Beginner’s Guide to Living Beneath Your Means
Beginner’s Guide to Living Beneath Your Means
The United States is one of the richest countries in the world. Even our citizens who live beneath the poverty level are still richer than most of the world. It is a sad fact that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, regardless. We have little to nothing in savings and our debt load is ever increasing. Living above our means is a no-brainer, now, thanks to credit cards, consumerism and a live-for-today attitude. We truly believe that things can bring happiness and we feel embarrassment for not keeping up with the Jones’s. We have been brain-washed into thinking we must have new cars, yearly vacations, expensive college educations, bigger houses and the latest technology, without taking into consideration the damage those choices are causing to our present and our future selves. Debt is a deceptive task-master, holding a golden carrot in front of us while whispering “Just one more year” into our ears. Debt, my friends, is a life-sucker, a relationship destroyer and a health zapper.
It is smart to do a check-yourself-before-you-wreak-yourself moment once in a while. Here are 5 Ways to Know You AREN’T Living Beneath Your Means:
1. You Have More Month Than Money: This occurs when money hasn’t been budgeted or when unexpected expenses occur. Sometimes we feel like there is nowhere to cut back, but in truth, everyone can cut a cable bill or make lunch to take to work instead of eating out. This is an annoying fact, but true nonetheless. We must write down every.single.cent.we.spend. To be honest, I hate this step, but it is one of the most crucial. We have to think of this like…eating KALE. It is awful in the moment, but the benefits are huge! Another example of your finances are like a bucket, and if you are struggling with more month than money, you, my friend, have holes in that bucket. You have to find the leaks. I know this because one of my leaks is called Starbucks 🙁
2. You Don’t Pay Cash For Your Vehicles: It is hard for us to not have new, pretty things when our friends and co-workers do, but it is a cold, hard fact that leasing or even making payments on a car is one of the fastest ways to waste your money. I heard one financial speaker say to go ahead and just flush your money down the pooper, because the second you drive one inch off the car lot, YOU HAVE ALREADY LOST MONEY! Nothing depreciates faster than vehicles. Take your tax money and pay cash for a used car or figure out how to make extra money to save for one you can pay cash for. It feels pretty wonderful to never have a car payment and your money is not lost in depreciation and interest.
3. Credit Cards are Your Kriptonite: You may be part of the small population of Americans who always pay off your credit card balance each month. If so, I applaud you! For the rest of us, the pull of the card is too strong. So just don’t. Don’t even go there. Decide right now that if you don’t have cash for something, you aren’t going to buy it. Credit card debt and the interest you pay when you carry a balance from month to month is like a shackle around your neck. No new sweater or new pair of tennis shoes is worth that, folks.
4. You Don’t Have Money Saved: Perhaps your debt load is too high or maybe your expenses suck every nickel from your checkbook. Maybe you are in that alternate reality called Denial, and you think “Bad things won’t happen to me! I am young and healthy. I make good money and pay my taxes. I don’t like to dwell on bad things, so I don’t want to spend mental energy trying to prepare for one.” This is a house of cards, friends, that will come crashing down around you at some point. It might be a leaky roof, a fridge that decides to give up the ghost or you get a flat tire, and those are the “easy” hard things. Setting a goal of saving $500 that you don’t touch (unless the sky is falling) is a strategy to help you face crises head-on and not scramble to cope (and end up putting the unexpected expenses of the credit card.)
5. You Pay Full Price for Things: Living beneath your means means sometimes going without, always delaying and praying for wisdom about big purchases and lastly, never paying full price for things.
One way is to educate yourself on coupon cutting and digital ways to save. Stores like Meijer, Kroger and Target have digital versions of the Sunday paper coupons and sometimes their own coupons or discounts on their own brands. There are also digital savings apps like Receipt Hog, Ibotta and Checkout51. This is a way you can save over and above the aforementioned coupons. Buy scanning your receipt, you get money back for specific products they list. Remember, this can be done IN ADDITION to coupons. There is another app called Flipp, which shows you all the flyers from all the stores in your area. This is helpful when “stacking ” coupons. Let me show you through this example: Our rice milk is discounted because of a “seasonal low price” at our grocery store, moving it from $5.49 to $3.49. I noticed on the Flipp app that they are having a Buy Three, Save $3 sale. I buy three of them, reducing the price from $3.49 to $2.49 each. I also have three $1 off coupons for the rice milk, and at check out I present those coupons to the cashier. The total price is now reduced to $1.49. Because I watched for the sale and added coupons on top of that, I got my $5.49 containers of rice milk for $1.49 each.
Saving money and being frugal takes time, I am not going to lie, but if you can set aside a couple hours a week, even if it is time broken into smaller chunks, you won’t be sorry. You will be doing the happy dance when you see that you saved 30%, 50% or 70% on your weekly groceries.
And if you would allow me to be transparent for a moment, if you have chronic illness or invisible disability playing a role in your family life, you have so many expenses already from medicine, therapy or specialists. You cannot afford to full price for anything. You have so many expenses that most don’t have. You cannot afford not to try to glean some pointers from this list. When you or a loved one has an illness or chemical imbalance, so much is out of your control. It might relieve a lot of stress to be wise and work to control the things you can.