5 Tips for living within your means
Living within your means is a very simple concept: spending less money than you earn. It sounds simple enough but our society doesn’t make it easy.
- Separate wants from needs. When you buy something you need it usually adds value to your life on a regular basis, either in the form of necessity (refrigerator) or convenience (coffee maker). Wants, on the other hand usually come in the form of “new and improved” version of something you already have. Every now and then I will get seduced by clever advertisement that convinces me that I need whatever it is they are selling. When I act on my impulse I usually have what I call “post purchase regret” a week later. A good example of this is when I replaced my old surround sound system with one that came with a bunch of the added features that I never seem to use. I thought I needed the added features, but as it turns out I only wanted them.
- Enjoy some downtime. With allure of clever advertising strategies and hectic work and personal schedules our society is convinced we deserve rewards just for surviving. Unfortunately the reward we give ourselves usually costs money, money we usually don’t have. These rewards often compound our problems leading to more debt and as a result trying to earn more money, causing more hectic work and personal schedules. You get the idea, as the snowball is rolls down the hill it gets bigger and bigger. My solution is to reward yourself with some downtime. Take a break from your hectic work personal and work schedule, use a vacation day and just do nothing or go for a hike or bike ride.
- Become a minimalist. This is a lifestyle change that involves only keeping the possessions the add value to your life. More importantly stop adding possessions that don’t add value to your life. I am in the process of adopting this lifestyle and I started with my closet. I donated all of the clothes that either, don’t fit or I don’t like, to charity. What I was left with was one week’s worth of clothes. You will need to factor in that you wear different close in the summer verse the winter. Now I can afford to buy high quality name brand things, because I own so few articles of clothing,” less is more”. I used to look in my closet and not know what to wear, but now I look in my closet and I want to wear everything. I know one week’s worth of cloths is a little extreme, but you get the idea.
- Spend less on eating out. The opportunity to save money in this area is huge. As mentioned in one of my earlier posts “Save Money on Eating Out”, you can save as much as $2,000 just by packing a lunch each day of your work week. For me eating out is divided into two categories, convenience and entertainment. Eating out for convenience is the worst kind. The key is to saving money on eating out is to only eat out for entertainment, and try to limit that to once or twice a month. With the infrequency of once or twice a month you can treat yourself to some of the upper scale establishments, where the food and ambience are usually of a higher quality. Another benefit of limiting the number of times you eat out is that when you do it will seem more like a special occasion which will add to the entertainment value.
- Keep track of your expenses. You can’t make positive changes to your spending habits if you don’t know where you are spending your money. Check out my previous post “Track Your Expenses” on ideas to help you in this area. I use an iPhone app, and because my phone is always with me I am able to update my expenses as I spending my money.
Living within your means is not about depriving yourself of things it’s about changing your focus to the things that add value to your life.