Is it possible to live well, below your means?
Anyone looking to pay off debt, retire early or simply save money for personal reasons should know the difference between living below your means, within your means or above them.
The problem with consumerism today is the constant temptation to spend everything we have, and more.
So many people have huge debts to pay, yet consider it to be normal.
Many are mad about having to work even after retirement, yet they keep spending.
And how many people do you know, who can’t tell the difference between wants and needs? I personally know a ton! Maxing out your credit card to buy “stuff” is the worst kind of debt in my book. Saving money is a foreign concept to many.
Living well below your means is possible though. Anyone can learn to spend less than they earn!
Becoming financially independent doesn’t happen overnight though (except if you win the lottery, but what are the odds?).
With a bit of effort and self discipline, you can learn to spend less, save more and enjoy a newfound healthy money mindset!
How to live well below your means
Keep track of your income
Keeping a budget is the n°1 good financial money habit!
Knowing how much you make is important, if you’re looking to live well below your means and start becoming financially independent!
Whether you have a steady paycheck or an irregular income, make sure to keep track of your income month after month.
Everything counts here: paycheck or net business profit, side hustle income, passive income streams, financial windfalls, etc., etc.
Keep track of your fixed expenses
Now, make sure you budget for the important expenses: rent, bills, insurance, debt and anything else that’s important.
For instance, your monthly rent or mortgage is important! Your fashion magazine subscription probably isn’t…
You cannot live without electricity. But you can probably survive without that extra TV package (you can’t watch TV anyway if the electric company cuts you off…).
If you consider you’re spending too much in this category, maybe it’s time for a change!
Home: if rent is too high or you can’t handle your house expenses, consider downsizing.
Downsizing to save money is not uncommon.
Heck, it’s one of the smartest moves you can do to live below your means!
Utility bills: Are you paying too much for utilities? Switch companies!
With so many companies fighting for clients these days, it’s a shame not to take advantage and save a ton on your monthly bills!
Debt: Can’t handle debt payments? Try negotiating with your creditors!
Lenders live off you getting in tons of debt, but only if they get their money back!
Try negotiating the terms of your debt payment plan and see if there’s any way they could lower the payments at least temporarily.
There’s always a way to reduce your fixed expenses, you just need to ‘shop around’ for a better deal.
Keep track of your ‘flexible expenses’
Now that you know which expenses are crucial, on to the ones you can ‘play with’.
Groceries: how much money do you usually spend on food? How much food do you waste in a week? Do you cook your own food or order in?
There is always room for improvement in your food budget.
Cook at home and you can save a ton! Learn how to save money while grocery shopping. Alternatively, you could buy frozen meals from the supermarket instead of paying for home deliveries.
Eating out: how much do you spend on eating out? Do you make it a habit to go out for meals or is it only on occasions? Where do you usually eat?
Just like your grocery bill, you can curb your spending when it comes to eating out as well.
You can’t just give up on restaurant meals for good, that’s crazy. But you can find plenty of ways to save money when eating out and reduce your monthly spending by a lot!
Transportation: Do you spend a lot on gas?
Maybe it’s time you make use of public transportation of ride your bike to work or other places. If not, carpooling is a solution too. And if you still can’t fancy the idea of not driving your own car, learn how to drive more efficiently and save on gas and other car expenses!
Holidays and special occasions: How much do you usually spend on gifts? Is it within your means or do you tend to go overboard?
Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries… these are all fun occasions when family and friends get together and spend some fun quality time together.
But you can’t shop up on Christmas Day with no gift for your favorite nephew! That’s like literally asking for a kick in the balls!
Spending too much on gifts or party hats isn’t ideal if you’re looking to live below your means! However, there are many great ways to come up with frugal gift ideas!
Try to aim for meaningful gifts, like DIY, or ask a friend to chip in and you could both save. And remember, always budget for these things in advance! Don’t let certain expenses take you by surprise.
Flexible expenses represent a big chunk of your monthly budget. But the good news it there’s always room for improvement!
Cut off unnecessary expenses
You probably noticed the main pattern here: they key to living well below your means is to spend less than you earn.
Now that you know how much money comes into your household, and how much goes out, you can start focusing on what’s important: spend less wherever possible and cut off unnecessary expenses completely.
You know you can downsize to save money, switch utility companies for lower rates, eat out less and cook at home to save money. But what about your other expenses?
Do you buy clothes and shoes often? Do you pay for online or magazine subscriptions? What about a gym membership?
While some expenses can be reduced significantly, others can be downright eliminated!
