in the sense that he realized what was important in life (food, yes, television, no), and acknowledged that his parents had some good ideas in not wasting money on clothes and things. He also realized that focusing on food was key, and that we don’t need what we think we need.

He had minimal stuff to begin with when we met.

I did as well as I was very much in debt and at the time, was powering through $60,000 of student debt, putting even PENNIES towards paying it off online.

As we went on in the years, we didn’t accumulate much, but when we packed to move, it was a surprising amount of stuff for two people with very little.

Obviously as we moved again and again, accumulated more, got rid of more, had a baby, and now have a permanent place, we have definitely doubled if not tripled our items from when we first started out, but the one area where we have not increased is in furniture.

We may have upgraded pieces going from a folding chair to custom made wooden ones, but we haven’t increased the number of pieces of furniture.

We still have no couch, no end table, no dresser, no bed frame.

We have a futon on the floor (this is why we sleep on a Japanese futon), three tables we use as desks and take out to use as eating tables once a year for events, our custom chairs and bar chairs and that’s it.

His siblings on the other hand, kept some minimalist aspects of their childhood but his one sister went the opposite.

She accumulates and hoards. She basically has two houses, one for storing stuff and another for living.

They live in a very small space (kitchen and bedrooms mostly), but the entire house is FILLED with stuff. She cannot toss anything and it is not as bad as Hoarders like on TV, but it is very overwhelming for us when we visit (although most people would consider what she has normal, my parents have just as much, truth be told.)

I think we can call ourselves practical minimalists in the sense that Little Bun has some toys but it is nothing like what other kids have (half of his toys are actually boxes from things I have purchased online), and while my closet is 100% maximalist and not minimalist, the rest of the apartment is very sparse.

My friends remark each time they come over how clean it is, but that is because we don’t have much in way of furniture, and we don’t have a lot of STUFF that takes up a ton of space.

You’ve seen my apartment right?

That’s what it looks like most of the time give or take new toys or things we switch out.

Case in point:



Same place, we just (as you can see) have real chairs now, instead of the folding chair above, partly seen with Little Bun’s legs dangling…

(You can see more of my house here — Sherry’s Home ..)

But your partner seems so organized & good with money…

As for being organized and good with money… he is organized because he has a slight OCD tendency. A real one.

He likes things in squares, and stacked neatly, and labelled to the T.

He cannot stand it when lines are crooked, paint is chipping…. this is all great when you want someone to fix up the home to be perfect, but it can also be exhausting to be around someone SO PARTICULAR. I am a little more laissez-faire and I don’t mind a paint chip here and there, but he sees everything.

In minute detail. All the flaws, all the fixes.

He is constantly fixing up this apartment which is almost brand new, can you imagine a real fixer upper?

OMFG I’d die in the middle of renovations.

It is GREAT that he wants to do all of that, but I am not so picky.

…but for the “good with money” bit…

In terms of being good with money, I’d say he is awesome at saving, but not until recent years because I’m a PF fanatic, has he been any good at investing.

Case in point:

He and I left our companies at the same time with about the same amount saved. I immediately moved the money to another bank THE DAY AFTER I QUIT, and started paying the lowest MERs I could on my mutual funds.

He, left his money in there.

5 years later, he comes to me with his statement and says: LOOK! 0! RETURN! I can’t believe this! I have AS MUCH saved in there as I did 5 years ago.

I gave him this look, and showed him MY statement of the money I moved.

I doubled my money in the exact same time because I moved it to better funds, AND I had lower management fees where I moved the money.

He looked back at me, and then I wrote him a long email on what to do which can pretty much be summed up here in my book: Investing like a Boss – Spend only 4 hours a year.

The next 6 months, he started moving his money out, researching into what I told him, and opening and buying what I suggested.

So I take care of Little Bun’s money

He lets me handle Little Bun’s investment money because I am good at this and I will make sure it grows enough to cover his education (although we will obviously try for scholarships and grants), and only in VERY recent years he has been dead focused on saving every penny and retiring ASAP.

So right now, he does have more money than me and CAN retire early, but that is because he has been working full-time for about 3 years longer than I have (I had a baby in between and then took a contract break in between again), and he has been squirrelling away every penny whereas I have been grass hopping with my savings and spending happily because I know I have 30+ years left in me, whereas he is sick of work and wants to quit now.

Two different mindsets.

Final word on minimalism

As for the final word on ‘minimalism’, we will not be as Scrooge-y as his parents.

We didn’t grow up during the war, my partner still has resentment about what he didn’t get, and we WILL be buying all his school supplies, crayons, books, putting him in soccer leagues and giving him what he wants to have a happy but modest childhood.

We aren’t buying him a car for his birthday, nor are we going to overindulge him, but we are going to give Little Bun as much as he needs and wants to be happy.

No spoiling, but no deprivation either.

I already repeated many times to my partner that I am not on board with NOT giving Little Bun things, and he has come around a bit but has to rein me in when I want to go crazy and buy a ton of items ALL THE TIME for Little Bun because I think it’s cute or that he’d enjoy it.

We balance each other out, yin and yang.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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  1. SarahN

    My take away pondering (ie many hours later) was: which war. So few wars are in our lifetime (and with people of our class that we’d meet and interact with them). As such, I speculate it may have been the Yugoslavia tensions. Cause Rwanda seems less likely, but then I did consider it as it’s French speaking. No need to clarify, just aimless speculation!

  2. Financial Orchid

    Is that the living/dining area next to the kitchen?
    Actually I stayed in a “hacker house” like that before. Basically living room where couch would be is several desktop set ups. If you have techy friends it’s a dream come true living space LOL – with possibly ipads every 5 feet.

    My dining table is also my laptop area. I am contemplating converting my nook into an actual desktop set up with a large comfy chair since I stare @ the computer for SO many hours X_X But then I’d have no room for entertaining.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Actually our kitchen counter is the dining table. Our work desks CAN be pulled out to be a huge long dining table (covered by a cloth) but this doesn’t happen often.

      We are very tech-y the both of us, we love gadgets.. obviously….

    2. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      The question to ask is: How often do you entertain? How often do people come and stay over?

      Why set up your 100% space for 1% of your life?


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