Want Less is “a blog about ditching stuff, beating debt and getting a life.” And Simplicity Voices is a curated space for articles on minimalism, slow living, wellbeing and financial freedom. Both are terrific.
Claire’s popular blog Want Less caught my eye because I had written a piece called Want Less. I started reading Claire’s articles and I was immediately drawn to her refreshing perspective on simple living and money. And I was curious to learn more about her story.
In this Q&A we cover:
- What ‘Want Less’ means
- Claire’s beating £15,000 of debt. She very recently became debt-free!
- Managing money as a couple
- A cherry blossom party in Tokyo
- And much, much more.
1: Who is Claire WantLess?
Hi! I’m a very daft individual who got completely stressed out and overwhelmed after stacking up debts by spending money on complete crap. I hope to help other people change their lives by documenting my many silly mistakes and experimenting with ways to improve my situation.
I live in the north of England with my wife, Ruth, and my slightly deranged dachshund, Jeffrey.
2: How would you describe your notion of ‘Want Less?’ For instance, in my article Want Less I think of ‘wanting less’ as a skill that can be learned. And specifically a skill that can lead to a faster/easier path to financial freedom. I’m curious to hear your concept of wanting less.
In general, financial advice will often fall into two categories: find ways to earn more or find ways to spend less.
I’m naturally drawn towards the latter, because I find being on the hustle stressful, but simply depriving yourself of things you enjoy is just going to make you miserable. Also, cutting loads of coupons or driving to three grocery stores to find the best deals can also be a recipe for stress as well!
So I see the phrase ‘want less’ as being about building a good life with a few simple ingredients. It’s about reconsidering what you really need out of life, and saving money on the rest.
For me, that’s been about slowing down: getting rid of clutter, carving out more breaks in my day, spending less time shopping for shiny new things and more time with family or friends. Saving money has been an added bonus.
3: What’s the story behind Want Less? As in what steps led to your starting the blog? And would you also talk a bit about what steps led to your other site Simplicity Voices?
I started my blog Want Less as a way of documenting the different things I was trying to do to slow down, chill out and save money. Its strapline is ‘Ditching stuff, beating debt, getting a life’, and that’s pretty much what it’s all about.
I’d been reading loads of great blogs in all sorts of different areas, from minimalism to extreme early retirement, and I wanted to share my experience too as I started making some big changes.
In particular, I really wanted to drastically reduce my belongings. But in reality, I’ve found this really hard-going. I’m more sentimental about stuff than I had realised!
I found myself turning to other minimalism blogs, podcasts and YouTube videos again and again for inspiration, almost as if they recharged my enthusiasm for getting rid of my stuff. It occurred to me that simplifying isn’t a skill you learn once, but something you have to continually reinforce in yourself. I’m not religious, but many religions use repetition – prayers throughout the day or services once a week – so worshippers can keep their faith at the front of their minds, and it’s almost like I was doing something similar in my own, secular way.
But while seeking out all these blogs and videos was helpful for me, it was also a bit of a time-suck. I mean, where does it end? The internet is a vast place and I was in danger of staring at screens all day rather than getting on and doing anything about simplifying. I kinda wanted someone to show me one inspiring post a day, then leave me to get on with the practicalities.
So I came up with the idea of Simplicity Voices partly to scratch my own itch, as a curated space for articles which had particularly inspired me. I post a link to one article a day, with different categories for simplifying your food, your home, your money and so on.
I’m very lucky that the site seems to have chimed with other people too. Of course, the irony is that I now have to spend a lot of time looking for each day’s article, so I’m still stuck on the screens!
4: You write in your bio “when my debts reached £15,000, I realised something had to change.” Tell me about that moment or perhaps the events leading up to that moment.
Debt has a way of trapping you. When my debts peaked, I was working at a place where, over a period of six or seven years, the workforce had practically halved through redundancies (US: layoffs). Although I didn’t lose my job, it was a very stressful time and what made the stress so much worse was the fact I had £15,000 of debt hanging over me. I knew if I lost my job I would be totally screwed.