Personally, I rarely buy any clothes and shoes. I have enough already, why spend money on things I don’t really need?
I don’t pay for any subscriptions, either. Everything I need to learn or read about I can find online, for free. Sure, some magazines offer cute perks for their loyal readers, but if I managed to live without them for 30 years, I’m sure I don’t actually need them.
I do my workouts at home. Jogging is free, workout videos are free. I manage to cram in a good workout every single day, at no cost whatsoever. Certain sports do require you to pay a periodic fee, but if you’re not into them, you can save a lot by exercising at home or outside.
Everyone can curb their spending if they want to. All you need to do is become a little inventive and see what expenses you can actually live without.
Stop keeping up with the Joneses
Living below your means isn’t limited to just spending less. Unfortunately, keeping up with the Joneses is a very common ‘syndrome’.
Many aim to boost their self esteem by showing everyone they can afford “stuff” too!
If the neighbor just put in a pool, you might feel the need to buy a new car or go on a lavish vacation.
The problem here is obvious: the need to show off your wealth might give you immediate satisfaction, but it’s still you who will suffer the financial consequences!
So what if others seem to be doing better than you? They’re probably so deep into debt, they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or, they can actually afford all that stuff, but are too preoccupied with the present to plan for the future.
That doesn’t have to be you.
If your goal is to become financially independent, you should learn to be content with less.
There’s really no need to keep changing your car every 2 years, or have the latest iPhone, or a new wardrobe every season. Let the Joneses spend money on these, you focus on your own goals.
The less money you spend, the more you can save and boost your nest egg!
Stuff is only temporary, savings on the other hand are much more important.
Save for big purchases beforehand
Do you need to buy a new car because your old one has little time left?
Save for it! Avoid taking out loans if possible.
When we bought our first car, we thought we were going to keep it for at least a few good years! However, one problem lead to another and every mechanic we talked to came to the same conclusion: in time, future repairs will end up costing us more than a new car!
So, after a few months of aggressively saving, we bought another car, with cash. No loans, no interest fees, no panic attacks that we’re in debt again.
Buying a car is a big purchase, but buying it with money down is doable, nevertheless.
Instead of getting into debt every single time you need to make a big purchase, try to save money until you can afford that new TV or washing machine or that exotic vacation you dreamed of for months.
Build an emergency fund
Speaking of big purchases, what if something urgent comes up and you need to fork up a huge amount of money?
What do you do?
Say your car breaks down and there’s no alternative for you to get to work unless you fix it. It’ll cost you a couple thousand bucks that you currently don’t have… Yikes!
Wouldn’t it be nice to have cash stashed away? Not under a mattress, but in a very modern savings account.
Living below your means is all about avoiding unnecessary spending. Sure, your car breaking down is all that was missing right now, but at least having an emergency fund available will help keep things under control.
Relying on a loan or on your credit card for emergencies is never a good idea.
You might find a quick fix for your money problems for now, but guess who will pay high interest rates later on. Now, those really aren’t part of the plan.
Don’t rely on your credit cards
Many argue cutting off your credit cards is a smart move.
Far be it from me to argue with Dave Ramsey, but credit cards do come with certain perks. IF you know how to use them wisely!
Like already mentioned, living below your means implies saving for the things you want. It also means avoiding to spend on unnecessary purchases!
So, keep your credit cards if they help you build your credit score, but don’t rely on them for all purchases!
Getting into credit card debt is so easy, you won’t even know what hit you.
Avoid impulse buying and try to pay with cash everywhere you can. People are more sensitive to cash disappearing from their wallets, than they are to swiping the plastic in a store.
Boost your income
Have you created your budget, curbed your spending, but still have a hard time saving money?
Maybe it’s time to think about ways to boost your income!
I’m a firm believer that any hobby can be turned into a business or at least a profitable side hustle.
Most fellow bloggers recommend you start a blog of your own. Pick a niche, attract your audience and monetize. However, not everyone’s into blogging, so what else can you do?
You could work extra hours at your job or get a second one.
You could offer tutoring lessons for kids.
You could babysit.
You could become a landlord by renting out space you’re not using.
There are a ton of ways you can earn extra income! These are just a few of the ones I tried myself (including starting a blog) and know they work.
There are many other ways to earn money on the side. All you need to do is find the ones most profitable in your case.
Living below your means definitely has many benefits.
You’ll worry less about what tomorrow might bring and you’ll make definite progress towards financial independence.
It isn’t easy to stop spending all your money all of a sudden, but it’s definitely doable!
With a clear financial goal in mind, anyone can start spending less and saving more!