It doesn’t come easy to live below your means, but it is something that we should all be doing. Luckily, living below your means is a choice and something you can learn to do. There is no cookie cutter solution for everyone, but there are standard answers that can apply to anyone’s situation. These standard answers allow room for molding to individual financial situations.
“Whatever your income, always live below your means.” -Thomas J. Stanley
Create a monthly budget tracking all of your incoming and outgoing money. Figure out where you need to cut back and designate every dollar to somewhere on the budget. Prioritize your debts and then savings as you decide where your money should go.
Be appreciative of what you have. Avoid jealousy and competitiveness when it comes to what other people own by refocusing on your own financial goals. After all, everyone is in a different financial situation. So do yourself a favor and step away from the credit card; be thankful for whatever it is you have, even if it isn’t what you always dreamed of.
Replace your excessive eating out habits with eating [home cooked meals] at home. I’m not suggesting you never eat out or order in again, because that might be too much to ask. It’s alright to celebrate milestones, small and large, with a celebratory dinner, etc. When you’re on vacation, it often makes more sense to eat out and is more difficult to avoid. That being said treat your eating out experiences like luxuries or out of the ordinary treats. Or you could even replace your expensive sit down restaurants with lesser expensive fast casual ones. For example, Macayos would be substituted with Chipotle, which could be substituted with Del Taco. Think about how much you spend at your favorite restaurants and figure out how you can replace them with cheaper favorites.
Replace expensive and lavish family vacations with staycations. Or use credit card points and airline miles for airline tickets, rental cars, and hotel stays to help reduce your travel expenses. Get creative when it comes to getting away. Staying in state can still be fun and adventurous; there has to be something in your state that you have wanted to do or see, but just haven’t had the chance to yet. Make sure to consider how much you have in the bank, before you decide on where to travel. Be realistic about where you can and cannot afford to go.
Buy used when possible. It’s not terrible to buy new items, but it can be unnecessary or make less sense at times. Of course, this all depends on what type of item it is and your current financial situation. For me that means buying clothing (everything but underwear), kids toys, wood furniture, photo frames, pyrex dishes, pots & pans. You shouldn’t go out and buy stuffed animals, couches, bed mattresses used, because then you run the risk of bed bugs. With the exception of these “pass” items there is still plenty to buy at online garage sale sites, thrift stores, and the like.
Cut back on negotiable or unnecessary expenditures. These might include: car insurance coverage, cable, cell phones, internet, magazine subscriptions, haircuts, etc. If you can live without a subscription or even live with less or infrequent services, then cut the cord or inquire about a lesser package deal. To different people theses things will differ, but the important thing is to remain realistic as you lessen the load. You never know, that phone call to your cell phone carrier or transferring your phone to another carrier might be easy savings. Cancel the things you can live without and look for alternative solutions. For example, cancel your magazine subscription and borrow magazines from your local library for a period or indefinitely. Did you realize that your local library offers media in the form of books, magazines, dvds & internet access? Explore how you can save on or do without things you’re already buying.
Be a money saver. Nothing will help you live below your means better than a money saving mindset. If you can accomplish this, then you are well on your way to living below your means. Seek to save before spending to ensure that you are saving something for your future.
If you’ve tried all these things without success, then perhaps a higher paying job is your best bet at achieving your goal of living below your means. When you are over extended with your finances and your financial future is bleak you have to adapt. I don’t mean “fight” for $15 at your current job, I mean securing an existing higher paying position. If the career move requires a finer skill set, then do what is necessary to build your skill set. Make the effort to move on from your current job, so that you can improve your finances through your paycheck.
“Don’t wish it was easier wish you were better.” -Jim Rohn
It is important that everyone, and I mean everyone, live below their means. Take responsibility for your finances, because no one else will. You can do it!
What are some things that you’re doing to live below your means?
Tawnya is the founder of The Dancing Dollar, a blog about frugality & personal finance. She writes about how frugal living can help other individuals & families live [happily] below their means. She & her husband are on the path to pay off their home in less than half the time. Click here to learn more.