My job was also stressful in and of itself, and I think my first panic attack was probably my lightbulb moment. I had no idea how physical emotional torment could be.
I was so unhappy. I knew I needed to make some serious changes and getting rid of my car payments and credit card bills seemed the right place to start. I started throwing all I could at my debts and soon after I started, I also got interested in the idea of minimalism and simplifying. The two complemented each other well.
5: How would you describe your relationship to money? And how has it evolved since you’ve started your journey towards simplifying your life and beating debt. And why has “beating debt” been so important?
I used to be a complete idiot with money. I couldn’t even get the basics right. Getting a new credit card was like getting a new pile of money. In a way, ending up at crisis point with my debts was one of the best things that’s happened to me. I guess sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you change course.
Since then, I’ve become completely immersed in the world of personal finance. I’m such a geek about it now! I’ve been dying to do things like invest in index funds for years and now I’ve finally paid off my debts I can start to put all this knowledge into practice.
6: How has being married affected, if at all, your relationship to money compared to when you weren’t married? What advice or tips do you have for managing money as a couple?
Ruth and I had been living together for about eight years before we got married, so it didn’t change many of the practicalities. For us, managing money as a couple has been a gradual process and we’re still not at the point where our finances are fully merged, mainly because I wanted to take sole responsibility for my debts. My advice would be that you can’t be too open with each other. Keep talking about money - your struggles with it, your priorities and your ambitions – and you won’t go far wrong.
I just asked Ruth what her answer to this question would be, and she said that watching me climb out of debt changed the way she thought about spending money, questioning her purchases more - that’s sweet.
7: Minimalism and Simple Living are major themes on Want Less. Why are these meaningful to you?
I guess they’re my end goal, even though I’m not there yet. I’d found my life completely cluttered, in many ways, not just with stuff but with responsibilities, chores and the nagging irritations of everyday life. I’d really like a less hectic life and both minimalism and simplifying are slowly helping me get there.
8: What’s belief(s) do you hold in regards to money/personal finances/financial freedom that no one else or very few people seem to hold?
Possibly that higher-salary jobs, side-hustles, overtime or complex money-saving schemes aren’t worth it if they add to your stress levels and make you miserable.
9: What are your favorite personal finance-related tools or apps?
I tend to be fairly old-school when it comes to tools. I have a little notebook, with the phrase ‘Futile attempt at organising my life’ written on the front, where each month I tot up my net worth. While I was paying down my debts I also had a debt chart with a square for each £100, and I would draw a doodle inside each time I paid off another chunk.
I don’t tend to set a budget either - it won’t surprise you that I like to keep things simple! I’ve just been throwing a good portion of my paycheque at my debts, then spending the rest as I want. I hope to do the same to build savings now.
10: What are some books (or articles or movies or podcasts or people or whatever it might be) that have influenced your thinking on money?
Wow, absolutely loads! In the finance blogging world, I’m a big fan of J Money of Budgets are Sexy, Cait Flanders and Mr. Money Mustache. All three of these write about both money and the simple life, which of course I love.
11: And as a bonus, would you talk about partying at a cherry blossom festival in Tokyo? Because that sounds awesome!
With pleasure! When I was 20, I had a friend studying in Tokyo, so I and two other friends flew out to see him for a couple of weeks. Our visit just happened to fall over the one slightly unpredictable week of the year when all the cherry blossoms come out and people celebrate with boozy all-day parties in the park, called hanami. It was a real festival atmosphere; utterly magical.
Ruth’s always wanted to see Tokyo too, so we’ve booked to go this spring in the hope that we’ll have timed it right and can hit the beer in the parks again. The plane tickets were the first thing I bought after I paid off my debts this month (July 2017), as a bit of a treat.
Here’s where you can find Claire and her work online: