Living within your means is often easier said than done.
If it were easy, as a nation we wouldn’t have a personal debt problem.
Unsecured debt as a share of household income has reached 30%,the highest level it has ever been at.
With plenty of households having no debt at all, I interpret this to mean there are households with significantly more debt, which is a scary thought.
If you have debt it means you are living above your means, for whatever reason.
Related reading: How To Pay Off Debt Fast And Still Have A Life
What Does Living Within Your Means Really Mean?
The meaning of living within your means at its simplest literally means spend less than you earn/receive.
But with so much choice and access to extra money at the click of a button or swipe of a card, it’s not that simple.
Our grandparents had it harder in some respects and easier in others.
Harder because they didn’t have the technology we now have so did many things by hand or in a more labor intensive way.
But some aspects were easier because some things just weren’t available to them at that time.
You have access to online loans with very high APRs (don’t go there please!), overdrafts, personal loans, credit cards, re-mortgages, car loans etc.
All of these allow you to live beyond your means and have what you want before you can pay for them.
And you end up paying much more for these items due to the interest you will be charged.
Our grandparents didn’t have credit cards, car loans of overdrafts.
They had to live within their means and indeed learn how to live on less money if they wanted to save up for something like a car or a holiday.
They utilized all the traditional frugal living tips that had been handed down to them generation to generation.
If you are keen to read about how others have successfully embraced frugal living then why not check out these frugal books.
Related post: How To Live On Less Money In Difficult Times
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Let’s Be Positive About Living On Less!
Living on less money isn’t about deprivation or extreme frugality, far from it.
It’s about getting back to reality, spend what you earn and preferably less.
By all means save up for the luxuries you want but learn to live without them until you can buy them outright.
Saving money is a frugal habit that will help you throughout your life.
Saving up for things you truly want will provide you with a great deal of satisfaction having waited patiently for it.
Or not so patiently if you are like me!
I want to focus on the enjoyment part of you and your money.
There is plenty of advice about the practicalities of living within your means, paying off debt, creating a budget etc.
The thing is we are human.
Just because we read or are told what we should do doesn’t mean we are going to go right ahead and do it.
If only life were that simple.
There are literally thousands of books, newspaper articles and blog posts all telling us why we should live within our means and even providing us with ideas on how to do so.
But we don’t always do so do we?
Why can’t we just read the advice and follow it?
It’s just not that simple though is it? And this is what makes us human.
The Practicalities Of Living On Less Money
In order to be successful and LOVE your life whilst living on less you do need certain things to happen and be done.
- Know how much you earn
- Know what your outgoings are
- Have a plan for and know how to manage your money
All of these are achieved by sitting down, looking at your bills and income and setting a realistic budget.
If you’re anything like me then your first budget, or three, won’t work brilliantly but you do get better with practice.
Why Don’t We All Live Within Our Means?
As humans we have foibles, we don’t follow the rules or do what we should.
We’re not robots that get set on the right path and off we go forever more.
We can have mental baggage that affects our relationship with money and how we take on board advice.
We might have had the wrong sort of role models when we were growing up, ones who lived well beyond their means.
Not helpful when you are an impressionable young person.
We can struggle with the concepts of doing as we are told; just because it’s good for us doesn’t mean we will do it.
After all, there are millions of people still smoking and young people take it up for the first time every day.
Money means many different things to different people.
We are motivated in different ways by different things so what works for one won’t work for another.
We must each find our own path and understand what motivates us in order to succeed.
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Live Within Your Means Quotes
“I make myself rich by making my wants few” – Henry David Thoreau
“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket” – Will Rogers
“Don’t buy things you can’t afford with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like” – Dave Ramsey
“Don’t compare what you have with others” – me!
You probably heard about ‘trying to keep up with the Jones‘.
Well I’d like to point out that the Jones’ are highly likely to be in debt!
We are all different, we have different earning capabilities, different attitudes toward money and different lives to live.
We are not all the same so we can’t expect to have the same that others may have.
But we can all learn to love our lives, living with less or more depending on our money situation.
For me being frugal has changed my life (wonderfully) beyond recognition and given me choices I wouldn’t have had if I had spent every paycheck every month.
Ask yourself what is important in life. Is it:
- A big house
- A big car
- Exotic holidays
- Designer clothes
- An expensive social life?
I think you will probably answer these in a similar way to most of us, after all, we are human!
The things that mean the most to you are more likely to be things like:
- Family & friends
- Spending quality time with family
- Loving relationships
- Fun & laughter in your life
- Your health
- Loving life
None of those require you to earn huge sums of money. They could cost you a lot of money but they don’t need to.
How To Love Living Within Your Means
So what can you do to gain the maximum enjoyment when you are living within your means?
The overarching factor is being deliberate with your life.
Don’t slide through your life without noticing what is happening.
Being deliberate is about carefully thinking about things, not rushing your decision making.
When you make deliberate choices about your life and how you live it, you are making conscious, focused and well thought out choices.
Be focused on every day, every moment and enjoy them.
