Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Only buy what you need and what you can afford.
But why is it so hard to actually follow through on?
We live in a society that tells you, you need this now, and if you can’t afford it now that’s ok we will help you by financing it.
Every store offers you extra savings if you use their credit card.
But how many of us are led astray when we are overcome with excitement. We think of how much so and so would love this or so and so could really use this, but in all reality, WE CAN NOT AFFORD THIS, even if it is for someone else!
Here’s an important question to ask yourself.
Are you living within your means?
The average American household’s credit card debt is $15,607. The average student loan debt is $32,656.( source here).
I went off to college and after my first semester, my family moved 12 hours away. I was on my own. And what was everyone’s advice for me? Get a credit card. Sure that credit card saved me a few times when I had no idea how I was going to buy the basics.
But I also racked up thousands of dollars in just a few short months. I could have gone without so I didn’t have to load up a credit card in debt.
( Thanks, Dave Ramsey!)
I watched my friends open as many credit cards as they could and max them out. With no intention of paying for them. Credit Collectors calling… while I continued to pay just $25 a month towards my bill. I never really considered the interest! I thought why would I pay more money when I am only required to pay $25?! Phew… thank goodness that thinking dissolved quickly.
But why worry about the future when it’s the right now that we should care about right?! Do what feels good now. Another wonderful thing our culture tells us!
It takes discipline to live within your means. To truly look at what you can afford. And when I say what you can afford I mean what you can buy with cash. Ok or your debit card, or check. But what you can buy with the money you actually have in your account.
So that is where a budget comes in. I really feel that everyone should do a budget at least once. To give you an idea of where your money is going and where you want it to stop going. And be disciplined about it. Here are some great free budgeting tools from Dave Ramsey’s site
When I first went back to work part time and got serious about a budget I pulled up a few months of our bank statements and saw that my husband was spending a decent amount of money at Tim Horton’s.
That quickly came to a stop. Although I do not completely rob him of Tim Horton’s. You do still have to treat yourself once in awhile. ( Just put it in the budget!)
So when you are couponing or looking to really save money on your grocery bill, it is important to stockpile what you actually need. It is very easy to get caught up in buying 20 Febreze sprays and adding them to your shelf and marveling at the fact that you saved x amount of money.
It takes balance. Saving for the future, your family, emergencies, etc. Now let’s get onto your tips to help you live a life within your means.
Here are 11 Marked Down Ways to Live With Less Money
Make a Budget & Goal
So many times people say they are broke and you ask them how much money they are spending each month and the response is ” I don’t know.” You need to look at how much your expenses are. Those are your bills. The things you must pay every month. Then you break it down to other needs and then wants. There is a great sheet to get you started in budgeting here.
Start by listing all your expenses and income over the last 3 months. I kind of snuck another one into this one but it goes hand in hand in a way. When you make your budget you will be able to make a financial goal.
What is it you are striving for? Is it to be able to pay for everything with cash/debit card? Is it to have extra money to put into savings? Is it to pay for a family vacation? Is it to just get all your bills paid? When you have a goal you know where you are heading.
When you have a budget you know where your money is going. These are two things that are life changers. Write your goal down. Keep it in a place where you can read it daily. Use it when you want to give up to remind yourself what you are working towards. Think about the positive impact this financial goal will have on you and your family once you reach it.
Recognize When You Need Something & When You Want Something
Needs and wants are really two different things. The items you talk yourself into are not needs. Do you need a brand new car over a new car? Why do you need a new car? Is it because of the social order it will put you in? It’s like fancy purses. Sure everyone enjoys a new purse.
Anything new is exciting and enjoyable. But why have a fancy purse when you don’t have any cash to put into it? Don’t let stuff cover up you. You matter. Your personality is what people remember about you, your relationships, not any of your stuff. Do not let your stuff slow you down.
I would keep track of everything you are spending. Or maybe look back at that room full of stuff and see what you really need and what you can get rid of.
Don’t Put on the Comparison Suit
Think if you lived in a place where you encountered two other people. You probably would start caring less about what you have compared to them. Think if you didn’t watch any T.V. or read any magazines or blogs about other people’s lives. Your comparison suit would hang in the closet.
The temptation wouldn’t be as strong. We live in a culture today that screams lust and stuff. You need more and more. And not more used stuff. The latest and greatest. Stand up for who you are. It is much better to live life on a budget now work towards a financial goal of freedom and then if your budget allows you can satisfy your wants.
I believe once you start this financial freedom path that excitement of showing off your brand new Lexus just may not have the same effect you thought it would. Do not compare yourself to anyone. Once you have your budget set keep your mind there!
Stop Using Your Credit Card
Oh, the big debate. I hear it now. “But you get so many points back.” Have you ever met someone who is making a six figure says, ” My credit card points got me here.” Let’s look at facts. Credit cards make it very easy to buy things to just get the points. Isn’t it more tempting to just spend $20 extra bucks because then you will get extra points for that plane ticket you want?
If you have the discipline to buy what you need and can pay off your credit card bill each month then fine, use it. But according to statistics, there is a very small percent of us Americans who have the willpower to walk away from the power of just throwing it on a plastic card. Buy things with money you have- CASH, Debit Card!
Get to Making Your Own Meals
Ok, so you don’t like the word meal planning. Just make your own meals at home. This can be so huge when it comes to saving money and helping with our discipline to look at needs versus want. When my husband was working out of town and I felt exhausted on the third night of being with them I wanted to run out to eat.
Guess what? Our budget said you can’t. Sure I could of have given in to that want. It would have come out of somewhere else. Maybe the amount of money we needed for our electric bill.
Then the money for our electric bill would be short so then our cable bill would be and the cycle continues and before you know it I’m on the phone with my best friend saying we are so broke. I have many resources on this blog to meal plan. Make your own meals.
Shop From Your Pantry
If you only have enough money to just pay your bills for the week swallow your pride and serve mac and cheese for the whole week if you have to. You all will survive and next week you can change your menu based on your finances. The point is when things are tighter one week be resourceful.
Try to look in your cupboards for some simple meals you can make. Check Pinterest and just googling items from your pantry for recipes. You will be surprised how filling beans and rice can be. Don’t feel any guilt for not serving your family a serving of fruit and veggies and so forth. That day will come. This week your priority is your finances. Of course, you have to feed your family but you can do it for less without taking from your expense budget.
Use what you have in your cupboards 1st when planning a menu.
Plan your menus according to what is on sale.
Follow a Coupon Site
Follow a coupon site that does matchups if you are crunched on time and to help you plan your meals. There are so many great blogs out there definitely follow a few.
Coupon Matchup lists are taking a sale item and pairing it with a coupon or an app offer. Clipping coupons will save you a lot of money but there are now many ways to save with apps as well. I have to emphasize shrinking your grocery bill because it’s one of the quickest areas in your budget to shrink. It’s one you can work with based on your income. When it comes to paying your rent or mortgage, those things don’t budge.
Cutting back our grocery bill by 60% allowed me to stay home with our first baby and start our debt snowball.
6 years later we are paying off our mortgage after paying off student loans, credit car and car loans.
It is crazy how many things you can get for free or cheap if you just invest time. I’m a coupon deal blogger and I share freebies on my blog daily. I haven’t paid for a magazine subscription in five years. I’ve gotten the Wall Street Journal for free for almost an entire year.
You could get enough free samples of shampoo and deodorant that you don’t need to buy a full jar. If things are tight and you are tired of living paycheck to paycheck- invest time to get things for less. Take advantage of all the free information you have at your fingertips. If you have time you can live on less and have so much more my friend.
Check out Freebieshark.com, freestufftimes and my deal blog here.
Change your Social Status
During this season of life, you may need to take a close look at your circle of friends. When you are trying to pay off debt and not spend money it’s not so easy to get together at Starbucks with so and so even though you need a break from the baby. You don’t have to end any relationships.
Just let them know you are serious about taking one step toward a greater victory. That victory is debt free living. They may not stay and hold your hand and that is ok. You need to do this. Be careful scrolling through social media if anything triggers you to want to just spend or to get you sidetracked thinking you can’t pull this off.
You can. You will.
Sometimes when we start something new we want so badly to succeed we get blinders on. Don’t deprive yourself when you are living life on a budget. A budget should not be something that makes your cringe. It should make you feel in control. If you are looking at your budget and not feeling in control because your expenses are adding up to more than the money coming in ( trust me I have been there I know the feeling)
Check out this article on how to increase your income instantly without getting a second job. It comes down to balance. Balance is one of those things we are always needing to adjust and it is so crucial to so many things we do in life. Part of that balance is being able to have fun while you are saving money and working towards a financial goal.
Take the things you enjoy doing and get creative and see how you can do those for less. If one month you can’t afford to go to your favorite place take these tips into consideration and remind yourself one day you will be able to. You will not be in this place forever. I know because I was there too.
I thought things were always going to be tight living week to week. I’m here to tell you it gets easier and you will be rewarded for your discipline and hard work.
Don’t Deprive yourself.
This may sound like I just took it to a whole new level that you want nothing to do with but hear me out on this one. The definition of support is a thing that bears the weight of something or keeps it upright. You need others to help keep you upright.
Upright on the right path. If you have friends who call you up and always want to go to dinner and a movie type of thing tell them your situation and how you are working toward a goal. You do not have to go into every detail but when you let others know you will see how many support you.
When you get the support to what may feel like a painful lifestyle change at first, you will feel encouraged and find it easier to strive towards that goal when your friends and family are behind you. Those who love you and support you will always help you get through the comparison struggles we all experience. Remember your goal.
Grocery shopping is the one thing you can cut costs on. We have so many choices here. It does take a little bit of time, but so totally worth it. When we are not spending a lot of money on food that is overly priced and terrible for us, we will have money to go on trips with our families or whatever else it is that brings enjoyment to you.- See you won’t be deprived and it won’t be so painful! I went on a 6-month spending freeze and survived and came out stronger. You got this!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What about you? What tips do you have to help live within your means?