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We all work better when we have goals to work toward. Whether that is targets at work or things we want to strive for.
Goals help us focus on what we want and what we are aiming for.
I’m not talking financial goals although they are also important. I’m talking life goals.
Where do you want to be in 1 year, 5 years?
What are the most important things in your life and are you spending the right amount of time on them?
Since I started this blog my work/life balance has been completely out of kilter.
I spend way too much time faffing around on the blog.
Not that you would know it because much of what I do is totally unnecessary.
I’m talking researching things to the n’th degree, participating in Facebook groups without gaining anything from them other than lost time.
I’ve not been deliberate about how I use my time and I haven’t set myself the right goals to focus on.
So I sat down at the beginning of January and thought about what I want my life to look like within the next 3 months.
And what I am focusing on is getting my work/life balance back. I’ve cut back on Facebook groups.
I limit my research time and I have an overall figure I am aiming for when it comes to how much time I spend blogging.
And that figure is literally half what I have been doing so it’s not an easy goal.
Action Tip – Take some time to work out your goals for this month, this quarter, this year.
Work out how you can still achieve what you want and enjoy life whilst living below your means.
You may also like: How To Save For Your Dream Vacation This Year
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Don’t Keep Your Goals A Secret
Sharing your goals with someone helps you to be accountable for your achievement or not.
It’s like going on a diet, if you tell friends they will check in with you to see how you are doing.
If you keep it secret then no-one knows if you don’t succeed.
Having someone to hold you accountable will help you immensely to achieve your life goals, honestly.
You know they will ask and you don’t want to disappoint them or let them think you have failed.
So you don’t fail, you achieve the goal.
Review Your Goals
The best way to achieve goals is to review them on a very regular basis.
If you have a budget then you should review whether it’s working for you every month or even every week.
I have a planner that has monthly reviews built in where it asks me a series of questions.
Sometimes I don’t want to answer those questions because I know they will show I haven’t focused enough on achieving what I set out to do.
How silly is that?
- Are you happy with how you focused on your goals this month/week?
- What can you improve on next month?
Have Visible Goals
For some of your personal goals a picture can describe it just as well as the written word.
Maybe your goal is to spend more quality time with your partner or family?
A picture of you all paints a thousand words.
Place it somewhere close by so you can see it and review it regularly.
Your planner or journal, if you use one, is a great place to keep pictures of your goals in.
I am a recent convert to mindfulness.
Mindfulness comes in many forms from a basic form of meditation through breathing exercises to being more in the moment and focusing on one small part of your life.
I took a course last year and we were taught how to focus on small things like doing the washing up.
Focusing on the feel of the warm water, the bubbles you create, how the water swirls as you move the plates, how you feel as you slowly wash the dishes.
Focusing on each part of the activity helps you be in the moment and be positive about the experience.
Mindfulness helps you reconnect with yourself and your surroundings and feel more positive about how your life is right now.
Regardless of where you are in life there are positive things in it and you can enjoy them if you slow down and recognize them.
Being grateful for what you do have will take you a long way to enjoying life with less.
There are many different ways to practice being grateful.
If you follow a faith there is likely to be ways to practice gratitude built into your daily teachings.
You can keep a gratitude journal and note down what you are grateful for on a daily basis and reflect on these.
You can share what you are grateful for with a partner or friend and discuss what and why.
Or you practice your gratitude by saying them out loud to yourself – the spoken word is much more powerful than silent thoughts.
How Can We Learn To Live On Less?
Practice The Art Of Moderation
These days we seem to be bombarded with the more mentality – bigger portions, supersize me, buy one get one free, frequently changing fashions.
These all encourage you to have more and more often.
The art of moderation is about having a ‘little bit of what you fancy’ but nothing to excess.
There are plenty of ways to have a little bit of what you want without costing you a fortune or living excessively.
Have small portions, save up for a special holiday, buy one piece of good quality clothing, not 5 cheap items, you get the idea.
Moderation means avoiding excesses and showing restraint. Both good ways to describe the way you can successfully live on less money.
Don’t blow all your money when you get paid and end up living paycheck to paycheck, learn to make it last, to live on less.
Learn to say no.
Prioritize Your Goals
Not every goal can be focused on at the same time.
Being human you’ve probably got 5 or 6 goals you can immediately think of that you really want to achieve.
But the more goals you have the less focused you are on each one.
Prioritize which ones you will focus on this month, this quarter and review your progress.
Sometimes you can reach a point where your goal is almost on autopilot, usually after you have spent time focusing and reviewing it.
Motivation to continue with your living with less lifestyle comes from your focus.
Why The Importance Of Living On Less Money?
Living above your means is a one way ticket to debt, stress and all sorts of problems.
You will end up living on less eventually because of debt repayments you have to make.
That scenario is a much less positive experience than actively choosing to enjoying living below your means right now.
Of course you can learn to love life whilst paying off debt.
But how much better is it if you are living debt free, stress free and have mastered the art of knowing how to live on less?!
Last Updated on 11th September 2020 by Emma